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Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms.[1] Political scientists have created many typologies describing variations of authoritarian forms of government.[1] Authoritarian regimes may be either autocratic or oligarchic in nature and may be based upon the rule of a party or the military.[2][3]

In an influential 1964 work,[4] the political scientist Juan Linz defined authoritarianism as possessing four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, realized with constraints on the legislature, political parties and interest groups.
  2. Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems, such as underdevelopment or insurgency".
  3. Minimal political mobilization and suppression of anti-regime activities.
  4. Ill-defined executive powers, often vague and shifting, which extends the power of the executive.[5][6]

Minimally defined, an authoritarian government lacks free and competitive direct elections to legislatures, free and competitive direct or indirect elections for executives, or both.[7] Broadly defined, authoritarian states include countries that lack the civil liberties such as freedom of religion, or countries in which the government and the opposition do not alternate in power at least once following free elections.[8] Authoritarian states might contain nominally democratic institutions such as political parties, legislatures and elections which are managed to entrench authoritarian rule and can feature fraudulent, non-competitive elections.[9] Since 1946, the share of authoritarian states in the international political system increased until the mid-1970s, but declined from then until the year 2000.[10]


Authoritarianism is characterized by highly concentrated and centralized power maintained by political repression and the exclusion of potential challengers. It uses political parties and mass organizations to mobilize people around the goals of the regime.[11] Adam Przeworski has theorized that "authoritarian equilibrium rests mainly on lies, fear and economic prosperity".[12]

Authoritarianism also tends to embrace the informal and unregulated exercise of political power, a leadership that is "self-appointed and even if elected cannot be displaced by citizens' free choice among competitors", the arbitrary deprivation of civil liberties and little tolerance for meaningful opposition.[11] A range of social controls also attempt to stifle civil society while political stability is maintained by control over and support of the armed forces, a bureaucracy staffed by the regime and creation of allegiance through various means of socialization and indoctrination.[11]

Authoritarianism is marked by "indefinite political tenure" of the ruler or ruling party (often in a one-party state) or other authority.[11] The transition from an authoritarian system to a more democratic form of government is referred to as democratization.[11]

Constitutions in authoritarian regimes

Authoritarian regimes often adopt "the institutional trappings" of democracies such as constitutions.[13] Constitutions in authoritarian states may serve a variety of roles, including "operating manual" (describing how the government is to function); "billboard" (signal of regime's intent), "blueprint" (outline of future regime plans), and "window dressing" (material designed to obfuscate, such as provisions setting forth freedoms that are not honored in practice).[14] Authoritarian constitutions may help legitimize, strengthen, and consolidate regimes.[15] An authoritarian constitution "that successfully coordinates government action and defines popular expectations can also help consolidate the regime's grip on power by inhibiting re coordination on a different set of arrangements".[16] Unlike democratic constitutions, authoritarian constitutions do not set direct limits on executive authority; however, in some cases such documents may function as ways for elites to protect their own property rights or constrain autocrats' behavior.[17]

The concept of "authoritarian constitutionalism" has been developed by legal scholar Mark Tushnet.[18] Tushnet distinguishes authoritarian constitutionalist regimes from "liberal constitutionalist" regimes ("the sort familiar in the modern West, with core commitments to human rights and self-governance implemented by means of varying institutional devices") and from purely authoritarian regimes (which reject the idea of human rights or constraints on leaders' power).[18] He describes authoritarian constitutionalist regimes as (1) authoritarian dominant-party states that (2) impose sanctions (such as libel judgments) against, but do not arbitrarily arrest, political dissidents; (3) permits "reasonably open discussion and criticism of its policies"; (4) hold "reasonably free and fair elections", without systemic intimidation, but "with close attention to such matters as the drawing of election districts and the creation of party lists to ensure as best it can that it will prevail—and by a substantial margin"; (5) reflect at least occasional responsiveness to public opinion; and (6) create "mechanisms to ensure that the amount of dissent does not exceed the level it regards as desirable".[18] Tushnet cites Singapore as an example of an authoritarian constitutionalist state, and connects the concept to that of hybrid regimes.[18]


Scholars such as Seymour Lipset,[19] Carles Boix, Susan Stokes,[20] Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Evelyne Stephens and John Stephens[21] argue that economic development increases the likelihood of democratization. Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi argue that while economic development makes democracies less likely to turn authoritarian, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that development causes democratization (turning an authoritarian state into a democracy).[22]

Eva Bellin argues that under certain circumstances the bourgeoise and labor are more likely to favor democratization, but less so under other circumstances.[23] Economic development can boost public support for authoritarian regimes in the short-to-medium term.[24]


Within authoritarian systems, there may be nominally democratic institutions such as political parties, legislatures[25] and elections, but they are managed in a way so as to entrench authoritarian regimes.[26][9] Within democracies, parties serve to coordinate the pursuit of interests for like-minded citizens, whereas in authoritarian systems, they are a way for authoritarian leaders to find capable elites for the regime.[9] In a democracy, a legislature is intended to represent the diversity of interests among citizens, whereas authoritarians use legislatures to signal their own restraint towards other elites as well as to monitor other elites who pose a challenge to the regime.[9]

Fraudulent elections may serve the role of signaling the strength of the regime (to deter elites from challenging the regime), as well as force other elites to demonstrate their loyalty to the regime, whereas in democracies, free and fair elections are used to select representatives who represent the will of the citizens.[9][26] Elections may also motivate authoritarian party members to strengthen patron–client and information-gathering networks, which strengthens the authoritarian regime.[26] Elections may also motivate members of the ruling class to engage in public goods provision.[27]

According to one study, "most dictatorships led by parties have regular popular elections". Prior to the 1990s, most of these elections had no alternative parties or candidates for voters to vote on. Since the end of the Cold War, about two-thirds of elections in authoritarian systems allow for some opposition, but the elections are structured in a way to heavily favor the incumbent authoritarian regime.[26]

Hindrances to free and fair elections in authoritarian systems may include:[26]

Interactions with other elites and the masses

The foundations of stable authoritarian rule are that the authoritarian prevents contestation from the masses and other elites. The authoritarian regime may use co-optation or repression (or carrots and sticks) to prevent revolts.[28][29]

Manipulation of information

According to a 2019 study by Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman, authoritarian regimes have over time become less reliant on violence and mass repression to maintain control. The study shows instead that authoritarians have increasingly resorted to manipulation of information as a means of control. Authoritarians increasingly seek to create an appearance of good performance, conceal state repression, and imitate democracy.[30]

Systemic weakness and resilience

Andrew J. Nathan notes that "regime theory holds that authoritarian systems are inherently fragile because of weak legitimacy, overreliance on coercion, over-centralization of decision making, and the predominance of personal power over institutional norms. [...] Few authoritarian regimes—be they communist, fascist, corporatist, or personalist—have managed to conduct orderly, peaceful, timely, and stable successions".[31]

Political scientist Theodore M. Vestal writes that authoritarian political systems may be weakened through inadequate responsiveness to either popular or elite demands and that the authoritarian tendency to respond to challenges by exerting tighter control, instead of by adapting, may compromise the legitimacy of an authoritarian state and lead to its collapse.[11]

One exception to this general trend is the endurance of the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party which has been unusually resilient among authoritarian regimes. Nathan posits that this can be attributed to four factors such as (1) "the increasingly norm-bound nature of its succession politics"; (2) "the increase in meritocratic as opposed to factional considerations in the promotion of political elites"; (3) "the differentiation and functional specialization of institutions within the regime"; and (4) "the establishment of institutions for political participation and appeal that strengthen the CCP's legitimacy among the public at large".[31]


Yale University political scientist Milan Svolik argues that violence is a common characteristic of authoritarian systems. Violence tends to be common in authoritarian states because of a lack of independent third parties empowered to settle disputes between the dictator, regime allies, regime soldiers and the masses.[28]

Authoritarians may resort to measures referred to as "coup-proofing", i.e. structures that make it hard for any small group to seize power. These coup-proofing strategies may include the strategic placing of family, ethnic, and religious groups in the military; creation of an armed force parallel to the regular military; and development of multiple internal security agencies with overlapping jurisdiction that constantly monitor one another.[32] Research shows that some coup-proofing strategies reduce the risk of coups occurring.[33][34] However, coup-proofing reduces military effectiveness,[35][36][37] and limits the rents that an incumbent can extract.[38] A 2016 study shows that the implementation of succession rules reduce the occurrence of coup attempts.[39] Succession rules are believed to hamper coordination efforts among coup plotters by assuaging elites who have more to gain by patience than by plotting.[39] According to political scientists Curtis Bell and Jonathan Powell, coup attempts in neighbouring countries lead to greater coup-proofing and coup-related repression in a region.[40] A 2017 study finds that countries' coup-proofing strategies are heavily influenced by other countries with similar histories.[41] A 2018 study in the Journal of Peace Research found that leaders who survive coup attempts and respond by purging known and potential rivals are likely to have longer tenures as leaders.[42] A 2019 study in Conflict Management and Peace Science found that personalist dictatorships are more likely to take coup-proofing measures than other authoritarian regimes; the authors argue that this is because "personalists are characterized by weak institutions and narrow support bases, a lack of unifying ideologies and informal links to the ruler".[43]

According to a 2019 study, personalist dictatorships are more repressive than other forms of dictatorship.[44]


Several subtypes of authoritarian regimes have been identified by Linz and others.[45] Linz identified the two most basic subtypes as traditional authoritarian regimes and bureaucratic-military authoritarian regimes:

Subtypes of authoritarian regime identified by Linz are corporatist or organic-statistic, racial and ethnic "democracy" and post-totalitarian.[45]

Authoritarian regimes are also sometimes subcategorized by whether they are personalistic or populist.[45] Personalistic authoritarian regimes are characterized by arbitrary rule and authority exercised "mainly through patronage networks and coercion rather than through institutions and formal rules".[45] Personalistic authoritarian regimes have been seen in post-colonial Africa. By contrast, populist authoritarian regimes "are mobilizational regimes in which a strong, charismatic, manipulative leader rules through a coalition involving key lower-class groups".[45] Examples include Argentina under Jua Perón,[45] Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser[45] and Venezuela under Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.[52][53]

A typology of authoritarian regimes by political scientists Brian Lai and Dan Slater includes four categories: machine (oligarchic party dictatorships); bossism (autocratic party dictatorships); juntas (oligarchic military dictatorships); and strongman (autocratic military dictatorships).[3] Lai and Slater argue that single‐party regimes are better than military regimes at developing institutions (e.g. mass mobilization, patronage networks ad coordination of elites) that are effective at continuing the regime's incumbency and diminishing domestic challengers; Lai and Slater also argue that military regimes more often initiate military conflicts or undertake other "desperate measures" to maintain control as compared to single‐party regimes.[3][2]

John Duckitt suggests a link between authoritarianism and collectivism, asserting that both stand in opposition to individualism.[54] Duckitt writes that both authoritarianism and collectivism submerge individual rights and goals to group goals, expectations and conformities.[55]

Authoritarianism and democracy

Authoritarianism and democracy are not necessarily fundamental opposites as it is possible for some democracies to possess authoritarian elements, and for an authoritarian system to have democratic elements.[56][57][58] An illiberal democracy, or procedural democracy, is distinguished from liberal democracy, or substantive democracy, in that illiberal democracies lack features such as the rule of law, protections for minority groups, an independent judiciary and the real separation of powers.[59][60][61][62]

A further distinction that liberal democracies have rarely made war with one another; research has extended the theory and finds that more democratic countries tend to have few wars (sometimes called militarized interstate disputes) causing fewer battle deaths with one another and that democracies have far fewer civil wars.[63][64]

Research shows that the democratic nations have much less democide or murder by government. Those were also moderately developed nations before applying liberal democratic policies.[65] Research by the World Bank suggests that political institutions are extremely important in determining the prevalence of corruption and that parliamentary systems, political stability and freedom of the press are all associated with lower corruption.[66]

A 2006 study by economist Alberto Abadie has concluded that terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom. The nations with the least amount of terrorism are the most and least democratic nations, and that "transitions from an authoritarian regime to a democracy may be accompanied by temporary increases in terrorism".[67] Studies in 2013 and 2017 similarly found a nonlinear relationship between political freedom and terrorism, with the most terrorist attacks occurring in partial democracies and the fewest in "strict autocracies and full-fledged democracies".[68] A 2018 study by Amichai Magen demonstrated that liberal democracies and polyarchies not only suffer fewer terrorist attacks as compared to other regime types, but also suffer fewer casualties in terrorist attacks as compared to other regime types, which may be attributed to higher-quality democracies' responsiveness to their citizens' demands, including "the desire for physical safety", resulting in "investment in intelligence, infrastructure protection, first responders, social resilience, and specialized medical care" which averts casualties.[68] Magen also noted that terrorism in closed autocracies sharply increased starting in 2013.[68]

Competitive authoritarian regimes

Another type of authoritarian regime is the competitive authoritarian regime, a type of civilian regime that arose in the post-Cold War era. In a competitive authoritarian regime, "formal democratic institutions exist and are widely viewed as the primary means of gaining power, but ... incumbents' abuse of the state places them at a significant advantage vis-à-vis their opponents".[69][70] The term was coined by Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way in their 2010 book of the same name to discuss a type of hybrid regime that emerged during and after the Cold War.[69][71]

Competitive authoritarian regimes differ from fully authoritarian regimes in that elections are regularly held, the opposition can openly operate without a high risk of exile or imprisonment and "democratic procedures are sufficiently meaningful for opposition groups to take them seriously as arenas through which to contest for power".[69] However, competitive authoritarian regimes lack one or more of the three characteristics of democracies such as free elections (i.e. elections untainted by substantial fraud or voter intimidation); protection of civil liberties (i.e. the freedom of speech, press and association) and an even playing field (in terms of access to resources, the media and legal recourse).[72]

Authoritarianism and fascism

Authoritarianism is considered a core concept of fascism[73][74][75][76] and scholars agree that a fascist regime is foremost an authoritarian form of government, although not all authoritarian regimes are fascist. While authoritarianism is a defining characteristic of fascism, scholars argue that more distinguishing traits are needed to make an authoritarian regime fascist.[77][78][79][80][81][82][83][84][85]

Authoritarianism and totalitarianism

Linz distinguished new forms of authoritarianism from personalistic dictatorships and totalitarian states, taking Francoist Spain as an example. Unlike personalistic dictatorships, new forms of authoritarianism have institutionalized representation of a variety of actors (in Spain's case, including the military, the Catholic Church, Falange, monarchists, technocrats and others). Unlike totalitarian states, the regime relies on passive mass acceptance rather than popular support.[86] Totalitarianism is an extreme version of authoritarianism. Authoritarianism primarily differs from totalitarianism in that social and economic institutions exist that are not under governmental control. Building on the work of Yale political scientist Juan Linz, Paul C. Sondrol of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has examined the characteristics of authoritarian and totalitarian dictators and organized them in a chart:[87]

Totalitarianism Authoritarianism
Charisma High Low
Role conception Leader as function Leader as individual
Ends of power Public Private
Corruption Low High
Official ideology Yes No
Limited pluralism No Yes
Legitimacy Yes No

Sondrol argues that while both authoritarianism and totalitarianism are forms of autocracy, they differ in "key dichotomies":

(1) Unlike their bland and generally unpopular authoritarian brethren, totalitarian dictators develop a charismatic "mystique" and a mass-based, pseudo-democratic interdependence with their followers via the conscious manipulation of a prophetic image.

(2) Concomitant role conceptions differentiate totalitarians from authoritarians. Authoritarians view themselves as individual beings largely content to control and often maintain the status quo. Totalitarian self-conceptions are largely teleological. The tyrant is less a person than an indispensable function to guide and reshape the universe.

(3) Consequently, the utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more evident among authoritarians than totalitarians. Lacking the binding appeal of ideology, authoritarians support their rule by a mixture of instilling fear and granting rewards to loyal collaborators, engendering a kleptocracy.[87]

Compared to totalitarianism, "the authoritarian state still maintains a certain distinction between state and society. It is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty. Totalitarianism, on the other hand, invades private life and asphyxiates it".[88] Another distinction is that "authoritarianism is not animated by utopian ideals in the way totalitarianism is. It does not attempt to change the world and human nature".[88] Carl Joachim Friedrich writes that "a totalist ideology, a party reinforced by a secret police, and monopoly control of [...] industrial mass society" are the three features of totalitarian regimes that distinguish them from other autocracies.[88]

Effect on development

Some commentators such as Seymour Martin Lipset argue that low-income authoritarian regimes have certain technocratic "efficiency-enhancing advantages" over low-income democracies that gives authoritarian regimes an advantage in economic development.[89] By contrast, Morton H. Halperin, Joseph T. Siegle and Michael M. Weinstein (2005) argue that democracies "realize superior development performance" over authoritarianism, pointing out that poor democracies are more likely to have steadier economic growth and less likely to experience economic and humanitarian catastrophes (such as refugee crises) than authoritarian regimes; that civil liberties in democracies act as a curb on corruption and misuse of resources; and that democracies are more adaptable than authoritarian regimes.[89]

Studies suggest that several health indicators (life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality) have a stronger and more significant association with democracy than they have with GDP per capita, size of the public sector or income inequality.[90] Prominent economist Amartya Sen has theorized that no functioning liberal democracy has ever suffered a large-scale famine.[91]


There is no one consensus definition of authoritarianism, but several annual measurements are attempted, including Freedom House's annual Freedom in the World report.


The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of states which are currently or frequently characterized as authoritarian.

State Time period Ruling group or person Notes
 Angola 1975– People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola [92]
 Azerbaijan 1993– New Azerbaijan Party [93]
 Bahrain 1746– House of Khalifa [94]
 Belarus 1994– Alexander Lukashenko [95][96][97][98][99]
 Republika Srpska 2006– Milorad Dodik [100][101][102]
 Cambodia 1985– Hun Sen [103][104]
 Cameroon 1982– Paul Biya [105][106]
 Chad 1990– Idriss Deby [107]
 People's Republic of China 1949– Communist Party of China "Some scholars have deemed the Chinese system a 'fragmented authoritarianism' (Lieberthal), a 'negotiated state' or a 'consultative authoritarian regime'".[108] According to research by John Kennedy et al. (2018), Chinese citizens with higher education tend to participate less in local elections and have lower levels of democratic values when compared to those with only compulsory education.[109]
 Republic of the Congo 1979– Denis Sassou Nguesso [110]
 Cuba 1959– Communist Party of Cuba [111]
 Egypt 2014– Abdel Fattah el-Sisi [112]
 Equatorial Guinea 1979– Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo [113]
 Eritrea 1993– Isaias Afwerki [114]
 Gabon 1961– Gabonese Democratic Party [115]
 Hungary 2010– Viktor Orbán It has recently moved more towards illiberalism.[116][117][118]
 Iran 1981– Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei [119] Linz wrote in 2000 that "it is difficult to fit the Iranian regime into the existing typology, as it combines the ideological bent of totalitarianism with the limited pluralism of authoritarianism and holds regular elections in which candidates advocating differing policies and incumbents are often defeated".[120]
 Jordan 1946– House of Hashim [121]
 Kazakhstan 1990– Nur Otan [105]
 Laos 1975– Lao People's Revolutionary Party [122]
 Morocco 1957– Alaouite dynasty [121][123][124]
 Montenegro 1990– Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro [125][126][127][128][129]
 North Korea 1947– Kim dynasty and the Korean Workers' Party [130]
 Oman 1970 House of Al Said [131]
 Palestine 1964–2006 Palestine Liberation Organization [132]
2006– Hamas
 Qatar 1971– House of Thani [133]
 Russian Federation 1999– United Russia under Vladimir Putin Has authoritarian tendencies and is described by some as "really a mixture of authoritarianism and managed democracy"[134][135][136] (see Putinism for more).
 Rwanda 2000– Paul Kagame [137]
 Saudi Arabia 1744– House of Saud [138]
 Serbia 2012– Serbian Progressive Party under Aleksandar Vučić [139][140][141][142]
 Singapore 1965– People's Action Party [143][144]
 South Sudan 2011– Sudan People's Liberation Movement under Salva Kiir Mayardit [145]
 Syria 1963– Ba'athist regime and al-Assad family [146]
 Tajikistan 1994– Emomali Rahmon [147]
 Turkey 2003– Justice and Development Party under Recep Tayyip Erdogan Described as a "competitive authoritarian regime".[148]
 Turkmenistan 1991– Democratic Party of Turkmenistan [149]
 United Arab Emirates 1972– Royal families of the United Arab Emirates [150][151]
 Uganda 1964– [152]
 Uzbekistan 1989– Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party [153][154][155]
 Venezuela 1999– United Socialist Party of Venezuela under Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro [156]
 Vietnam 1976– Vietnamese Communist Party [157]


The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of states which were historically authoritarian.

State Time period Ruling group or person Notes
 Algeria[158] 1999–2019 Abdelaziz Bouteflika
 Argentina[159][160] 1966–1973 Military government Argentine Revolution period of military rule.
1973–1974 Justicialista rule of Juan Perón Ideology is populist authoritarianism.
1976–1983 Free trade and deregulatory rule of Jorge Rafael Videla National Reorganization Process period of military rule.
 Austria 1934–1938 Party of National Unity Federal State of Austria.
Brazil[161] 1937–1945 Getúlio Vargas Estado Novo period.
1964–1985 Military government
Burma[162] 19622011 Military government and Socialist Programme Party
Burundi Burundi 2005–2020 Pierre Nkurunziza [163]
 Chile[164] 1973–1990 Augusto Pinochet
Republic of China 1927–1949 Kuomintang and Nationalist government
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1965–2019 Mobutu Sese Seko, Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Joseph Kabila [165]
 Croatia[166][167] 1990–1999 Franjo Tuđman
 Czechoslovakia 1938–1939 Party of National Unity
 Egypt[168] 1952–2011 Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak
 Ethiopia 1991–2019 Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front [169]
 Hungary[170] 1920–1944 Miklós Horthy, Unity Party
 Indonesia 1967–1998 Suharto New Order.
 Iran 1925–1979 Pahlavi dynasty [171]
Iraq 1968–2003 Hassan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein
Libya[172] 1969–2011 Muammar Gaddafi
 Lithuania[173] 1926–1940 Antanas Smetona
 FYR Macedonia[174][175] 2006–2016 Nikola Gruevski
Philippines 1965–1986 Ferdinand Marcos
 Portugal[176] 1926–1933 Military government National Dictatorship.
1933–1974 António de Oliveira Salazar and Marcelo Caetano Under the Estado Novo regime.
Spain[177] 1936–1975 Francisco Franco
South Africa[178][179] 1948–1994 National Party Regime ended with the end of apartheid.
 South Korea[180][181] 1948–1960 Syngman Rhee
1962–1987 Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan
 Sudan[105] 1989–2019 Omar al-Bashir
 Taiwan[182] 1945–1986 Kuomintang
 Thailand 2014–2019 Prayut Chan-o-cha Overthrew the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in a military coup and installed a military junta to oversee the governance of Thailand.[183]
 Turkey[184][185] 1925–1945 Republican People's Party
 Yugoslavia[186][187] 1944–1980 Josip Broz Tito
 FR Yugoslavia[188][189] 1991–2000 Slobodan Milošević
 Zimbabwe[190] 1980–2017 Robert Mugabe

Historical trends

Post-World War II anti-authoritarianism

Both World War II (ending in 1945) and the Cold War (ending in 1991) resulted in the replacement of authoritarian regimes by either democratic regimes or regimes that were less authoritarian.

World War II saw the defeat of the Axis powers by the Allied powers. All the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan) had totalitarian or authoritarian governments, and two of the three were replaced by governments based on democratic constitutions. The Allied powers were an alliance of Democratic states and (later) the Communist Soviet Union. At least in Western Europe the initial post-war era embraced pluralism and freedom of expression in areas that had been under control of authoritarian regimes. The memory of fascism and Nazism was denigrated. The new Federal Republic of Germany banned its expression. In reaction to the centralism of the Nazi state, the new constitution of West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) exercised "separation of powers" and placed "law enforcement firmly in the hands" of the sixteen Länder or states of the republic, not with the federal German government, at least not at first.[191]

Culturally there was also a strong sense of anti-authoritarianism based on anti-fascism in Western Europe. This was attributed to the active resistance from occupation and to fears arising from the development of superpowers.[192] Anti-authoritarianism also became associated with countercultural and bohemian movements such as the Beat Generation in the 1950s,[193] the hippies in the 1960s[194] and punks in the 1970s.[195]

In South America, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay moved away from dictatorships to democracy between 1982 and 1990.[196]

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Soviet Union in 1991, the other authoritarian/totalitarian "half" of the Allied Powers of World War II collapsed. This led not so much to revolt against authority in general, but to the belief that authoritarian states (and state control of economies) were outdated.[197] The idea that "liberal democracy was the final form toward which all political striving was directed"[198] became very popular in Western countries and was celebrated in Francis Fukuyama's book The End of History and the Last Man.[198] According to Charles H. Fairbanks Jr., "all the new states that stumbled out of the ruins of the Soviet bloc, except Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, seemed indeed to be moving toward democracy in the early 1990s" as where the countries of East Central Europe and the Balkans.[199]

In late 2010, the Arab Spring arose in response to unrest over economic stagnation but also in opposition to oppressive authoritarian regimes, first in Tunisia[200][201] and spreading to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere. Regimes were toppled in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and partially in Yemen while other countries saw riots, civil wars or insurgencies.[202]

Early 2000s authoritarian revival

Since 2005, observers noted what some have called a "democratic recession",[198][203] although some such as Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way have disputed this theory.[203] In 2018, the Freedom House declared that from 2006 to 2018 "113 countries" around the world showed "a net decline" in "political rights and civil liberties" while "only 62" experienced "a net improvement".[204] Writing in 2018, American political journalist David Frum stated:

The hopeful world of the very late 20th century—the world of NAFTA and an expanding NATO; of the World Wide Web 1.0 and liberal interventionism; of the global spread of democracy under leaders such as Václav Havel and Nelson Mandela—now looks battered and delusive.[205]

Michael Ignatieff wrote that Fukuyama's idea of liberalism vanquishing authoritarianism "now looks like a quaint artifact of a vanished unipolar moment"[198] and Fukuyama himself expressed concern.[197] By 2018, only one Arab Spring uprising (that in Tunisia) resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance[202] and a "resurgence of authoritarianism and Islamic extremism" in the region[206] was dubbed the Arab Winter.[207][208][209][210][211]

Various explanations have been offered for the new spread of authoritarianism. They include the downside of globalization[212] and the success of the Beijing Consensus, i.e. the authoritarian model of the People's Republic of China.[213] In countries such as the United States, factors blamed for the growth of authoritarianism include the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and slower real wage growth[214] as well as social media's elimination of so-called "gatekeepers" of knowledge so that a large fraction of the population considers to be opinion what were once "viewed as verifiable facts", including everything from the danger of global warming to the preventing the spread of disease through vaccination.[215]

See also


  1. ^ a b Furio Cerutti (2017). Conceptualizing Politics: An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Routledge. p. 17. Political scientists have outlined elaborated typologies of authoritarianism, from which it is not easy to draw a generally accepted definition; it seems that its main features are the non-acceptance of conflict and plurality as normal elements of politics, the will to preserve the status quo and prevent change by keeping all political dynamics under close control by a strong central power, and lastly, the erosion of the rule of law, the division of powers, and democratic voting procedures.
  2. ^ a b Natasha M. Ezrow & Erica Frantz (2011). Dictators and Dictatorships: Understanding Authoritarian Regimes and Their Leaders. Continuum. p. 17.
  3. ^ a b c Brian Lai & Dan Slater (2006). "Institutions of the Offensive: Domestic Sources of Dispute Initiation in Authoritarian Regimes, 1950-1992". American Journal of Political Science. 50 (1): 113–126. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00173.x. JSTOR 3694260.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Richard Shorten, Modernism and Totalitarianism: Rethinking the Intellectual Sources of Nazism and Stalinism, 1945 to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 256 (note 67): "For a long time the authoritative definition of authoritarianism was that of Juan J. Linz."
  5. ^ Juan J. Linz, "An Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Spain," in Erik Allardt and Yrjö Littunen, eds., Cleavages, Ideologies, and Party Systems: Contributions to Comparative Political Sociology (Helsinki: Transactions of the Westermarck Society), pp. 291-342. Reprinted in Erik Allardt & Stine Rokkan, eds., Mas Politics: Studies in Political Sociology (New York: Free Press, 1970), pp.251-83, 374-81.
  6. ^ Gretchen Casper, Fragile Democracies: The Legacies of Authoritarian Rule (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), pp. 40–50 (citing Linz 1964).
  7. ^ Milan W. Svolik (2012). The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. Cambridge University Press. pp. 22–23. I follow Przeworski et al. (2000), Boix (2003), and Cheibub et al. (2010) in defining a dictatorship as an independent country that fails to satisfy at least one of the following two criteria for democracy: (1) free and competitive legislative elections and (2) an executive that is elected either directly in free and competitive presidential elections or indirectly by a legislature in parliamentary systems. Throughout this book, I use the terms dictatorship and authoritarian regime interchangeably and refer to the heads of these regimes' governments as simply dictators or authoritarian leaders, regardless of their formal title.
  8. ^ Milan W. Svolik (2012). The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. More demanding criteria may require that governments respect certain civil liberties– such as the freedom of religion (Schmitter and Karl 1991; Zakaria 1997) — or that the incumbent government and the opposition alternate in power at least once after the first seemingly free election (Huntington 1993; Przeworski et al. 2000; Cheibib et al. 2010).
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