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Article

Most people in human history have lived under some kind of nondemocratic rule. Political scientists, on the other hand, have focused most efforts on democracies. The borders demarcating ideal types of democracies from nondemocracies are fuzzy, but beyond finding those borders is another, arguably greater, inferential challenge: understanding politics under authoritarianism. For instance, many prior studies ignored transitions between different authoritarian regimes and saw democratization as the prime threat to dictators. However, recent scholarship has shown this to be an error, as more dictators are replaced by other dictators than by democracy. A burgeoning field of authoritarianism scholarship has made considerable headway in the endeavor to comprehend dictatorial politics over the past two decades. Rather than attempting to summarize this literature in its entirety, three areas of research are worth reviewing, related to change inside of the realm of authoritarian politics. The two more mature sets of research have made critical contributions, the first in isolating different kinds of authoritarian turnover and the second in separating the plethora of authoritarian regimes into more coherent categories using various typologies. How do we understand authoritarian turnover? Authoritarian regimes undergo distinct, dramatic, and observable changes at three separate levels—in leaders, regimes, and authoritarianism itself. Drawing distinctions between these changes improves our understanding of the ultimate fates of dictators and authoritarian regimes. How do we understand the diversity of authoritarian regimes? Scholarship has focused on providing competing accounts of authoritarian types, along with analyses of institutional setup of regimes as well as their organization of military forces. Authoritarian typologies, generally coding regimes by the identities of their leaders and elite allies, show common tendencies, and survival patterns tend to vary across types. The third research area, still developing, goes further into assessing changes inside authoritarian regimes by estimating the degree of personalized power across regimes, the causes and consequences of major policy changes—or reforms—and rhetorical or ideological shifts.

Article

Erica Frantz

Dictatorships have dominated global politics for hundreds of years, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the absolute monarchs of Europe. Though democracy has since spread to much of the world, about a third of today’s countries are still ruled by dictatorship. And yet, compared to democracies, we know very little about how dictatorships work, who the key political actors are, and where decision-making powers lie. Political processes are opaque, and information is often intentionally distorted. Political survival depends not on maintaining the favor of voters, as in democracies, but on securing the backing of a considerably smaller coalition of supporters. The absence of a reliable third party to enforce compromises among key players means that power-sharing deals lack credibility and the threat of forced ouster is omnipresent. Uncertainty pervades authoritarian politics. Modern autocrats respond to this uncertain environment in a variety of ways. They use political parties, legislatures, elections, and other institutions typically associated with democracies to lessen their risk of overthrow. Despite the façade of democracy, these institutions are key components of most autocrats’ survival strategies; those that incorporate them last longer in power than those that do not. The specific ways in which autocratic institutions are used and the extent to which they can constrain leadership choices to prevent consolidation of power into the hands of a single individual, however, vary enormously from one dictatorship to the next. Better understanding the conditions that push autocracies down a path of collegial versus strongman rule remains a critical task, particularly given that the latter is associated with more war, economic mismanagement, and resistance to democratization.

Article

Recent protests in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as protests a decade earlier in East Central Europe, have peaked public interest while raising concerns about the potential for democracy protests to catalyze major reforms in governance. Although the number of protests that occurred in these periods was remarkable, democracy protests are not a new phenomena, but rather have come and gone throughout history. In some cases, the potential of these protests has been realized and significant reforms have resulted, while in others, the protests have been repressed and hopes of a more democratic future have been crushed. To shed light on these issues, the five Ws of democracy protests—namely what are democracy protests, who organizes and participates in these protests, when and where are democracy protests more likely to emerge, and why do these protests matter—are discussed.

Article

Since around the 1950s, hundreds of articles have been published in social science that are concerned with the concept of authority and authoritarianism and how both relate to religion. Despite this tremendous volume of research, two camps have emerged that have failed to incorporate the ideas of the other. Psychologists contend that deference to authority is primarily a personality-driven variable and is often shaped by subconscious and undetected psychological processes that are unchangeable once established. In contrast, sociologists contend that authoritarianism is largely a product of interaction in a social environment. This perspective suggests that religion is one of many factors that help to shape the authoritarian outlook of individuals, along with political and economic variables. Neither of these approaches has managed to synthesize their perspectives into a unified whole. In addition, while many scholars have included some aspect of religion in their analysis, little scholarship has placed it at the center of the inquiry. As a result, there has been no well-defined and thoroughly tested theory of religious authority, despite the fact that authority has driven two of the most important recent religious movements in the United States: the Religious Right and the Emergent Church Movement. Several suggestions are offered as means to make measurable progress in the field of religion and regard for authority. One way forward is to generate and test a battery of questions that measures authority from a uniquely religious perspective. Another opportunity lies in scholars measuring the deference to authority levels that exist in different religious traditions. These comparisons could be between Jews and Catholics, or even inside the larger Protestant tradition. Finally, scholars should make a concerted effort to connect clergy with their congregations as a means to discern if perceptions of authority are congruent between a religious leader and his or her parishioners.

Article

Regimes change constantly. Revolution, reform, and resilience are not discrete phenomena, but rather different modes in a common process. This means that change is not a distinct outcome to be explained, but an ongoing process to be traced over time. This requires a shift in focus from why change happens to how it actually unfolds. Social competition is the main driver, as social realists like Pierre Bourdieu indicate. Yet complex and continuous social interactions are impossible to account for in their entirety. Various aspects should be tackled in separate, complementary studies. One of those is power relations within the ruling bloc; the oscillation between conflict and collaboration between political, military, and security institutions. These three state institutions are necessary to govern society. But their relative weight shapes regime type. Security domination produces a police state, the most resilient form of authoritarianism. Egypt in 2011 provides a good example. Military guardianship has been, historically, more susceptible to piecemeal reforms, and can evolve to limited democracies. Turkey after 2002 is one instance. An overbearing political institution with weak military and security organs is vulnerable to revolutionary overthrow. The Iran of 1979 is archetypical. And the reason why relations within this “power triangle” remain tense and volatile is that while these three institutions share an interest in regulating society, they espouse different institutional agendas. They reinforce each other when their interests overlap, and clash when one institutional logic must be prioritized over the other two. And it is these recurring moments of discord that keep the path to regime change open.

Article

Jessica L. P. Weeks and Cody Crunkilton

The question of how domestic institutions influence foreign policy decisions has a long history in the study of international relations. However, until recently most of this research has compared the foreign policies of democracies and autocracies, with little attention to the differences within autocracies. In recent years, a small but growing body of literature has examined constraints within autocracies, taking issue with the widespread image of authoritarian leaders as unconstrained and unaccountable. Although existing research on this topic is limited, it focuses on two general sources of constraint on authoritarian leaders: constraints imposed by regime insiders and constraints at the hands of the public. In regimes with a powerful domestic audience, insiders often have both the will and the means to punish their leader for foreign policy failures. Consequently, such regimes sometimes behave quite similarly to democracies. In general, regimes with powerful selectorates or domestic audiences appear more likely to pursue peaceful security policies, to win the military conflicts they do enter, to lose office in the aftermath of defeat in war, to sign trade agreements, to adopt floating exchange rates, and to cooperate internationally, compared to regimes lacking such elite constraints. Scholars remain divided, however, about the extent to which the backgrounds of members of the domestic audience (e.g., whether they stem from a military or civilian ranks) matter. Less research studies whether the public can constrain authoritarian leaders. However, research indicates that the public can sometimes exert constraints through elections or the threat of revolt, if to a lesser extent than regime insiders. For example, the threat of revolution can make leaders who fear violent removal less likely to make concessions to end a conflict. Furthermore, antiforeign protest can tie a regime’s hands, with both peaceful and violent consequences. In the economic realm, some research suggests that the threat of inequality-driven revolutions spurs autocrats to pursue free-trade agreements. Overall, the study of domestic constraints on foreign policy in authoritarian regimes is an emerging area of research, with numerous areas for future study.

Article

The accountability of governments to their citizens is usually framed within a relationship of principal and agent in which the government, as agent, is obliged to answer to the citizens as agents. It is also commonly located within a structure of representative democracy where political leaders are elected by, and answerable to, the voters. However, these two theoretical frames do not adequately capture the relations of government to their citizens or the parameters of government accountability. Governments increasingly operate through non-hierarchical networks that are not subject to the vertical accountability assumed in principal-agent theory. Instead, networks offer alternative, informal accountability mechanisms based on horizontal relationships. These are evident, for example, in the responsiveness of professionals to their clients and the mutual accountability of network members to one another. These mechanisms have a sufficient share in the characteristics normally associated with accountability, including the obligations to inform, discuss, and accept consequences, for them to count as mechanisms of accountability in the usual sense. Redefinition of accountability, for instance to exclude the requirement of answering to another person or body, while understandable, is not essential. Accountability mechanisms also function without the support of effective democratic elections. For instance, formal institutions of horizontal accountability, such as courts and anti-corruption agencies, can operate in non-democratic regimes and are better seen as conditions of representative democracy rather than as consequences. Partially democratic or authoritarian regimes also exhibit various forms of social accountability in which civil society organizations call governments directly to account without recourse to state-based agencies of accountability. Large authoritarian regimes can encourage limited accountability processes as a means of bringing public pressure to bear on recalcitrant cadres. To be effective, however, all such measures require at least some legally robust support from government institutions.

Article

Lawrence C. Reardon

Establishing a totalitarian state after 1949, Chinese Communist Party elites formulated religious regulations that ensured strong national security and guaranteed the Party’s hegemonic control of the state. The party state eliminated all foreign religious connections and established Party-controlled religious organizations to co-opt the five recognized official religious beliefs. By the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong prohibited all religious beliefs except in himself. As the post-totalitarianism of the 1980s evolved into consultative authoritarianism of the 1990s, Communist elites resurrected the Party-controlled religious organizations and implemented a new series of religious regulations in 1994 and 2005 that permitted the operation of officially recognized religions to strengthen moral standards and to supplement the state’s social welfare functions. Facing perceived challenges from foreign religions and fearing the growing popularity of religious belief, the party state adopted a third set of religious regulations in 2017 to strengthen Party hegemony.

Article

The discussion on the relevance of the “inclusion-moderation” thesis to Islamist parties has always been very stimulating. The rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) in Turkey has so far attracted the attention of the international community in a period riven with the intensification of a civilizational discourse on a global scale since the early 2000s. The main premise of the study is that the “inclusion-moderation” thesis is not very relevant for the Islamists in Turkey. Rather, an “exclusion-moderation” thesis has been more relevant for Islamists’ experiences since the 1960s. AKP was established in 2001 as an offspring of traditional oppositional political Islam in Turkey, which is renowned as the “National Outlook” movement. The name of the party very successfully addressed the two missing elements of the Turkish state and society: “justice” and “development.” The party came to power in 2002 in the aftermath of the one of the most devastating economic crises to hit the country: that of 2001. Starting with a very democratic, inclusive, cohesive, liberal, universalist, and fair political discourse, the party gradually became more and more anti-democratic, authoritarian, populist, polarizing, neo-Ottomanist, and Islamist, at the expense of liberal, secular, non-Sunni, non-Muslim, and other oppositional social groups. Election declarations (seçim beyannameleri) as well as the speeches of the party leaders will be discursively analyzed to find out whether there has been any behavioral moderation in the AKP before or after they came to power. The same documents and speeches will be scrutinized to understand whether there is ideological moderation in the party. The focus will be on the latter to detect the ways in which the AKP leadership has so far deployed an Islamist ideology, which has lately become coupled with a populist political style.

Article

The crackdown on Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party demonstrates the unintended consequences of the deep penetration of politics into religious affairs in an authoritarian regime. Falun Gong emerged in China in the early 1990s as a state-sanctioned health practice, or qigong. Initially it focused on treating physical diseases and promoting general health, and therefore received recognition from the state, which has granted legal status to only the five institutional religions while relentlessly suppressing secret religious societies. Qigong, however, has contained spiritual elements since its inception. In the mid-1990s, Falun Gong began to reveal and highlight its spiritual teachings. While this differentiation strategy brought it a huge following, it sent alarming signals to the ruling Communist Party. As the state sought to curb its influences, Falun Gong responded with open defiance. In particular, its tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance encouraged the practitioners to launch a “truth clarification” campaign, targeting local political authorities and media outlets. The campaign achieved moderate initial success, but Falun Gong’s persistent and coordinated efforts to demonstrate its “apolitical” nature convinced the state that it was indeed a politically subversive force. Falun Gong’s political defiance culminated in a large, 13-hour sit-in protest near the central government compound in Beijing. Three months later, the state officially banned Falun Gong and mobilized its entire security and propaganda apparatus to eliminate Falun Gong in China.

Article

Anita Isaacs and Rachel A. Schwartz

Since the mid-20th century, the Guatemalan military has played a prominent role in the country’s political life. Yet, this was not always the case. During Guatemala’s first century of independence, the armed forces operated largely as the pawn of personalist rulers and oligarchic elites, utilizing coercion to quell labor unrest and impose order in the countryside. Developments during the Cold War era, however, transformed the Guatemalan military into a centralized source of political and economic power and the key protagonist in domestic politics. Following World War II and on the heels of popular uprising, nationalist junior army officers ushered in a series of popular reforms, which included land redistribution. A 1954 CIA-orchestrated coup supported by the Guatemalan oligarchy and reactionary military factions toppled Guatemala’s “Democratic Spring,” reversed the reforms, and paved the way for four decades of hardline military rule. The subsequent rise of a leftist insurgent movement and the outbreak of armed conflict (1960–1996) gave the armed forces a pretext to dramatically expand their power. They consolidated formal political control over the Guatemalan state and pursued a counterinsurgent campaign, which escalated into genocidal violence in the predominantly Mayan indigenous highlands. Pulled between the political protagonism of civil war and the subordination to civilian rule required in liberal democracy, the Guatemalan military struggled to redefine its institutional identity with the end of armed conflict. It lurched reluctantly toward peace and democracy following a split in its ranks between a moderate institutionalist faction and right-wing groups wary of ceding political control. Despite peace accord provisions to reduce the military’s size and budget and to confine its institutional activities to external defense, military officials, particularly those from intelligence, continued to wield extraordinary control in the postwar era. Challenging the strictures of peace and democracy, they have fought to maintain key interests, notably impunity for war crimes, political decision-making influence, and wartime sources of illicit enrichment.

Article

In Latin America, democratization in the 1980s and 1990s brought greater military subordination to elected leaders and a promising new era of civil–military relations. Yet the threat of coups lingered—particularly where leaders most threatened elite interests and where coups could be justified as “restoring” democracy. Such was the case in the early 21st century for presidents on the radical, populist side of Latin America’s “New Left,” including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, and Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. In response, these presidents sought to guard their “contestatory” agenda by diminishing the armed forces’ ability and willingness to derail it. They adopted strategies like increasing spending on military hardware and salaries, stacking the officer corps with loyalists, indoctrinating the armed forces into the government’s political ideology, and raising citizen militias and parallel security forces. To different degrees—and with different degrees of success—they attempted to secure the military’s loyalty and to raise the costs of executing a coup. In other words, they engaged in coup-proofing, a practice used by vulnerable leaders around the world. The study of coup-proofing in Latin America can advance research on comparative civil–military relations and democratization in several ways. First, scholars usually treat coup-proofing strategies as a response to the elevated risk of a coup. But when they threaten the military’s conservative corporate identity or limit its autonomy from civilian control, those strategies themselves could end up elevating that risk. Cases of coup-proofing from Latin America’s New Left would prove relevant for research seeking to disentangle this complicated causal relationship. Second, coup-proofing could jeopardize democratic consolidation, if not survival, if it shifts the military’s loyalty from a democratic, constitutional order to a particular leader and ideology. But if coup-proofing prevents unelected leaders from usurping office, then it might protect democracy. The short and long-term effect of coup-proofing on democratic institutions thus remains an open question. And third, if coup-proofing is to retain its conceptual utility in a region populated by democracies and hybrid regimes, then the definition of a “coup” has to remain limited to an illegal, undemocratic seizure of power involving at least some elements of the armed forces. Otherwise, coup-proofing could become conflated with impeachment-proofing. In practice, however, it becomes difficult to distinguish efforts aimed at preventing a coup from efforts aimed at escaping legal constraints on presidential power. This presents a challenge but also an opportunity for future research. The record of coups and attempted coups in Latin America over the first two decades of the 21st century shows that while the coup d’état is no longer a fixture of political life in the region, it remains a real possibility. That reality calls for more research into coup risk, the ways that leaders respond to it, and the political consequences that follow.

Article

During the 20th century, seizures of power led by military officers became the most common means of imposing new dictatorships. The consequences of military rule have varied, however, depending on how widely power has been shared within the military-led government. Most military-led dictatorships begin as relatively collegial, but the dictator’s position in collegial military regimes is inherently unstable. His closest collaborators command troops and weapons with which they could, if they are dissatisfied with his policy choices, oust him without ending the regime. This vulnerability to ouster by close allies both constrains the dictator to consult with other officers in order to keep them satisfied and gives him reasons to try to protect himself from coup plots. Common means of protection include taking personal control of the internal security police, in order to spy on officers as well as civilian opponents, and creating paramilitary forces recruited from personal loyalists. Dictators build new paramilitary forces to defend themselves from attempted coups staged by the regular army. A military dictator who can withstand coup attempts need not consult with other officers and can concentrate great power in his hands. Military dictators who have to share power with other high-ranking officers (juntas) behave differently than military rulers who have concentrated power in their own hands (strongmen). These differences affect the well-being of citizens, the belligerence of international policy, the likelihood of regime collapse, how military rule ends when it finally does, and whether it is followed by democracy or a new dictatorship. In comparison to junta rule, strongman rule tends to result in erratic economic decision-making and high rates of corruption. Strongmen also behave more aggressively toward their neighbors than do juntas. Nevertheless, regimes led by strongmen last longer, on average, than do juntas. When faced with widespread opposition, juntas tend to negotiate a return to the barracks, while strongmen often must be overthrown by force. Negotiated transitions tend to end in democratization, but forced regime ousters often result in new dictatorships.

Article

Greek civil-military relations (CMR) have been fraught with tension and conflict for a long time, almost since the country’s independence in 1830. A high number of military coups and mutual mistrust between political elites and military officers characterized periods of civilian rule for most of the 20th century. However, and that is what makes the Greek case especially interesting, the restoration of democratic rule after the last military coup in 1967 has been both swift and successful. Ever since 1974, Greece’s CMR have stabilized along the archetypal examples of advanced Western democracies. Interpreting this impressive transformation of Greek CMR is an exercise that needs to bring together distinct factors: the country’s historical evolution, its political transformation, and its economic development. When in 1974 the Cyprus fiasco exposed the colonels’ regime as inept and incapable of defending the country’s national interests, the country was politically ready for a smooth transition to institutional normality. External factors, such as the prospect of European Union (EU) membership, assisted the country’s civilian leadership by offering Greece a path toward economic prosperity and political stability. For all of the country’s economic problems in the early 21st century, that path has been followed consistently ever since

Article

Social capital is a slippery concept that signifies different things for different authors, and its uses are not always consistent. Despite this lack of consensus, most scholars agree on its basic idea: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Participation or membership in social networks and voluntary organizations creates norms and values such as trust, cooperation, and reciprocity that lead to productive state, institutional performance, and democratic communities. Social interactions and connections expand access to information and political ideas, nurture active citizens, stimulate individual participation in politics, collective decision-making, and policy formulation, which increase governmental accountability. In recent years, civil society actors in Africa have been emboldened to build social capital in response to restrictions and attacks on civil and political liberties, creeping authoritarianism, constitutional manipulations, and lack of governmental accountability. However, there are formidable challenges to generating social capital due to the character of civil society, its structural weaknesses and internal contradictions, socio-cultural factors, and limitations from the state.

Article

Since the early 1990s, most African countries have experimented with multiparty elections, but the building and institutionalization of political parties has proven difficult. In many countries, parties—including those holding power—are fluid, volatile, and lack grassroots structures. In others, the party landscape remains surprisingly similar to Van de Walle’s assessment: “[consisting] of a dominant presidential party surrounded by a large number of small, highly volatile parties.” As Van de Walle points out, ruling parties—including the ex-single parties that continue to rule in many of Africa’s hybrid regimes—have advantages that mean that elections are not fought on a level playing field. Ruling parties may use repression against challengers, or they may manipulate voter registration, constituency redistricting, and other aspects of electoral administration. Incumbents can also take advantage of state resources, and a decline in patronage resources has been a powerful driver of electoral turnover in regions. But differences in election competitiveness in Africa are not only a function of repression, manipulation, or access to patronage. Differences in both ruling party and opposition party organizations have independent effects on parties’ ability to win elections, on the loyalty of mass constituencies, and on the conduct of election campaigns. New scholarship has started to take these differences in party organization seriously, and this will enrich our understanding of how voters in sub-Saharan Africa navigate political choice. Research on parties and party systems highlights the degree to which these factors differ across countries and over time, complicating standard narratives that often privilege clientelism and ethnicity as the primary—and largely uniform—influences on voter behavior and government accountability on the continent.

Article

Many scholars consider the military dictatorship a distinct authoritarian regime type, pointing to the singular patterns of domestic and international behaviors displayed by military regimes. Existing studies show that compared with civilian dictatorships, military dictatorships commit more human rights abuses, are more prone to civil war, and engage in more belligerent behaviors against other countries. Despite their coercive capacity, rulers of military dictatorships tend to have shorter tenures than rulers of non-military dictatorships. Additionally, military dictatorships more quickly and peacefully transition to democracy than their non-military counterparts and frequently negotiate their withdrawal from power. Given the distinct natures of military dictatorships, research on military dictatorships and coups has resurged since 2000. A great body of new research utilizing new theories, data, and methods has added to the existing scholarship on military rule and coups, which saw considerable growth in the 1970s. Most studies tend to focus on domestic issues and pay relatively little attention to the relationship between international factors and military rule. However, a growing body of studies investigates how international factors, such as economic globalization, international military assistance, reactions from the international community, and external threat environments, affect military rule. One particularly interesting research topics in this regard is the relationship between external territorial threats and military rule. Territorial issues are more salient to domestic societies than other issues, producing significant ramifications for domestic politics through militarization and state centralization. Militaries play a pivotal role in militarization and state centralization, both of which are by-products of external territorial threats. Thus, external territorial threats produce permissive structural conditions that not only prohibit democratization but also encourage military dictatorships to emerge and persist. Moreover, if territorial threats affect the presence of military dictatorships, they are more likely to affect collegial military rule, characterized by the rule of a military institution, rather than military strongman rule, characterized by the rule by a military personalist dictator. This is because territorial threats make the military more internally unified and cohesive, which helps the military rule as an institution. Existing studies provide a fair amount of empirical evidence consistent with this claim. External territorial threats are found to increase the likelihood of military regimes, particularly collegial military regimes, as well as the likelihood of military coups. The same is not true of non-territorial threats. This indicates that the type of external threat, rather than the mere presence of an external threat, matters.

Article

Several African countries are currently engaged in the constitution-making process. In Africa, constitution-making usually takes three phases. The first phase took place at independence in the 1960s and was typically led by the colonial power. Constitution-making during this phase was part of the decolonization process. In the case of former British colonies, the independence constitution was British legislation which constituted the independent state. The second phase was from independence to 1989. During this phase, constitution amendments were made to the independence constitutions designed to concentrate power in the presidency. This was the era of authoritarian governments in Africa which culminated into one-party state systems of governance. The third phase, which runs from 1989 to the present, is associated with the worldwide wave of democratization. During this period, constitution-making has centered on rebuilding the political community as well as structures that had been distorted by political manipulation and violence during the era of authoritarian rule. This third phase is also marked by promoting the participation of citizens in the affairs of their own countries and the accountability of governments. A well-designed constitution can promote these objectives. In addition, inclusiveness and peaceful settlement of conflicts can be seen as a vehicle for national dialogue, good governance, and the consolidation of peace.

Article

Paul E. Lenze, Jr.

Algeria is a state in the Maghreb that has been dominated by military rule for the majority of its existence. The National People’s Army (ANP) used nationalism to justify its intervention into politics while ensuring that withdrawal would occur only if national identity were protected. Algeria, similar to other Middle Eastern states, underwent historical trajectories influenced by colonialism, the Cold War, and post-9/11 politics; briefly experimented with democracy; and as a result, experienced the military as the dominant institution in the state. The resignation of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years of rule in April 2019, following six weeks of popular protest, has raised questions as to whether democratization is possible. Algeria’s history of military involvement in politics, the strength of the military as an institution, and its cooperative links with domestic elites and international actors portend the endurance of authoritarianism for the foreseeable future.

Article

The history of the military in Ethiopia is a social history. There is no surprise here. Military institutions are social constructs whose structure and functions in each society can only be understood contextually. Because the Ethiopian military has emerged as a relatively independent institution after World War II, its nature, and role in the political order, has been impacted by structural conditions—including the interplay between tradition and modernity, the rise of the middle class, authoritarian culture and political makeup, interethnic tensions, chronic economic problems, and geopolitical conditions. Nevertheless, while being constrained by these factors and processes, the military, like other political actors in the country, has not acted as a passive spectacle; instead, members of the military have played an essential role in the perpetuation and unmaking of political regimes. Within the three administrations that have surfaced during the last nine decades, the role of the Ethiopian military in the political order has ranged from soft to active intervention. However, in all these regimes, military power has invariably undermined people power. The most extreme of all the regimes was the military establishment of 1974–1991. Under this palpably authoritarian government, to the extent that the distinction between military and civilian rule was blurred, the army was involved in politics more than its due share. During the imperial era (1930–1974), on the other hand, the emperor, who cherished his power (with no pretense for democratic governance) more than his outspoken commitment to the idea of progress, made the military subservient to his bidding while forcing it to remain politically indifferent. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime (1991–present) shared similar attributes with the imperial government in its recognition (at least theoretically) of the distinction between military and civilian rule. Here too the military was the strong arm of the incumbent. Despite its fervent claim for political and cultural pluralism, the EPRDF used the military to defend its “democratic” authoritarian interests. The lesson to be learned from this social history of the military is clear: Ethiopia needs a proper military–civil relationship, along with institutional mechanisms that counterweight against the military’s detrimental intervention in political affairs, for it to materialize the potential of its people and create a well-ordered, just society.