Political repression in autocratic regimes

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Theoretical models on autocracies have long grappled with how to characterize and analyze state sponsorship of repression. Moreover, much of the existing formal literature sees dictators’ behavior as determined by one type of opposition actor alone and disregards the potential role played by other types of actors. We develop a contest model of political survival with a ruler, the elite and the opposition, and show how the ruler needs to respond to revolutionary pressures while securing the allegiance of his own supportive coalition. We find that the ruler’s reliance on vertical and horizontal repression is antithetically affected by the country’s wealth and the optimal bundle of vertical and horizontal repression has important consequences for the regime’s political vulnerability. Our hypothesis about the impact of wealth on repression is strongly borne out by the empirical results, which are robust to endogeneity concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-428
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Comparative Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • authoritarian regimes
  • repression
  • natural resources


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