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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: November 2012

7 - Conclusion: Incentives and Institutions in Authoritarian Politics


All absolute governments must very much depend on the administration; and this is one of the great inconveniences of that form of government.

David Hume, That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science

Mexicans avoid personal dictatorship by retiring their dictators every six years.

Brandenburg, The Making of Modern Mexico (1964, 141)

The army, the people, one hand!

A chant on Cairo's Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring

If we were to ask a political scientist, “What drives politics in democracies?,” themost likely consensual answer would be “The goal of winning elections.” In democracies, candidates' platforms, government policies, party organization, and the composition of governing coalitions all reflect the decisive role that elections play in allocating political power.

In this book, I answer an analogous, fundamental question about authoritarian regimes: “What drives politics in dictatorships?” I argue that all dictatorships must respond to the political imperatives of two overriding political conflicts: the problems of authoritarian power-sharing and control. But whether and how dictators resolve them is shaped by the distinctively dismal environment in which authoritarian politics takes place: Dictatorships inherently lack an independent authority with the power to enforce agreements among key political actors, and violence is never off the table. The two substantive political conflicts along with the two environmental constraints offer a general analytical heuristic for thinking about authoritarian politics.

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The Politics of Authoritarian Rule
  • Online ISBN: 9781139176040
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