To appease or to repress: how dictators use economic dynamics to increase their regime longevity

Merel Harrijvan*, Maartje Weerdesteijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


International crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, are more likely to occur in non-democratic regimes. Consequently, the decision-making process of dictators has increasingly garnered criminological interest [78]. The decisions dictators make and the strategies they use impact the longevity of their regime. Scholars predominantly focus on the extent to which a dictator is able to generate support from both the elite and the masses in explaining regime survival [3, 22, 54]. A dictator can use economic dynamics to increase his support among the elite through corrupt practices [3], he can determine the extent to which he is supported by the masses by offering public goods and services to them [22] and he can withhold benefits to repress threats stemming from these groups [17]. However, the intentional use of these strategies to increase regime survival remains under-researched [77]. The present research aims to fill this gap through an analysis of Paul Biya’s 37-year reign in Cameroon. It is argued that the economic structure of a country influences the strategy—repression or appeasement—that is chosen to deal with the threat stemming from the masses or the elite and that ultimately, these considerations are likely to influence the economic development of a country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-338
Number of pages24
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


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