International Relations Authoritarian Regimes
by
Vesna Danilovic
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 June 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0124

Introduction

There has been an upsurge in the study of comparative authoritarianism since the 1990s, which has led to a number of novel arguments, some still in the evolving stage, and to the identification of new forms of authoritarian rule. The evolution in academic approaches to authoritarianism can be classified variably, but overall three stages can be easily discerned. The first classic texts were concerned either with totalitarianism or with the social and historical origins of authoritarianism. Historical surveys, combined with a focused discussion of typical cases, were used to illustrate the arguments. In the 1970s, research moved toward greater rigor in delineating the causal mechanisms behind autocracies and the socioeconomic conditions that gave rise to various forms of authoritarian rule or, alternatively, undermined their stability and facilitated democratization. While the arguments were usually informed or tested in a specific regional context, there were also notable attempts to generalize across regions with comparative case studies. The 1990s brought the next stage in authoritarian studies, focusing predominantly on institutional factors and authoritarian persistence rather than breakdown. It also resulted in further conceptual refinements and typologies that would not be confined to particular regions. New forms of authoritarianism in the aftermath of the Cold War also received greater attention, and this renaissance of authoritarian research in comparative politics was imported in other areas, most importantly in international relations. While comparative authoritarianism is well into the stage of solidly accumulated knowledge, the link between various institutional types of autocracies and international politics is still in its infancy, largely because of the previous treatment of autocracies as uniformly similar in their foreign behavior, as was the case with the influential democratic peace theory.

General Overview and Literature Surveys

Brooker 2009 and Ezrow and Frantz 2011 are two of the relatively few general texts on comparative authoritarianism with an extensive scope of topics and issues to serve as solid introductions to the field. As a bourgeoning area of study, it will eventually result in a greater number of general introductions to this thematic field. Meanwhile, there are several comprehensive overviews of the state of the art in this area. These mostly reflect the current interest in authoritarian institutional variations or structures. Brancati 2014 surveys the literature in general, whereas others focus on specific institutional forms: Magaloni and Kricheli 2010 on single-party regimes, Geddes, et al. 2014 on military dictatorships, or Gandhi and Lust-Okar 2009 on electoral authoritarianism. Koehler and Warkotsch 2011 stands out as a theoretically grounded and methodical attempt at periodization of the authoritarian research.

  • Brancati, Dawn. “Democratic Authoritarianism: Origins and Effects.” Annual Review of Political Science 17 (2014): 313–326.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-052013-115248Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses recent studies about the use of nominally democratic institutions, such as parties, elections, or legislatures, to prolong autocratic rule and forestall democratization. Presents the literature in terms of five mechanisms through which authoritarian rulers use such institutions for their own purposes: signaling, information acquisition, patronage distribution, monitoring, and credible commitment. Argues that, while theoretically rich and diversified, the research needs to resolve several empirical and measurement problems.

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  • Brooker, Paul. Non-democratic Regimes. 2d ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    Surveys both traditional and recent conceptual approaches to authoritarianism, provides an in-depth analysis of three common types of dictatorships (military, single-party, and personalist), and concludes with a discussion of democratization, cautioning that not all transitions inevitably lead to democracy. Discusses case studies where the process was forestalled through the institutionalization of semi-dictatorships and other intermediate types, including “protodemocracies.”

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  • Ezrow, Natasha M., and Erica Frantz. Dictators and Dictatorships: Understanding Authoritarian Regimes and Their Leaders. New York: Continuum, 2011.

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    A wide-ranging text on authoritarian regimes, covering the major issues of their origin, resilience, and breakdown. Carefully separates the survival of the regime from its leaders. Geddes’s typology is used as a starting point to frame the detailed presentation of research on single-party, military, personalist, monarchical, and hybrid regimes, each illustrated in specific regional contexts.

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  • Gandhi, Jennifer, and Ellen Lust-Okar. “Elections under Authoritarianism.” Annual Review of Political Science 12 (2009): 403–422.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.060106.095434Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the extant research on the role of elections in authoritarian regimes, ranging from their uses for co-optation, elite management, and mass mobilization to their informational value. Details the questions needing more exploration about electoral behavior under authoritarianism, such as why the opposition chooses to run in elections they are likely to lose, why the public opts to vote under authoritarianism, or whom the incumbents decide to include in their coalition.

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  • Geddes, Barbara, Erica Frantz, and Joseph G. Wright. “Military Rule.” Annual Review of Political Science 17 (2014): 147–162.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-032211-213418Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Surveys the literature on military regimes, distinguishing between the “strongman” type ruled by a military personalist dictator and the “military regime” led by a group of high-ranking officers. Suggests that the strongman type is consequently the least likely to lead to democratization, more likely to break down through violence, and more prone to the use of force than other autocratic types.

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  • Koehler, Kevin, and Jana Warkotsch. “Putting Institutions into Perspective: Two Waves of Authoritarianism Studies and the Arab Spring.” Paper presented at the general conference of the European Consortium for Political Research, Reykjavik, 25–27 August 2011.

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    Divides the scholarship on authoritarianism into two waves. The first wave was primarily focused on the socioeconomic conditions behind the formation of different types. Starting in the late 1980s, the second wave turned to institutional analyses and the issues of stability, with a marked interest in “hybrid regimes.” Discusses the problems of concept formation in authoritarian institutionalist studies, illustrating critical points in the case of the Arab Spring.

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  • Magaloni, Beatriz, and Ruth Kricheli. “Political Order and One-Party Rule.” Annual Review of Political Science 13 (2010): 123–143.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.031908.220529Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents two arguments about the role of parties as a mechanism for an autocrat’s political survival in single-party regimes. Whether used for mobilizing mass support or co-opting elites into the system, the research still needs to explore the issue of why political parties are formed under authoritarianism in the first place. A few lines of research are suggested toward that end, which the authors support with their preliminary empirical analysis.

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Early Works

Arendt 1951 and Friedrich and Brzezinski 1965 were the first classic texts concerned predominantly with totalitarianism. This early stage also produced some initial attempts at understanding autocratic structures beyond the totalitarian subset, such as Moore 1966, Huntington 1968, and Huntington and Moore 1970, situating them in the socioeconomic context. The latter group, in particular, laid the foundations for the next wave in authoritarian studies, which focused more closely on conceptual issues, typologies, and the prospects for democratization, such as Linz 1975 and O’Donnell 1973 (cited under Conceptual Approaches and Typologies). Talmon 1970 stands out as an exceptional treatment of totalitarianism in the Western political tradition, and as an idea presaging the 20th century.

  • Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1951.

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    An indispensable volume for the early thoughts on totalitarianism. Thought-provoking and stimulating, by one of the best-known authors in the genre.

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  • Friedrich, Karl, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965.

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    Analyzes Nazi, Fascist, and Communist varieties of totalitarianism. Advances the argument that they do not originate through design, but rather because the new leadership turns to totalitarian measures once the new order is established. Common to all totalitarian regimes are a tight control and monopoly over police, media, and military, in addition to a terrorizing police, totalitarian ideology, and centralized economy.

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  • Huntington, Samuel P. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.

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    A general theory of political development, suggesting that institutional formation needs to be compatible with social mobilization. If social mobilization outpaces the formation of organizational structures, it results in political breakdown and decay, or praetorianism. In the reverse situation, modernization is forestalled. One of the major implications is that dictatorships can undergo modernization without the threat of political collapse. Both historical and contemporary cases are used to illustrate the arguments.

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  • Huntington, Samuel P., and Clement H. Moore, eds. Authoritarian Politics in Modern Society: The Dynamics of Established One-Party Systems. New York: Basic Books, 1970.

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    A collection of essays emphasizing socioeconomic conditions and the origin of one-party regimes. Economic development does not undercut authoritarian rule; instead, authoritarianism is adaptable to social and economic changes while retaining the repressive nature of governance. Includes Huntington’s classic introduction and discussion of the two types of party regimes: “revolutionary” and “established” single-party rule. Consequently, in the context of the democratization paradigm, the volume cautions that not all transitional changes lead to democracy.

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  • Moore, Barrington. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Boston: Beacon, 1966.

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    Offers the view that modernity is compatible with both democracy and dictatorships. Socioeconomic factors play a pivotal role in explaining why some countries emerge as democracies and others do not. Depending on how the conflict between landowners and peasants is resolved, a country can take three different paths: toward democracy, fascism, or communism. Each path is illustrated in a detailed historical analysis of cases in Europe and Asia.

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  • Talmon, Jacob L. The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy. New York: W. W. Norton, 1970.

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    A remarkable early work delineating the idea of totalitarianism in the Western political tradition, particularly 18th-century ideologies and movements. Both “liberal” and “totalitarian” versions of “democracies” are supported by the masses and found in revolutionary France. Among several differences between the two traditions, perhaps the most fundamental distinction concerns the totalitarian idea that individual needs, rights, and freedoms are secondary and subject to the priorities of collective goods.

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Data Sets

There are several widely used data sources that allow for quantitative empirical research on authoritarianism. The datasets described in Cheibub, et al. 2010 and Marshall, et al. 2013 include variables for all regime types, including democracies. The former opts for discretely coded variables, whereas the latter (Polity data project) provides them as indices on ordinal scales. Freedom House 2015 is another widely used general data source for political and civil liberties in all states, rating them categorically as free, partly free, or unfree. The Logic of Political Survival Data Source is particularly relevant for studies on authoritarianism and conflict, many of which are guided by the authors’ highly influential selectorate theory that can be empirically explored with this dataset. Geddes, et al. 2014 further refines and updates Geddes’s previously developed data on authoritarian regimes. Hadenius and Teorell 2007 uses a similar typology as Geddes, but with a few important differences consistent with the authors’ alternative conceptual approach to authoritarian institutions.

  • Cheibub, Jose Antonio, Jennifer Gandhi, and James Raymond Vreeland. “Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited.” Public Choice 143.1 (2010): 67–101.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-009-9491-2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Codes all countries as either democracy or dictatorship, depending on the access to power (i.e., elections) for the time period 1946–2008. Within the dictatorship category, states are further broken down into military, civilian, or monarchic dictatorships. Also codes the presence or absence of legislatures and political parties in nondemocratic regimes, which can be useful for identifying party-based nondemocracies and their variants (electoral or single-party).

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  • Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2015. Washington, DC: Freedom House, 2015.

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    Provides two separate indices of political rights and civil liberties for all states for the period 1973–2014. Each index is composed of several indicators. Based on their composite scores for their political rights and civil liberties, countries are rated as free, partly free, or not free. Freedom in the World is published annually by Freedom House, and past editions are available on the website.

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  • Geddes, Barbara, Joseph Wright, and Erica Frantz. “Autocratic Breakdown and Regime Transitions: A New Data Set.” Perspectives on Politics 12.2 (2014): 313–331.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1537592714000851Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides data on all autocratic governments from 1946 to 2010 in countries with more than one million inhabitants. Autocratic regimes are coded as party-based, military, personalist, or monarchical, or a combination of two or more of these types. Also contains data for the duration of authoritarian regimes, the method of autocratic breakdown (i.e., violent or nonviolent), and the type of regime that replaced it.

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  • Hadenius, Axel, and Jan Teorell. “Pathways from Authoritarianism.” Journal of Democracy 18.1 (2007): 143–156.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2007.0009Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Authoritarian regimes are broken down into six categories: monarchy, military, no-party, one-party, limited multiparty, and theocracy. The typology then adds a number of different combinations of these basic regime types. Does not include personalist regimes as a separate category, but includes a leader’s tenure duration as an indicator of personalist rule. Includes all UN member states for the period 1972–2005.

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  • The Logic of Political Survival Data Source. By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith, Randolph Siverson, and James Morrow.

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    The replication data for the authors’ book, The Logic of Political Survival (Bueno de Mesquita, et al. 2003, cited under Conflict Studies), covering the period 1800–2003. While compiled from several extant data sources, some of which are annotated in this section, the dataset includes a number of novel variables on political regimes consistent with the authors’ selectorate theory. It should facilitate not only replication of their own work, but also empirical tests by other authors that utilize the concepts and/or arguments from this influential theory.

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  • Marshall, Monty G., Ted Robert Gurr, and Keith Jaggers. “PolityTM IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2012.” Vienna: Center for Systemic Peace, 2013.

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    Widely used data set that provides a democracy-autocracy index for all independent states between 1800 and 2013. The index is based on several characteristics of state authority: competitiveness and regulation of political participation, competitiveness and openness of executive recruitment, and constraints on the chief executive. Based on these characteristics, states are coded on a 21-point ordinal scale ranging from -10 (complete autocracy) to +10 (complete democracy).

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Journals

Journals can be grouped into those with a general focus on comparative politics, such as Comparative Political Studies and Comparative Politics; those with a more focused orientation on the various facets of democratic governance, including autocratic obstacles to democratic transitions, such as the Journal of Democracy and Democratization; and those that also publish research on international and transnational aspects of authoritarianism, including the two leading journals in international politics, International Studies Quarterly and the Journal of Conflict Resolution. All of these journals are indispensable for scholars and students in political science, but they are also relevant for policy implications to be informative for practitioners as well.

Comparative Authoritarianism

Motivated by the rise of fascism and Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as communism in the 1920s, the first publications in this field, such as Arendt 1951, Friedrich and Brzezinski 1965 (both cited under Early Works), focused exclusively on totalitarian regimes. The 1960s brought a greater diversity in understanding the forms and methods of autocratic governance, resulting in different typologies of autocratic regimes that stemmed from distinct conceptual approaches to authoritarianism (see Conceptual Approaches and Typologies below). The post–Cold War wave of transitions from dictatorships showed that the establishment of nominally democratic institutions did not remove the de facto authoritarian control of the public sphere. This new insight resulted in the studies of Hybrid Regimes that defy an easy categorization as democracies or autocracies. It also triggered the proliferation of institutionalist approaches to authoritarianism, especially focused on the mechanisms for an autocrat’s political resilience that forestalls full regime change. In many of these studies, the same causal mechanisms that explain Authoritarian Survival and Persistence are also discussed in the context of authoritarian breakdowns. Traditionally though, authoritarian breakdowns are more generally treated in the literature on regime transitions. In many of these studies, the same causal mechanisms that explain authoritarian resilience are also discussed in the context of authoritarian breakdown. Traditionally though, authoritarian fragility and collapse are more generally treated in the literature on political transitions. Consequently, these two aspects of institutional and other approaches to the power dynamics in authoritarian regimes will be treated under two distinct headings: Authoritarian Survival and Persistence and Authoritarian Breakdown and Regime Transitions.

Conceptual Approaches and Typologies

Linz 1975, a pioneering work that classified authoritarian regimes rather than treat them as a residual category between totalitarianism and democracy, influenced subsequent attempts to refine both the concept and various manifestations of authoritarianism (see also Linz 2000). A few prominent typologies reflect different views on the criteria for authoritarian classifications: Geddes 1999 focuses on who controls the access to power, O’Donnell 1973 focuses on the level of modernization, Cheibub, et al. 2010 examines the characteristics of the ruling elite, and Wintrobe 1998 looks at the dictator’s strategy choice with regard to repression and inducing loyalty. The choice of criteria is grounded either in different conceptualizations of authoritarianism in terms of its key features, or in the theoretical interest at hand.

  • Cheibub, Jose A., Jennifer Gandhi, and James R. Vreeland. “Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited.” Public Choice 143.1 (2010): 67–101.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-009-9491-2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A part of the general discussion about the differences between democracies and autocracies, focusing on the mechanisms of legitimate elections and removal from office. Dictatorships are classified according to the characteristics of the ruling elite that can pose the main threat, through intra-elite rivalry, to the dictator’s political survival. Consequently, these regimes fall into three categories: monarchic, military, and civilian dictatorships.

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  • Geddes, Barbara. “Authoritarian Breakdown: Empirical Test of a Game Theoretic Argument.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta, 2–5 September 1999.

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    A seminal attempt at developing a regime classification widely used in other studies, either as originally formulated or in revised form. Differentiates between personalist, military, single-party, and their combinations, depending on who controls access to power and the subsequent distribution of benefits. Though this classification according to authoritarian institutional structures was motivated to explain different transition paths, it is highly influential in the literature on authoritarian regimes and international behavior.

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  • Linz, Juan J. “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes.” In Handbook of Political Science. Vol. 3, Macropolitical Theory. Edited by Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby, 175–411. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975.

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    One of the first studies to reject the treatment of authoritarianism as a residual category between democracy and totalitarianism. A conceptual revision allowed for a finer distinction between authoritarian rule such as “bureaucratic-military authoritarianism,” “organic statism,” “racial and ethnic ‘democracies,’” “post-totalitarian,” “postdemocratic,” and “postindependence mobilizational” authoritarian regimes.

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  • Linz, Juan J. Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000.

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    Extends Linz’s own earlier pioneering work and updates his initial taxonomy. Linz’s typology evolved over time, but it continually rests on his definition of authoritarianism as a system with limited pluralism in the absence of extensive popular mobilization. In this volume, he further explores three types: personalist, party, and military dictatorships.

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  • O’Donnell, Guillermo. Modernization and Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

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    Highlights the level of modernization in differentiating between oligarchic, populist, and bureaucratic types of authoritarianism. Explains the absence of democracy despite a high level of socioeconomic modernization that is contrary to expectations in the traditional modernization literature. Also presents an important early study of the government’s co-optation (“encapsulation”) of the potential opposition.

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  • Wintrobe, Ronald. The Political Economy of Dictatorship. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139174916Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the strategic behavior of dictators in resolving the “dilemma” between opting for repression or, alternatively, policies that elicit loyalty through the distribution of rents. Different combinations in mixing these two strategies result in four dictatorial types: “tinpots,” totalitarians, tyrants, and “timocrats.” The dictator’s strategic choices and the resultant dictatorship type explain variations on a number of critical issues, such as regime stability, economic growth, nationalist policies, or international behavior.

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Hybrid Regimes

The end of the Cold War did not entirely close the chapter on many autocracies, despite the successful transition to democracy in other countries. As pointed out in the seminal issue of Journal of Democracy titled “Elections without Democracy,” authoritarianism instead took on new forms, broadly grouped into the category of “hybrid regimes.” While featuring nominal institutions of democracy such as elections, multiple political parties, and legislatures, actual political power and control are still highly concentrated and authoritarian in nature. Institutionally situated between established democracies and traditional autocracies, their longevity shows that they cannot be simply treated as a residual category in the democratization process. Some might even experience reversals. The literature can be roughly divided into several research strands: Levitsky and Way 2010 and Schedler 2006 consider this type of regime as a new form of authoritarianism, O’Donnell 1994 and Zakaria 1997 view it as a defective type of democracy, and Diamond 2002 and Ottaway 2003 approach it as a mixed or “hard-to-define” regime. Regardless of their conceptual differences, the question of why these regimes emerge and what accounts for their resistance to change is common to all studies in this rapidly growing literature. The answers are expectedly diverse, ranging from the strategic behavior of an authoritarian leader vis-à-vis the ruling elite, as suggested by O’Donnell 1994 and Schedler 2006, to the mixture of internal and external influences, as evident in Levitsky and Way 2010 and Ottaway 2003. In addition, Schedler 2013 frames the inner workings of these regimes in terms of the strategies used by the rulers and opposition to manipulate institutional and informational uncertainties about the prospects of holding power.

  • Diamond, Larry Jay. “Thinking about Hybrid Regimes.” Journal of Democracy 13.2 (2002): 21–35.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2002.0025Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Part of the section on “Elections without Democracy,” cited below. Diamond discusses the problems of concepts and classification of “hybrid regimes.”

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  • “Elections without Democracy.” Journal of Democracy 13.2 (2002): 21–80.

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    A pathbreaking collection of articles that set the grounds for research on hybrid regimes. Diamond’s essay discusses the problems of concepts and classification of “hybrid regimes”; Schedler analyzes electoral institutions as a mechanism for legitimizing and extending authoritarian rule; Levitsky and Way present the new dynamics of contestation between the government and opposition under “competitive authoritarianism”; and de Walle examines the varieties of regime types in sub-Saharan Africa.

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  • Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan Way. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511781353Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes different paths of post–Cold War competitive authoritarian regimes depending on domestic and international factors. Those states with close ties to the West underwent a transition to democracy (central/eastern Europe and Central/South America); others without linkages to the West (Africa, Central Asia, and the Soviet successor states) remained stable autocracies if the domestic ruling coalition was strong; alternatively, if domestically weak, Western leverage was used to influence their stability.

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  • O’Donnell, Guillermo. “Delegative Democracy.” Journal of Democracy 5.1 (1994): 55–69.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.1994.0010Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Another approach to emerging regimes that stop short of complete democracy in the transition process. Finds most “new democracies” to be “delegative,” because those who win in the elections still have the discretion to select the rules of governance. Various informal power relations are established at the elite level (horizontal intersection of governance) while (vertical) accountability to the general public remains de facto low.

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  • Ottaway, Marina. Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003.

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    Argues that the nominal institutions of democracy (i.e., elections, parliaments, and a certain degree of respect for individual rights) serve mostly as “window-dressing” to cover for de facto authoritarian governance. The autocratic rulers now resort to informal mechanisms of repression such as control over media, tampering with electoral rules, or clientelism. There are nonetheless variations in semi-authoritarianism, as illustrated in five case studies.

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  • Schedler, Andreas, ed. Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006.

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    A collection of empirical analyses by different authors, each drawing implications about the electoral dynamics between the government and opposition. Elections can play a role in both maintaining and subverting authoritarian rule. A broad spectrum of regional analyses suggest that a number of factors, such as strong legislatures, elite divisions, or opposition coalescence into a unified front, can undermine the incumbents’ ability to manipulate elections and facilitate democratization.

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  • Schedler, Andreas. The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680320.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Governance under electoral authoritarianism is approached in the context of uncertainty in two respects: institutional uncertainty about the power-sharing arrangements, and informational uncertainty about the security of power-holding. The choice of strategies for manipulating these uncertainties by both the ruling coalition and the opposition yields variable political outcomes, which the author examines empirically in both qualitative and quantitative analyses.

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  • Zakaria, Fareed. “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 76.6 (1997): 22–43.

    DOI: 10.2307/20048274Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One of the first statements about some of the post–Cold War “democracies” that share nominal characteristics with established democracies, but retain arbitrariness in areas such as the rule of law, individual rights, or independent judiciaries. Most “illiberal democracies” also show a tendency toward strong executive and weak legislative institutions. An early cautionary essay about the post–Cold War wave of democratization, with implications for the Western policy in promoting democracies abroad.

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Authoritarian Survival and Persistence

The most recent wave in authoritarianism studies turned its attention away from authoritarian breakdown and toward the issues of persistence and survival, at both the regime and leadership levels. The institutional approach predominates in that institutions are seen as a powerful tool that autocrats use for their own political survival. Gandhi 2008 and Gandhi and Przeworski 2007 view their purpose as a tool for cooptation; Brownlee 2007 argues they serve as a mechanism for elite cohesion control; whereas Haber 2006, Magaloni 2008, and Svolik 2012 see their use by autocratic leaders as a form of strategic power-sharing with rivals in the ruling coalition. Slater 2010, on the other hand, places authoritarian durability in the context of a state’s capacity to respond to different types of societal contentions in politics. Another set of questions concern the type of authoritarian regime that is most resistant to collapse or fundamental changes. Besides the mixed regimes variously labeled as “electoral autocracies” or “competitive authoritarianism” (reviewed under Hybrid Regimes), most studies suggest the single-party regime to be most stable among traditional dictatorships. Brownlee 2007, Geddes 2003, and Magaloni 2008 offer different theoretical reasons for the durability of single-party systems.

  • Brownlee, Jason. Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511802348Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The pivotal role in maintaining the regime is attributed to the ability of a ruling party to co-opt elites into the organization, providing a setting for mediating their disputes, and keeping elite cohesion. Brownlee demonstrates that regimes with a strong ruling party are more durable than those with a weak or dissolved party institution. Egypt and Malaysia are analyzed for the former situation, whereas Iran and the Philippines illustrate the latter.

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  • Gandhi, Jennifer. Political Institutions under Dictatorship. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511510090Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Expands on the study coauthored with Przeworski (Gandhi and Przeworski 2007). Argues that institutions, principally legislatures and, to some extent, political parties, serve autocrats for co-optation purposes. In return, they have to make policy concessions, which forces them to provide more public goods than noninstitutionalized autocracies. Shows empirically that highly institutionalized autocracies perform economically better than other dictatorships, though the results are mostly indeterminate for regime survival.

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  • Gandhi, Jennifer, and Adam Przeworski. “Authoritarian Institutions and the Survival of Autocrats.” Comparative Political Studies 40.11 (2007): 1279–1301.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414007305817Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents a model and empirical test of the argument that dictators create institutions as a co-optation device to mitigate the threats from rivals within the ruling coalition. The authors suggest legislatures as the principal institutions for co-optation, because they facilitate both policy concessions and rent-sharing, two instruments used variably by dictators depending on the type of threat.

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  • Geddes, Barbara. Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.

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    Argues that the threats to an autocrat’s survival vary across different types of autocracies. The coordination problem is one of the central issues in military dictatorships, explaining their fragility, whereas repression against opponents is prevalent in personalist regimes. In contrast, co-optation is the optimal survival strategy for those who rule in single-party regimes, making them more stable than the other two types.

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  • Haber, Stephen. “Authoritarian Government.” In The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy. Edited by Barry R. Weingast and Donald Wittman, 693–707. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    The survival of autocrats depends on their strategic choices vis-à-vis the organizations that brought them to power. They can terrorize, co-opt through the distribution of rents, or raise the costs of collective action for their “launching organization.” While the latter can create coordination problems, the terrorizing strategy is rarely employed because of its risks. The most frequently and effectively used strategy is that of co-optation, despite some pitfalls.

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  • Magaloni, Beatriz. “Credible Power-Sharing and the Longevity of Authoritarian Rule.” Comparative Political Studies 41.4–5 (2008): 715–741.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414007313124Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that party-based authoritarian regimes, both one-party and multiparty, are more durable because political parties mitigate the autocrat’s commitment problem toward the ruling coalition. Questions the co-optation argument because elite rivals can use the co-opting resources to subvert the autocrat’s power. Instead, party institutions serve as an assurance for power-sharing with the ruling coalition, which, in turn, makes party-based regimes more durable. Empirical evidence provided for the 1950–2000 period.

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  • Slater, Dan. Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511760891Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An important contribution to the literature of authoritarianism and state-making from the standpoint of comparative historical sociology. Though applied in seven cases of Southeast Asian countries (Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Vietnam, and Thailand), its theoretical relevance is far-reaching. Slater explains variations in authoritarian regime formation and stability as a function of collective action responses by political elites to different types of domestic conflicts.

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  • Svolik, Milan W. The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139176040Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Builds a formal model with empirical statistical tests. Proposes that, whereas the commitment problem is at the center of power-sharing dynamics, control over the masses is framed as a moral hazard problem. Depending on the chosen strategies, there can be three equilibria outcomes: one-man rule, power sharing, or the autocrat’s removal from office. Of these, the power-sharing arrangement with the ruling coalition within authoritarian institutions is associated with regime stability.

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Authoritarian Breakdown and Regime Transitions

As discussed in the introductory paragraph on Comparative Authoritarianism, a few works treat the logic of survival and breakdown as inextricably connected, whereas many other studies treat the dynamics of autocratic survival and breakdown separately. Literature that primarily examines the factors contributing to regime resilience or autocratic survival was discussed under Authoritarian Survival and Persistence. Those highlighting the fragility and breakdown of authoritarian regimes are generally contextualized in terms of transitions toward or away from democracy. A noticeable difference between the literature on authoritarian resilience, on the one hand, and breakdowns/transitions, on the other, is that most of the latter is not predominantly institutional in approach, but highlights a range of societal, economic, and international factors (authors such as Geddes, of course, excepted). The literature on regime transitions points to both the prospects for and obstacles to complete transitions to democracy. The domestic factors explaining success or failure of democratization are primarily examined in the comparative politics literature. On the other hand, international dimensions are approached either in terms of the “second-image” explanations of a state’s foreign policies as a result of their domestic regime type, with the special focus on transitional regimes, or through the “second image reversed” lenses by looking at the external factors that either facilitate or impede the process of democratization.

Internal Dimension

One of the perennial issues in examining the impact of domestic factors on democratization concerns the state of the economy. Analyses have largely focused on two economic aspects, inequality and development. Concerning inequality, Boix 2003 contends that autocracies are more likely to democratize if inequality is at lower levels, but Acemoglu and Robinson 2006 argue the opposite. These divergent expectations result from their different perspectives on which segment of society is more potent in effectively ousting the leader—political elites, as suggested by Boix 2003, or the general public, as premised in Acemoglu and Robinson 2006. Another disagreement concerns the question of whether economic development facilitates successful transitions to democracy. In contrast to Boix and Stokes 2003, for example, Przeworski, et al. 2000 is skeptical about the development-democratization linkage. Additionally, Haggard and Kaufman 1997 sheds light on the effects of economic crises on the transition process. Linz and Stepan 1996 and O’Donnell, et al. 1986, on the other hand, examine different transitional paths, depending on the type of autocratic rule and the role of elites in shaping the political changes. Their theories and extensive case studies in these and a number of other volumes significantly shaped the “third wave” transition paradigm.

  • Acemoglu, Daron, and James Robinson. Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Presents a formally stylized argument that dictatorial countries with inequality are likely to democratize. The specific relationship is curvilinear, with the intermediate level of inequality heightening the probability of democratization. At the low end of inequality, the masses do not have sufficient incentives to challenge the regime, whereas at the high end the elite has a strong incentive to repress and prevent demands for redistribution.

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  • Boix, Carles. Democracy and Redistribution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511804960Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues and, for the most part, empirically demonstrates that lower levels of inequality and higher levels of capital mobility facilitate transitions to democracy. Both factors reduce the likelihood of redistributions of wealth that, in turn, make the elite more tolerant toward changes.

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  • Boix, Carles, and Susan Stokes. “Endogenous Democratization.” World Politics 55.4 (2003): 517–549.

    DOI: 10.1353/wp.2003.0019Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Shows that, contra Przeworski, et al. 2000, development increases the likelihood of transition to democracy, most significantly in the period prior to 1950.

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  • Haggard, Stephan, and Robert R. Kaufman. “The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions.” Comparative Politics 29.3 (1997): 263–283.

    DOI: 10.2307/422121Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    While not an economic theory of democratization, this article analyzes how the absence or presence of economic crises influence the pattern and institutional consequences of democratic transitions.

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  • Linz, Juan J., and Alfred Stepan. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

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    Expanding on Linz’s previous typology, the authors examine totalitarian, authoritarian, post-totalitarian, and sultanist regimes. Successful democratization is most likely to result from negotiated transitions, which are difficult to achieve under totalitarianism and sultanism, but not in the context of the other two regime types. Theory is followed by an extensive case-based analysis across three regions, southern Europe, South America, and post-Communist Europe.

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  • O’Donnell, Guillermo, Philippe C. Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead, eds. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy. 4 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

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    A massive collaborative work in four edited volumes containing both theoretical essays and case studies of the “third wave” transitions in southern Europe and Latin America. Departs from the earlier structural approach and instead highlights the importance of elites in shaping the transition process, including its pattern and success. Differentiates between democratization and liberalization, the latter resulting from the strategic dynamics that involve both the ruling elite and opposition.

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  • Przeworski, Adam, Michael E. Alvarez, José Antonio Cheibub, and Fernando Limongi. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950–1990. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511804946Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that there is no causal relationship between development and democratization. Instead, economic growth contributes to the stability of established democracies, making them less vulnerable to breakdowns.

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External Dimension

The literature on international factors and democratization can be roughly divided into two groups. Comparative politics scholars tend to focus on the impact of external factors on the prospects for democratization. The influential work Huntington 1993 considers the “third wave” of democratization in the 1970s and 1980s to have been largely facilitated by favorable international circumstances. Yet some of the states undergoing transitions ossified into regimes mixing democratic and autocratic elements. Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way have been at the forefront of the scholarship about such hybrid regimes, specifically arguing that variable linkages with the West explain why some states succeeded and others failed to become fully established democracies (Levitsky and Way 2006). In the international relations literature, Pevehouse 2005 stands out by closely examining the type of international organizations that are most likely to promote successful democratic transitions and consolidation. With a few exceptions, such as Jon Pevehouse, international relations scholars are mostly interested in exploring the reversed causal arrow; that is, whether states undergoing transitions have distinct foreign policies. Their conflict behavior has attracted special attention, with Mansfield and Snyder 2005 pointing to their higher aptitude for conflictual behavior in the international arena. Clare 2007 and Ward and Gleditsch 1998, however, reject the notion that democratizing states are inherently conflictual. Instead, each points to different aspects of their governance to explain variations in their foreign behavior, from cautionary to conflict-prone. Alcañiz 2012 moves even further away from the standard interpretation that democratizing states are generally war-prone, and instead explains why such regimes have a vested interest in establishing a positive reputation by committing to security arrangements such as arms control and nonproliferation. Regardless of their differences, all these works are theoretically rich, specifying causal mechanisms rather than making intuitive guesses, and empirically rigorous, employing sophisticated statistical models in their large-N empirical tests.

  • Alcañiz, Isabella. “Democratization and Multilateral Security.” World Politics 64.2 (2012): 306–340.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0043887112000068Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Suggests that democratizing states have a greater incentive than autocracies or established democracies to forge positive credentials by committing to security norms and institutions. The reputational effects of their multilateral commitments are two-fold, signaling their progress toward democracy while also exposing the anti-democratizing groups to the costs of sanctions for any reversals to autocracy. Validated in an empirical analysis of ratifications of twenty security treaties between 1959 and 2007.

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  • Clare, Joe. “Democratization and International Conflict: The Impact of Institutional Legacies.” Journal of Peace Research 44.3 (2007): 259–276.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022343307076628Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that the past institutional legacies of democratizing states account for differences in their conflict behavior. Strong institutions of new governance are facilitated if the state experienced democracy in the past, and protect them from ouster and autocratic reversals. Consequently, expects first-time democratizing states to be more cautious in foreign conflict behavior than redemocratizing governments. Supported in a quantitative analysis for the 1950–1990 period.

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  • Huntington, Samuel. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

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    Important work, contending that both domestic and international factors shape the democratization process. Closely examines the “third wave” of the 1970s and 1980s. In terms of external influences, highlights the legitimacy crisis of autocratic regimes triggered by a poor economy, partly resulting from the oil shocks, changes in the status-quo positions of religious institutions (particularly the Roman Catholic Church), and a human rights agenda and democracy in Western policies.

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  • Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan Way. “Linkage versus Leverage: Rethinking the International Dimension of Regime Change.” Comparative Politics 38.4 (2006): 379–400.

    DOI: 10.2307/20434008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines how states undergoing “competitive authoritarianism” respond to international influences, and argues that those with extensive international linkages have greater prospects for complete democratization. The low level of linkages and leverage that international actors can use on ruling coalitions allow these coalitions to forestall the democratization process. Four combinations of high or low linkage and leverage are illustrated in the cases of Slovakia, Mexico, Zambia, and Russia.

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  • Mansfield, Edward D., and Jack Snyder. Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.

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    Associates “incomplete democratization” with international conflict. The weak institutional structures that result from stalled transitions allow leaders to engage in logrolling by exchanging favors with powerful elites who may have an interest in international conflict. Nationalism also features prominently, as it is used as a co-opting tool for the public. The link between incomplete democratization and conflict is demonstrated in a large-N analysis and six wars between 1992 and 2000.

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  • Pevehouse, Jon. Democracy from Above: Regional Organizations and Democratization. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511491078Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the influences of international organizations (IOs) on democratization, especially those with a regional character and a larger number of democratic members. Instead of a simple contagion effect, develops several causal mechanisms through which regional IOs promote both democratic transition and consolidation. Those that performed the strongest in the statistical analysis and comparative case studies include pressures, legitimation, and binding of “losers” (i.e., anti-regime groups), by making regime reversals costly.

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  • Ward, Michael D., and Kristian S. Gleditsch. “Democratizing for Peace.” American Political Science Review 92.1 (1998): 51–62.

    DOI: 10.2307/2585928Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive empirical analysis of the extant arguments about democratization and international conflict. Shows that certain characteristics of the democratization process, rather than simply whether the state is democratizing, are better predictors of conflict. States that make significant progress toward democracy (moving from highly authoritarian to highly democratic regimes) are involved in fewer conflicts, whereas those that experience many reversals along the road to democracy are more conflict-prone.

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Authoritarian Regimes and International Politics

The predominance of democratic peace studies in international relations research kept the focus away from possible differences between autocracies in terms of their foreign policies. It was not until the onset of the 21st century that we witnessed the emerging and growing body of literature opening the “black box” of autocracies to account for variations in their foreign policies. Most of this novel research focused on conflict behavior, as surveyed in Conflict Studies. Since then, however, attention has also turned to non-security issues, most notably concerning international economic aspects and cooperative behavior. Several recent studies thus tackle the questions of when and why autocracies enter into international agreements and whether there are differences in their cooperative behavior. This latest trend is presented in the section on Cooperation and Non-Security Issues.

Conflict Studies

The predominance of democratic peace studies in the international relations research kept the focus away from possible differences between autocracies in terms of their foreign policies. In the early 2000s there were only a few studies—such as Peceny, et al. 2002; Danilovic and Clare 2004; and Pickering and Kisangani 2010—proposing that autocracies are not uniformly and inherently conflictual, as premised in democratic peace, but are instead variable in their conflict behavior depending on their internal characteristics. Though these works started to pave new ground in understanding the international behavior of authoritarian regimes, the advancements in comparative politics, especially new typologies in comparative authoritarianism, as surveyed under Conceptual Approaches and Typologies, facilitated a better understanding of institutional differences among dictatorships. Geddes’s classifications (see Geddes 1999, cited under Conceptual Approaches and Typologies, and Geddes 2003, cited under Authoritarian Survival and Persistence) are particularly influential on the scholars exploring the link between the diverse authoritarian regimes and their foreign policies. The “institutionalist” or “selectorate” theory advanced by Bueno de Mesquita and his colleagues in a series of studies, and most comprehensively in Bueno de Mesquita, et al. 2003, had a singularly important theoretical impact on this new line of research. While their focus was on explaining the puzzles in democratic peace research, the distinction between ruling coalitions and the general “selectorate” in any regime was an important bridge to institutionalist literature in the comparative politics field. There is a wide range of expectations concerning which type of autocracies are more or less likely to engage in foreign conflicts. For example, both Peceny, et al. 2002 and Pickering and Kisangani 2010 expect single-party regimes to initiate conflicts—but for different reasons. Kinne and Marinov 2013 demonstrates that there are also differences in responses to disputes initiated by autocracies, depending on their type, with single-party regimes least likely to be resisted by other states. This, in turn, can add another layer to the argument that single-party regimes are more likely to initiate conflict. On the other hand, Lai and Slater 2006 and Sechser 2004 also develop different explanatory frameworks that nonetheless lead them to the similar expectation for military regimes to be the most conflict-prone. Danilovic and Clare 2004, on the other hand, expects personalist regimes to be most likely to initiate conflicts. This results from Danilovic and Clare’s theoretical model that links conflict-proneness to the leader’s vulnerability to ouster from within the elite ranks. Their argument that the varying extent to which the political survival of the ruling elite is tied to that of the leader is critical in accounting for behavioral differences of autocratic leaders was later expanded in Weeks 2008, which adds the coordination problem for the ruling coalition (for the coordination approach, see Haber 2006, cited under Authoritarian Survival and Persistence). Cumulatively, despite their different expectations, this emerging body of research about foreign policies of authoritarian regimes launched new directions in understanding how domestic institutions or cultural norms can shape international policies. Finally, several of these works develop authoritarian regime typologies to account for variations in their domestic constraints and incentives for engaging in conflicts abroad. Danilovic and Clare 2004, for example, distinguishes four types of autocracies, based on the characteristics of the ruling coalition (the autocrat’s “core domestic audience”). Lai and Slater 2006 also provide a four-fold typology that highlights civilian and military distinctions, as does Weeks 2014.

  • Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce, Alastair Smith, Randolph Siverson, and James Morrow. The Logic of Political Survival. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.

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    Attributes foreign policy to the strategic behavior of governments vis-à-vis their domestic elite (winning coalitions) and general public (selectorate). Explains why democracies rarely fight other democracies, generally win wars, and so on, but the “institutionalist” model is generic enough to allow for the extension to authoritarian regimes. Influential for subsequent studies on authoritarianism and international politics, particularly the argument that a leader’s behavior varies depending on the size of the winning coalition.

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  • Danilovic, Vesna, and Joe Clare. “Authoritarian Regimes and International Conflict: An Institutionalist Account.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association Montreal, 17–20 March 2004.

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    Explains conflict behavior of autocratic leaders as a function of their vulnerability to ouster from within the ruling coalition, which varies according to their size and homogeneity. Homogenous coalitions, that is, those whose political survival is tied to the leader, as in personalist regimes, are less likely to oust the leader for risky behavior, thus allowing for greater freedom to initiate conflicts than military or one-party systems. Supported in their quantitative analysis.

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  • Kinne, Brandon J., and Nikolay Marinov. “Electoral Authoritarianism and Credible Signaling in International Crises.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 57.3 (2013): 359–386.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002712446124Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Develops a formal model for an argument that those autocratic leaders facing ouster due to the low electoral support or strong opposition forces are more credible in signaling their resolve to use force abroad. As a result, threats are less likely to be reciprocated. These institutional characteristic are distinctly more present in competitive than hegemonic (single-party) regimes. Presents supporting evidence from the empirical test.

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  • Lai, Brian, and Dan Slater. “Institutions of the Offensive: Domestic Sources of Dispute Initiation in Authoritarian Regimes, 1950–1992.” American Journal of Political Science 50.1 (2006): 113–126.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00173.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Classifies autocracies into the “machine,” “bossism,” “junta,” and “strongman” types. Argues that the critical institutional aspect concerns the type of actors who are important in the enforcement stage—that is, military or party institutions. In addition, the legitimacy of institutions influences varying diversionary incentives. Combined implications from these two arguments suggest that military regimes are more likely to initiate foreign disputes than single-party regimes, which is validated in the authors’ empirical test.

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  • Peceny, Mark, Caroline C. Beer, and Shannon Sanchez-Terry. “Dictatorial Peace?” American Political Science Review 96.1 (2002): 15–26.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055402004203Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    At a monadic level, suggests that personalist dictatorships are the most constrained, whereas military regimes are more constrained than single-party regimes. Also finds democracies to be more likely attackers against personalist dictatorships than other types. As the results from their quantitative analysis show a lower probability of conflicts in autocratic dyads than those between democracies and autocracies, the “separate peace” among democracies may not be unique among political regimes.

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  • Pickering, Jeff, and Emizet Kisangani. “Diversionary Despots? Comparing Autocracies’ Propensities to Use and to Benefit from Military Force.” American Journal of Political Science 54.2 (2010): 477–493.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2010.00442.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Informed by the winning coalition argument and the political incentive theory, expects a higher rate of diversionary behavior from single-party regimes than military or personalist autocracies. The rationale is that the moderating effect of diversions on domestic elite challenges is greater when a leader operates within a larger ruling coalition. The expectations are confirmed in an empirical test for the period 1950 to 2005.

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  • Sechser, Todd S. “Are Soldiers Less War-Prone Than Statesmen?” Journal of Conflict Resolution 48.5 (2004): 746–774.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002704268025Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Finds that, as military officers are arguably more inclined to use force than their civilian counterparts, the lack of civilian control in military regimes explains their higher conflict propensity.

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  • Weeks, Jessica L. “Autocratic Audience Costs: Regime Type and Signaling Resolve.” International Organization 62.1 (2008): 35–64.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020818308080028Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Extends the argument from previous studies that autocrats face variable audience costs from the ruling elite depending on their ties to the leader’s incumbency by adding that the coalition itself faces a coordination dilemma in ousting the leader. If autocratic elites solve their coordination problems, their signaling properties are as effective as those of democracies. The expectations are subsequently supported in an empirical test.

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  • Weeks, Jessica L. Dictators at War and Peace. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.

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    Using a fourfold classification of autocracies combining the personalist or nonpersonalist characteristics of military and civilian regimes, examines their variations in foreign conflict behavior. Case studies are combined with a quantitative empirical analysis, using a partially recoded version of Geddes’s data set. Drawing on both rationalist and psychological approaches, discerns differences among autocracies in their propensity for conflict initiation, success rates, and the domestic consequences of foreign policy defeats.

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Cooperation and Non-Security Issues

Unlike the scholarship on autocracies and conflict that achieved a certain accumulation of knowledge over the past decade, the focus on the cooperative or non-security aspects in their foreign policies is of the more recent vintage. Similar to Conflict Studies, the emphasis is on institutional variations across autocracies, challenging the conventional wisdom that has similar expectations for all autocracies as a contrast to democracies (Allen 2008, Garriga 2009, Vreeland 2008, Escribà-Folch and Wright 2010, Mattes and Rodríguez 2014, Chyzh 2014). Hafner-Burton and Tsutsui 2005, on the other hand, does not differentiate between autocracies, but in general makes an important point about how the lack of international self-enforcing mechanisms allows autocracies to sign but not comply with their international commitments. Conrad 2014 also does not use typologies to examine variations across autocracies, but rather points to the institutional impact of an effective judiciary, if any is present, in constraining autocratic rulers in exercising torture. Regarding a similar issue, Vreeland 2008 takes a co-optation approach to explain why, perhaps paradoxically, multiparty autocracies are both more likely to commit to agreements against torture and to be worse violators than more “closed” forms of dictatorship. Some works expand extant arguments with novel frameworks. The novelty of Garriga 2009, for example, is that a two-sided approach to the “Schelling conjecture,” and its later expansion in Putnam’s two-level games, might generate counterintuitive results when negotiations involve autocracies on both sides. Finally, Allen 2008 and Escribà-Folch and Wright 2010 examine reverse causality in the domestic-international nexus outside the security area. Informed by different theories, their expectations are somewhat divergent about the correlation between the degree of regime repressiveness and the effectiveness of sanctions.

  • Allen, Susan Hannah. “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 52.6 (2008): 916–944.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002708325044Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues and empirically demonstrates that strong authoritarian institutions can impede the effectiveness of economic sanctions. Whereas deprivation theories would expect popular uprisings under hardships, the institutional explanation shows the perverse effect of sanctions by inadvertently strengthening autocratic governance, as the political costs are higher for the rebels than the rulers.

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  • Chyzh, Olga. “Can You Trust a Dictator: A Strategic Model of Authoritarian Regimes’ Signing and Compliance with International Treaties.” Conflict Management and Peace Science 31.3 (2014): 3–27.

    DOI: 10.1177/0738894213501132Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using Lai and Slater’s (2006) typology (see Lai and Slater 2006, cited under Conflict Studies), empirically examines which types of autocracies are likely to commit to and comply with international agreements. By comparison to democracies or other types of autocracies (military and single-party), personalist regimes might enter into agreements, but their compliance rate is the lowest. The evidence is presented in a quantitative test for the 1816–2001 period.

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  • Conrad, Courtenay R. “Divergent Incentives for Dictators: Domestic Institutions and (International Promises Not to) Torture.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 58.1 (2014): 34–67.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002712459707Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Points to divergent institutional incentives for autocrats to commit to and comply with human rights agreements, including those against torture. While sharing power with the opposition creates incentives to commit to agreements, it is less effective in ensuring their compliance. As a domestic judiciary has stronger constraints on incumbents, human rights abuses are less severe in autocracies with an effective judiciary, even in the absence of international commitments or domestic power-sharing arrangements.

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  • Escribà-Folch, Abel, and Joseph Wright. “Dealing with Tyranny: International Sanctions and the Survival of Authoritarian Rulers.” International Studies Quarterly 54.2 (2010): 335–359.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2010.00590.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposes and empirically shows that the effectiveness of external coercive influences, such as economic sanctions, have variable effects on autocracies depending on their intra-elite power dynamics and institutional type. The reliance of personalist regimes on external resources make them most vulnerable to outside pressures. The destabilizing effect of external pressure is hampered in case of single-party or military regimes, as these can seek alternative revenue sources or find alternative patronage through co-optation.

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  • Garriga, Ana Carolina. “Regime Type and Bilateral Treaty Formalization: Do Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup?” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53.6 (2009): 698–726.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002709341403Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Draws on the bargaining literature to explain why bilateral commitments should be stronger between autocracies than those in democratic or mixed dyads. Argues that, once the analysis is two-sided, negotiations between less constrained states with larger win-sets, as is the case with autocracies, should have a lower risk of failure and breakdown than those between other regime types. Strongly supported in the empirical tests.

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  • Hafner-Burton, Emilie, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui. “Human Rights in a Globalizing World: The Paradox of Empty Promises.” American Journal of Sociology 110.5 (2005): 1373–1411.

    DOI: 10.1086/428442Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Shows how the lack of self-enforcing mechanisms creates a paradoxical situation in human rights regimes. Autocracies have a strong incentive to commit to international treaties to appear as “law-abiding” states, but, given the lack of enforcement and effective monitoring of compliance, the rulers with the worst human rights records use them as “window-dressing,” behind which the abuses can be even greater than they were before signing the treaty.

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  • Mattes, Michaela, and Mariana Rodríguez. “Autocracies and International Cooperation.” International Studies Quarterly 58.3 (2014): 527–538.

    DOI: 10.1111/isqu.12107Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on several theoretical traditions, develops an argument that not all autocracies are adverse to international cooperation. Highlights the importance of institutional variations among autocracies, showing that those with a greater degree of internal accountability and transparency, such as single-party and military regimes, are more similar to democracies in taking cooperative stands in foreign policy than are personalist dictatorships.

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  • Vreeland, James Raymond. “Political Institutions and Human Rights: Why Dictatorships Enter into the United Nations Convention Against Torture.” International Organization 62.1 (2008): 65–101.

    DOI: 10.1017/S002081830808003XSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that “closed dictatorships” (personalist, single-party, or junta) paradoxically exercise less torture than multiparty autocracies, because the defection rate is lower due to the high costs. In multiparty autocracies, the defection costs are lower, thus making them more frequent, exposing defectors to a greater risk of torture. Another paradox is that they are also likely to commit to international agreements against torture as a concession for co-optation.

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