Synopses & Reviews
Competitive authoritarian regimes - in which autocrats submit to meaningful multiparty elections but engage in serious democratic abuse - proliferated in the post-Cold War era. Based on a detailed study of 35 cases in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and post-communist Eurasia, this book explores the fate of competitive authoritarian regimes between 1990 and 2008. It finds that where social, economic, and technocratic ties to the West were extensive, as in Eastern Europe and the Americas, the external cost of abuse led incumbents to cede power rather than crack down, which led to democratization. Where ties to the West were limited, external democratizing pressure was weaker and countries rarely democratized. In these cases, regime outcomes hinged on the character of state and ruling party organizations. Where incumbents possessed developed and cohesive coercive party structures, they could thwart opposition challenges, and competitive authoritarian regimes survived; where incumbents lacked such organizational tools, regimes were unstable but rarely democratized.
"This landmark contribution to the comparative study of political regimes will be widely read and cited. In an epic act of theoretical synthesis, Levitsky and Way weave careful empirical research on three-dozen countries across five world regions into a convincing account of patterns of regime change. In distinguishing democratic transitions from a range of authoritarian outcomes, they reach nuanced conclusions about the relative explanatory influence of international factors (linkage and leverage) and domestic power politics (rulers versus oppositions). Above all, they help us understand how autocrats learn to live with elections. Strongly recommended."
- Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies, Michigan State University
"This is a brilliant and truly pathbreaking book that should be closely studied by any serious student of democracy or comparative politics. Its precise conceptualization, striking theory, rigorous comparative methodology, and breathtaking range of case study evidence distinguish it as the most important study of political regimes and regime transitions in a generation."
- Larry Diamond, Stanford University
"Competitive Authoritarianism establishes Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way as the Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan of their generation. In the tradition of Linz and Stepan, Levitsky and Way offer an abundance of theoretical and conceptual innovation as well as a trove of empirical material drawn from broad swaths of the globe. The book is as elegantly written as it is theoretically creative. It is written by and for professional social scientists; yet undergraduates and the attentive public will be able to digest the book's central argument and findings with ease. This is what social science should look like."
- M. Steven Fish, University of California, Berkeley
"This is the most anticipated book in comparative politics in more than a decade. Written in a single authorial voice, Levitsky and Way's arguments about the distinct trajectories of competitive authoritarian regimes are theoretically grounded, conceptually nuanced, geographically wide ranging, and empirically well supported. I expect this book to have a major impact on the field for many years to come."
- Marc Morjé Howard, Georgetown University
"Levitsky and Way's book makes two major contributions to research on political regime change. First, by developing the notion of competitive authoritarianism, it engages in a sustained effort to provide a clear and theoretically fertile conception of a particular subset of political regimes belonging to the vague class of 'hybrid' regimes. Second, it offers the as yet most sophisticated and subtle effort to interweave domestic and international explanations of political regime change with provocative implications for run-of-the-mill theories, whether based on economic development, inequality, or institutions."
- Herbert Kitschelt, Duke University
"Regimes that blend meaningful elections and illicit incumbent advantage are not merely resting points on the road to democracy; Levitsky and Way guide us along the multiple paths these regimes can take and provide powerful reasoning to explain why nations follow these distinct paths. This deeply insightful analysis of an important subset of post-Cold War regimes is conceptually innovative and precise, empirically ambitious, and theoretical agile, moving fluidly between international and domestic causes of regime dynamics. Read it to understand the dynamics of contemporary hybrid regimes; then read it again to appreciate its many lessons for our general understanding of regime change."
- David Waldner, University of Virginia
This book explores the fate of competitive authoritarian regimes in the post-Cold War era.
About the Author
Steven Levitsky is Professor of Government at Harvard University. His research interests include political parties, political regimes, and informal institutions, with a focus on Latin America. Professor Levitsky is author of Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective (2003) and co-editor of Argentine Democracy: The Politics of Institutional Weakness (2005) and Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America (2006), and he is currently co-editing a volume on the rise of the Left in Latin America in the 2000s. He has published articles in the Annual Review of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, the Journal of Democracy, the Journal of Latin American Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, the Latin American Research Review, Party Politics, Perspectives on Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, and World Politics. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy.Lucan Way is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research interests include political regimes, fiscal and social reform, corruption, and post-communist politics. Professor Way is currently completing a book, Pluralism by Default: Sources of Political Competition in the Former Soviet Union, and has published articles in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Comparative Politics, East European Politics and Societies, the Journal of Democracy, the Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Politics and Society, Post-Soviet Affairs, Studies in Comparative and International Development, and World Politics, as well as several book chapters. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy.
Table of Contents
Part I. Introduction and Theory: 1. Introduction; 2. Explaining competitive authoritarian regime trajectories: international linkage and the organizational power of incumbents; Part II. High Linkage and Democratization: Eastern Europe and the Americas: 3. Linkage, leverage, and democratization in Eastern Europe; 4. Linkage, leverage, and democratization in Latin America and the Caribbean; Part III. The Dynamics of Competitive Authoritarianism in Low Linkage Regions: The Former Soviet Union, Africa, and Asia: 5. The evolution of post-Soviet competitive authoritarianism; 6. Africa: transitions without democratization; 7. Diverging outcomes in Asia; 8. Conclusion; Appendix. Measuring competitive authoritarianism and authoritarian stability.