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The Great Wall of Silence: Voice-Silence Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes

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JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
DateSubmitted - 15 Nov 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 14 Jul 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 22 Jul 2020
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)1-25
Early online date22/07/20
Original languageEnglish


How does the voice-silence dynamics affect the durability of authoritarian regimes? This article reformulates Hirschman’s voice, loyalty, exit model to answer this question. It demonstrates that the model’s heuristic value is significantly hampered by conceptual imprecision around the category of voice, a narrow understanding of exit, and – in particular – the neglect of the category of silence. Once these categories are conceptually reworked, and silence is placed next to voice and exit – as a core concept, not a residual category, in the model – the “dictator’s dilemma” emerges as a “silence paradox” hinting at some of authoritarianism’s main vulnerabilities. The case of China is used to illustrate the article’s key theoretical-conceptual advancements.

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