Often dismissed as window-dressing, nominally democratic institutions, such as legislatures and political parties, play an important role in non-democratic regimes. In a comprehensive cross-national study of all non-democratic states from 1946 to 2002 that examines the political uses of these institutions by dictators, Gandhi finds that legislative and partisan institutions are an important component in the operation and survival of authoritarian regimes. She examines how and why these institutions are useful to dictatorships in maintaining power, analyzing the way dictators utilize institutions as a forum in which to organize political concessions to potential opposition in an effort to neutralize threats to their power and to solicit cooperation from groups outside of the ruling elite. The use of legislatures and parties to co-opt opposition results in significant institutional effects on policies and outcomes under dictatorship.
"This book represents a major contribution to the resurgent study of non-democratic regimes. It is one of the first substantial pieces of modern social scientific analysis of the phenomenon, skillfully combining formal and quantitative cross-national analysis with country case studies. It will have a major impact in the study of modern authoritarian regimes."
-Miriam A. Golden, Professor of Political Science, University of California at Los Angeles
"Jennifer Gandhi's book is not just a study of dictatorship, but an important contribution to comparative politics in general. While its topic is political institutions under dictatorship, its definition of dictatorship is the residual of a prominent and widely used definition and measure of democracy, so it builds a bridge between studies of democracy and of dictatorship. Her three kinds of dictatorship and two kinds of institutions produce a rich and informative empirical analysis in which she explains variation in the longevity, policy and performance of non-democratic governments."
-William R Keech, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy, Carnegie Mellon University
"Jennifer Gandhi has written a dazzling book. With incisive theorizing, a remarkable combination of formal theory and statistical analysis, and rich case studies, Gandhi has produced one of the first systematic comparative treatments of autocracy. Two of her main conclusions are that political institutions such as legislatures and political parties enable political bargains between dictators and their potential opponents, and that these institutions have major impacts on a wide range of outcomes, including economic performance. A must-read for anyone interested in comparative politics, political regimes and the political economy of development."
-Beatriz Magaloni-Kerpel, Stanford University
"In Political Institutions under Dictatorship, Jennifer Gandhi provides important insights into the role that political parties and legislatures play in dictatorships. She disputes characterizations of these institutions as simple `window dressing,' finding instead that political parties and legislatures can play an important role in policy formation, implementation and regime survival. The reason, she argues, is that these institutions provide an arena within which incumbents and potential opponents can forge policy compromises. Her analysis of these effects through an impressive database of dictatorships in the post-war era is clear and refreshingly frank. Political Institutions under Dictatorship is a must-read for scholars interested in authoritarian politics."
-Ellen Lust-Okar, Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University
"Gandhi breaks new ground in this theoretically and empirically rich book on authoritarian regimes that have adopted legislative institutions. These regimes are likely to spend somewhat less on the military, have a better human rights record, and provide more benefits to workers than their autocratic counterparts. While all of this sounds positive, Gandhi warns--contrary to the linear model of progressive democratization posited in modernization theory--that partial reforms may in fact allow authoritarian governments to prolong their rule by coopting the opposition."
-Frances Rosenbluth, Yale University
"Jennifer Gandhi's book is a welcome addition to this literature."
Perspectives on Politics, Susan Rose-Ackerman, Yale University
"As the title suggests, Jennifer Gandhi's Political Institutions under Dictatorship argues that democratic-looking institutions, particularly legislatures, are not merely "window-dressing" but essential weapons in a dictator's arsenal... Political Institutions under Dictatorship offers a somewhat different perspective on institutions, one that draws more from a rational choice as opposed to a historical-institutionalism perspective... This account of origins is clearly inspired by rational choice and functionalism, and Gandhi uses evidence from the case studies of Kuwait, Ecuador, and Morocco in her second chapter to illustrate that her deductions are empirically supportable." -David Art, Comparative Politics