Dictators, Personalized Security Forces, and Coups” (Under Review).

Dictators rely on coercive forces to remain in office, as violence is the ultimate arbiter of power in these regimes. However, coercive forces can also remove the dictator from office in a coup. This presents the dictator with a dilemma. One way to address this dilemma is to personalize the security forces. This paper argues that personalizing the security forces decreases coup risk by: (a) linking the security elites’ fate more closely to the leader’s and (b) increasing the informational advantage the leader has over security elites. Using a new measure of the personalization of the security apparatus, I show that personalization decreases coup risk in dictatorships, but this stabilizing effect of personalization disappears after the dictator’s exit from office. This study documents how dictators transform the security apparatus to stabilize their rule, with implications for how dictatorships survive and collapse.

The North Korean Autocracy in Comparative Perspective” (with Joseph Wright, Published at Journal of East Asian Studies).

The North Korean regime is unique among dictatorships because it is both long lasting and highly personalized. We answer the puzzle of how the North Korean regime became a personalist dictatorship while the other communist regimes in Eastern Europe and Asia did not. We utilize both time-series measurement models and process tracing of the key political events with primary and secondary Korean sources to show that the first regime leader amassed personal power first by consolidating power over military elites and then subduing the dominant support party. The first leader successfully wrested power from the military because two foreign factions – Chinese and Soviet – supported the regime from the start. Thus external – rather than internal events – explain why the North Korean regime personalized. This paper capitalizes on unique characteristics of the North Korean autocracy to evaluate theories of autocratic regime development and its consequences.

Limited Democracy? The Impact of Democratization on Women’s Political Participation” (with Sarah Liu).

Democracy is believed to be more representative and inclusive than other forms of government and is generally coveted by the public. Gender equality is also considered as a core component of democracy. Yet, the current literature that examines the gendered impact of democratization focuses on its influence on women’s political representation and women’s empowerment. Understudied is how democratic experiences shape other aspects of gender equality, such as women’s political participation. Using the 2014 World Values Survey, this paper investigates the effect of democracy on various forms of women’s political participation in 46 countries. We hypothesize that the longer a country experiences democracy, the more likely women are to engage in politics. A multilevel analysis finds that democratic experiences lead to higher conventional political action of women and the effect is also stronger for women than for men. However, our results also demonstrate that democratic experiences have a negative impact on women’s unconventional political behavior. Our findings raise implications for the meaning and influence of democratization on gender equality, particularly in a comprehensive and unbiased form that gives women an opportunity to express their political preference via different venues.

“Personalist Politics and Civil Resistance” (with John Chin and Joseph Wright)

Roughly three-quarters of all major nonviolent civil resistance campaigns in the world target autocratic regimes. A burgeoning literature has begun to examine the structural factors that are associated with the onset and success of these campaigns. Some prominent recent qualitative scholarship has theorized that personalist dictators are particularly vulnerable to civil resistance. Yet there is as yet no published work that systematically examines whether particular types of autocratic regimes in general or personalist dictators in particular are more vulnerable to civil resistance. This article fills this gap in the literature by leveraging new data on autocratic regimes and authoritarian personalism and new data on major nonviolent and violent campaigns and outcomes (RE-NAVCO) over the 1946 to 2010 period. We argue that personalist dictators are less likely to be challenged by a nonviolent campaign than other kinds of dictators, but that conditional on nonviolent campaign mobilization, personalist dictators are indeed vulnerable.