The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships
Princeton University - Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
September 24, 2011
Why do some dictatorships establish institutions that may constrain their leaders? We argue that institutions promote the survival of dictatorships by facilitating authoritarian power-sharing. Specifically, institutions such as parties, legislatures, and advisory councils alleviate commitment and monitoring problems between the dictator and his allies caused by the secrecy in authoritarian governance. However, because authoritarian power-sharing succeeds only when it is backed by a credible threat of a rebellion by the dictator's allies, institutions will be ineffective or break down when an imbalance of power within the ruling coalition undermines this threat's credibility. Our arguments thus clarify the complex interaction between collective action, commitment, and monitoring problems in authoritarian governance. We use both historical and large-N data to assess new empirical predictions about the relationship between political institutions, leader survival, and the concentration of power in dictatorships.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: dictatorships, authoritarian politics, political institutions, global games
Date posted: March 2, 2009 ; Last revised: January 11, 2012
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