Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War

September 24, 2010
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm

A panel discussion featuring authors:

Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way

With comments by:

Thomas Carothers
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“Competitive authoritarianism”—a type of regime that combines competitive elections with serious violations of democratic procedures—has proliferated during the post-Cold War era. In their book Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War, Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way explained the rise and diverging fortunes of competitive authoritarian regimes since 1990. Based on a comparative study of 35 cases in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and postcommunist Eurasia, their book finds that competitive authoritarian countries with extensive ties to the West were much more likely to democratize. By raising the external cost of authoritarian abuses, linkage to the West helped bring democracy even to countries where domestic conditions were unfavorable. Where such ties were limited, however, external pressure for democratization was weaker. Regime outcomes in these cases hinged on the character of state and ruling-party organizations. Where incumbents possessed robust coercive and party structures, competitive authoritarian regimes proved durable; where incumbents lacked such organizational tools, regimes were unstable but rarely democratized. Levitsky and Way explored these trends and discussed the questions that they raise. Their presentation was followed by comments by Thomas Carothers.


Steven Levitsky is professor of government at Harvard University. His research interests include political parties, political regimes and regime change, and the causes and consequences of institutional weakness, with a focus on Latin America. He is author of Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2003); and co-editor of Argentine Democracy: The Politics of Institutional Weakness (2005) and Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America (2006). He is also co-editing a book (with Kenneth Roberts) on the rise of the Left in Latin America.

Lucan Way is assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, where his research interests include regime change and weak states with a focus on postcommunist Eurasia. He is currently completing a book, Pluralism by Default: Sources of Political Competition in the Former Soviet Union, and has published articles in Comparative Politics, Journal of Democracy, Politics & Society, World Politics, as well as numerous edited volumes and area-based journals.

Thomas Carothers is the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In this capacity, he oversees the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, Middle East Program, and Carnegie Europe. He is the author of numerous books on democracy promotion.