Paper Discussion

Conceptualizing Co-optation with Dr. Sofia Fenner

Join us Thursday, March 10, at 3:00 pm for a paper presentation by Sofia Fenner on whether opposition parties “sell out” when they join authoritarian governments.

This is the first workshop of the semester under the continuing theme of “Insider-Outsider Strategies”.


Co-optation is widely recognized as a pillar of durable authoritarian rule. The conventional story is straightforward: rulers offer benefits to opposition groups, who in turn agree to “sell out,” becoming part of the system and setting aside their anti-authoritarian aspirations. The empirical record, however, tells a different tale: co-opted parties often do not behave in the way that existing theories expect. In this chapter, I lay out an alternative account of co-optation that acknowledges its potential power while remaining agnostic as to its specific consequences.

About the author

Sofia Fenner is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colorado College. Her research focuses on authoritarianism and its opponents in Southwest Asia and North Africa. Her first monograph, Coercive Distribution (with Michael Albertus and Dan Slater), was published in 2017 as part of Cambridge University Press’ Elements Series. Her next book, Shouting in a Cage: Life after Co-optation in North Africa, is under contract with Columbia University Press.

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