Negotiability in Authoritarian Systems

(This is an archived page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book.  Current versions are at book contents).

Authoritarian systems are capable of being largely acceptable to their populations, as described above (, and they can be inclusive and prudent – but many are totalitarian, offering no opportunity for the population to negotiate aspects of their governance.  This does not have to be the case.

Whilst an authoritarian government will wish to maintain central control of many aspects of governance, there can be a subsidiarity of decision-making to give local control of matters which do not threaten national unity – and that might allow for local, and even regional, elections.  When deciding what can be delegated, the considerations for authoritarian governments are similar to those that apply to local and regional government in democracies – as discussed later (6.6.2).

Consultation can be permitted, to enable specific issues to be negotiable.  A report on China’s new intelligentsia, for example, referred to experiments in “making public consultations, expert meetings and surveys a central part of decision-making”.  If this were to be regularly adopted, it might offer a template for authoritarian governments to become more responsive.