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Authoritarianism, democracy and development

Working papers

This paper reviews the evidence on authoritarianism and development from the perspective of a policy-maker providing advice to an ostensibly developmental authoritarian regime.

It finds that the cross-national statistical evidence on regime type and development is inconclusive, and argues that varying experiences of development under authoritarianism are better-captured by structured-focused comparisons using ‘developmental states’ and ‘political settlements’ frameworks.

Although these frameworks provide a good starting point for thinking about development in particular authoritarian regimes, they do have their blind spots. In particular, they have little to say about whether transitions from less to more developmental forms of authoritarianism are possible or how they take place, or how transitions from authoritarianism to democracy can be managed without derailing development. Ultimately, more research on these issues is needed.

Tim Kelsall