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Economic Crises and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes


  • 17 b/w illus. 31 tables
  • Page extent: 344 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.59 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521767934)

Why do some authoritarian regimes topple during financial crises, while others steer through financial crises relatively unscathed? In this book, Thomas B. Pepinsky uses the experiences of Indonesia and Malaysia and the analytical tools of open economy macroeconomics to answer this question. Focusing on the economic interests of authoritarian regimes' supporters, Pepinsky shows that differences in cross-border asset specificity produce dramatically different outcomes in regimes facing financial crises. When asset specificity divides supporters, as in Indonesia, they desire mutually incompatible adjustment policies, yielding incoherent adjustment policy followed by regime collapse. When coalitions are not divided by asset specificity, as in Malaysia, regimes adopt radical adjustment measures that enable them to survive financial crises. Combining rich qualitative evidence from Southeast Asia with cross-national time-series data and comparative case studies of Latin American autocracies, Pepinsky reveals the power of coalitions and capital mobility to explain how financial crises produce regime change.

• Uses tools from economic theory to propose a unified theory of both economic reform and regime change • Bridges the gap between literatures on international political economy and comparative democratization • Combines rich qualitative evidence drawn from extensive field research in Southeast Asia with statistical evidence from around the world


1. Crises, adjustment, and transitions; 2. Coalitional sources of adjustment and regime survival; 3. Authoritarian support coalitions: comparing Indonesia and Malaysia; 4. Adjustment policy in Indonesia, June 1997–May 1998; 5. Adjustment policy in Malaysia, June 1997–December 1999; 6. Authoritarian breakdown in Indonesia; 7. Authoritarian stability in Malaysia; 8. Cross-national perspectives; 9. Conclusions.


'This is an outstanding piece of scholarship, with innovative theorizing, a creative use of multiple methods, and a careful and nuanced analysis of various country experiences. Pepinsky's book tackles the elephant in the room in the crisis transitions literature – why do some crises lead to regime change while most others do not? The recognition that during crises adjustment policy and regime survival are two battles being fought simultaneously is an important insight. Adjustment is inherently political and Pepinsky's approach marries the economic exigencies of a crisis with the political realities leaders face, and explores when these two things are (or are not) compatible.' Allen Hicken, University of Michigan

'What explains the strikingly different policy and political reactions of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis? Why did Malaysia under Mahathir turn inward economically, maintaining its authoritarian politics, while the Indonesian dictatorship under Suharto failed to formulate a coherent policy response, then collapsed and was soon transformed into a democracy? Pepinsky argues that it was not the usual suspects of left or right, class conflict or macro-institutional patterns, but rather the regime-constructed political coalitions – cohesive in Malaysia, divided in Indonesia on crucial economic policies – that made the difference. His answer is original and persuasive. This is the political economy of development at its most productive, advancing theoretical understanding through sophisticated, fine-grained case studies based on extensive field work in both countries.' R. William Liddle, The Ohio State University

'As against all the ad hoc and ad hominem accounts of Suharto and Mahathir, and against the false promise of a narrowly institutionalist analysis, Pepinsky's close and careful comparative study of economic crises and regime transitions in Southeast Asia demonstrates the abiding importance of understanding the complex interplay of economic interests for explaining policy choices and political outcomes. This kind of emphasis on social forces and the social embeddedness of policies and politics is long overdue and extremely welcome.' John T. Sidel, London School of Economics and Political Science

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