Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Moonhawk Kim

Second Advisor

David Bearce

Third Advisor

Andy Baker

Fourth Advisor

David S. Brown

Fifth Advisor

Scott Wolford


Conventional wisdom holds that countries ruled by non-democratic regimes are less likely to join international organizations. But scholars have been unable to explain why some of the non-democratic states are involved in international institutions more than others. This dissertation furthers a theoretical explanation for the variation in non-democratic regimes' international cooperation behavior and presents quantitative evidences that support it. I argue that non-democratic regimes will participate more in international cooperation when the domestic political economic structure allows the autocrat to use international institutions to secure their political tenure at home. The biggest threat to the political survival of autocrats stems from their inability to make credible commitments regarding domestic redistribution policy. International economic institutions that impose constraints on domestic policy behavior function as external commitment devices that render the autocrat more credible. The effectiveness of international institutions in strengthening domestic commitment credibility hinges on the level of international integration of the domestic economy and the capacity of tax institutions of the regime. Autocrats in countries featuring high integration levels and efficient tax-extracting institutions are more likely to resort to international institutions in remedying the commitment difficulty. This theory also explains why the least democratic regimes are actually more involved in international economic institutions than other non-democracies.