Seraphine Maerz | 2020

The Many Faces of Authoritarian Persistence: A Set-Theory Perspective on the Survival Strategies of Authoritarian Regimes

in: Government and Opposition, 55:1, 64-87

This article examines how authoritarian regimes combine various strategies of repression, co-optation and legitimation to remain in power. The contribution of the article is two-fold. First, I conceptualize the hexagon of authoritarian persistence as a framework to explain how authoritarian regimes manage to survive. The hexagon is based on Gerschewski’s (2013) three pillars of stability but proposes some crucial modifications. In contrast to the model of the three pillars, the hexagon can grasp the causal complexity of autocratic survival because it is rooted in set theory and accounts for asymmetric causal relations, conjunctural causation and equifinality. Based on this, it illuminates how authoritarian regimes use multiple, mutually non-exclusive survival strategies.

The second contribution is an empirical exploration which applies the hexagon and provides a case-oriented analysis of 62 persistent and non-persistent authoritarian regimes (1991–2010). By using fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis, the findings of this assessment illustrate five configurations of the hexagon – called hegemonic, performance-dependent, rigid, overcompensating and adaptive authoritarianism – as those combinations of strategies which facilitate authoritarian survival.

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