State transformation and authoritarian governance

Dr Catherine Owen writes that ‘it is commonly assumed that authoritarian governments do not wish to involve citizens in questions of governance or public administration. Instead, conventional wisdom has it that the leaders of such states seek to disengage and depoliticise their citizens and, when ‘mobilization’ is required, ‘the masses’ are either ‘coerced’ on threat of violence or ‘co-opted’ with rewards and bribes. While this may have been true of mid-twentieth Century authoritarianism, recent research by country specialists has revealed an abundance of local, voluntary, participatory mechanisms proliferating across well-established non-democratic states, such as Russia and China.’ Owen explores the reasons why the regimes are looking to involve their citizens and how these efforts help to reinforce their grip on power.

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