Reshaping the Threat Environment: Personalism, Coups, and Assassinations

Dictators shape regime structures to counter the threats they face. Personalization entails the progressive accumulation of power in the hands of the dictator to minimize internal threats from organized elites in the military and party. However, elites have incentives to resist the personalization to avoid being marginalized by personalist strongmen. We argue that as personalism increases, rival elites, less able to coordinate coup attempts, turn to strategies that do not require substantial elite coordination: assassinations. At low levels of personalism, elites coordinate insider coups to oust the ruler, reshuffling leadership and still retaining power. At middle levels of personalism, elites organize regime change coups as reshuffling coups become more difficult. At high levels of personalism, even regime change coups become difficult to mount, and increasingly marginalized and desperate rivals turn to assassinations. We test these expectations with new data on personalism, assassination, and coup attempts, covering all autocracies over the 1946–2010 period.



Work Title Reshaping the Threat Environment: Personalism, Coups, and Assassinations
Open Access
  1. John Chin
  2. Abel Escribà-Folch
  3. Wonjun Song
  4. Joseph Wright
  1. Authoritarianism
  2. Personalism
  3. Assassination
  4. Coups d’état
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Comparative Political Studies
Publication Date January 17, 2022
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited July 19, 2022




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Version 1

  • Created
  • Added 00104140211024287-1.pdf
  • Added Creator John Chin
  • Added Creator Abel Escribà-Folch
  • Added Creator Wonjun Song
  • Added Creator Joseph Wright
  • Published
  • Updated Work Title, Keyword, Subtitle, and 1 more Show Changes
    Work Title
    • Reshaping the Threat Environment
    • Reshaping the Threat Environment: Personalism, Coups, and Assassinations
    • Authoritarianism, Personalism, Assassination, Coups d’état
    • Personalism, Coups, and Assassinations
    Publication Date
    • 2022-03-01
    • 2022-01-17