Purdue University Graduate School
PRC-Dissertation_Formatted_2021-07-28.pdf (1.4 MB)

Democracy, Rhetoric, Authoritarianism: Democratic Rhetoric in Authoritarian Thailand

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posted on 2021-07-27, 23:25 authored by Philip R CardinPhilip R Cardin
This is a study assessing the democratic rhetoric from authoritarian rulers. It does so as part of a larger comparative politics effort appraising the state of democracy in the world as well as part of area studies’ interest in better understanding the politics of individual states, in this case, Thailand. Scholars’ current method of analyzing the democratic rhetoric of authoritarians seems to swing somewhere between skepticism and dismissiveness. Although a reasonable response to the evident hypocrisy between deed and word, this thesis proceeds in the belief that social science can offer more than cynicism.

Methodologically, the chapters employ conceptual analysis to study concepts as they are diffused, borrowed, stretched, or otherwise contested. It considers as data the occurrence of the words “elections,” “rights,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “the people,” as well as others, but most notably “democracy.” Parts of this work are historical and descriptive, detailing the incidents and contexts of democratic rhetoric in authoritarian systems. Other parts are prescriptive, proposing a method by which to assess the democratic words of dictators. Case studies on particular periods of authoritarian rule in Thailand demonstrate what can be learned with the various methods.

One of the primary objectives of this study is to persuade readers that authoritarians’ democratic rhetoric is worth studying. A second objective is to convince readers of the utility of using the etymological definition of democracy as “the people rule” for assessing democratic rhetoric. Finally, the study aims to expose and develop the image of democracy in authoritarian Thailand. The central argument of this work is that democratic rhetoric in authoritarian systems is evidence of an ideology challenging Western, liberal democracy from within and that the failure to recognize this impairs both international and domestic democracy promotion efforts.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Political Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Mark C. Tilton

Additional Committee Member 2

Patricia A. Boling

Additional Committee Member 3

Molly (Mary) F. Scudder

Additional Committee Member 4

Rachel L. Einwohner