Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2013

Civic Organizations in Vietnam's One-Party State: Supporters of Authoritarian Rule?

Jörg Wischermann

July 2013

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Associationalism under authoritarian rule is not automatically a good thing. The empirical findings laid out in this article indicate that authoritarian dispositions and practices are prevalent in all types of Vietnamese civic organizations, at least as far as internal decision ‐ making processes are concerned. As is the case in most countries of Southeast Asia, old as well as new ideas of the state and state traditions have a strong impact on the patterns of authoritarianism found in Vietnamese civic organizations. From the empirical findings, it might be concluded that Vietnamese civic organizations support authoritarian rule – though the extent of such support varies; this has generally been an underresearched question. This pioneering article seeks to stimulate further research by offering new in ‐ sights into how authoritarian power is exercised in Vietnam by addressing how associa ‐ tions’ activities stabilize rules, how the associated legitimizing effects can be conceptual ‐ ized and understood in theoretical terms, and what would be a suitable operationalization of the aforementioned concepts.