Galtieri, Lukashenka, and Putin are some of the dictators whose untrammelled personal power has been seen as typical of the dog-eat-dog nature of leadership in authoritarian political systems. This book provides an innovative argument that, rather than being characterised by permanent insecurity, fear, and arbitrariness, the leadership of dictatorships is actually governed by a series of rules. The rules are identified, and their operation is shown in a range of different types of authoritarian regime.

The operation of the rules is explained in ten different countries across five different regime types: the Soviet Union and China as communist single-party regimes; Argentina, Brazil, and Chile as military regimes; electoral authoritarian Malaysia and Mexico; personalist dictatorships in Belarus and Russia; and the Gulf monarchies. Through close analysis of the way leadership functions in these different countries, the book shows how the rules have worked in different institutional settings. It also shows how the power distribution in authoritarian oligarchies is related to the rules. The book transforms our understanding of how authoritarian systems work.