Authoritarianism – An Easy Stabilizer?

Last night, we read a chapter in ITMC about authoritarian regimes and democratic breakdown. There are four main types of authoritarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes manipulate their citizens by using violence, propaganda, and a common ideology.1 Theocracies wield their power from religious institutions.1 Personalist dictatorships are simpler, with a strong leader and rejection of political input from citizens.1 Finally, bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes are not executed with one ruler, but a band of leaders called a bureaucracy.1 Democratic breakdown explains what happens when a government transitions from a democratic to an authoritarian, or hybrid regime.1

I read an article in the New York Times called “Stop Totalitarianism in Venezuela.” Venezuela has experienced political instability for over 200 years, and in 1959, the country finally established a democratic regime.2 However, in 1998, Venezuelans were tired of the corruption and social inequalities that came with a new democracy.2 Hugo Chávez seized power, with democratic breakdown to follow. Currently, Venezuela is experiencing ruthless totalitarianism under President Nicolás Maduro. It has been described as one that imposes fear, illness, and malnutrition.2

Is authoritarianism the right path to choose when a country is in need of quick relief and stability?

Last semester, we learned about legitimacy, capacity, and how the two are linked. Many authoritarian regimes are classified as having high autonomy and high or low capacity. This means that the success of authoritarianism depends wholly on how responsibly the dictator rules and enacts policy. The Venezuela case reminded me of the PRI’s power in Mexico during the 20th century. After the Mexican Revolution, Mexico was a weak state and the PRI proved to be a capable party to transition Mexico into a secure, post war society. Although the PRI kept winning seemingly democratic elections, they led with tendencies similar to that of bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes. Mexico was a false democracy, but authoritarianism did stabilize Mexico during their reign.


1 J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases (2013).

2 Enrique Krauze, “Stop Totalitarianism in Venezuela” The New York Times (June 28, 2017)

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