As the color revolutions have stalled and the challenge to democracy by authoritarianism has increased, it is essential to explore the potential of a new “reverse wave” which may create a greater balance between liberalism and autocracy. This article seeks to begin this process by outlining a framework of authoritarian diffusion. Two key diffusion dynamics are outlined: appropriateness, the impact of changes in the relative normative power of democracy/autocracy, and effectiveness, how the successes of authoritarian countries increase the chances that others will see them as role models. A number of contributing factors are also identified, which make these processes more or less likely. These include: geography, linkage, international organizations, great power prestige, and reference groups. If we are to understand the future strength of authoritarianism as a global or regional phenomenon, which affects, reinforces, and aggravates domestic conditions, then a new theoretical framework is necessary.

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