How do autocracies collect information on popular discontent? The existing literature has not provided a systematic answer to this question despite its fundamental importance for understanding the logic of authoritarian rule. This talk offers a theory of information gathering in single-party communist autocracies, which are the most durable subtype of authoritarian regime to emerge since World War I. It argues that the unusual longevity of communist regimes allows us to develop and test a theory of the emergence, evolution, and eventual demise of non-electoral institutions for information gathering in autocracies. The talk uses the East European communist regimes that existed prior to 1989 to generate a theory of information and the case of post-1949 China (where institutional evolution is still ongoing) as a provisional test of the theory. The talk is based on archival sources and regime-generated materials collected in China and several East European countries.
Martin K. Dimitrov is Associate Professor of Political Science at Tulane University. His books include Piracy and the State: The Politics of Intellectual Property Rights in China (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Why Communism Did Not Collapse: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and The Politics of Socialist Consumption (Sofia: Ciela Publishers, 2017). He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Dictatorship and Information: Autocratic Regime Resilience in Communist Europe and China and two edited volumes: China-Cuba: Trajectories of Post-Revolutionary Governance and Popular Authoritarianism: The Quest for Regime Durability. After receiving his Ph.D. from Stanford in 2004, he taught at Dartmouth and held residential fellowships at Harvard, Princeton, Notre Dame, the University of Helsinki, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He has conducted fieldwork in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Cuba.