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Review Essay

The Leadership Secrets of Bismarck

Imperial Germany and Competitive Authoritarianism

In This Review

Bismarck: A Life
Bismarck: A Life
By Jonathan Steinberg
Oxford University Press, 2011, 592 pp. $34.95 Purchase

Over the last two decades, a distinctive regime type has emerged across the developing world, one that scholars have come to call competitive authoritarianism. This sort of political system allows for the contestation of power among different social groups, but with so many violations of electoral fairness and so little regard for liberal norms that it cannot be called a true democracy. From Russia to Peru, Cambodia to Cameroon, such regimes are now located in almost every region of the world, and how they develop will determine the shape of the twenty-first century.

One of the best ways to gain insight into the future paths of these political systems, ironically, is to look backward rather than forward, because the past can be prologue. Wilhelmine Germany is a particularly interesting point of comparison, because it had many similar characteristics. Like many of these regimes, it, too, experienced late, rapid growth and

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