Non-Democratic Regimes

by Paul Brooker


Click on the letter links below to access definitions of all key terms from the textbook.

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In the widest sense any form of non-democratic rule but in the narrower sense – Linz’s conception of authoritarianism – excludes totalitarian and traditional forms of non-democratic rule.

Literally ‘self-coup’ and referring to the misappropriation of power by an elected president, whether by such dramatic means as suspending the constitution or by gradually misappropriating power through a ‘creeping’ coup. See also misappropriation of power.


Administration by a hierarchical structure of officials who in modern bureaucracies (as distinct from patrimonial bureaucracies) are salaried careerists carrying out their administrative duties impersonally and according to the rules. See also patrimonial bureaucracy.


Calculus of intervention
Uses a forensic approach to ‘calculate’ (as explanation or prediction) the likely success or failure of a military intervention in politics, notably the military’s seizure of power through a coup. See also forensic approach.

Calculus of usurpation
Like the calculus of intervention, it uses a forensic approach to ‘calculate’ (as explanation or prediction) likely success or failure but it includes party seizures or misappropriations of power as well as military seizures of power.

The capacity to monitor, veto and direct the activity of minds, people, organizations or sectors of society.

Civilianized military rule/regime
A highly publicized ending of obvious features of military rule, such as a junta, but without handing power back to civilians, as when a military president resigns/retires from the military but stays in power as a ‘civilian’ president. See also junta.

Corporate coup
A military coup by the military as a whole, as a corporate body, and under the command of its most senior officers.

A military coup that seizes power from a military government, as a corporate or factional coup, and under the command of politically ambitious or disaffected officers.

Literally a ‘blow’ and typically a military coup in which the country’s military seizes power from the government. See also military ‘corporate coup’, ‘factional coup’ and ‘countercoup’.


Democratic disguise
Used by a dictatorship wishing to appear a democracy, and typically involving semicompetitive multiparty elections. See also semicompetitive elections.

Transformation of a non-democratic regime into a democracy or a democratically disguised dictatorship or a hybrid combination of democracy and dictatorship.

Non-democratic rule by an organization or by a person who is not a monarch, i.e. is not an emperor, king, prince, sultan or emir.

Dynastic monarchies
Type of monarchy found in the Arab world that allows the royal family a wider choice of successor than in monarchies following the primogeniture principle and also allows the royal family to remove an incompetent or ‘unreliable’ monarch.


Factional coup
A military coup by only a part of the military, as some form of ‘faction’, and typically under the command of colonels or other middle-ranking officers.

Forensic approach/framework
Uses motive, means and opportunity as the key variables, factors or topics for explaining or predicting an event or process, such as a seizure of power.

Formal rationalization
The historical tendency to rationalize the form (rather than content or substance) of political, administrative and economic activity by emphasizing rules and/or numbers.


General Secretary
The senior leadership position in communist parties but Mao Zedong’s leadership position was Chairman, not General Secretary, of the Chinese communist party.

Distorting the result of parliamentary or congressional elections by manipulating constituency boundaries to increase/decrease the number of seats that government/opposition voters will win for their party.


A combination or mixture of two entities or features which in political science usually refers to a combination of democracy and dictatorship or authoritarianism, such as the competitive authoritarian regimes described by Levitsky and Way (2010).


Similar to a religion in holding certain things to be sacred but principles, ideas or goals rather than beliefs, rituals or symbols and concerned with ‘this worldly’ rather than ‘other worldly’ matters.

Indirect military rule/regime
Controls a civilian government from behind the scenes, perhaps pulling the strings of a puppet government, and either exerting continuous control or only intermittent control over a limited range of policies, i.e. as limited indirect rule.

May be governance institutions, such as bureaucracies and markets, or may be the formal or informal ‘rules of the game’ that create an institutional environment for governance, competition and so forth.

In the widest sense any uprising against a state but usually applied in the narrower sense of a guerrilla or terrorist campaign against a state.


Literally a ‘council’ but usually a military council of from three to a dozen or more officers who act as the military’s political representatives and the country’s de facto government, whether directly or by controlling the country’s presidential or ministerial government.


Literally the rule of thieves or rule by thieves but is usually applied to a regime whose ruler and officials are notorious for corruption and misappropriation of public funds.


In the political sense means that a country’s rulers have a religious, ideological or democratic right to rule and thus their subordinates, subjects or citizens have a duty to obey them.


Martial law
Soldiers taking on a policing and judicial role, typically in order to repress any opposition to a military seizure of power.

Misappropriation of power
By a political party usually involves (1) electoral success that gives the party access to key public offices/powers and (2) the party using these offices/powers to ensure that it cannot lose power through elections.


Modern, ‘new’ version of patrimonialism. See also patrimonialism.

Non-competitive elections
Elections without any competition between parties or candidates because there is only one candidate or list of candidates for voters to either approve or reject.


One-party rule
Rule by a dictatorial political party after its misappropriation or seizure of power and creation of a one-party state. See also one-party state.

One-party state
A state with (literally, virtually or effectively) only one political party, which may be a ruling party or instead merely an instrument of personal rule or military rule.


The term Weber used to describe a traditionally legitimated ruler whose powers are his personal/inherited possession, as in the case of a traditional hereditary monarch.

Patrimonial bureaucracy
The pre-modern version of bureaucracy that appeared in such patrimonial regimes as the Pharaohs’ Egypt, Imperial China and Europe’s absolutist monarchies.

Personal dictatorship
A dictator who does not rule as the agent of a party or military but instead has established his autonomy or has transformed the party, military or electorate into an instrument of his personal rule. See also presidential monarchy.

A weaker version of personal rule or personal dictatorship, notably the ‘free agent’ relationship between the dictator and his organizational principal, such as his political party.

Like a plebiscite (referendum) because voters are given a choice of either approving or rejecting, as in the case of non-competitive elections.

Literally the Political Bureau of a communist party, it acts as the cabinet-like policy-making organ of the party and of a communist regime – as a communist country’s de facto government it gives directives to the state’s ministerial government. See also Standing Committee of the Politburo for the Chinese party and regime’s variation.

Political police
Police whose crime-fighting is aimed at the political crimes of opposition, dissent and disobedience.

Political rationalization
The political version of formal rationalization and including not only representative democracy but also democratically disguised dictatorship and hybrid combinations of democracy and dictatorship. See also hybrid.

Populist presidential monarchy
A presidential monarchy that has been established by an elected president’s autogolpe rather than by a military or party usurpation of power and that relies more on popular support than the support of a party or the military. See also presidential monarchy and autogolpe.

Presidential monarchy
A president whose personal dictatorship has the typical monarchical features of length of tenure – often in practice a ‘president for life’ – and possibly hereditary succession by a son or brother. See also populist presidential monarchy.

Puppet party
Is a minor regime-controlled political party that helps maintain a dictatorship’s image of multipartyism, whether by providing phoney competition or opposition in semicompetitive elections or by joining with the regime’s official party to present a combined list of candidates to the electorate for its acceptance or rejection. See also semicompetitive and non-competitive elections.


Ruling monarch
Differs from a merely reigning monarch in actually ruling the country rather than being a largely ceremonial head of state for a parliamentary democracy and government.


Secret police
A way of describing the political police that emphasizes the secretive nature of their activities. See political police.

Semicompetitive elections
Present a more credible image of ‘democracy’ than do multiparty non-competitive elections because in the semicompetitive case a regime’s official party or candidate appears to compete with other parties or candidates – even though the regime ensures that this electoral competition will produce the ‘correct’ result.

Exercises state-like control over part of a state’s territory but is not internationally recognised as a legally legitimate state.

Standing Committee of the Politburo
Chinese communist regime’ modification of the typical communist Politburo to include a Standing Committee of seven or nine senior members who meet on a weekly basis to perform the typical governing role of a Politburo and meet with the larger group of ordinary members on a monthly basis to discuss and confirm the Standing Committee’s policy decisions.

A term that (1) Weber applied to patrimonial rulers with absolutist powers and (2) Linz later applied to the most centralized and discretionary form of non-totalitarian modern personal rule. See also patrimonial and totalitarian.


Third phase
Of modernization in the historical evolution of non-democratic regimes, and involving the ‘third-phase format’ of democratically disguised dictatorship. See also democratic disguise.

Third wave
Of democratization, according to Huntington, who identified the 1970s-90s global wave of democratization as the third such wave in history – following on from the second wave in 1943-62 and the first wave in 1828-1926.

Seeking total control of thought as well as action through use of ideology, a Leader, mass media, political party, political police and other methods of indoctrination and control.