American Sociological Association

A Fiscal Sociological Theory of Authoritarian Resilience: Developing Theory through China Case Studies

The “institutional turn” of comparative authoritarianism enriches our understanding of authoritarian politics, but its lack of institutional theory, tendency to focus on epiphenomena or exogenous force, and failure to address autocrats’ dilemmas constitute weaknesses. Focusing on the taxation institution, this article builds an endogenous institutional explanation of authoritarian resilience. The author argues that while the taxation infrastructural power matters, it causes autocrats two dilemmas: the representation dilemma and the growth dilemma. Taking China as an ideal case, the author argues that two mechanisms, under-institutionalized taxation system and a half-tax state, help in resolving two dilemmas so far, but in the long term, these two mechanisms may counteract each other and weaken the authoritarian regime.

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Changdong Zhang





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