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Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes

Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes (1st edn)

Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Natasha Lindstaedt, and Erica Frantz
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date: 28 September 2023

p. 363. Defining Autocracylocked

p. 363. Defining Autocracylocked

  • Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Andrea Kendall-TaylorDirector of the Transatlantic Security Program, Center for a New American Security
  • Natasha LindstaedtNatasha LindstaedtProfessor of Government, University of Essex
  •  and Erica FrantzErica FrantzAssistant Professor, Michigan State University


This chapter examines authoritarianism, providing a framework for understanding authoritarian regimes. Although all autocracies share a disregard for competitive elections and pluralism, the structural differences between them are vast. The chapter begins by discussing totalitarian regimes. Scholars developed theories of totalitarianism to take account of the new type of dictatorship that emerged in Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Union under Stalin. This research represents some of the earliest efforts to disaggregate autocracy. Political science research subsequently built on these early efforts, and scholars developed a number of ways to distinguish between different types of authoritarian systems. The chapter then presents a categorical framework for understanding differences across autocracies based on whether political power and decision-making reside with a single individual (personalist dictatorship), a party (single party dictatorship), the military (military regimes), or a royal family (monarchic dictatorship). Some dictatorships combine elements of more than one of these categories.

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