in: Contemporary Politics, published online: 16 March 2017.
Autocratic governments make claims about why they are entitled to rule. Some autocracies are more talkative than others, but all regimes say something about why they deserve power. This article takes seriously these efforts by introducing and interrogating the concept of autocratic legitimation. After engaging in a definitional discussion, it traces the development of autocratic legitimation in modern political science by identifying major turning points, key concepts, and patterns of inquiry over time. Ultimately, this introductory article aims to not only argue that studying autocratic legitimation is important, but also to propose contexts, concepts, and distinctions for doing so productively. To this end, the article proposes four mechanisms of autocratic legitimation that can facilitate comparative analysis: indoctrination, passivity, performance, and democratic-procedural. Finally, the essay briefly introduces the five original articles that comprise the remainder of this special issue on autocratic legitimation. The article identifies avenues for further research and identifies how each article in the issue advances down productive pathways of inquiry.
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