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Social hierarchies in democracies and authoritarianism: The balance between power asymmetries and principal-agent chains

Björn Toelstede

Rationality and Society, 2020, vol. 32, issue 3, 334-366

Abstract: Social hierarchies exist in democracies as well as in authoritarian societies. However, their nature is different. Democratic hierarchies are built bottom-up through election while autocratic hierarchies are built top-down through domination. Both, however, have power asymmetries between the weaker citizens and the stronger politicians, which are amplified the stronger the hierarchies are. This manuscript introduces a model that combines pro-/anti-social behavior with different degrees of hierarchies. It is argued that this model has the power to categorize countries according to these criteria and indicate when and how societies move between democracy and authoritarianism. Importantly, I illustrate that the balance between power asymmetries and principal-agent chains is key for understanding when and why democracies sometimes transcend into authoritarianism.

Keywords: Authoritarianism; democracy; hierarchy; power asymmetries; principal-agent problem (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1177/1043463120904051

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