THE OXFORD COMPANION TO POLITICS OF THE WORLD, 2nd Edition, Joel Krieger, ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
3 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2011
Date Written: 2001
The concept of bureaucratic authoritarianism arose from the study of major episodes of authoritarianism in South America between the 1960s and the 1980s. Typified by military rule and a bureaucratic, technocratic approach to policy-making, this type of authoritarianism was generally accompanied by substantial repression. While often discussed as a regime type, standard definitions frequently go beyond regime characteristics and include a focus on the composition of the dominant coalition and the orientation of public policy. Hence, many scholars consider bureaucratic authoritarianism more broadly as a form of state or political system, not just a regime type. This divergence in definitions had led to careful reexamination of which cases the concept can accurately describe. The rise of bureaucratic authoritarianism seemed to contradict theories that socioeconomic modernization was supportive of democracy. Rather, modernization appeared to intensify certain types of economic problems and the popular classes’ capacity to resist an important spectrum of proposed solutions to these problems. This form of political system disappeared from South America by the 1990s, leaving behind diverse economic and political records. The political implications of this type of authoritarianism had two convergent legacies: a greater appreciation for electoral democracy and a reduced likelihood of any immediate renewal of polarization.
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