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Democracy vs Autocracy: Stability in Different Regimes Changes in Line with Historical Perspective

The article ‘Regime Type and Political Destabilization in a Cross-National Perspective: A Re-Analysis’ by Andrey Korotayev, Professor at HSE School of Political Science, co-authored by Julia Zinkina (HSE), Elena Slinko (Rossiya Segodnya) and Stanislav Bilyuga (MSU) was published in the journal ‘Cross-Cultural Research’.

This article analyses the relationship between political instability and the type of regime. The authors show that the nature of this correlation is subject to change and demonstrates the dynamics of these changes.

The existence of a correlation between the extent of this political instability and the type of regime was identified in the 1970s, triggered by systematic accumulation of data on the internal conflicts around the world. Gurr (1974) maintains that semi-democracies are the regime type most prone to destabilization. His observation was later examined statistically in a number of publications using international data.

This line of research helped form the theory of an inverted U-shaped relationship between regime type and the risks of sociopolitical destabilization. Under this theory, consistent democracies and autocracies are more stable regimes, whereas intermediate regimes display the lowest levels of political stability.

The authors tested this hypothesis using Polity IV data and the CNTS database, found evidence to support their hypothesis regarding the U-shaped relationship between regime type and the risks of sociopolitical destabilization. Their findings suggest that this U-shaped relationship between regime types and sociopolitical destabilization is typically rooted in asymmetry. The character of this asymmetry can change with time.

In particular, the analysis suggests that the U-shaped relationship underwent significant changes after the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War (1946-1991), the asymmetry of the inverted U-shaped relationship was much less pronounced—and although during this period consistent authoritarian regimes were less stable than consolidated democracies, this difference was only marginally significant. In the period that followed the end of the Cold War (1992-2014), this asymmetry underwent a substantial change: consolidated democracies became significantly more stable, whereas consolidated autocracies became significantly more unstable.