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  • Cited by 3
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
April 2023
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Book description

In The Two Logics of Autocratic Rule, Gerschewski argues that all autocracies must fulfil three conditions to survive: the co-optation of key elites into their inner sanctum, the repression of potential dissent, and popular legitimation. Yet, how these conditions complement each other depends on alternative logics: over-politicization and de-politicization. While the former aims at mobilizing people via inflating a friend-foe distinction, the latter renders the people passive and apathetic, relying instead on performance-driven forms of legitimation. Gerschewski supports this two-logics theory with the empirical analysis of forty-five autocratic regime episodes in East Asia since the end of World War II. In simultaneously synthesizing and extending existing research on non-democracies, this book proposes an innovative way to understand autocratic rule that goes beyond the classic distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. It will be of interest to scholars and students of comparative politics, political theory, and East Asian politics.


‘This is a landmark in the study of authoritarian stability. Gerschewski moves beyond the recent trend in understanding authoritarian regime durability as a product of material and coercive factors to reintegrate ideological and normative factors that legitimize dictatorship into our understanding. He provides a fuller picture of why authoritarianism proved to be more durable than many had anticipated.'

Michael Bernhard - University of Florida

‘With sweeping breadth, yet solidly anchored in both classical and contemporary debates, Johannes Gerschewski introduces a bold macro-theoretical framework for the comprehension of authoritarian stability. While the current literature revolves around the authoritarian control of regime elites, he brings the authoritarian control of the people (by mass mobilization or mass privatization) back in. His configurational analysis of 'patterns of autocracy' is a must-read for everyone who strives to understand the enduring resilience of autocratic rule.'

Andreas Schedler - Central European University

‘Based on a remarkable synthesis of the extensive literature on autocracies, this book offers a compelling argument about the two logics of authoritarian rule that is tested through the empirical analysis of autocratic stability in East Asia. An impressive achievement.'

Martin K. Dimitrov - Tulane University

‘In this brilliant and intellectually ambitious book, Johannes Gerschewski re-evaluates the field of authoritarian studies in a highly innovative manner, focusing on their quest for certainty and stability. He links some of the established theoretical approaches with a remarkable set of detailed empirical comparative analyses of East Asian dictatorships. Teasing out contrasting argumentative logics that apply generally to the nature of authoritarianism, and plugging many gaps in the existing literature, Gerschewski offers a sophistication and depth for which a new generation of scholars will be gratefully indebted.'

Michael Freeden - University of Oxford

‘Can any single theoretical framework make sense of the diverse authoritarian regimes we witness across Asia and the world today, from North Korea’s ruling family to Singapore’s ruling party to Myanmar’s ruling military? Johannes Gerschewski succeeds in just such an effort, convincingly showing that diverse autocracies face the same fundamental challenges and can counter them in one of two ways: either by making everything political, or by making everything apolitical. The Two Logics of Autocratic Rule is a genuine triumph.’

Dan Slater - University of Michigan

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