Beyond the fallacy of coup-ism: Conceptualizing civilian control of the military in emerging democracies

Aurel Croissant, David Kuehn, Paul Chambers, Siegfried O. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


It is consensus in the democratization literature that civilian control of the military is a necessary ingredient for democracy and democratic consolidation. However, there is considerable disagreement on what civilian control of the military exactly entails and there is a lack of solid theoretical arguments for how weak or absent civilian control affects democratic governance. Furthermore, a considerable portion of the research literature is captured by the fallacy of coup-ism, ignoring the many other forms in which military officers can constrain the authority of democratically elected political leaders to make political decisions and get them implemented. This article addresses these lacunae by providing a new conceptual framework for the analysis of civil-military relations in emerging democracies. From democracy theory it derives a definition of civilian control as a certain distribution of decision-making power between civilian leaders and military officers. Based on this definition, the authors develop a five-dimensional concept of civilian control, discuss the effects of weakly institutionalized civilian control on the quality of democracy and address the chances for democratic consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)950-975
Number of pages26
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this article was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). An earlier version was presented at the panel ‘New Conceptual, Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives on Civil–Military Relations Research’ at the 5th ECPR General Conference 2009, Potsdam, Germany. We thank Subrata K. Mitra, Heiner Hänggi and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


  • Armed forces
  • Civil-military relations
  • Civilian control
  • Democracy
  • Democracy theory
  • Democratic consolidation
  • Democratization
  • Military
  • New democracies


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