Undue Process: Persecution and Punishment in Autocratic Courts, Fiona Feiang Shen-Bayh

Reviewed by Iza Ding

Fiona Shen-Bayh's masterful new book gives the existing literature on authoritarian institutions its day in court. Undue Process: Persecution and Punishment in Autocratic Courts is set in post-colonial British Africa, but Shen-Bayh's theory travels near and far (16–17). The book poses the questions: Why do autocrats bother taking their political rivals to court when simply locking them up or assassinating them would be cheaper and easier? Why put on a show of due process when everyone watching already knows the outcome? Shen-Bayh argues convincingly that these show trials are not just for show but for restoring cohesion and assuring compliance among elite regime insiders, whose support the autocrat counts on to stay comfortably in power. Most admirable are her Herculean data collection effort, her extremely careful empirical analyses, her ease at weaving together quantitative and qualitative evidence, and her elegant prose. Undue Process represents the best practices in contemporary comparative politics and should be read widely by the field at large.

Diverse readers with different tastes for theory, substance, and methods will all find something to admire and to learn from in this book. Shen-Bayh’s discussion of judicial repression provokes the mind about what is, after all, repression. The notion that seemingly benevolent

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