- Tom Hanna University of Houston
Why do some regimes slide further into autocracy while other regimes, similar in their formal institutions and economies, move toward democratization? What can explain the erosion of longstanding traditional institutions in autocracy? I contend that the answer lies in the ideology of the dictator with rhetorical style in a secondary role. Specifically, ideological programs of aggressive social change necessarily weaken existing civil society constraints and the reliance of the regime on ideology for legitimacy increases the power of ideological support groups. The combination of ideological agendas hostile to existing social structures with the instrumental use of populist rhetoric to bypass existing constraints is corrosive to both civil society and the institutional constraints it supports. This project will demonstrate using mediation analysis that radical leadership ideology results in the erosion of institutional constraints with changes in civil society as a causal mechanism, and that populism's role is secondary.