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The Oxford Handbook of Authoritarian Politics


Authoritarian learning plays an increasingly important role in global processes of autocratization and democratic backsliding yet remains understudied and undertheorized. This chapter reviews conditions that elevate the role of authoritarian learning in the international system. It assesses the state of research with a focus on definitional debates concerning what authoritarian learning is and is not. In contrast to more restrictive definitions, the chapter presents an expansive definition of authoritarian learning as a process in which autocratic actors assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of ideas, rules, norms, and practices based on their observed utility. It argues that such processes are evident in both authoritarian and democratic regimes, and operate at the domestic, regional, and international levels. Turning to research horizons in the study of authoritarian learning, it advocates for comparative work that will shed light on specific mechanisms and causal pathways of authoritarian learning.


authoritarian learning, democratic backsliding, autocratization, isomorphism, policy diffusion, policy emulation



Archived as published. Open access.



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