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Cover Comparative Politics

6. Authoritarian regimes  

Natasha Lindstaedt

For many years, the concept of an authoritarian regime was considered to be one large category, with little understanding of how these regimes differed. The study of authoritarian regimes has come a long way since. Though all authoritarian regimes share in common that there is no turnover in power of the executive, there are considerable differences that distinguish autocracies. Authoritarian regimes today are increasingly attempting to use ‘democratic’ institutions to prolong their rule. This has led to a rise in competitive authoritarian regimes, or hybrid regimes. In spite of these changes, authoritarian regimes are more robust than ever. This chapter explains the different ways in which authoritarian regimes are categorized. The chapter then explains how the different types of authoritarian regimes perform, and what factors make them more durable. As the chapter demonstrates, autocratic regimes have become increasingly better equipped to maintain themselves.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

19. Hannah Arendt  

Kei Hiruta

This chapter covers the life and work of political theorist Hannah Arendt. It explains Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism alongside her central arguments and idiosyncratic methodology. The chapter then examines her theory of revolution which distinguished liberation as the overthrow of an old oppressive regime and revolution as the establishment of a new order of freedom. The chapter also examines Arendt’s attempt to offer a new political theory attuned to the post-totalitarian present, exploring the key concepts of action, speech, natality, plurality, freedom, and politics. It discusses criticisms of Arendt’s theories related to her cultural biases and racial prejudices and considers the ambivalence of her legacy of feminist theory.

Chapter

Cover Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes

3. Defining Autocracy  

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.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

29. Arendt  

Justine Lacroix

This chapter examines a number of key concepts in Hannah Arendt's work, with particular emphasis on how they have influenced contemporary thought about the meaning of human rights. It begins with a discussion of Arendt's claim that totalitarianism amounts to a destruction of the political domain and a denial of the human condition itself; this in turn had occurred only because human rights had lost all validity. It then considers Arendt's formula of the ‘right to have rights’ and how it opens the way to a ‘political’ conception of human rights founded on the defence of republican institutions and public-spiritedness. It shows that this ‘political’ interpretation of human rights is itself based on an underlying understanding of the human condition as marked by natality, liberty, plurality and action, The chapter concludes by reflecting on the so-called ‘right to humanity’.