The Politics of Authoritarian Rule

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Overview

What drives politics in dictatorships? Milan W. Svolik argues that all authoritarian regimes must resolve two fundamental conflicts. First, dictators face threats from the masses over which they rule - this is the problem of authoritarian control. A second, separate challenge arises from the elites with whom dictators rule - this is the problem of authoritarian power-sharing. Crucially, whether and how dictators resolve these two problems is shaped by the dismal environment in which authoritarian politics takes place: in a dictatorship, no independent authority has the power to enforce agreements among key actors and violence is the ultimate arbiter of conflict. Using the tools of game theory, Svolik explains why some dictators, such as Saddam Hussein, establish personal autocracy and stay in power for decades; why leadership changes elsewhere are regular and institutionalized, as in contemporary China; why some dictatorships are ruled by soldiers, as Uganda was under Idi Amin; why many authoritarian regimes, such as PRI-era Mexico, maintain regime-sanctioned political parties; and why a country's authoritarian past casts a long shadow over its prospects for democracy, as the unfolding events of the Arab Spring reveal. When assessing his arguments, Svolik complements these and other historical case studies with the statistical analysis of comprehensive, original data on institutions, leaders, and ruling coalitions across all dictatorships from 1946 to 2008.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Politics of Authoritarian Rule is a very important contribution to political science. The book provides much-needed theoretical microfoundations to a growing, but still scattered, literature on authoritarianism. It is based on superb empirical work. Above all, it is the product of Svolik's first-rate analytical mind working at its best." - Carles Boix, Princeton University

"In the nascent literature on the political economy of dictatorship, The Politics of Authoritarian Rule stands out. Few scholars know as much about authoritarianism as does Milan Svolik, and that rich knowledge informs every model and empirical test here. Anybody who wants to know (and who doesn't?) why dictators behave as they do should read this book." - Scott Gehlbach, University of Wisconsin

"In this superb book, Milan Svolik convincingly argues that authoritarian politics are the result of two critical conflicts: one between the ruler and the ruled, and the other among the ruling elites, both characterized by the fundamental problems of credible commitment and the ready availability of repression. This is a sophisticated, rigorous, and nuanced analysis that transforms our thinking about both the varieties of authoritarian rule and the underpinnings of authoritarian durability." - Anna Grzymala-Busse, University of Michigan

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Milan W. Svolik is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Svolik's articles on authoritarian politics, transitions to democracy, and democratic consolidation have appeared in leading political science journals, including the American Political Science Review and the American Journal of Political Science. His research interests include comparative politics, political economy and formal political theory.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: the anatomy of dictatorship; 2. The world of authoritarian politics; Part I. The Problem of Authoritarian Power-Sharing: 3. And then there was one!: Authoritarian power-sharing and the path to personal dictatorship; 4. Institutions, collective action, and the success of authoritarian power-sharing; Part II. The Problem of Authoritarian Control: 5. Moral hazard in authoritarian repression and the origins of military dictatorships; 6. Why authoritarian parties?: The regime party as an instrument of co-optation and control; 7. Conclusion: incentives and institutions in authoritarian politics.

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