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  • Writer's picturegaborscheiring

Social classes and autocratization

I contributed a chapter to the Routledge Handbook of Autocratization.



This chapter reviews the role of social class dynamics behind autocratization. The first section revisits modernization theorists’ arguments about why the business class might be against autocracy and in favor of democratization. However, several sociologists and critical political economists have been skeptical about the mutually beneficial relationship between capitalism and democracy and the supposed clash between authoritarian populism and the business class. The section discusses cases in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe where the business class cooperated with autocrats. The second section reviews the sociological literature showing that the political integration of the working class was essential for democratic consolidation. Capitalism is insufficient for democracy without workers achieving significant results in the class struggle. The section also summarizes the evidence on how working-class dislocations are related to some recent episodes of autocratization. The final section summarizes the arguments concerning the central role of the middle class in democratization. The section also analyzes some recent episodes in Asia, Latin America, and Western Europe when middle-class groups supported authoritarian politics. The chapter concludes by arguing for the relevance of multi-causal class-centric approaches going beyond institutional and modernization theory.

Cite as: Scheiring, Gábor. 2024. “Social Classes and Autocratization.” Pp. 108-23 in The Routledge Handbook of Autocratization, edited by A. Croissant and L. Tomini. London: Routledge. DOI: 10.4324/9781003306900-8. Pre-print here.


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