Sunday, May 18, 2014

Stealth Authoritarianism

Ozan Varol of the Lewis & Clark Law School has posted "Stealth Authoritarianism" on SSRN. The abstract reads:

     "Authoritarianism is undergoing a metamorphosis. Historically, authoritarians openly repressed opponents by violence and harassment and subverted the rule of law to perpetuate their rule. The post-Cold War crackdown on these transparently authoritarian practices provided significant incentives to avoid them. Instead, the new generation of authoritarians learned to perpetuate their power through the same legal mechanisms that exist in democratic regimes. In so doing, they cloak repressive practices under the mask of law, imbue them with the veneer of legitimacy, and render anti-democratic practices much more difficult to detect and eliminate.

     This Article identifies and offers the first comprehensive cross-regional account of that phenomenon, which I term stealth authoritarianism. Drawing on rational-choice theory, the Article explains the expansion of stealth authoritarianism across different case studies. The Article fills a significant void in the literature, which has left undertheorized the authoritarian learning that occurred after the Cold War and the emerging reliance on legal, particularly sub-constitutional, mechanisms to perpetuate political power. Although stealth authoritarian practices are more prevalent in nondemocracies, the Article illustrates that they can also surface in regimes with favorable democratic credentials, including the United States. In so doing, the Article informs important questions in legal theory by demonstrating the limits of democratic processes and their vulnerability to abuse.

     The Article concludes by discussing the implications of stealth authoritarianism for scholars and policymakers. The existing democracy-promotion mechanisms in the United States and elsewhere are of limited use in detecting stealth authoritarian tactics. Paradoxically, these mechanisms, which have narrowly focused on eliminating transparent democratic deficiencies, have provided legal and political cover to stealth authoritarian practices and created the very conditions in which these practices thrive. In addition, stealth authoritarianism can ultimately make authoritarian governance more durable by concealing anti-democratic practices under the mask of law. At the same time, however, stealth authoritarianism is less insidious than its traditional, more repressive alternative and can, under some circumstances, produce the conditions by which democracy can expand and mature, in a two-steps-forward-one-step-backward dynamic."
The article may be accessed via this link:

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