Sheena Chestnut Greitens
(Cambridge University Press, 2016)
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Co-Winner, 2017 Best Book Award, American Political Science Association (APSA) Section on Comparative Democratization
Co-Winner, 2017 Best Book Award, International Studies Association
How do dictators stay in power? When, and how, do they use repression to do so? Dictators and their Secret Police explores the role of the coercive apparatus under authoritarian rule in Asia – how these secret organizations originated, how they operated, and how their violence affected ordinary citizens. Greitens argues that autocrats face a coercive dilemma: whether to create internal security forces designed to manage popular mobilization, or defend against potential coup. Violence against civilians, she suggests, is a byproduct of their attempt to resolve this dilemma. Drawing on a wealth of new historical evidence, this book challenges conventional wisdom on dictatorship: what autocrats are threatened by, how they respond, and how this affects the lives and security of the millions under their rule. It offers an unprecedented view into the use of surveillance, coercion, and violence, and sheds new light on the institutional and social foundations of authoritarian power.
Sheena Chestnut Greitens is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri. She is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and an associate in research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, Massachusetts. Her doctoral dissertation, on which this book is based, won APSA’s Walter Dean Burnham Award for the best dissertation in politics and history, as well as Harvard’s Richard J. Herrnstein Prize. Greitens’ research focuses on East Asia, security studies, and the politics of authoritarian states. Her work has been published widely in the United States and Asia in academic, policy, and media outlets.