The rise and fall of great powers has often produced cascades of regime diffusion, leading to both democratic and autocratic waves. What can these episodes tell us about the contemporary spread of autocracy? I examine how previous power transitions have contributed to autocratic cascades, cautiously apply these lessons to today, and conclude with a speculative postscript about the one-party state as an emerging organizational (rather than ideological) rival to liberal democracy.
Seva Gunitsky is an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. His research examines how international forces like war and globalization shape the evolution of domestic regimes. He is the author of Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press), selected by Foreign Affairs as one of the best books of 2017. Some of his work has appeared in International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, and Perspectives on Politics, as well as popular outlets like The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The American Interest, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.