The Dramaturgy of Authoritarian Elite Cohesion
42 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 28 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 24, 2012
The most important facts about the actors and factors that sustain authoritarian rule are unobservable and uncertain. To demonstrate their power, authoritarian rulers have to render them visible. They have to play political theater and present on the front stage what they want people to know about the backstage of authoritarian politics. Dictatorship breeds opacity and opacity breeds dramaturgy. In this essay, we study the dramaturgical foundations of authoritarian rule with a focus on the primary existential threats dictators face: the lateral threats that emanate from within the authoritarian elite. After introducing authoritarian dramaturgy as a strategy of information management, we survey the conceptual landscape of authoritarian elite cohesion. We illustrate the dramaturgical repertoire of authoritarian rulers with empirical material from one politically salient case: communist Cuba since 2006, during the critical juncture of leadership transition from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl.
Keywords: authoritarian regimes, uncertainty, imperfect information, dramaturgy, leadership succession, Cuba
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation