Working Paper
The legacies of authoritarian repression on civil society

In this paper we examine the legacies on civil society of routine repressive activities carried out by authoritarian regimes, such as the targeting of opposition organizations. We focus on participation in voluntary associations in post-authoritarian Spain.

We hypothesize that while repression initially depresses civic life, such effects do not persist after the demise of authoritarianism and the consolidation of a democratic regime. We analyse the impact of repression during the late Francoist regime (1960s–1970s) on local-level patterns of associationism during the democratic period (covering the period 1976–2021).

We find that repression has a null local-level effect on the registration of new voluntary organizations during the early democratic period, but a significant and positive effect after 1981, once Spanish democracy consolidated. In order to probe into the mechanisms of such time-variant effects, we analyse a pool of 140,000 individual surveys fielded between 1989 and 2017.

Such individual-level analyses indicate that the increase in organizational life in repressed areas might have more to do with a generational replacement effect than with people losing fear of participating over time.

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