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.

Volume 48, Number 4, July 2016

Kevin Koehler, Dorothy Ohl, and Holger Albrecht, From Disaffection to Desertion: How Networks Facilitate Military Insubordination in Civil Conflict

Scholarship on intrastate conflict and civil-military relations has largely ignored individual desertions during civil war. We show that high-risk behavior, such as desertion, is best thought of as coordinated action between individual decision-makers and their strong network ties. Soldiers hold preexisting opinions on whether high-risk action is worthwhile, but it is their networks that persuade them to act. Specifically, it is the content of strong network ties (rather than their mere existence) and the ability to interpret information (rather than the presence of information), which helps explain individual action under extreme risk. Our thick empirical narrative is based on substantial fieldwork on the Syrian conflict and contributes to debates on military cohesion, intrastate conflict trajectories, and the power of networks in catalyzing high-risk behavior.

Santiago Anria, Democratizing Democracy? Civil Society and Party Organization in Bolivia

The rise to power of movement-based parties is a new and expanding phenomenon. Existing theories predict these parties will become increasingly oligarchic as they govern nationally. The Bolivian MAS deviates from this conventional wisdom, as it has followed a remarkably different organizational trajectory that has facilitated grassroots impact and constrained elite control. Through a within-case comparative examination of MAS, this article identifies necessary conditions and explains mechanisms facilitating this outcome in the crucial area of candidate selection. Key to understanding how these parties operate is the organizational context in which they are embedded. Where civil society is strong, has mechanisms to arrive at decisions, and can agree on candidate selection, it can play an important role in resisting the oligarchization of allied movement-based parties.

Agnes Blome, Normative Beliefs, Party Competition, and Work-Family Policy Reforms in Germany and Italy

For a long time, German and Italian work-family policies reflected the traditional male-breadwinner model. Recently, however, the parental leave scheme was substantially reformed and public childcare provision significantly expanded in Germany. By contrast, Italy, a country known for many similarities, witnessed little change. I use the systematic variation in the development of normative beliefs and political competition to explain why policy change occurred in Germany but not in Italy between 1990 and 2009. Based on individual-level data on voting behavior and on normative beliefs, I show that a change in normative beliefs and increased party competition contributed to this policy change in Germany. In Italy, by contrast, the population still generally prefers a traditional work-family model, and work-family policies are not a salient issue for party competition.

Kathryn Hochstetler and J. Ricardo Tranjan, Environment and Consultation in the Brazilian Democratic Developmental State

Twenty-first century developmental projects like those of the Brazilian Workers’ Party take place in a regulatory context that—at least on paper—demands new scrutiny of their environmental and community impacts. Scholars of the democratic developmental state also argue that development now requires building human capabilities, promoting sustainable development, and seeking community feedback. We examine 302 electricity projects financed by BNDES to see if and when these developmentalist infrastructure projects faced challenging scrutiny on environmental and community impact grounds. 29 percent generated organized community opposition, extended licensing processes, and/or legal action. These were most common for large projects and projects where community and state actors worked together in blocking coalitions. We conclude that the ideals of the democratic developmental state are more compatible in theory than in practice.

Lauren Honig, Immigrant Political Economies and Exclusionary Policy in Africa

In moments of heightened anti-immigrant sentiment, why do states use different forms of exclusionary policies? While scholarship has traditionally grouped together immigration policies to study variation between open and closed immigration regimes, these policies are not of one kind. This article examines the cases of Ghana’s 1969 expulsion order targeting immigrant traders and Côte d’Ivoire’s 1998 restrictive land policy that curtailed the rights of immigrant farmers to explain how the economic power of immigrants shapes the types of exclusionary policies used. By leveraging the important similarities between the neighboring West African countries, this article demonstrates that these different forms of anti-immigrant policies reflect not the number of immigrants in certain industries, culture, or objective measures of economic scarcity, but divergent immigrant political economies.

Kelly M. McMann, Developing State Legitimacy: The Credibility of Messengers and the Utility, Fit, and Success of Ideas

Legitimacy is important to governance, yet we know little about how it develops. This article examines an initial step—how citizens come to use the same criteria to evaluate legitimacy. Earlier studies have identified the state and society as sources of possible legitimacy criteria but have not explained the process by which citizens adopt them. This article offers a framework to help understand this process. Specifically, it argues that citizens embrace ideas as legitimacy criteria based on the credibility of the messengers and the utility, fit, and success of the ideas. Original survey, in-depth interviews, and observational data from Central Asia as well as published accounts of government leaders’ and societal forces’ ideas and actions in the region illustrate the argument.

Yael Shomer, The Electoral Environment and Legislator Dissent

Electoral rules and party candidate selection processes both affect legislators’ behavior, specifically, their tendency to either toe or break their party’s line. However, elections and selections may produce contradictory incentives for legislators, leading us to ask how conflicting motivations affect legislators’ tendencies to dissent. I argue that the effect of these two institutions is conditional and that legislators who face contradictory incentives will tend to maintain voting discipline. On the other hand, when the incentives of elections and selections align, they tend to amplify one another. This is especially true when elections and selections both incentivize personalization. In this article, I test and find support for the conditional hypothesis using an original individual-level dataset with more than 6,700 legislators from thirty country-sessions.

Volume 48, Number 3, April 2016

Yoshiko M. Herrera and Nicole M. Butkovich Kraus, Pride Versus Prejudice: Ethnicity, National Identity, and Xenophobia in Russia

This article examines the relationship between ethnicity, national identity, and xenophobia in Russia. Using survey data we analyze three hypotheses that might explain xenophobia toward five different groups: Roma, Chechens, Azerbaijanis, Muslims, and Americans. We find support for social dominance theory in a positive relationship between Slavic ethnicity and xenophobia. We then go beyond ethnicity to analyze Russian national identity content, and we find that pride does not simply equal prejudice: particular types of national identity content predicted greater or lesser xenophobia depending on the target group. Finally, we analyze theories of economic threat and xenophobia, and the findings are unexpected: higher income is associated with greater hostility toward most groups, and, for most target groups, economic vulnerability does not increase xenophobia.

Hilary Appel and Mitchell A. Orenstein, Why Did Neoliberalism Triumph and Endure in the Post-Communist World?

Post-Communist countries have been among the most fervent adopters of free market reforms. Not only did they adopt most of the policies of the Washington Consensus and achieve the same levels of liberalization as other advanced industrialized economies according to standard measures, but they also exceeded other countries in adopting avant-garde neoliberal reforms like the flat tax and pension privatization. Time and again, Eastern European and Eurasian governments overcame expected obstacles to liberalization. This article argues that the post-Communist countries’ protracted adoption of neoliberal policies must be seen through the lens of international economic integration and the need to compete with other developing countries for capital, most of which began to liberalize their economies a decade before 1989. Through a process of “competitive signaling,” numerous Eastern European and Eurasian countries used the adoption of sometimes extreme neoliberal economic reforms to attract attention from investors.

Erica Marat, Reforming Police in Post-Communist Countries: International Efforts, Domestic Heroes

This article explores the conditions in which democratic police reforms are likely to succeed and when they will fail. It addresses criticism that international efforts to democratize police forces in countries with recent authoritarian past rests in the donors’ tendency to work with the very same political officials and government agencies that rely on the coercive power of the police. However, the alternative bottom-up reform approach that would involve non-state actors is harder to define. Based on the analysis of five post-communist countries that have officially embarked on police reform efforts with the help of international community, the article finds that bottom-up police reform is likely to take place in urban areas where non-state actors are ready for long-term engagement and are flexible in their demands.

Monika Nalepa, Party Institutionalization and Legislative Organization: The Evolution of Agenda Power in the Polish Parliament

Can one organize a legislature for majoritarian control in a fragile party system where formal rules grant extensive powers to the government opposition and individual parliamentarians? Semi-structured interviews with MPs in the Polish Sejm uncover that changes in the party system influenced the government’s use of legislative institutions to take majoritarian control of the legislature. In contrast to governments formed by transitional parties that ultimately collapsed, governments led by more institutionalized parties effectively delegated power to their leadership to pursue collective party goals and to reduce the opposition’s legislative influence. The quantitative analysis using roll call votes and bills submitted during four terms of the Polish Sejm (1997–2011) examines two aspects of party influence: negative agenda control and legislative success.

Virginia Oliveros, Making it Personal: Clientelism, Favors, and the Personalization of Public Administration in Argentina

Conventional wisdom says that patronage employees provide political services to their patrons in exchange for their jobs. The provision of favors to voters is one of the most crucial of these services, yet it has been neglected by the literature. Do public employees actually grant favors? How widespread is this phenomenon? Who are the employees involved? Drawing on original survey data and interviews with public employees, political brokers, and politicians in Argentina, I provide systematic evidence of the provision of favors. In particular, this article shows that patronage employees are more involved than non-patronage employees in dispensing favors to voters. This demonstrates that patronage employees do in fact comply with their side of the agreement by providing the expected services in return for their jobs.

Elin Bjarnegård and Pär Zetterberg, Political Parties and Gender Quota Implementation:The Role of Bureaucratized Candidate Selection Procedures

This article scrutinizes the role of political parties in gender quota implementation. First, it theoretically specifies and operationalizes the concept of bureaucratization in relation to candidate selection. Second, it examines whether parties with bureaucratized selection procedures are better at implementing legally mandated candidate quotas than other parties. We measure implementation as the number of women candidates and women elected (the latter measuring implementation of the spirit of quota laws). Using unique data on almost 100 Latin American parties, the analysis shows that once quotas are in place, parties with bureaucratized selection procedures put substantially more women on their candidate lists than other parties. However, these parties are only better at implementing the letter of the law: they do not get more women elected.

Erica S. Simmons, Corn, Markets, and Mobilization in Mexico

In January 2007, Mexicans filled the Zócalo in Mexico City to express opposition to rising corn prices and corn imports. Consumers and producers, middle class and campesinos united in the streets to demand access to affordable, explicitly Mexican corn. This article explains the cooperation across class and sectoral lines in the Mexican tortillazo protests by focusing on the meanings corn takes on in the Mexican context. When individuals imagined that they or other Mexicans might not be able to consume a good at the center of daily life and imaginings of nation, they reached across established divides and took to the streets. These insights suggest that to understand responses to markets we need to incorporate the meanings that marketization takes on in our analyses.

Volume 48, Number 2, January 2016

Jens Rudbeck, Erica Mukherjee, and Kelly Nelson, When Autocratic Regimes Are Cheap and Play Dirty: The Transaction Costs of Repression in South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt

Why do autocratic regimes use paramilitary groups, death squads, vigilantes, gangs, and other types of irregular, non-state actors to suppress popular opposition movements? We argue that the use of this type of state repression is a way for political leaders to lower the transaction costs of repression. Contrary to the use of regular security forces, which may trigger a host of consequences ranging from international economic sanctions to strikes and boycotts, irregular non-state violence specialists constitute an alternative governance structure for repression that, potentially, is less costly to elites. To substantiate this argument, the article investigates the use of informal violence to suppress opposition movements in South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt. It demonstrates how repression was shaped by the transaction costs that political leaders were confronting.

Terrence Lyons, The Importance of Winning: Victorious Insurgent Groups and Authoritarian Politics

What is the relationship between how a war ends and the post-war political order? Civil wars that end in rebel victory follow distinct war-to-peace transitions compared to the more often analyzed cases of negotiated settlement and internationally supported peacebuilding. When one side wins, the victors shape the post-war political order, not the international community. In the cases of Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, the insurgents used the war-to-peace transition to transform their military institutions into authoritarian political parties and to consolidate power. It is not surprising that the winning military party becomes the post-war ruling party, but it is less obvious why victorious insurgents so often become powerful authoritarian parties. This paper argues that the legacies of protracted civil war and the imperatives of the war-to-peace transitions following victory provide the mechanism that links victory by insurgents to the creation of strong authoritarian parties and will illustrate the argument with the cases of Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.

Glen Biglaiser, Mandate and the Market: Policy Outcomes under the Left in Latin America

Over the past fifteen years, Latin America has seen a wave of leftist governments take office with some leaders increasing the state’s role in the economy, while others continue and even intensify market-oriented reforms. Building on the concept of mandates in the American politics literature, and supplemented by personal interviews conducted with Latin American policymakers and empirical work, I argue that whether leftist presidents implement policies away from the market depends on their margin of electoral victory combined with whether the president’s party holds a majority of seats in the legislature. As much American politics work shows, presidents that win elections by landslides are better able to claim a mandate. However, the capacity of presidents to convert massive victories into policy change also requires control of the legislature by the president’s party.

Katherine Bersch, The Merits of Problem-Solving over Powering: Governance Reforms in Brazil and Argentina

Scholars of governance reforms in developing countries often argue that the surest way to address corruption, cronyism, inefficiency, and red tape is swift, dramatic change enacted by political leaders during moments of upheaval (i.e., “powering” reforms). This research finds that a very different type of change is not only possible but also more effective and enduring. A comparison of attempts to increase accountability, transparency, and institutional strength in Brazil and Argentina demonstrates that incremental changes sequenced over time in response to failings in previous policy (i.e., “problem-solving” reforms) provide two crucial advantages over powering’s wholesale and rapid overhauls of the state: (1) continual adjustments and modifications benefit from learning; and (2) an incremental approach makes reform more durable and helps preserve bureaucratic autonomy.

Eric M. Uslaner and Bo Rothstein, The Historical Roots of Corruption: State Building, Economic Inequality, and Mass Education

We show a link between levels of mass education in 1870 and corruption levels in 2010 for seventy-eight countries that remains strong when controlling for change in the level of education, GDP/ capita, and democracy. A model for the causal mechanism between universal education and control of corruption is presented. Early introduction of universal education is linked to levels of economic equality and to efforts to increase state capacity. First, societies with more equal education gave citizens more opportunities and power for opposing corruption. Secondly, the need for increased state capacity was a strong motivation for the introduction of universal education in many countries. Strong states provided more education to their publics and such states were more common where economic disparities were initially smaller.

Jan H. Pierskalla, Splitting the Difference? The Politics of District Creation in Indonesia

What explains the patterns of local government proliferation in Indonesia? I argue that ethnic heterogeneity, paired with the political ability to lobby for boundary changes, explains territorial reform. Using data on Indonesian district splits from 2001 to 2012 and information at the district and sub-district levels, I provide evidence in support of these propositions. To further trace the logic of district splitting, the paper draws on census data, as well as information on local violent conflict, to show that newly created districts have higher levels of ethnic homogeneity and experience less political violence. These findings provide new and important insights to existing debates on optimal federalism and the emerging literature on the politics of administrative unit proliferation.

Fabrice Lehoucq, Review Essay, Does Nonviolence Work?

Chenoweth and Stephan’s award-winning book, Why Civil Resistance Works, boldly claims that political protest is more successful than armed conflict. This finding is novel in its design and innovative in its defense. This essay, however, suggests that civil disobedience fails just as often as violence in toppling authoritarian regimes. Moreover, my review of several important books on political protest, autocracy, and regime change concludes that the choices made by dictators shape whether the opposition remains peaceful or becomes violent. Deepening our understanding of democratization requires integrating the analysis of the nature and impact of political protest with the study of regimes, their dynamics, and how and when they split.

Volume 48, Number 1, October 2015

Mark Beissinger, Amaney A. Jamal, and Kevin Mazur, Explaining Divergent Revolutionary Coalitions: Regime Strategies and the Structuring of Participation in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions

This study seeks to explain why the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions mobilized different constituencies. Using original survey data, we establish that while participants in both revolutions prioritized economic concerns and corruption over civil and political freedoms, Tunisian revolutionaries were significantly younger and more diverse in class composition than the predominantly middle-aged and middle-class participants in the Egyptian Revolution. Tunisian revolutionaries were also less likely to be members of civil society associations and more likely to rely on the internet as their source of information during the revolution. We explain these differences by reference to disparate incumbent regime strategies for coping with similar structural pressures for state contraction and political reform, which created different patterns of societal grievance and opposition mobilizing structures in their wake.

Isabela Mares and Boliang Zhu, The Production of Electoral Intimidation: Economic and Political Incentives

This article presents an account of the conditions under which politicians engage in the production of electoral intimidation, by enlisting support from state employees and private actors. We characterize the political and economic factors that influence the cost-benefit calculations of these actors and their decisions to engage in the systematic harassment of voters. Empirically, our article examines the political and economic determinants of electoral irregularities in German elections during the period between 1870 and 1912. The most salient economic variable that affects the decision of private actors to engage in the electoral intimidation of voters is the occupational heterogeneity of a district. Other economic conditions in a district have no systematic effect on the incidence of electoral intimidation. We also find that political factors such as the level of electoral competition, strength of the political opposition, and the fragmentation among right parties affect the incidence of electoral irregularities.

Olukunle P. Owolabi, Literacy and Democracy despite Slavery: Forced Settlement and Postcolonial Outcomes in the Developing World

This article explores the developmental consequences of forced settlement colonization, based on the large-scale import of African slaves and/or Asian indentured laborers into newly settled territories. Paradoxically, forced settlement resulted in superior levels of educational attainment and postcolonial democracy than European domination over indigenous populations (i.e., colonial occupation) among countries and territories decolonized after 1945. This relationship is robust to statistical controls for British rule, European settlement, socio-economic development, ethnicity, religious composition, and geography. Investigating the role of Protestant missionaries and colonial legal institutions as possible causal mechanisms linking forced settlement to surprisingly favorable developmental outcomes, I find that directly ruled colonies that universalized metropolitan legal rights prior to World War II have performed better than colonies that maintained distinct “native codes” for indigenous populations.

Catherine Boone and Lydia Nyeme, Land Institutions and Political Ethnicity in Africa: Evidence from Tanzania

Existing work on land politics in Africa suggests that governments, by creating and upholding neocustomary land tenure regimes, create powerful incentives for individuals to embrace state-recognized ethnic identities. This article strengthens the argument about the institutional determinants of ethnicity’s high political salience through the use of contrasting evidence from Tanzania. In Tanzania, non-neocustomary land tenure institutions prevail, and the political salience of ethnic identity is low. Even in a hard-test region of high in-migration and high competition for farmland, the political salience of ethnic identity in land politics is low. The findings suggest that political science needs to take seriously the role of state institutions in producing politically-salient ethnic identities in Africa.

Alexander G. Kuo, Explaining Historical Employer Coordination: Evidence from Germany

What explains historical cross-national variation in the degree of employer coordination and related industrial institutions within advanced industrialized states? Explaining such variation is important because such outcomes are related to contemporary patterns in social policy and inequality. Recent literature emphasizes the historical importance of electoral systems for the development of such firm coordination. I present an alternative conceptualization of the outcome and a theory; existing theories cannot explain the important role of early coordinated institutions of repression among firms. I argue that the redistributive threat posed by workers explains the emergence of collective repression and that extreme threats induced collective collaboration with workers. Detailed historical evidence from the early twentieth century and the inter-war period in Germany is used to support the theory.

Riitta-Ilona Koivumaeki, Evading the Constraints of Globalization: Oil and Gas Nationalization in Venezuela and Bolivia

Economic nationalism has returned to Latin America. This article examines what has allowed leaders to advance their nationalistic agendas and expropriate foreign investment, despite the institutional safeguards that investors have established. Case studies of Venezuelan and Bolivian hydrocarbon nationalization show that the deterrent power of the investment regime of the 1990s, institutionalized in bilateral investment treaties, is weakest precisely when it is most needed by investors. When a commodity boom increases profits in the sector, the host government is motivated to expropriate multinationals. Ironically, the price increase also enables governments to bear the treaties’ costs by accepting international arbitration and paying any resulting compensation. Using data from 130 in-depth interviews conducted in Venezuela and Bolivia, this article demonstrates the limits of the constraints of globalization.

Yonatan Morse, From Single-Party to Electoral Authoritarian Regimes: The Institutional Origins of Competitiveness in Post-Cold War Africa

Scholarship on authoritarianism has become concerned with variation in electoral authoritarian
outcomes, observed in terms of the competitiveness of elections. Simultaneously, there has been a growing focus on the role of authoritarian institutions, and especially political parties, in explaining authoritarian survival. This article links these two perspectives by focusing on the subset of formerly single-party regimes in Africa that transitioned to electoral authoritarianism. The article highlights differences in party institutionalization and patterns of social incorporation as key aspects that help explain the competitiveness of elections. Through typological theorizing, ten countries are compared along measures of party capacity, economic performance, opposition strength, and external actor pressure. The study aims to highlight variation in institutional development in African cases and to illuminate the underpinnings of electoral authoritarian regimes.

Volume 47, Number 4, July 2015

Bonnie M. Meguid, "Multi-Level Elections and Party Fortunes: The Electoral Impact of Decentralization in Western Europe"

Despite extensive research on decentralization, little is known about the electoral effects of these reforms on the governing parties that implement them and the ethnoterritorial parties that demand them. In contrast to much previous work, this article posits that decentralization is a strategy to bolster a governing party’s national vote, by appeasing voters of threatening regionalist parties. Statistical analyses of election results across subnational regions of Western European countries from 1970 to 2006 confirm this theory’s implications: governing parties gain and ethnoterritorial parties lose support in national elections after significant decentralization. Token decentralization fails to satisfy voters and leads to governing party vote loss in national elections. I also find that ethnoterritorial parties, but not governing parties, benefit electorally in subnational elections following extensive decentralization.

Patrick Emmenegger, "Maximizing Institutional Control: Union Power and Dismissal Protection in Western Europe in the First Half of the Twentieth Century"

During the first half of the 20th century, some of the strongest union movements failed to provide much protection against dismissal. This contrasts with countries with comparatively weak union movements, where workers benefitted from far-reaching statutory protection. This counterintuitive outcome can be explained by the unions’ interest in maximizing institutional control by regulating dismissal protection in collective agreements. Yet such pre-emptive regulation was only possible under unique circumstances: it required a strong trade union movement that could conclude collective agreements before the advent of employment contracts being regulated by statutory labor law. The regulation of dismissal protection by means of collective agreements had unintended consequences. As regulation progressed faster in statutory labor law, countries with weaker union movements soon obtained higher levels of dismissal protection.

Haifeng Huang, "Propaganda as Signaling"

Why do authoritarian governments engage in propaganda when citizens often know that their governments are propagandizing and therefore resist or ignore the messages? This article proposes that propaganda often is not used for indoctrination of pro-regime values and attitudes, as is traditionally understood, but rather to signal the government’s strength in maintaining social control and political order. Consistent with the theory, analysis of a unique dataset shows that Chinese college students with more exposure to state propaganda in the form of ideological and political education are not more satisfied with China’s government system, but are more likely to believe that the regime is strong in maintaining social control and less willing to participate in political dissent.

David T. Buckley, "Beyond the Secularism Trap: Religion, Political Institutions, and Democratic Commitments"

The often-tense relationship between religion and democracy can fuel a “secularism trap,” in which divisions among religious and secular actors threaten the viability of democracy itself. What explains why such divisions threaten in some cases, but not others? I argue that political institutions, in particular institutional ties between religion and state, account for this variation. One institutional type, which I term “benevolent secularism,” reduces the likelihood of the secularism trap even in least-likely cases. Institutions matter because they impact religious and secular elites in two distinct ways: shaping preferences within each bloc and promoting credible commitments to democracy between them. I trace the observable implications of this theory with evidence from two states that seemed likely candidates for the secularism trap: Ireland and Senegal.

Grigore Pop-Eleches and Graeme B. Robertson, "Information, Elections, and Political Change"

A growing literature in comparative politics focuses on the role of elections in authoritarian regimes. While most see elections as a tool of authoritarian control, some argue that they represent a vehicle for political liberalization. We demonstrate that authoritarian elections can be disruptive of authoritarian rule but that electoral disruption can lead to deliberalization as well as liberalization. We argue that this is because elections work as an information revelation mechanism, potentially throwing the ruling coalition into crisis, and resulting in either liberalization or authoritarian retrenchment. We test our theory using a new global dataset of liberalizations, deliberalizations, and elections and show that features of the information environment including media freedom, public opinion surveys, and international election observers shape the susceptibility of a country to political change by elections.

Christian Sorace, "The Communist Party’s Miracle? The Alchemy of Turning Post-Disaster Reconstruction into Great Leap Development"

The May 12th, 2008 Sichuan earthquake was a national trauma in China. The reconstruction provided the Party with an opportunity to display its care for the disaster victims and restore the Party’s shaken credibility and socialist legitimacy. Despite initial collective solidarity and firm control over the state apparatus, levers of the economy, and domestic media, the Party did not manage to secure broad public approval of its reconstruction effort in the earthquake zone. This article argues that the reasons for this failure can be traced to the Party’s political epistemology. The CCP’s general assumptions, governmental rationalities, policy calculations, implementation strategies, and legitimating discourses organized the reconstruction. It wanted to build a model of state power and benevolence, but it did not have the proper tools.