Repression, Redistribution and the Problem of Authoritarian Control: Responses to the 17 June Uprising in Socialist East Germany

East European Politics and Societies 31(1): 68-92, DOI 10.1177/0888325416670241

40 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2015 Last revised: 8 Nov 2018

See all articles by Henry Thomson

Henry Thomson

Arizona State University; Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

Date Written: April 21, 2015

Abstract

Theories of authoritarianism assert that autocratic governments follow repressive and redistributive policies which impede mass mobilization and mitigate economic grievances to prevent regime instability. However, policy formulation and implementation remain opaque and under-theorized elements of authoritarian politics. I argue that the mix of repressive and redistributive policies chosen by a regime is a function of intra-elite conflict between hard-liners and soft-liners. The power of the two factions and their influence on policy evolve as members of the elite learn to judge the comparative advantages of the regime in repression and redistribution. Hard-liners will be ascendant in regimes with a comparative advantage in repression, while soft-liners will be ascendant in regimes with a comparative advantage in redistribution. I illustrate these arguments with an account of the East German regime's response to the June 17 uprising in 1953, including analysis of an original dataset on secret police informants and food supplies after the unrest.

Keywords: democratization, authoritarianism, redistribution, repression, Germany, East Germany, GDR

JEL Classification: D73, D74, P32

Suggested Citation

Thomson, Henry, Repression, Redistribution and the Problem of Authoritarian Control: Responses to the 17 June Uprising in Socialist East Germany (April 21, 2015). East European Politics and Societies 31(1): 68-92, DOI 10.1177/0888325416670241. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2597057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2597057

Henry Thomson (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Tempe, AZ
United States

Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

United States

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