Stephane Wolton, London School of Economics

"A theory of mass and elite purges"


This paper proposes a unified theoretical framework to study the interaction of mass and elite purges in authoritarian regimes. We contend that the decision to purge the elite and the breadth of a mass purge of agents are closely intertwined and crucially depend on how closely connected are new hires to the elite in place. If this connection is low so that the autocrat has good control of the hiring process, good performance is not always sufficient to save the elite. As the autocrat starts purging the elite, she carries out a smaller mass purge. Mass purges are, therefore, mostly used to dissuade a disloyal incumbent elite. In contrast, if the connection between agent and the elite is high, so that the latter controls the hiring process, the elite can survive poor performance. As the autocrat starts purging the elite, the breadth of the mass purge increases. Mass purges become a tool to dissuade a disloyal replacement elite.

Joint with Antoine Zerbini.

Contact person: Johan Lagerlöf