Modern Authoritarianism and Corruption

26 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2016

See all articles by Yuliy Nisnevich

Yuliy Nisnevich

National Research University Higher School of Economics (Moscow)

Date Written: February 7, 2016


This paper focuses on the link between the modern authoritarianism and corruption. Even though corruption plays an important role in Communist regimes, post-colonial dictatorships and authoritarian monarchies, coercion - which is a traditional tool used by authoritarian rulers - remains the basis of these regimes. However, a new type of non-democratic regimes, which we call neoauthoritarian, has emerged since the last quarter of the XX century. The new regimes are based on a dynamic interplay between coercion and corruption. That interplay allows authoritarian rulers to bring to the forefront either coercion or corruption, depending on the current political situation in the country and the political, economic and social issues on the political agenda. In this type of regimes, ruling political-economic groups capture the state and the public authority in the country and use all their instruments and resources to achieve their private goals. This paper presents empirical results showing that the Communist regimes, dictatorships and authoritarian monarchies exist in 33 modern non-democratic states, while neoauthoritarian regimes can be found in 19 states. I show that high levels of corruption are typical of all of these regimes, especially in dictatorships and neoauthoritarian ones. I explain a relatively lower level of corruption in the authoritarian monarchies using Olson's theory of stationary bandit. In particular, I speculate that the ruling monarchs fight corruption among bureaucrats since they perceive it as stealing their own property that damages the sources of their administrative rent and their revenues. At the same time, the high-level political corruption persists. Finally, I show that dictatorships are on average more fragile than economically elastic neoauthoritarian regimes, although it might be challenging to differentiate between them. All authoritarian and neoauthoritarian regimes, except a few monarchies, are non-stable regimes, allowing me to hypothesize their coming transformations or collapse.

Keywords: authoritarianism, corruption, coercion, neoauthoritarian regime, fragile state

Suggested Citation

Nisnevich, Yuliy, Modern Authoritarianism and Corruption (February 7, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Yuliy Nisnevich (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics (Moscow) ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017

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