Karl Popper wrote that “the transition from the closed to the open society [is] one of the deepest revolutions through which mankind has passed”. It’s a transition still underway all over the world. When outsiders peek in at authoritarian polities that have no elections or only a facade democracy (behind closed doors) they may be unaware of the intensity and extensiveness of intra-elite politics. Divisions over policy within the Authoritarian State of a transiting society, and between and among its dominant economic groups, can quite surprisingly resemble the divisions in the pluralistic polity of an open society.
Even in a closed society where personal relationships determine power to formulate and implement decisions, decisions themselves may be similar in nature (i.e. as contested and divisive) as the decisions taken in more modern depersonalized and pluralistic societies.
Think of a stylized (reductive) left-right ideological continuum of the kind seen in Indonesia during the New Order 1966-1998 rule of President Suharto. At one end were Nationalists who inter alia favoured price subsidies and inward-looking industrial policy and using the country’s oil wealth to intervene in support of new industries and major corporate groups. At the other end were Technocrats who advocated deficit- and debt-reduction, deregulation, foreign investment, incentives for export-oriented industrialization, and market economy in general.
Suharto skillfully managed these two competing groups within the polity. One could say the technocrats held greater sway, and there was something of an arena for expression of political interests within the Authoritarian polity. A devotee of jargon might wish to describe the late-Suharto state as post-neo-patrimonial.