How authoritarian power manipulates the global economy to sustain itself

Wealthy and powerful individuals have increasingly relied on an "offshore world" of global financial networks and channels in recent decades. 

A new collection of research entitled 'Authoritarian Power in the Global Economy', co-edited by DPIR's Professor Ricardo Soares de Oliveira and Professor Anne Pitcher (University of Michigan), uncovers how authoritarian regimes rely on these international political economy networks to sustain and legitimate their power

In this timely new edition of the American Political Science Association's (APSA) Democracy and Autocracy newsletter, findings reveal financial structures and techniques designed to provide secrecy, asset protection, and tax exemption, as well as "a veritable army" of for-profit professional services in financial centres around the world, who serve the wealthy elites of autocratic states.

Articles cover a diverse range of contributors and empirically-rich case studies, including Adel Malik's exposition of how Arab Gulf regimes recycle their wealth abroad to buy political acquiescence; Jody la Porte's case study of foreign-funded kleptocracy in Kazakhstan; and Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw's exploration of transnational kleptocracy in the post-Soviet world.

Contributing authors have employed creative approaches to their studies - from process-tracing and ethnography to the use of court records - and they have tracked social media usage by autocratic elites, built databases of autocrat-owned London property, and produced convincing estimates of the funds parked in offshore tax havens.

Professor Soares de Oliveira comments: "Russia's invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need to better understand the full extent of authoritarian elites' exploitation of the global economy for their own personal and political gains.

"New information - including court documents from criminal cases, leaked databases and beneficial ownership company data - provide significant opportunities for researchers today and in the future.

"We hope that our APSA newsletter, which is open-access and available to all to read, goes some way to shed light on this important research agenda."

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira is Professor of the International Politics of Africa at DPIR, and co-director of the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on African Governance. He has conducted extensive fieldwork with a focus on the international political economy of African states, and is currently researching the political economy of Africa’s new links with Asian international financial centres, amongst other things.

The Democracy and Autocracy Section of APSA promotes the analysis of the origins, processes, and outcomes of democratization among nations of all regions of the world. It encourages scholarship that is both informed by comparative theoretical perspectives and based on field research in specific countries.