Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability

Duration, Financial Control, and Institutions
Victor C. Shih, Editor
What topples a statue?


Over two billion people still live under authoritarian rule. Moreover, authoritarian regimes around the world command enormous financial and economic resources, rivaling those controlled by advanced democracies. Yet authoritarian regimes as a whole are facing their greatest challenges in the recent two decades due to rebellions and economic stress. Extended periods of hardship have the potential of introducing instability to regimes because members of the existing ruling coalition suffer welfare losses that force them to consider alternatives, while previously quiescent masses may consider collective uprisings a worthwhile gamble in the face of declining standards of living.

Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability homes in on the economic challenges facing authoritarian regimes through a set of comparative case studies that include Iran, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Russia, the Eastern bloc countries, China, and Taiwan—authored by the top experts in these countries. Through these comparative case studies, this volume provides readers with the analytical tools for assessing whether the current round of economic shocks will lead to political instability or even regime change among the world’s autocracies. This volume identifies the duration of economic shocks, the regime’s control over the financial system, and the strength of the ruling party as key variables to explain whether authoritarian regimes would maintain the status quo, adjust their support coalitions, or fall from power after economic shocks.

“Important theories in the field would lead us to expect that economic shocks might lead authoritarian regimes to democratize. This volume challenges this conventional wisdom, showing that shocks do not change whether autocrats rule, they change how they rule. The volume is persuasive, well-written, and packed with important new insights from the leading scholars in the field.”
—Daniel Mattingly, Yale University
“With economic growth aiding authoritarian survival, understanding crises becomes fundamental to the study of authoritarian politics. With an impressive set of contributors discussing significant events from around the globe, Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability presents a nuanced picture of the relationships between these factors, including financial controls and coalitional politics.”
—Jeremy Lee Wallace, Cornell University
“These richly detailed and theoretically informed case studies reject the determinism that underpins many arguments about how economic crises affect autocracies. They show that autocrats have many tools to survive sharp economic downturns, but also that economic shocks often fundamentally alter autocracies by compelling the ruler to shift coalitions or tactics to stay in power. A timely and important contribution to the study of autocracy.”
—Timothy Frye, Columbia University

“Two valuable contributions to our understanding of authoritarian regime survival. First, it combines studies of a wide range of authoritarian regimes to demonstrate the limits of institutions-based theories. Second, by illustrating the complex calculations of specific authoritarian regimes during and after economic shocks using three common indicators, it suggests several venues for further research to better understand authoritarian regime survival more broadly. The chapter authors are all specialists in their country or region of study, and thus provide rich detail.”
—Kay Shimizu, University of Pittsburgh

Victor C. Shih is Ho Miu Lam Chair and Associate Professor in China and Pacific Relations at the School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego.


Praise / Awards

  • "Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability draws on multiple examples to develop a compelling picture of the mechanisms at the core of the durability of authoritarian regimes."

    -Konstantin Sonin, Perspectives on Politics

News, Reviews, Interviews

Pending: Podcast on New Books Network | May 2021

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 270pp.
  • 12 charts, 6 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13177-8

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  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03767-4

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  • $39.95 U.S.

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  • dictatorship; authoritarian regimes; autocracies; democratization; economic crisis; China; Iraq; Iran; Malaysia; Indonesia; German Democratic Republic; Taiwan; Russia; regime change; Saddam Hussein; Xi Jinping; UMNO; coalition politics; economic sanctions;