Welcome to the Journal of Comparative Politics

Comparative Politics, an international journal presenting scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and processes,communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, students, and public and NGO officials. The journal is indispensable to experts in universities, research organizations, foundations, embassies, and policymaking agencies throughout the world. 

Welcome to the Journal of Comparative Politics 2018-07-10T00:16:05+00:00

Volume 51, Number 3, April 2019

Eduardo Moncada, Resisting Protection: Rackets, Resistance, and State Building

The state occupies a central place in the study of a range of political, economic, and social outcomes. This article brings into dialogue literature on the state and emerging research on criminal politics through a study of protection rackets. Conceiving of criminal protection rackets as institutional arrangements of extraction and domination, I develop a political economy framework to explain variation in forms of resistance to rackets. The framework shows that distinct configurations of economic and political resources influence the type of resistance available to subordinates. I illustrate the framework’s utility using micro-level data on resistance to rackets in Latin America. Attention to how resource endowments shape patterns of resistance to projects of extraction and domination provides a novel window into the bottom-up dynamics of state building.

Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith, The Case for Comparative Ethnography

To what extent can comparative methods and ethnographic inquiry combine to advance knowledge in political science? Ethnography is becoming an increasingly popular method within political science. Yet both proponents and detractors often see it as a technique best suited for producing in-depth knowledge about a particular case or for explicating the meaning of a particular political behavior. This article argues that comparative ethnography—ethnographic research that explicitly and intentionally builds an argument through the analysis of two or more cases—can be of particular value to political scientists, and to scholars of comparative politics in particular. The approach can hone our theoretical models, challenge existing conceptual categories, and help develop portable political insights. This article has two goals: (1) to show that comparative ethnographic research deserves a prominent place in the repertoire of qualitative methods and (2) to elaborate the logics of inquiry behind such comparisons so that scholars will be better equipped to use them more frequently. Two or more cases are not always better than one, but comparative ethnography can yield new and different insights with important implications for our understandings of politics.

Brandon Van Dyck, Why Not Anti-Populist Parties? Theory with Evidence from the Andes and Thailand

Intense polarization can birth enduring political parties. Yet, whereas civil war and authoritarian repression often produce two parties, populist mobilization more often produces one: a populist, not an anti-populist, one. Why not anti-populist parties? The article argues that successful populism, by its nature, inhibits anti-populist party building. Because successful populists discredit a wide array of elites and institutions, anti-populists, who come from these discredited elite and institutions, are unpopular and lack cohesion. Where populists govern over a decade, anti-populist party building remains difficult, but conditions become less unfavorable: populists inevitably lose popularity, and the opposition commits to elections and undergoes leadership renovation. The article compares four countries: three where no anti-populist party-building has occurred (Bolivia, Ecuador, and Thailand) and one where an anti-populist party almost took root (Venezuela).

Yuri Kasahara and Antonio José Junqueira Botelho, Ideas and Leadership in the Crafting of Alternative Industrial Policies: Local Content Requirements Brazilian Oil and Gas Sector

Latin America is viewed as a region that has embraced a strategy of “open economy industrial policy” (OEIP). However, the region’s transition to OEIP has been neither complete nor irreversible. In this article, we argue that economic development concepts and instruments introduced during Brazil’s previous import-substitution industrialization regime still influence the country’s industrial policy. By tracing the evolution of local content requirements (LCR) in the Brazilian oil and gas sector, we show that conflicts between inward-oriented and outward-oriented forms of industrial development have been the main source of recent policy changes in the country. In addition, we show how institutional structures affect the implementation of economic ideas. The country’s centralized policymaking facilitated significant changes in the orientation of the LCR policy during the last twenty years.

Jessica Price, Keystone Organizations versus Clientelism: Understanding Protest Frequency in Indigenous Southern Mexico

This study builds on relational approaches to social mobilization and organizational ecology to explain local variations in protest frequency in the newer democracies of the developing world. I introduce the concept of keystone organizations, or organizations that justify protest and build influential networks that catalyze protest activity, to explain the localized growth of protest. I contribute to the literature on clientelism by showing that the networks that fuel political clientelism monopolize the organizational environment and discourage protest politics. I test my arguments statistically using an original dataset of protest events in Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Yucatan, Mexico, during the 2000 to 2012 federal election seasons that I coded from local newspaper reports.

Catherine Reyes-Housholder, A Constituency Theory for the Conditional Impact of Female Presidents

The theory argues that female presidents are more likely to (1) mobilize women on the basis of gender identity (core constituency); and (2) network with elite feminists (personal constituency). Only presidents who meet both conditions are most likely legislate on behalf of women. Controlled case studies illustrate the theory: Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil attempted to mobilize women on the basis of gender identity, but only Bachelet succeeded. Furthermore, only Bachelet maintained extensive ties with elite feminists. Original evidence shows that Bachelet, but not Rousseff, legislated in ways that statistically differed from her co-partisan male predecessor. Bachelet’s constituencies incentivized and enabled some of her pro-women proposals while a lack of expertise from feminists inhibited Rousseff’s pursuit of pro-women change.

Isabela Mares and Lauren Young, Varieties of Clientelism in Hungarian Elections

In elections around the world, candidates seek to influence voters’ choices using a variety of intermediaries and by relying on either positive electoral inducements or coercive strategies. What explains candidates’ choices among different forms of clientelism? When do candidates incentivize voters using positive inducements and when do they choose coercive strategies? This article proposes a new typology of clientelism and tests two families of explanations for why candidates would choose to use state versus non-state brokers, and inducements versus coercion, as private incentives to voters. First, existing theory predicts that political conditions such as incumbency or co-partisanship with the national party should enable the use of public over private brokers and resources. In addition, we conjecture that clientelism carries programmatic signals, such that the choice between inducements and coercion depends on local political conditions. We test our predictions using a post-electoral survey fielded in 2014 in ninety rural Hungarian communities. We find little evidence that local political conditions are related to the choice between state versus non-state brokers, but significant support for the prediction that programmatic signals explain the choice between inducements and coercion.

Dima Kortukov, Review Article, Bandits, Bankers, Bureaucrats, and Businessmen:Post-Communist Political Economy Twenty-Five Years after Soviet Dissolution

In this review article, I review four recent books that deal with various aspects of post-Communist political economy and argue that they represent a major shift in the research orientation of this subfield. Early scholarship mostly analyzed the causes of the diverging transitional paths that the post-Communist economies took, while highlighting the impact of Soviet legacies, the political pressures that the reformers faced, and the role of Western influences. Recent work shifts focus to the consequences of the divergent transition paths. It seeks to understand how economic development is possible in the post-Communist world, where state agents are predatory, where civil society organizations are weak, and where regulatory mechanisms are underdeveloped.

Volume 51, Number 3, April 2019 2019-03-24T19:44:27+00:00

Volume 51, Number 2, January 2019

Raúl L. Madrid, Opposition Parties and the Origins of Democracy in Latin America

Democracy is often a conquest of elite opposition parties. In electoral authoritarian regimes, opposition parties will promote suffrage expansion in order to weaken the ruling parties’ control over elections and improve their own electoral possibilities. Ruling parties, by contrast, will oppose suffrage expansion for the same reasons that opposition parties support it, and they will use their control of the political system to block it. Suffrage reforms typically occur in electoral authoritarian regimes only when there is a split within the ruling coalition that leads a faction to side with the opposition. I explore these arguments through detailed qualitative analyses of suffrage reforms in Chile in 1874 and Uruguay in 1918, as well as a quantitative analysis of a roll-call vote in Chile.

Michael Marcusa, Radicalism on the Periphery: History, Collective Memory, and the Cultural Resonance of Jihadist Ideology in Tunisia

This article explores sub-national variation in jihadist Salafist mobilization through a comparative analysis of two Tunisian interior towns: Sidi Bouzid and Metlaoui. After the Arab Spring, while Sidi Bouzid emerged as a bastion of jihadist Salafism and Islamic State foreign fighter recruitment, the movement failed to gain broad-based legitimacy in Metlaoui. On the basis of the comparison, this study introduces a new explanation for the variation in jihadist mobilization: state-building legacies and collective memory. During the 20th century, Sidi Bouzid and Metlaoui were subjected to divergent processes of forced political incorporation that this study argues have had implications for how contemporary citizens respond to jihadist rhetoric. The final part of the article discusses how this insight informs the study of jihadist Salafism in other contexts.

Sebastian Elischer, Governing the Faithful: State Management of Salafi Activity in the Francophone Sahel

The article examines how four states in the francophone Sahel have managed Salafi activity since independence. States that established institutional oversight mechanisms in the Islamic sphere prior to the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a global exporter of Salafi ideology have effectively counteracted the rise of political and jihadi Salafism in recent decades. Autocratic incumbents created national Islamic associations, determined the leadership makeup of these, and delegated state authority to non-Salafi leaders so as to regulate access to the Islamic sphere. The tacit cooperation arrangements between state and nonstate actors enabled the former to demobilize religious challengers. States that chose strategies other than institutional regulation contributed to the rise of political and security challengers. These findings challenge conventional assumptions about the inability of weak states to regulate their religious spheres and shed new light on the complex relationship between weak states and Islam.

Melanie M. Hughes, Pamela Paxton, Amanda B. Clayton, and Pär Zetterberg, Global Gender Quota Adoption, Implementation, and Reform

Over the last fifty years, gender quotas have transformed the composition of national legislatures worldwide. But a lack of systematic cross-national longitudinal data limits the questions researchers are able to ask about quotas. This article introduces a new dataset—QAROT (Quota Adoption and Reform Over Time)—the first global dataset on gender quota adoption, implementation, and reform over time. Theoretically, we clarify important issues in extant quota research. The dataset moves beyond traditional categorizations of quota policies with new measures of quota design, quota thresholds, placement mandates, sanctions for non-compliance, and quota effectiveness. We also create a single-variable measure of the presence of an effective quota to be used by comparative politics researchers to control for this powerful institutional feature.

Noah Buckley and Ora John Reuter, Performance Incentives under Autocracy: Evidence from Russia’s Regions

Available evidence indicates that there is considerable variation among autocracies in the extent to which subnational officials are rewarded for economic growth. Why is economic performance used as a criterion for appointment in some autocracies but not in others? We argue that in more competitive—though still autocratic—regimes, the political imperatives of maintaining an electoral machine that can win semi-competitive elections leads regime leaders to abandon cadre policies that promote economic development. Using data on turnover among high-level economic bureaucrats in Russia’s 89 regions between 2001 and 2012, we find that performance-based appointments are more frequent in less competitive regions. These findings demonstrate one way that semi-competitive elections can actually undermine economic development under autocracy

Andrew Schrank, Cross-Class Coalitions and Collective Goods: The Farmacias del Pueblo in the Dominican Republic

The farmacias del pueblo in the Dominican Republic sell generic drugs to eligible consumers at bargain-basement prices. While their proponents portray them as models of public enterprise and welcome their efforts to bring essential medicines to poor people, their critics worry that they are used less to protect public health than to purchase political support—with perverse consequences for democracy and distribution. Are the farmacias an indispensable source of essential medicine or an inefficient source of political patronage? I study their location and utilization; find that they are both located in low-income communities and open to better-off buyers; and conclude that by combining the efficiency of spatial targeting with the popularity of universal access, they offer developing democracies a sustainable approach to social policy.

Lindsay Mayka, The Origins of Strong Institutional Design: Policy Reform and Participatory Institutions in Brazil’s Health Sector

Why do some participatory institutions develop strong institutional designs, when most have limited powers? Existing literature emphasizes the importance of institutional design in shaping the impact of participatory institutions, yet falls short in accounting for the origins of design. Through an analysis of Brazil’s health councils, this article argues that bundling the creation of a participatory institution with substantive policy reform can 1) create opportunities to pass the laws and regulations needed for a strong design and 2) introduce incentives for otherwise reluctant stakeholders to support the participatory institution as an instrument to obtain their substantive policy goals. This article highlights an unexpected benefit of institutional conversion, demonstrating that shifting the base of stakeholder support can sometimes strengthen institutions rather than undermining them.

Kathleen Thelen, Transitions to the Knowledge Economy in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands

The advanced economies are experiencing a set of shared challenges in the transition to a new “knowledge economy” characterized by rapid technological innovation and associated with a heightened premium on higher education. Yet individual countries are charting rather different courses as they navigate this transition. This article examines divergent trajectories of change in three coordinated market economies—Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. It argues that differences in the organization of business and labor, and in the institutions that structure their interactions with each other and with the state, have produced different coalitional alignments and led these countries onto divergent paths toward the knowledge economy today.

Volume 51, Number 2, January 2019 2019-03-24T19:45:28+00:00

Volume 51, Number 1, October 2018

Gustavo A. Flores-Macías, The Consequences of Militarizing Anti-Drug Efforts for State Capacity in Latin America: Evidence from Mexico

In response to the threat posed by drug-trafficking organizations, developing countries are increasingly relying on the armed forces for their counter-drug strategies. Drawing on the literature on violence and state capacity, this article studies how the militarization of anti-drug efforts affects state capacity along two dimensions: public safety and fiscal extraction. It advances theoretical expectations for this relationship and evaluates them in the context of Mexico. Based on subnational-level analyses, it shows that the militarization of anti-drug efforts has decreased the state’s capacity to provide public order and extract fiscal resources: homicide and kidnapping rates have increased while tax collection has decreased. Given the wide-ranging consequences of diminished state capacity, the findings have implications not only for Latin America but also across the developing world.

Anja Osei, Elite Theory and Political Transitions: Networks of Power in Ghana and Togo

This article argues that elite theories can contribute significantly to our understanding of democratization. Existing elite theories on the relationship between elite configurations and regime outcomes will be critically reviewed and then tested in two case studies, Ghana and Togo. While Ghana is one of Africa’s most democratic countries, Togo has remained an electoral autocracy. The empirical evidence is based on a unique data set that maps the interaction patterns between Members of Parliament (MPs) in each of the countries. Using social network analysis, the article shows that the elite interactions differ systematically between the countries. MPs in Ghana form a dense and strongly interconnected network that bridges ethnic and party cleavages. Moreover, MPs from different parties have developed a measure of trust in one another. In Togo, by contrast, there is much more suspicion between government and opposition, and much less cooperation.

Maria Repnikova, Contesting the State under Authoritarianism: Critical Journalists in China and Russia

While contentious acts in authoritarian systems have largely been examined in the context of democratization, little is known about the modes of contention that do not yield immediate democratic outcomes, yet push regimes to adapt and evolve in the long-term. This article theorizes about such practices through a comparative study of critical journalists in China and Russia. Drawing on in-depth interviews and participant observation in the two countries, the article presents two distinct types of boundary-spanning activity: within-the-system resistance, carried out in partnership with the state, and extraneous or defiant contestation deployed in opposition to the system. The article further demonstrates that these two types of contestation practices feed into journalists’ broader conceptions of political transitions, rooted in recent historical experiences with alternative political models.

Michael Koß, How Legislative Democracy Creates Political Parties

Scholarship on the rise of political parties mostly focuses on the electoral arena. From this perspective, the legislative arena is determined by party system properties. This article aims to show that the causal arrow points in the other direction as originally suggested by Duverger. Two mechanisms of legislative organization arguably allow for the ascendancy of political parties: control over the legislative agenda or powerful committees. A comparative analysis of thirty-six procedural reforms in the Swedish and French legislatures during the 1866–1958 period suggests that, all else being equal, a quest for procedural efficiency originating from the dynamics of legislative democracy led to the creation of powerful committees. Only if anti-system obstruction of legislation posed a threat to the survival of legislative democracy, individual legislators became willing to unilaterally surrender inherited powers to control the plenary agenda to party leaders. Since both the empowerment of committees and the centralization of agenda control occurred independent of the properties of party systems, parties are the product rather than the origin of legislative democracy.

Adnan Naseemullah and Pradeep Chhibber, Patronage, Sub-Contracted Governance, and the Limits of Electoral Coordination

Electoral coordination is central to the creation of national party systems under first-past-the-post rules, but there are instances where we see such coordination fail even at the constituency level. In this article, we argue that electoral coordination requires partisan control of patronage distribution by local bureaucracies. In electoral constituencies in which bureaucrats do not hold a monopoly over the distribution of patronage, we might see constituency-level electoral fragmentation. In constituencies in which the bureaucracy controls patronage, however, effective coordination yields Duvergerian equilibria. We formulate and test this argument through constituency- and precinct-level analysis of Pakistani elections and additional evidence from Indian elections.

Lucas I. González, Oil Rents and Patronage: The Fiscal Effects of Oil Booms in the Argentine Provinces

When do oil-dependent governments spend oil rents in expanding political machines through patronage and clientelism, as rentier theories claim, or in providing better public services? Using regression analysis for panel data and two case studies of the Argentine provinces (1983–2013), this study shows that infrastructure can rise and patronage decline during oil booms. When rents are high and the oil sector creates new jobs, incumbents tend to increase capital investment. They cannot compete with oil salaries and use infrastructure to cope with the sector’s pressures for basic services. When rents decline in contexts of job destruction in the oil sector, and the rest of the private sector cannot absorb the layoffs, incumbents tend to increase patronage to contain social turmoil and secure core voters.

Kai-Ping Huang and Paul Schuler, Research Note, A Status Quo Theory of Generalized Trust: Why Trust May Reduce the Prospects for Democratic Transition in East Asia

Does generalized trust lead to democratic transitions? Despite the voluminous literature on trust and democracy, very little examines the link between trust and democratic regime change. We theorize that generalized trust should lead to support for the status quo rather than support for regime change. In democracies, this means that citizens in effect support the democratic regime. However, in autocracies this status quo bias means that trusting individuals support the autocracy. We test this argument using data from the Asian Barometer Survey. Our simultaneous equation model shows that generalized trust has a negative impact on support for regime change regardless of regime type. This suggests that generalized trust—if anything—constitutes a headwind against democratic regime change rather than a facilitating factor.

Brian J. Fried, Review Article, Jumping off the Fence: The Continuation and Erosion of Clientelism

This article reviews three books that seek to explain transitions away from undemocratic practices and why they rarely occur. Patronal Politics traces political developments since the collapse of communism in multiple countries in Eastern Europe to show that the loss of power by a particular clientelist network generally occurs only when its leader is unpopular and viewed as unlikely to remain in office. Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism relies more heavily on modernization theory to explain transitions away from clientelism. Meanwhile, The Political Logic of Poverty Relief examines the distinct impacts of clientelist and programmatic polices on welfare and electoral outcomes in Mexico. In examining these books, this review article argues that a thicker account of the microfoundations that lead individuals to accept undemocratic norms of behavior would strengthen our understanding of how political systems sustain clientelist practices. The analysis sheds light on the difficult path that can lead individuals and societies to substitute such practices with those that support relatively impartial interactions and programmatic policies.

Volume 51, Number 1, October 2018 2018-12-02T01:34:00+00:00

Volume 50, Number 4, July 2018

Peter Krause and Ehud Eiran, How Human Boundaries Become State Borders: Radical Flanks and Territorial Control in the Modern Era

State-led attempts to expand their territory run directly into norms of “border fixity,” norms of self-determination, and the high costs of conquest, which is why international conflict has rarely led to border changes since 1945. Radical flank groups—non-state organizations with extreme means and ends that are on the ideological and physical front lines of territorial disputes—turn each of these obstacles into advantages. By quietly shifting the demographic status quo and manipulating the security dilemma to inspire supportive “defensive” intervention, radical flanks create new human boundaries that become new state borders. Using original datasets of political violence and settlement construction, we analyze the Israeli settlement movement in the West Bank from 1967-present and reveal the power of bottom-up territorial change across time and space.

Serhiy Kudelia, When Numbers Are Not Enough: The Strategic Use of Violence in Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution

Recent studies show that protest campaigns have a greater chance of success if they adopt nonviolent tactics, while the use of violence is often self-defeating. This article argues that violence may prove effective when combined with high popular mobilization, embedded in a generally non-violent movement and practiced against an unresponsive regime with low cost-tolerance threshold. Based on the case study of Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, the article shows that the presence of an ideologically motivated agency skilled in violent techniques lowers the initial costs of generating violence, while the moral outrage in the face of regime backlash decreases further participation costs. If armed resistance on the part of protesters can increase the costs of a crackdown for the regime beyond its tolerance level, it will yield to protest demands.

Nimah Mazaheri and Steve L. Monroe, No Arab Bourgeoisie, No Democracy? The Entrepreneurial Middle Class and Democratic Attitudes since the Arab Spring

This study examines support for democracy among a key subgroup of the Arab middle class—the small business community—before and after the start of the Arab Spring. Although historically cast as anti-democratic, we provide evidence that small business owners became more pro-democratic after the start of the Arab Spring. Yet their support for democracy varies according to the presence and type of political upheaval that occurred in their country. When confronted by a governmental crisis or regime breakdown, small business owners are less supportive of democracy than their peers in more stable countries and even fellow citizens. Our findings stem from survey data of more than 3,000 small business owners across fourteen Arab countries, in addition to 50 interviews conducted in Jordan.

Anna Grzymala-Busse and Dan Slater, Making Godly Nations: Church-State Pathways in Poland and the Philippines

How does religious nationalism arise? Poland and the Philippines represent two striking examples of religious and national identities becoming practically coterminous. Yet these two Catholic nations traveled different historical paths towards a tight fusion of religion and nation. In Poland, the church defended the nation in dramatic struggles against a strong and secularizing state. This fused religious and national identities, endowing the church with unrivaled moral authority. In the Philippines, the church historically substituted for a much weaker state by serving the nation both symbolically and materially in ways that secular authorities never matched. Our comparative-historical analysis thus demonstrates that similar religious nationalisms can arise via distinct political pathways: through struggle against an interventionist state and by substituting for an ineffective state.

Stéfanie André, Caroline Dewilde, Ruud Luijkx, and Niels Spierings, Housing Wealth and Party Choice in a Multiparty System: The Netherlands 2006–2012

Recently, housing wealth has come to the fore as predictor of welfare attitudes. However, it is unclear whether people also change their vote based on their housing market position. This article shows, for three Dutch elections in 2006, 2010, and 2012, that housing wealth was a predictor of party choice during housing market downturns. In 2012, individuals in households in negative equity were more likely to vote pro-welfare, while respondents most at risk of negative equity were more likely to vote pro-homeownership. This finding is corroborated in our analysis of party choice change. Voters are thus responsive to changing housing wealth positions. Our results are in line with economic voter theories and illustrate the emerging importance of housing wealth for this framework.

YuJung Julia Lee, Gender, Electoral Competition, and Sanitation in India

Although electoral competition is important for government responsiveness, the women and politics literature pays little attention to this factor when considering whether female politicians make different policy choices from their male counterparts. This study does so by examining policy outcomes regarding sanitation, a basic service that disproportionately affects women. Drawing from district-level data across fifteen major states in India from 2006 to 2011, this article exploits the quasi-randomness of the gender of the winner in very close elections to estimate the influence of female legislators on providing better quality latrines. The results show that, even after considering the role of electoral competition, female politicians are more likely to deliver high-quality latrines, which suggest they make decisions in ways that are better for women’s well-being.

Robert M. Fishman, Review Article, What Made the Third Wave Possible? Historical Contingency and Meta-Politics in the Genesis of Worldwide Democratization

This article revisits the question of what made the Third Wave of democratization possible, emphasizing the contribution of developments that strengthened mutual toleration between political adversaries. Questioning the view that policy moderation was required for democracy’s advance, the article argues that significant elements of historical contingency and a meta-political broadening of the space for fundamental economic change contributed significantly to the wave’s inauguration and initial spread. Building on a review of two major new books—each of which recasts existing theoretical and substantive debates in important ways—this article suggests that the relationship between the worldwide advance of democracy and the global diffusion of neo-liberal approaches to economic management was historically contingent and essentially unrelated to the causal basis for the great democratic wave. The article outlines how the social revolution that inaugurated the global wave of democratization in Portugal in 1974 may have shifted implicit assumptions underpinning the mindset of political actors elsewhere, thereby contributing to the spread of mutual toleration between actors divided over their economic preferences
Volume 50, Number 4, July 2018 2018-07-04T20:43:23+00:00

Volume 50, Number 3, April 2018

Special Issue: Wither Russia? Twenty-Five Years After the Collapse of Communism

Kathryn Stoner, Introduction: Russia in Retrospect and in Prospect

Michael McFaul, Choosing Autocracy: Actors, Institutions, and Revolution in the Erosion of Russian Democracy

Russia’s present system of government did not result inevitably from historical structures, that is from cultural, geographic, or socio-economic inheritances from the Soviet or tsarist past. Russia’s hundreds of years of autocratic traditions made democratic consolidation in the 1990s harder, but not impossible. Rather, individual choices at pivotal moments in time pushed Russia towards a more autocratic path in the 2000s and then produced a reordering of preferences and power in favor of continuity with this new autocratic arrangement. Actors, not structures, were the drivers of these changes, first towards democracy and then away from it.

M. Steven Fish, What Has Russia Become?

What has Russia become? The regime is best characterized as a conservative populist autocracy. It eschews all transformational visions, be they restorative or progressive, while pursuing elite appropriation and reproduction of the political status quo as overriding aims. The ruler relies for legitimation on populist appeals to great power nationalism and traditional folk morality, but he eschews the ethnocentricity often found in populism of the right. His judicious populist politics and skillful campaign to centralize and concentrate power have helped forge a stable, popular autocracy that yields bounty for the ruler and his favorites. But the predatory economic model and the extraordinary personalization of authority create vulnerabilities that may jeopardize system’s durability.

Aleksandar Matovski, It’s the Stability, Stupid! How the Quest to Restore Order After the Soviet Collapse Shaped Russian Popular Opinion

This article argues that despite the chaos and uncertainty of the post-Soviet period, Russian political outlooks were highly coherent because they were driven by a near consensual desire to achieve greater stability. Based on over-time and cross-section dimensional analyses of a unique dataset of 418 surveys, covering the 1993–2011 period, I show that the popular obsession with restoring order facilitated the consolidation of authoritarianism in Russia. In particular, stability-centric outlooks structured political competition in ways that favored strong-armed incumbent behavior and fostered divisions and extremism among the opposition. These dynamics allowed Russia’s increasingly authoritarian regime to rule with minimal use of coercion and largely through the ballot box.

Henry E. Hale, How Crimea Pays: Media, Rallying ’Round the Flag, and Authoritarian Support

Contingent events, including the initiation of conflicts that trigger “rallying-’round-the-flag,” can generate long-lasting public support and hence stability for authoritarian regimes, yet such effects remain poorly understood. The present study builds on the core logic of leading explanations of rallying in democracies to develop theory on how rallying works in authoritarian contexts. Unpacking the surge in President Vladimir Putin’s popularity after Russia annexed Crimea, an original survey experiment finds that authoritarian rallying obtains partly through the activation of patriotic sentiment, but that, counterintuitively, the strongest rallying effects occur among those who watch the least television news. Potential sources of private information on the Crimea annexation’s costs—including negative personal economic experiences and usage of social media—significantly dampen its positive effect on support for Putin.

Hannah S. Chapman, Kyle L. Marquardt, Yoshiko M. Herrera, and Theodore P. Gerber, Xenophobia on the Rise? Temporal and Regional Trends in Xenophobic Attitudes in Russia

In this article we consider the trajectory of xenophobia in Russia since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Using survey data from 1996, 2004, and 2012, we examine Russians’ negative attitudes toward seven outgroups over time. We also statistically analyze the degree to which correlates of xenophobia have changed between 1996 and 2012. We find that Muscovites have become more xenophobic toward many groups over time relative to residents of other regions. This change is particularly striking in comparison to 1996, when Muscovites were generally less xenophobic than residents of other regions. Finally, we find that a strong lack of confidence in Russian President Putin is associated with higher levels of xenophobia across time, complicating the perceived link between the Russian government and xenophobic sentiment.

Thomas F. Remington, Russian Economic Inequality in Comparative Perspective

This article considers Russian income inequality in relation to the trend toward rising inequality in the U.S. and in most parts of the world. Income and wealth inequality in Russia has been rising except in periods when the economy is in recession, and wealth inequality in Russia is now highest in the world. The analysis shows that inequality trends in Russia share some characteristics with other developed and developing economies, including technological change, increased integration in the global economy, and the capitalization of rent streams. Financialization and dependence on natural resource extraction contribute strongly to both cross-sectional and cross-regional inequality in Russia. The absence of institutions for aggregating broad competing social interests—whether corporatist or partisan—restricts the capacity of the political system to set agreed rules governing the distribution of the burdens and benefits of economic growth. As in other political systems, both democratic and authoritarian, high inequality undermines the state’s ability to provide public goods that would contribute both to inclusive economic growth and a growing middle class.

Natalia Forrat, Shock-Resistant Authoritarianism: Schoolteachers and Infrastructural State Capacity in Putin’s Russia

This article uses the case of the 2012 presidential election in Russia to reveal a new mechanism of authoritarian resilience, which it calls infrastructural. This mechanism complements the currently dominant explanation of authoritarian resilience focused on material redistribution. The article argues that public sector organizations may significantly increase the ability of an autocrat to implement political decisions on the ground. This mechanism can partially explain Vladimir Putin’s strong performance at the 2012 election, which was achieved through the engagement of schoolteachers, who frequently served as members of precinct-level electoral commissions, in agitation and electoral fraud. The article finds that if the factors contributing to the pressure on teachers were eliminated, Vladimir Putin might not have won the election in the first round.

Sergey Sanovich, Denis Stukal, and Joshua A. Tucker, Turning the Virtual Tables:
Government Strategies for Addressing Online Opposition with an Application to Russia

We introduce a novel classification of strategies employed by autocrats to combat online opposition generally, and opposition on social media in particular. Our classification distinguishes both online from offline responses and censorship from engaging in opinion formation. For each of the three options—offline action, technical restrictions on access to content, and online engagement—we provide a detailed account for the evolution of Russian government strategy since 2000. To illustrate the feasibility of researching online engagement, we construct and assess tools for detecting the activity of political “bots,” or algorithmically controlled accounts, on Russian political Twitter, and test these methods on a large dataset of politically relevant Twitter data from Russia gathered over a year and a half.

Timothy J. Colton, Regimeness, Hybridity, and Russian System Building as an Educative Project

Political scientists often consider post-Soviet Russia, as well as sundry of its Eurasian neighbors, to be governed by a “hybrid” regime that somehow marries elements of democracy and autocracy. Although this approach garners less than unanimous support, I argue that it is the best starting place for inquiry. For the hybridity paradigm to be of maximum use, however, we need more of a conversation about its theoretical underpinnings and empirical manifestations. The present essay takes up these matters with reference to the Russian experience since 1991. I urge scholars to apply a pair of criteria for what constitutes a political regime and pay more attention to what we mean by a hybrid regime and to its actual, observable components. When it comes expressly to Russia in the Putin years, I argue for the importance of the educative aspect of erecting the hybrid system.
Volume 50, Number 3, April 2018 2018-07-04T20:43:23+00:00