The Evolution of Autocracy


Globalization, shifting great power dynamics, and the growing accessibility of Internet and communication technology has changed the environment within which autocrats operate. Many analysts have noted these changes and concluded that the masses now hold the upper hand and that dictators’ days are surely numbered. It may be true that 21st century autocrats face more and increasingly complex challenges to their rule. But current accounts of dictatorship seriously underestimate the adaptability of authoritarian systems. Since the end of the Cold War, dictators have evolved to survive and even thrive amid changes in their domestic and international environments. In this presentation, I examine the evolution of authoritarianism since the end of the Cold War. Since 1991 there have been substantial changes in the ways that dictators assume power, in the tactics they use to maintain power, and in the ways in which they lose power. Each of these changes has significant implications for the political dynamics in today’s autocracies.

Speaker Bio:

Andrea Kendall-Taylor works at the National Intelligence Council, where she is a deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. During her seven years in the U.S. government, she has focused her research and analysis on the political dynamics of authoritarian regimes, political stability, democratization, and civil society, with a particular focus on Russia and Eurasia. Dr. Kendall-Taylor is also a non-resident Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the Human Rights Initiative and an adjunct professor in political science at Georgetown and American Universities. Her work has been published in numerous political science journals, including the Journal of Peace Research,Democratization, and Journal of Democracy, as well as a number of policy outlets such asForeign Affairs, the Washington Quarterly, and Foreign Policy. Dr. Kendall-Taylor received her B.A. in politics from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.


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