The wrong kind of crisis: Why oil booms and busts rarely lead to authoritarian breakdown

  • Benjamin Smith


Economic crisis has been a central catalyst to Third Wave democratic transitions by contributing to authoritarian breakdown, yet crises in oil-exporting states have generally failed to catalyze such breakdowns, which are a crucial precondition to democratization. This article argues that oil wealth produces two distinct political trajectories, depending on its timing relative to the onset of late development. The dominant trajectory in the oil-exporting world is durable authoritarianism which has forestalled all but a few regime collapses. And, when the alternate trajectory produces vulnerable authoritarianism, oil-catalyzed authoritarian breakdown tends to generate new authoritarian regimes. I use case materials from Iran and Indonesia during the 1960s and 1970s to illustrate the two oil-based trajectories, and I conduct a broader test of the theory against data for 21 oil-exporting, developing countries, which provides suggestive support for a two-path theory of oil-based aturhoritarian persistence.


Comparative International Development Late Development Authoritarian Regime Democratic Transition Rentier State 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  • Benjamin Smith

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