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The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships

47 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2009 Last revised: 11 Jan 2012

Carles Boix

Princeton University - Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Milan Svolik

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 24, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: dictatorships, authoritarian politics, political institutions, global games

Suggested Citation

Boix, Carles and Svolik, Milan, The Foundations of Limited Authoritarian Government: Institutions and Power-Sharing in Dictatorships (September 24, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1352065 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1352065

Carles Boix

Princeton University - Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-2139 (Phone)

Milan Svolik (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

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