Scholarship on why some dictatorships last and others don't?
November 11, 2008 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone recommend any excellent books or articles analyzing why (and how) dictatorship can maintain itself some places, but is successfully challenged and overthrown by more democratic forces elsewhere?
posted by shivohum to Law & Government (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics are good places to start. The ideological "dictatorship=bad/democracy=good" point you seem to want isn't there, but both contain considerations of what makes governments work. Aristotle in particular considers why some forms of government work better in some places than in others.
posted by valkyryn at 8:09 AM on November 11, 2008

The book "Alliance Curse" by Hilton Root (Brookings Institution Press) shows how America strengthens despotism and weakens democracy in many of its allies and aid recipients.

Main idea: Despotic regimes are more likely than democracies to go along with American requests (e.g. provision of military bases) in exchange for aid, and are thus more attractive aid recipients and allies to short-sighted American politicians. Foreign aid, in turn, allows despots to purchase the loyalty of a small circle of elites, and to become less dependent on tax revenue and thus less responsible to the general population. This often creates a situation where a more and more aloof and repressive autocracy/oligarchy gives way to violent revolution.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 8:24 AM on November 11, 2008

This was on Marketplace last night.
posted by matildaben at 8:25 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I recommend "Anatomy of Revolution". It talks about what is needed for a successful revolution to take place. In answer to your original question, if those things are not present then revolution doesn't happen.

The short answer is that revolution is a sport of the bourgeois. Marxist dogma notwithstanding, it isn't the proletariat who rise up because they have nothing to lose. Revolutions are started by the bourgeois because they do have something to lose and don't want that to happen.

So countries which are desperately poor, such as North Korea or Burma, won't have revolutions because... everyone is desperately poor. There's no bourgeois to rise up.
posted by Class Goat at 8:52 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Names to look for: Stepan and Linz, Barrington Moore, Jack Goldstone, Adam Przeworski, Gabriel Almond, to name a few. This is an ongoing research program in the field of comparative politics. People write dissertations and devote careers to this question.
posted by proj at 9:38 AM on November 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Machiavelli has a nice look at it from the other side.
posted by YouRebelScum at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2008

It seems that you have established a false dichotomy in your question. A dictatorship can not only last or be replaced by a more democratic force - it can also be replaced by another dictatorship. Which happens quite frequently.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 2:21 PM on November 11, 2008

Look at revolutions from the standpoint of the actual people living under the government. And investigate the conditions they live in. Is everything pretty OK for them? There's no reason to rebel. But if conditions are bad, there is a reason. Regardless of who is in charge and how they got there.
posted by gjc at 5:11 PM on November 11, 2008

This is where I would recommend a quick review of The Art of War. One of the assumptions being that the winners write the history. If your rebellion failed it's because you didn't understand your enemy well enough and failed to gain the Will of Heaven.
posted by ptm at 5:29 AM on November 13, 2008

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