Among the four major types of political systems, the bureaucratic-authoritarian (BA) regime has been the dominant form during the last three thousand years. Agrarian bureaucracies ruled the Egyptian, Han Chinese, Roman, Ottoman, and Russian empires. European colonial powers governed their Latin American, Asian, and African colonies through bureaucratic officials. After winning political independence, these territories were often ruled by the armed forces, police, and civilian technocrats. From 1950 through 1990, state socialism and especially state capitalism represented the major strategies for spearheading industrial development. Under state socialism, Communist Party bureaucrats, security forces, government ministers, and technical specialists dominated political-economic decision making. Party-state officials guided state enterprises, cooperatives, and small-scale private firms. Under state capitalism, government technocrats, along with administrators in large-scale domestic private industries and multinational corporations, wielded decisive influence. This state capitalist strategy shapes economic policymaking in Third World industrializing nations and has spread to the former state socialist societies of Eastern Europe. 1
What factors explain the pervasiveness of bureaucratic-authoritarian systems? First, all political leaders must cope with the problems of disorder. Historically, societies have faced disturbances that stem from severe internal group conflicts and from such external pressures as war, foreign demands for modernization, and international economic dislocations. To the ruling elites, bureaucratic control has seemed the most efficient way to lessen the chaos racking their societies. A stress on order through organization constitutes the principle supplying unity to a bureaucratic-authoritarian system. Its leaders perceive politics as the exercise of power and authority by state institutions. Powerful administrative organizations--the civil service, armed forces, security agencies, technical staff--try to impose order through the suppression of open conflict. Whether operating in a state capitalist or state socialist economy, these administrators show scant enthusiasm for democracy as a system of institutionalized group competition.