Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Institutional Turn in Comparative Authoritarianism


The institutional turn in comparative authoritarianism has generated wide interest. This article reviews three prominent books on authoritarian institutions and their central theoretical propositions about the origins, functions and effects of dominant party institutions on authoritarian rule. Two critical perspectives on political institutions, one based on rationalist theories of institutional design and the other based on a social conflict theory of political economy, suggest that authoritarian institutions are epiphenomenal on more fundamental political, social and/or economic relations. Such approaches have been largely ignored in this recent literature, but each calls into question the theoretical and empirical claims that form the basis of institutionalist approaches to authoritarian rule. A central implication of this article is that authoritarian institutions cannot be studied separately from the concrete problems of redistribution and policy making that motivate regime behavior.

Hide All

Department of Government, Cornell University (email An earlier version was presented at the conference How Autocracies Work: Beyond the Electoral Paradigm, University of Michigan. Thanks to Val Bunce, Bill Case, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Allen Hicken, Kevin Morrison, Dick Robison and Garry Rodan for helpful comments and discussion. All errors are my own.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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

Valerie Bunce . 1999. Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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

Barbara Geddes . 1999. What Do We Know About Democratization After Twenty Years? Annual Review of Political Science 2:115144.

Kenneth F Greene . 2007. Why Dominant Parties Lose: Mexico's Democratization in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Peter A. Hall Rosemary C.R. Taylor . 1996. Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms. Political Studies 44:936957.

Beatriz Magaloni . 2008. Credible Power-Sharing and the Longevity of Authoritarian Rule. Comparative Political Studies 41:715741.

Beatriz Magaloni Ruth Kricheli . 2010. Political Order and One Party Rule. Annual Review of Political Science 13:123143.

Edmund J. Malesky , Regina M. Abrami Yu Zheng . 2011. Institutions and Inequality in Single-Party Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of Vietnam and China. Comparative Politics 43:409427.

Helen V. Milner Bumba Mukherjee . 2009. Democratization and Economic Globalization. Annual Review of Political Science 12:163181.

S.N Sangmpam . 2007. Politics Rules: The False Primacy of Institutions in Developing Countries. Political Studies 55:201224.

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

Milan W Svolik . 2009. Power Sharing and Leadership Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes. American Journal of Political Science 53:477494.

Jessica L Weeks . 2008. Autocratic Audience Costs: Regime Type and Signaling Resolve. International Organization 62:3564.

Joseph Wright . 2008. Do Authoritarian Political Institutions Constrain? How Legislatures Affect Economic Growth and Investment. American Journal of Political Science 52:322343.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 20
Total number of PDF views: 539 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1207 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.