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Authoritarian elites

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  • Adlai Newson
  • Francesco Trebbi

Abstract

We explore the role of ruling elites in autocratic regimes and provide an assessment of tools useful to clarify the structure of opaque political environments. We first showcase the importance of analyzing autocratic regimes as non-unitary actors by discussing extant work on non-democracies in sub-Saharan Africa and China, where the prevailing view of winner-take-all contests can be clearly rejected. We show how specific biographical information about powerful cadres helps shed light upon the composition of the inner circles that empower autocrats. We further provide an application of these methods to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of the most personalistic, opaque and data-poor political regimes in the world today. Employing information from DPRK state media on participants at official state events, we are able to trace the evolution and consolidation of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un around the transition period following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. The internal factional divisions of the DPRK are explored during and after this transition. Final general considerations for the future study of the political economy of development are presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Adlai Newson & Francesco Trebbi, 2018. "Authoritarian elites," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 51(4), pages 1088-1117, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:51:y:2018:i:4:p:1088-1117
    DOI: 10.1111/caje.12362
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    Cited by:

    1. Patrick Francois & Francesco Trebbi & Kairong Xiao, 2023. "Factions in Nondemocracies: Theory and Evidence From the Chinese Communist Party," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 91(2), pages 565-603, March.
    2. Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2020. "The Political Economics of Non-democracy," NBER Working Papers 27949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Björn Toelstede, 2020. "Social hierarchies in democracies and authoritarianism: The balance between power asymmetries and principal-agent chains," Rationality and Society, , vol. 32(3), pages 334-366, August.

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    JEL classification:

    • P16 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Capitalist Economies - - - Capitalist Institutions; Welfare State

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