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Dictators and their Secret Police
Coercive Institutions and State Violence

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics

  • Date Published: August 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316505311

$ 29.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • How do dictators stay in power? When, and how, do they use repression to do so? Dictators and their Secret Police explores the role of the coercive apparatus under authoritarian rule in Asia - how these secret organizations originated, how they operated, and how their violence affected ordinary citizens. Greitens argues that autocrats face a coercive dilemma: whether to create internal security forces designed to manage popular mobilization, or defend against potential coup. Violence against civilians, she suggests, is a byproduct of their attempt to resolve this dilemma. Drawing on a wealth of new historical evidence, this book challenges conventional wisdom on dictatorship: what autocrats are threatened by, how they respond, and how this affects the lives and security of the millions under their rule. It offers an unprecedented view into the use of surveillance, coercion, and violence, and sheds new light on the institutional and social foundations of authoritarian power.

    • Offers new historical information on the political development of three key American allies during the Cold War
    • Offers the first comparative explanation of the origins and behavior of authoritarian coercive institutions
    • Offers a new perspective on the social and institutional foundations of authoritarian power
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    • Winner, 2017 Best Book Award, Comparative Democratization Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This contribution to international relations theory is for scholars in the field … Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' J. P. Dunn, Choice

    'Dictators and their Secret Police is an important, thoughtful and well-researched contribution to the large and growing body of literature on authoritarianism. It not only fills multiple important gaps, but - as any good book - suggests a number of avenues for future inquiry. Conceptually, the book introduces the useful distinction between fragmented-exclusive and unified-inclusive repressive apparatuses, which immediately raises the question whether there are mixed types (for example, fragmented-inclusive coercive systems), how and why these are chosen, and how they affect coercion in authoritarian regimes. Theoretically, the book not only provides the first systematic and coherent explanation for the particular design of repressive apparatuses and their effects on the human rights tally of authoritarian regimes, but also reminds students of authoritarian politics that repression is the result of agency and strategic considerations by rational actors who react to (or aim to preempt) real or perceived structural threats.' David Kuehn, Democratization

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316505311
    • length: 240 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 18 b/w illus. 1 map 13 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Puzzle and the Argument:
    1. Introduction
    2. A theory of coercive institutions and state violence
    Part II. The Origins of Coercive Institutions:
    3. Organizing coercion in Taiwan
    4. Organizing coercion in the Philippines
    5. Organizing coercion in South Korea
    Part III. Coercive Institutions and State Violence:
    6. Coercive institutions and repression in Taiwan
    7. Coercive institutions and repression in the Philippines
    8. Coercive institutions and repression in South Korea
    Part IV. Extensions and Conclusions:
    9. Extending the argument: coercion outside East Asia
    10. Conclusion
    Appendix. A note on sources.

  • Author

    Sheena Chestnut Greitens, University of Missouri, Columbia
    Sheena Chestnut Greitens is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri. She is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and an associate in research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, Massachusetts. Her doctoral dissertation, on which this book is based, won APSA's Walter Dean Burnham Award for the best dissertation in politics and history, as well as Harvard's Richard J. Herrnstein Prize. Greitens' research focuses on East Asia, security studies, and the politics of authoritarian states. Her work has been published widely in the United States and Asia in academic, policy, and media outlets.


    • Winner, 2017 Best Book Award, Comparative Democratization Section, American Political Science Association
    • Honourable Mention, 2017 J. David Greenstone Book Award, Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association

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