The failure to anticipate the collapse of communist one-party systems stands in striking contrast to the determinism of retrospective accounts. This essay reviews accounts of the decay and breakdown of one-party systems in order to uncover the causes behind political science's inability to both anticipate these developments and provide satisfactory explanations. These causes include the deterministic character of most accounts, the absence of a theory of single-party rule, the absence or misspecification of causal links between the major building blocks of the arguments put forth, and the analytic conflation of decay and breakdown. Understanding the decay and breakdown of one-party systems requires a methodologically conscious distinction between these two processes and a specification of their links (and the links between the variables affecting each process), grounded in a theory of single-party rule.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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