by Rod Hague and Martin Harrop

Chapter Four: Authoritarian Rule

Chapter Notes

  • Many large states by population still ruled by authoritarian means, including China, Iran, Vietnam. Control of oil.
  • Characteristics of authoritarian rule: lack of a succession procedure, limited institutionalization, political vulnerability of leaders, corruption, economic stagnation. Reliance on the military, patronage and the media to maintain the ruling elite.
  • Personal despots based on the leader’s retinue. Also known as sultanism. Emerges in a few small, agricultural post-colonial countries. Examples include Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Duvalier in Haiti. Primarily a Cold War phenomenon.
  • Monarchies and the ruling families in the Gulf States. Basis in traditional authority and patronage. Selection of monarch by clan council, not primogeniture, enhances competence. Survived the Arab Spring but not without challenge.
  • Political parties as the ruling force in communist states. Unequalled penetration of society. Governed about one in three of the world’s population at their peak. Economic planning as a dead-end once industrialization achieved. Continued economic growth sustains China and Vietnam as purely nominal communist states, fuelled in part by corruption. Few non-communist cases of party rule: Singapore is one.
  • In a ruling presidency, the office, not just the occupant, is the dominant force. Rare; Uzbekistan as an example.
  • Military government as a common form of rule in post-colonial countries, 1960s-80s. Superpower support as a factor encouraging coups. The limited impact of many such governments. The retreat of the generals but the difficult legacy for many post-military regimes.
  • Rule by religious leaders as a rare form of authoritarian rule. Iran as a conservative, contested theocracy.
  • Competitive authoritarian regimes as a hybrid. Elections as free rather than fair. Few limits on president’s authority after election. Rule of law limited in sensitive areas. The president as father-figure, embodying and protecting the nation in a dangerous world. Not just transitional.

Figures and tables


Multiple choice questions


Essays and term papers

  1. What is the relationship between economic development and authoritarian rule?
  2. Are authoritarian regimes inherently corrupt and unstable?

Hague & Harrop, 2013 edn, chs. 4 and 6.

P. Brooker, Non-Democratic Regimes: Theory, Government and Politics
H. Chebabi and J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes
C. Haerpfer, P. Bernhagen, R. Inglehart and C. Welzel, Democratization
S. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of World Order
P. Huth and T. Allee, The Democratic Peace and Territorial Conflict in the Twentieth
Century
J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes
S. Lipset, Political Man
M. Palmer, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
M. Posusney and M. Angrist, Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Regimes and Resistance
A. Przeworski, Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World



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