Investing in violence: Foreign direct investment and coups in authoritarian regimes

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Why do foreign investors invest in authoritarian regimes despite higher political risks? In this paper, I evaluate the relationship between foreign direct investment (FDI), coups, and political risk. I develop a formal model of leadership dynamics in authoritarian regimes and examine how the initial investment decision by foreign investors is affected by expected likelihood of coups. Using the formal model, I discriminate between diverging predictions made by the "greed" and "patronage" models of authoritarian regime dynamics. Accounting for both the "greed" and "patronage" mechanisms, I demonstrate that patronage effects predominate and that increasing FDI reduces the risk of a coup. Investors are more likely to send larger FDI amounts to authoritarian states when coup risk is high to increase the likelihood of a peaceful patronage equilibrium. Using a large-n test, I find that FDI reduces the likelihood of coups, while higher coup risk is associated with increased FDI in less mobile sectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-423
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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