The Weaknesses of Dictatorships

Originally posted on Monday, January 30, 2012

The following is an excerpt from From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp (pages 26-27)

Among the weaknesses of dictatorships are the following:

  1. The cooperation of a multitude of people, groups, and institutions needed to operate the system may be restricted or withdrawn.
  2. The requirements and effects of the regime’s past policies will somewhat limit its present ability to adopt and implement conflicting policies.
  3. The system may become routine in its operation, less able to adjust quickly to new situations.
  4.  Personnel and resources already allocated for existing tasks will not be easily available for new needs.
  5. Subordinates fearful of displeasing their superiors may not report accurate or complete information needed by the dictators to make decisions.
  6. The ideology may erode, and myths and symbols of the system may become unstable.
  7. If a strong ideology is present that influences one’s view of reality, firm adherence to it may cause inattention to actual conditions and needs.
  8. Deteriorating efficiency and competency of the bureaucracy, or excessive controls and regulations, may make the system’s policies and operation ineffective.
  9. Internal institutional conflicts and personal rivalries and hostilities may harm, and even disrupt, the operation of the dictatorship.
  10. Intellectuals and students may become restless in response to conditions, restrictions, doctrinalism, and repression.
  11. The general public may over time become apathetic, skeptical, and even hostile to the regime.
  12. Regional, class, cultural, or national differences may become acute.
  13. The power hierarchy of the dictatorship is always unstable to some degree, and at times extremely so.
  14. Individuals do not only remain in the same position in the ranking, but may rise or fall to other ranks or be removed entirely and replaced by new persons.
  15. Sections of the police or military forces may act to achieve their own objectives, even against the will of established dictators, including by coup d’état.
  16. If the dictatorship is new, time is required for it to become well established.
  17. With so many decisions made by so few people in the dictatorship, mistakes of judgment, policy, and action are likely to occur.
  18. If the regime seeks to avoid these dangers and decentralizes controls and decision making, its control

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