Legacies of Nationalism and Authoritarian Retention

Working Paper

Why do voters elect authoritarian successors in some post-authoritarian countries but not in others? And what explains the variation in electoral success of nostalgic rhetoric across countries? This paper answers with a focus on how dictators consolidated symbolic power through nationalism, introducing a political psychological perspective in addition to the conventional focus on political economy. I argue that histories of state-sponsored hierarchical nationalism under dictatorship generate stronger nostalgic voter behavior, while nostalgic rhetoric proves less effective in countries with egalitarian nationalism that emphasizes civic and popular features. I employ multiple empirical approaches to test this main argument. First, I compare the historical trajectories of nationalism formation in four Asian cases of South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Phlilppines and show how varied histories of nationalism are associated with different nostalgic voter behavior in democratic elections. Second, with new cross-national measures of authoritarian legacies and nationalism types, I conduct quantitative analysis across thirty-six Third Wave democracies. Combined results show the importance of cultural and ideological legacies of former dictatorships in voter attitudes and related behavior in post-authoritarian democracies.

Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell
Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell
Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director