Which Way Is History Marching?

Debating the Authoritarian Revival

Actors dressed as Red Army soldiers perform at a gala show to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

Azar Gat

Two recent articles in these pages -- "The Myth of the Autocratic Revival" (January/February 2009) and "How Development Leads to Democracy" (March/April 2009) -- have taken issue with my July/August 2007 essay, "The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers." In the first, Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry dispute my argument that the authoritarian capitalist great powers Germany and Japan were defeated in both world wars largely because of contingent factors rather than structural inefficiencies. As I have argued, these countries were too small in comparison to the United States. With respect to the challenge posed by China and Russia, Deudney and Ikenberry insist that developed nondemocratic capitalist societies will not be viable in the long run.

They restate modernization theory -- most recently amplified by the political scientists Francis Fukuyama and Michael Mandelbaum -- according to which there is only one sustainable route

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