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Chapter Review

  • Defining Nondemocratic Rule
    • Nondemocratic regimes are those controlled by a small group of individuals who exercise power over the state without being constitutionally responsible to the public. We also sometimes refer to these states as authoritarian regimes.
    • Nondemocratic regimes restrict individual freedom, but some (not all) strive to provide social and economic equality. Some are highly ideological; others reject ideology and simply pursue power for the state or its leader.
  • Totalitarianism and Nondemocratic Rule
    • Totalitarianism is a form of nondemocratic rule with a highly centralized state with a strong ideology that seeks to transform and fuse the institutions of the state, society, and economy.
    • Totalitarian regimes often use violence to maintain control and destroy obstacles to change, though this does not mean any violent regimes is totalitarian. Communist North Korea is the only truly totalitarian country in the modern world.
  • Origins and Sources of Nondemocratic Rule
    • Modernization theory argues that nondemocratic regimes are more likely to emerge in poor countries that lack a middle class (though there are some exceptions). The absence of a middle class is more likely to result in a polarization between those few in power and a wider population that is weakly organized.
    • In highly unequal societies, those who monopolize economic power may monopolize political power. This may because elites are less willing to share power when they fear losing their economic opportunities. Some argue that countries with abundant natural resources (such as oil or minerals) have a barrier to modernization because wealth is concentrated among elites who control those resources. Also, since natural resources are not portable, those in power know that should they give up power, they will not be able to take these assets with them.
    • Nondemocratic regimes generally have a weak civil society. People in power often destroy or undermine civil society, and people may view the state as the primary arena for social organization. Populism, an anti-institutional ideology, may emerge in these societies. Populism need not lead to an antidemocratic outcome, but it can destabilize democratic practices and provide a foundation for antidemocratic leaders to come to power. 
    • International actors may support nondemocratic rule. Foreign occupiers may undermine democratic movements, and Western imperialism has contributed to a long-term trend of nondemocratic rule due to such things as arbitrary borders and weak state development.
    • Some claim that certain cultures are more supportive of nondemocratic regimes; others argue that cultures are neither inherently democratic nor inherently nondemocratic, and that there is too much variation within cultures to make such sweeping claims.
  • Nondemocratic Regimes and Political Control
    • Nondemocratic regimes maintain political control in a number of ways.
    • Some societies may use coercion (compelling individuals by threatening harm to their lives or livelihoods).
    • With the rise of the Internet and cellular technology, surveillance (watching the population and punishing those who criticize the state) has become more sophisticated, and more regimes seek to monitor and control electronic communication such as e-mail, social networking, or text messages.
    • Not all regimes rely on punishment or surveillance as a central means of control.  The may instead turn to co-optation (bringing outsiders into a beneficial relationship with the regime). Co-optation may take the form of corporatism, where the state controls and approves all social and economic institutions, or clientelism, where the state provides favors to people who offer support). In some cases, clientelism may lead to rent seeking or even kleptocracy.
    • Nondemocratic regimes may also reinforce their rule through emphasis on veneration of the leadership using personality cults. A charismatic leader is held up as all-powerful and the embodiment of the nation, and anyone who criticizes that leader is punished.
  • Models of Nondemocratic Rule
    • Nondemocratic regimes may display personal and/or monarchical rule, which rests on the idea that one leader is equipped to run the country. Sometimes this takes the form of patrimonialism, where the leader, in return for obedience, provides benefits to a small group of supporters.
    • Some nondemocratic regimes have military rule, where the military, often through a coup d’état, wrests power from the government and usually restricts civil liberties and bans political parties. Sometimes this takes the form of bureaucratic authoritarianism, a regime that believes that a technocratic leadership focused on objective, rational, and technical expertise can solve the problems of a country without public participation.
    • Commonly associated with totalitarianism, one-party rule is where one party monopolizes power, with other parties banned or excluded from power.
    • Some nondemocratic regimes are theocracies, where faith is the foundation of the political regime and affects nearly all political decisions and institutions.
    • Illiberal or hybrid regimes are those that contain institutions that seem democratic but are not respected or seen by the people as legitimate or effective. It is unclear whether illiberal regimes are transitional, in the process of moving from nondemocratic to democratic rule (or vice versa), or a new form of nondemocracy that uses the trappings of democracy to perpetuate its control.