This talk analyzes the social bases of academic freedom with newly available cross-national and longitudinal data from the Varieties of Democracy dataset 1960-2020. The data enable researchers to test systematically established lines of thought on the roots of academic freedom in domestic political and religious contexts and furthermore to develop and test an original argument about the role of global and transnational liberalism and illiberalism in seeding and legitimating academic freedom. Panel regression models with country fixed effects on data from 152 countries 1960-2020 confirm longstanding imageries: democracy is positively associated with academic freedom, whereas conflict, militarism, and state religiosity are negatively associated with academic freedom. But global and transnational contexts also prove important. Linkages to global liberalism – human rights treaty ratifications and ties to various types of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) – and linkages to and measures of global illiberalism – ties to illiberal international organizations and our world illiberalism index – show the expected positive and negative effects, respectively. Findings reveal that academic freedom derives at least in part from global and transnational liberalism and illiberalism. 

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