Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Popular post-secondary programs among authoritarian rulers

I've compiled a list of what 20th- and 21st-century authoritarian leaders of nation states studied at the post-secondary level. I have not yet fully surveyed every region. I'm sure I must have made mistakes, and I'd appreciate corrections. 

Most authoritarian leaders do not appear on this list, largely because they did not pursue a post-secondary education. Also, I have not included interim leaders or leaders who served for less than two years. Crucially, I'm leaving out the multitudes of authoritarian rulers who got their highest level of education at a military academy. 

I classify leaders based on only their latest educational program. E.g., if someone studied Engineering and then Business, I'm just putting them in the latter category. A leader is listed twice if he (all the leaders in this list are male) studied two disciplines concurrently. 

In some countries it's unclear whom to classify as the leader. In the case of Iran, I have considered both the Supreme Leader and the President to be leaders. Iran is the only country (so far) for which I've considered two national leaders.

I'm considering each national ruler as the leader of only his home country and not of countries that were subjugated by that home country. For instance, I'm not treating any Soviet ruler as a leader of Hungary. A key limitation of my method is that since I have examined only nation states, I have not included colonies, even though colonies were under authoritarian rule.

I found eight authoritarian leaders who received doctorates: Askar Akayev (Kyrgyzstan, Physics), John Magufuli (Tanzania, Chemistry), Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast, History), Syngman Rhee (South Korea, History), Ilham Aliyev (Azerbaijan, History), Hendrik Verwoerd (South Africa, Psychology), Thongloun Sisoulith (Laos, 'History of International Relations'), and Thaksin Shinawatra (Thailand, Criminal Justice). 

Most popular field: Law. Second most popular: Engineering. (I'm not counting rulers who studied engineering in military academies.) Engineering seems especially popular among leaders in Communist and formerly Communist countries.

Law (28): Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier (Haiti), Vladimir Lenin and Vladimir Putin (USSR or Russia), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg (both of Austria), Ante Pavelić (Croatia), Getúlio Dornelles 'Gegè' Vargas (Brazil), Juan María Bordaberry (Uruguay), Joaquín Balaguer (Dominican Republic), Ion Gheorghe Maurer (Romania), Manuel Estrada Cabrera (Guatemala), King Hassan II (Morocco), John Vorster and F. W. de Klerk (both of South Africa), Habib Bourguiba (Tunisia, concurrently with poli sci), Babrak Karmal (Afghanistan, concurrently with poli sci), Paul Biya (Cameroon), Ali Bongo Ondimba (Gabon), Moktar Ould Daddah (Mauritania), Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), António de Oliveira Salazar and Marcello Caetano (both of Portugal), Slobodan Milošević (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Kaysone Phomvihane (Laos, did not finish), Viktor Orbán (Hungary, studied political science at Oxford but did not finish). 

Engineering (20): Leonid Brezhnev (USSR, metallurgy), Mohamed Morsi (Egypt), Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan), Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin (all 3 of China), José Eduardo dos Santos (Angola, along with radio communications),  Agustín Pedro Justo (Argentina), Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (Colombia), Islam Karimov and Shavkat Mirziyoyev (both of Uzbekistan), Rahmon Nabiyev (Tajikistan), Nursultan Nazarbayev (Kazakhstan), Kurmanbek Bakiyev (Kyrgyzstan), Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), Viktor Yanukovych (Ukraine), José Napoleón Duarte (El Salvador), Sukarno (Indonesia), Miguel Díaz-Canel (Cuba). 

Physics (1): Askar Akayev (Kyrgyzstan, doctorate).

Chemistry (2): John Magufuli (Tanzania, doctorate), Yen Chia-kan (Taiwan).

Biology (1): Abdiqasim Salad Hassan (Somalia). 

Radio Electronics (1): Pol Pot (Cambodia, didn't finish).

"Technical Education" (1): Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Somalia, Master of Technical Education, Bhopal University; he also attended, without completing, an MBA program). 

Economics (8): Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor (Liberia), Andrei Gromyko (USSR), Mátyás Rákosi (Hungary, specialization in external trade), Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus, concurrently with history), Emomali Rahmon (Tajikistan), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda, along with political science -- thesis on Frantz Fanon), Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal and Jambyn Batmönkh (both of Mongolia).

Management, Accounting, or Business Administration (4, 5 if we count Erdogan, whose claim to have a university degree is in dispute): Faure Gnassingbé (Togo), Anastasio Somoza García (Nicaragua, business administration), Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan), Pavel Filip (Moldova, also has a earlier degree in engineering). Recep Tayyip Erdogan (disputed).

Labour Administration or Labour Relations (2): Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea), Siaka Stevens (Sierra Leone). 

Forestry (1): Nông Đức Mạnh (Vietnam).

Medicine (8): François 'Papa Doc' Duvalier (Haiti), Bashar Assad (Syria), Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Ivory Coast), Hastings Banda (Malawi), Mohammad Najibullah (Afghanistan), Agostinho Neto (Angola), Mahathir Mohamad (Malaysia), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (Turkmenistan, dentistry). 

Physical Education (1): Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi). 

History (7): Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev and Ilham Aliyev (both of Azerbaijan -- Aliyev the younger has a PhD), Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus), Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast, doctorate), Syngman Rhee (South Korea, Princeton doctorate concurrent with seminary studies), Nguyễn Phú Trọng (Vietnam), Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Somalia).

Political Science & International Relations (3): Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Kazakhstan), Habib Bourguiba (Tunisia, concurrently with law), Babrak Karmal (Afghanistan, concurrently with law), Thongloun Sisoulith (Laos, doctorate in the "History of International Relations"). 

Criminal Justice (1): Thaksin Shinawatra (Thailand, doctorate). 

Psychology (1): Hendrik Verwoerd (South Africa, doctorate).

Philosophy (4): Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana, MA at the University of Pennsylvania, also studied with A. J. Ayer in London), Ruhollah (Ayatollah) Khomeini (Iran, studied philosophy at seminaries), Mohammad (Ayatollah) Khatami (Iran), Burhanuddin Rabbani (Afghanistan). 

Teacher's College (1): Daniel arap Moi (Kenya).

Theology (7): Stalin (didn't finish), Jozef Tiso (Slovakia), Grégoire Kayibanda (Rwanda), Syngman Rhee (South Korea, concurrent with doctoral studies in history), Ruhollah (Ayatollah) Khomeini (Iran, studied philosophy at seminaries), Ali Hosseini Khamenei (Iran), Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (Iran).  **Kwame Nkrumah obtained a theology degree at Lincoln University before taking an MA in philosophy. 

Enver Hoxha of Albania studied "natural science" at the post-secondary level, but I don't know what field of science he studied. 


Nabeel said...

I'm wondering how the leaders were selected, because some of the names are surprising. In the case of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were both democratically elected prime ministers who operated within institutional structures that significantly limited their power. Both were, of course, terribly corrupt and had authoritarian tendencies which led them to try to bend those institutions to their wills. But then so did Zulfikar's daughter, Benazir Bhutto, but she's not on the list. And none of them ultimately succeeded in realizing whatever authoritarian ambitions they may have had because of the intervention of actual authoritarians, i.e. the military generals who deposed them in coups.

If the selection criterion includes something like, 'had authoritarian tendencies', or 'attempted to extend executive power,' then why not include Nixon and Trump? Or is a tacit assumption that authoritarian figures only exist in 'pariah' countries?

praymont said...

I hesitated to include the two Pakistani leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (both lawyers). I included Bhutto because he was "Chief Martial Law Administrator" early in his term. While he eventually brought an end to martial law, he imposed martial law on Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad in April, 1971. So, I'm keeping him on the list. While there were human rights abuses during Nawaz Sharif's time in office, it is difficult to establish that he directed them, so I've removed him from the list.

I agree that Trump has authoritarian tendencies, but his attempt at authoritarian rule was, I believe, defeated by other elements in the US government.

Nabeel said...

Yes, Zulfikar Bhutto did have the title of 'Chief Martial Law Administrator'. But that has to be understood in the context of the circumstances in December 1971, namely a humiliating military defeat to India and the independence of Bangladesh. Bhutto was installed as President and Martial Law Administrator to take over from the disgraced General Yahya Khan and the generally discredited military administration that had overseen the disaster of the 1971 war. Bhutto promptly placed Yahya Khan under house arrest and negotiated a cease-fire with India. The next year and a half was a time of transition to a democratic system, in which Bhutto undeniably played a key role. He had been agitating for democracy throughout the sixties, under two different military administrations.

To be clear, Bhutto certainly had a strong authoritarian streak and there was some distance between his democratic rhetoric and his actions. But it seems very odd to place him in the same list as Pol Pot and Stalin.

D. Ghirlandaio said...

Meaningless unless you do the same for elected leaders who left without incident.

praymont said...

Hi, Nabeel. Certainly, some on the list are much worse than others, and most authoritarian leaders on this list did not pursue genocide. I agree that Bhutto was a much better leader than most authoritarians and that he did move Pakistan towards more open, democratic government. Still, he did apply martial-law powers those three cities in 1971.

Nabeel said...

Hi Paul. Thanks for clarifying the criteria that you used for identifying figures for inclusion in the list. I agree that human rights abuses are among the most noxious ends to which authority can be misused. But I think that, with this criterion, this list should grow much, much larger. Here are a just few cases that jump to mind:

- Thaksin Shinawatra (Thailand), who launched a war on drugs that led to thousands of extra judicial killings in the 2000s, almost entirely in the constituencies of his political opponents.
- FDR (USA), for directing Japanese-Americans to be sent to internment camps during the Second World War.
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), for ongoing systematic suppression of journalists, academics, political opponents etc.
- Several Canadian Prime Ministers in the twentieth century, who must have known and endorsed the state policy of removing Indigenous children from their families and sending them to residential schools.

I'm also puzzled about why colonial rulers (of e.g. France, Britain, Belgium, Portugal) have not been included. They certainly count among the most unambiguous instances of authoritarian rulers in the twentieth century, whose direct involvement in widespread human rights abuses is well documented.

praymont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
praymont said...

I've read more about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan and have reflected further about the difference between saying that an action is anti-democratic and calling a person authoritarian. I've decided to remove him from the list, since the clear tendency of his rule was to move Pakistan away from the closed regime that had been imposed by the military forces.

praymont said...

Hi, Nabeel. Thanks for your comments.

Certainly, being an authoritarian ruler requires more than committing human rights abuses. It requires attempts to suppress democracy by, e.g., preventing or 'rigging' elections or by banning opposition parties. Imposing martial law is good prima facie evidence that a leader is authoritarian, but it is not conclusive. Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced something akin to martial law in 1970 (under the War Measures Act), but it was a temporary measure during a crisis. It does not establish that Trudeau was an authoritarian leader. For similar reasons, I concluded that Bhutto's use of martial law in 1971 does not conclusively show him to have been authoritarian.

Re. the colonial powers: Yes, as I said in the post, colonial powers imposed authoritarian rule in colonies. However, I was aiming at a list of those rulers who were authoritarian in all the domains over which they had authority (as opposed to those who were authoritarian in just some of those domains).

One could also make an expanded list of authoritarian countries if one considered the exclusion of large numbers of competent adults from voting (based on irrelevant considerations) to be proof of an authoritarian system. For instance, women were not permitted to vote in Swiss federal elections until 1971. One could argue that Switzerland was authoritarian before that year. Would, then, each leader of Switzerland until 1971 have been authoritarian? I'm not sure. One could perhaps argue that a leader in an authoritarian system who did not produce or actively maintain its authoritarian features and who lacked the power to remove those features might not be an authoritarian ruler.

praymont said...

Hi, Nabeel. Thanks for mentioning former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand. He's an interesting case of a wealthy businessman who used populist rhetoric (e.g., about getting tough on crime) and who antagonized traditional elites and the professional classes. While he has been the victim of authoritarian rivals, I agree that he, too, was authoritarian.

He was authoritarian partly because he implemented plans to subvert the agencies that were supposed to provide a check on his power. He did so by putting relatives and friends in charge of those agencies. One author, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, calls this operation the "centralization and personalization of power." (Pongsudhirak, "Thailand: Democratic Authoritarianism," Southeast Asian Affairs [2003]: 277-290; https://www.jstor.org/stable/27913239)

Also, according to an open letter to Prime Minister Shinawatra by Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch (October 27, 2004), the Prime Minister allowed the state's security forces to open fire on protesters and detain many others without legal representation. Adams describes other abuses that discouraged opposition to Shinawatra's government.

As you note, extrajudicial killings account for the deaths of more than 2000 people (approx. 2700) during Shinawatra's 'war on drugs.'

This tendency to deprive people of protection from state force showed itself again when the Prime Minister oversaw martial law in southern, mainly Muslim provinces in 2004 and further ramped up state power there by declaring a state of emergency in 2005.

I think these factors together show that Thaksin Shinawatra was an authoritarian leader.

Unknown said...

This is valuable work. Still, I can't help but think that "authoritarian" is a slippery term that could be used with unintended bias. For example, if violently putting down an internal rebellion is a sufficient condition for being an authoritarian then Lincoln was an authoritarian. I can see how Kwame Nkrumah would make the list if an authoritarian is anyone who is inconvenient for the project of US global domination, but that's again a flawed standard. Much better is to evaluate leaders by how much they pushed their countries in the direction of the rule of law rather than rule of individual authority, with the explicit understanding that not all countries started at the same place when the leaders came to power. It is possible for leaders to reform their country's legal system for greater transparency and impartiality, and yet be resisted violently in this project by the people, who prefer traditional/tribal rites to the more egalitarian national reforms. Is the leader an authoritarian in such a case?

Nabeel said...

Thanks for your clarifications, Paul. All this certainly raises interesting questions about distinguishing authoritarian actions from authoritarian characters, for instance, and the role of social/political structures in determining how successfully the latter are able to express the former. Thaksin, like you said, was an aspiring autocrat challenging an established autocracy (the palace/military) that ended up defeating him. I had actually recently moved to Bangkok when Thaksin was deposed in 2006, and left shortly after the military crackdown against pro-Thaksin protestors in April 2010. The dynamics of Thai politics was both fascinating and very frustrating. (I didn't know that Thaksin had a doctorate, and in Criminal Justice, of all things!) There did seem to me to be striking parallels between Thaksin and Nawaz Sharif--both were basically businessmen who saw political power primarily as a means to advance their business interests, rather than ideologues.

praymont said...

Hi, Nabeel. Thaksin Shinawatra received graduate degrees in the USA. He completed his doctorate at Sam Houston University in Texas.

After reflecting on your comments, I concluded that "authoritarian leader" is unlike (e.g.) the word "murderer." If someone commits just one murder, s/he is a murderer. By contrast, a ruler can perform an authoritarian action without necessarily being an authoritarian leader. Before I'd call someone such a leader, s/he would have to perform authoritarian actions and display an ongoing tendency towards such acts.

praymont said...

Hi, Unknown. Yes, 'authoritarian' is a slippery term. Like 'game' or 'love', it's an important word on which we often rely even though, when put on the spot, most of us would be unable to give a clear and precise definition of it. And yet many have a strong sense of when it applies and when it doesn't. When such a word is value-laden (as 'authoritarian' is), then, as you point out, its use is subject to strong, often unexamined biases.

In these comments, I'm trying to get clearer about what we mean by 'authoritarian leader' by using a "method of cases": reflect on cases where a term applies and see if one can articulate a logic implicit in those uses, where this articulation may then guide the use of the term. This process may involve deciding that a given use was mistaken (e.g., was due to bias).

As noted above, one authoritarian action does not establish that a leader was authoritarian. In Lincoln's case, his other actions suggest that he was not authoritarian (although he lived before the USA passed the 19th Amendment, respecting women's right to vote.)

Kwame Nkrumah did many good things while in office. Also, while being an authoritarian is not a morally good trait, a leader can be good due to her/his other traits. I classified Kwame Nkrumah as an authoritarian because in 1964, under his leadership, Ghana was made a one-party state and Nkrumah was made President for life.

Unknown said...

Praymont, thank you for the response. Actually, making a country a one-party state and declaring yourself ruler for life really might be a sufficient condition to deserve being called "authoritarian." Also, I guess the obvious rigging of elections is another sufficient condition, as is making a cult of personality. OK, all that is fair enough. It would be useful, and also fun, to come up with various actions that earn a leader authoritarian points, like packing or disbanding courts, cultivating personal armed squads, forbidding dissent, etc.

Eric said...

This is a fun project, but I have to echo the thought that the criteria is murky. There is little accounting for institutional inertia. Many rulers with "authoritarian tendencies" seem to be guarded against inclusion only by the institutions that restrained their tendencies. So, personal attributes are not sufficient for inclusion. On the flip side, we might ask: is every ruler of an authorian state an authoritarian by default? If so, it's institutional factors and not personal apprpach that makes an aithoritarian - though of course one can make the institutions that way. But as some other pointed out, this criteria would capture some moderate reformers. So neither personal attributes or ruling an aithoritarian country are indicidually sufficient for inclusion, are they jointly sufficient? That seems closest to your list.

You also mention assessing the balance of one's "authoritarian actions" but that doesn't seem reflected in your list. If actions (regardless of the institutional context) were sufficient, there would be leaders of western demicracies on the list.