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 46, Number 4, July 2014

Killian Clarke, "Unexpected Brokers of Mobilization: Contingency and Networks in the 2011 Egyptian Uprising"

Before 2011, Egyptian society was seen as weak and fragmented, capable only of mounting limited collective challenges to a powerful and repressive authoritarian state. The uprising of 2011 therefore came as a shock, raising profound questions about how such an ostensibly weak society could generate the kind of mobilization necessary to overwhelm the Egyptian regime’s feared security apparatus. In this article, I argue that this unexpected uprising was made possible by a sudden and ultimately contingent set of changes in the configuration of Egypt’s social structures. I show how the success of the revolution in neighboring Tunisia catalyzed a rapid shift in the perceptions and considerations of a set of strategically positioned actors, who began serving as brokers between three otherwise autonomous social sectors.

Nadya Hajj, "Institutional Formation in Transitional Settings"

How do formalized property rights develop in transitional settings where there is an absence of formal state structures? This paper hypothesizes that, in the presence of capital for investment, a non-state hegemon with long time horizons can intervene to formalize property rights. The hypothesis is tested using 191 surveys and interviews collected in Nahr al Bared (NBC) and Beddawi refugee camps in Lebanon. Results suggest that following an influx of remittances, Fatah formalized property rights through the creation of local camp committee offices that served as a third-party enforcement mechanism. Also, the results uncover an alternative political motivation for property right formalization. In transitional settings, formalized property rights serve critical state-building functions by uniting and galvanizing a community around a new political party.

Ryan E. Carlin, Gregory J. Love, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, "Trust Shaken: Earthquake Damage, State Capacity, and Interpersonal Trust in Comparative Perspective"

Social capital is vital to disaster recovery, so how do natural disasters affect a country’s social capital stockpile? The article addresses this question by focusing on interpersonal trust. We argue that the effects of natural disasters on interpersonal trust depend upon state capacity. States that manage to maintain law and order, deliver aid to disaster victims, and provide crucial services to those in need can minimize the negative implications of disaster experience on interpersonal trust. We assess this proposition using survey data collected following devastating earthquakes in El Salvador (2001), Haiti (2010), and Chile (2010). Results from our matching and regression analyses demonstrate that state capacity, indeed, has important consequences for levels of interpersonal trust in the wake of natural disasters.

Felipe Amin Filomeno, "Patterns of Rule-Making and Intellectual Property Regimes: Lessons from South American Soybean Agriculture"

Around 1980, states and corporations from core countries led by the U.S. government started to demand from other countries reforms that increased the scope and strength of private intellectual property rights. The resulting global upward ratchet of intellectual property protection has not developed uniformly across time and space. This study presents a theory of cross-national variation in intellectual property regimes based on a comparative-historical analysis of the making of intellectual property rules in South American soybean agriculture (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay). It concludes that a corporatist pattern of rule-making is conducive to a weak intellectual property regime (Argentina), whereas pluralism (Brazil) and state capture and abstention (Paraguay) are more conducive to strong intellectual property regimes.

William Hurst, Mingxing Liu, Yongdong Liu, and Ran Tao, "Reassessing Collective Petitioning in Rural China: Civic Engagement, Extra-State Violence, and Regional Variation"

Based on our analysis of a survey of 120 villages across six Chinese provinces, as well as more than one hundred in-depth interviews across these same regions, we found two distinct pathways to local political stability. A “virtuous path,” based on civic participation and engagement, in which autonomous or quasi-independent organizations play important roles in collective action and promoting good governance, appears robust. However, it is also clearly bounded by region, effective only in parts of Fujian province. A more sinister path, based on a parasitic and violent co-dependency of local states and crime syndicates—what we have termed insidious symbiosis—seems more widespread across other regions. This contrast carries broad implications for the study of China, subnational governance, and politics of contention more generally.

Ezequiel González Ocantos, "Persuade Them or Oust Them: Crafting Judicial Change and Transitional Justice in Argentina"

What explains sea changes in patterns of judicial behavior, such as those associated with the newwave of transitional justice in Latin America? Unlike theories that put emphasis on the causal force of politicians’ preferences vis-à-vis truth and justice, or strategic understandings of judicial behavior, this paper argues that deep institutional transformations must occur within judiciaries: cultures of legal interpretation and judicial personnel must change. I argue that in the case of transitional justice, human rights NGOs are the ones that manufacture these transformations via informal pedagogical interventions and personnel turnover strategies. The argument is illustrated with a case study of Argentina, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. The research design takes advantage of internal temporal and geographical variation in judicial outcomes.

Volume 46, Number 3, April 2014

Kate Baldwin, "When Politicians Cede Control of Resources: Land, Chiefs, and Coalition Building in Africa"

Why would politicians give up power over the allocation of resources to community leaders? This article examines why many African governments have ceded power over the allocation of land to unelected traditional leaders. In contrast to the existing literature, which suggests that traditional leaders’ power is a historical holdover that has not been eliminated due to weak state capacity, I argue that African political leaders often choose to cede power to traditional leaders as a means of mobilizing electoral support from non-coethnics. I find support for this argument using a new subnational dataset that includes approximately 180 regions in eighteen African countries. The cross-sectional analysis is complemented by case studies of the dynamics of the devolution of power to traditional chiefs.

Ryan Kennedy, "Fading Colours? A Synthetic Comparative Case Study of the Impact of 'Colour Revolutions'"

The “colour revolutions” sparked a wave of optimistic commentaries about democratization in semi-authoritarian states. Today, however, there is considerable debate over whether these “revolutions” produced real reform. We utilize a synthetic control method of comparative case studies to evaluate improvements following the “colour revolutions.” The results show divergent patterns. Serbia experienced the most thorough changes in effective democracy. Ukraine increased democratic freedoms, but failed to control corruption. Georgia marginally improved the control of corruption, but little else. Kyrgyzstan appears to have become worse overall. The synthetic comparisons suggest that these divergent outcomes are largely due to influences present well in advance of political upheaval. These findings illuminate the sources of cyclical political change in semi-authoritarian countries and the effect of domestic structural factors on democracy promotion.

Bonnie N. Field, "Minority Parliamentary Government and Multilevel Politics: Spain's System of Mutual Back Scratching"

This article analyzes how multilevel territorial politics impact the performance of minority parliamentary governments. It tests whether the governing status of a regional party at the regional level—whether it is governing, and, if so, in which type of cabinet—affects its level of support for a statewide party governing in minority at the national level. Using the Spanish case, it concludes that governing dynamics at the regional level affect regional parties’ behavior in the national parliament. Furthermore, a regional party’s support for the national government is, in part, dependent upon its own need for support to govern in its region. Both findings suggest that particular regional governing dynamics can assure or complicate a minority government’s ability to attain the parliamentary support necessary to govern.

Thamy Pogrebinschi and David Samuels, "The Impact of Participatory Democracy: Evidence from Brazil's National Public Policy Conferences"

Political theorists and empirical scholars have long assumed that democracy and participation are necessarily in tension. Partly for this reason, research on participatory democracy has focused on “mini-publics”—relatively small-scale and/or local practices. Through an exploration of Brazil’s National Public Policy Conferences, we provide the first evidence that participatory governance practices can directly shape important national public policy outcomes at the national level. Our findings call into question the longstanding critique that participatory practices are impractical on a large scale and thus unimportant to the overall functioning and quality of democracy. We find that participatory practices can deepen democratic regimes by opening the doors for greater and more direct civil society input into the substantive content of national governance.

Sarah Zukerman Daly, "The Dark Side of Power-Sharing: Middle Managers and Civil War Recurrence"

This article seeks to explain sub-national, spatial, and temporal variation in the return to violence following civil war termination in Colombia. In 1958, La Violencia ended in negotiated settlement, but peace was short-lived with violence recurring within several years. However, violence resumed in only 45% of the municipalities affected by prior conflict, while 55% consolidated peace. This article argues that power-sharing’s success at solving elite commitment problems undermined the accords between the commanders and mid-tier officers. As a result, betrayed and resentful officers faced incentives to rearm. Where these middle managers had built their units on local social infrastructures, they proved able to remobilize. Where the factions were non-local to their regions of operation, the organizations disintegrated, and peace was preserved.

David Ost, Review Essay, "Does Neoliberalism Marginalize Labor or Reincorporate It—And Is There a Difference?"

The books reviewed in this article focus on unions struggling to survive and on states seeking to install and stabilize a post-Fordist regime based on individual over collective incorporation of labor. Established unions deploy organizational, institutional, or cultural resources for protection but continue to lose ground. But this neoliberal regulatory regime, theorized by Deyo as an “augmented Washington Consensus,” is not just an attack, but also an effort to reincorporate labor without the collective rights of the past. Pushback against unions is accompanied by efforts to tie workers individually to the state. Yet, the use of political liberalism to promote economic liberalism can cause fights against the latter to take the form of political illiberalism. The books thus demonstrate that efforts to marginalize labor are highly consequential for both states and democracy.

Volume 46, Number 2, January 2014

Ramazan Kilinç, "International Pressure, Domestic Politics, and the Dynamics of Religious Freedom: Evidence from Turkey"

Why do state policies toward religious minorities—shaped by long-term historical institutions—change? Although explanations based on secularization, religion, ideology, rational choice, and international context have advanced our knowledge of the origins of freedoms for religious minorities, they have not sufficiently addressed the interaction between international pressure and domestic actors. In an effort to develop a synthetic theory of religious freedoms, this article argues that the implementation of international norms on religious freedoms depends on the availability of relatively stronger domestic actors who support the reforms due to either their material interests or normative commitments. This argument is demonstrated by an in-depth study of liberal reforms for Christian minorities in Turkey in the 2000s.

Mogens K. Justesen, "Better Safe than Sorry: How Property Rights and Veto Players Jointly Affect Economic Growth"

A growing literature argues that division of powers matter for economic growth by increasing the security of property rights. However, less effort has been devoted to examining the political and institutional conditions under which property rights have economic effects. This paper emphasizes that the economic effects of property rights depend on the division of powers between veto players, meaning that the interaction of veto players and property rights matters for economic growth. This argument is tested empirically on a panel of developing countries. The results show that the economic effects of property rights increase significantly as power sharing between veto players increases. This suggests that property rights matter mainly in the context of institutions dividing political powers between veto players.

Inge Amundsen, "Drowning in Oil: Angola's Institutions and the 'Resource Curse'"

Institutional factors are increasingly highlighted to explain the “resource curse” or, why some countries with rich natural resources have little long-term economic and political development. This paper makes the analytical distinction between institutions of extraction (institutions enabling and protecting rents extraction) and institutions of redistribution (institutions of power and revenue sharing). The paper uses Angola to illustrate that the former are protected and buttressed to enable rents-appropriation, whereas the latter are side-lined and impaired to prevent power and wealth redistribution. The strengths of the former and the weaknesses of the latter have led to monopolization, elite predation, and usurpation. Angola also strengthens the hypothesis that countries are cursed only when the oil boom appears before accountable and democratic state institutions are established and consolidated.

Ameya Balsekar, "Seeking Offense: Censorship as Strategy in Indian Party Politics"

India is often said to be going through an “age of intolerance” manifest in extensive demands for censorship in the wake of cultural offense. This study uses an analysis of a case of sub-national variation in the demand for and supply of censorship to suggest that, rather than merely being a manifestation of intolerance or extremism, “seeking offense” may also be used as a political strategy in ethnic politics. Moreover, this strategy may achieve a special potency in contexts in which the “offended” group can make a credible claim of being neglected by incumbents. The findings suggest that censorship in India may be a medium through which demands for equal treatment and substantive inclusion play out politically.

Nina S. Barzachka, "When Winning Seats is Not Everything: Tactical Seat-Loss during Democratization"

When do incumbent parties that expect to win elections under majoritarian electoral rules adopt more proportional electoral systems and forgo seat-maximization? Electoral system reforms from two different political contexts, late 19th-century Belgium and post-communist Bulgaria disrupt predictions that PR is adopted by parties facing electoral defeat or high uncertainty. I argue that dominant party status and the extra-institutional tactics of the opposition can cause incumbents to eschew seat-maximization. When a powerful ruling party is more concerned about the stability of the regime than about victory in the upcoming election, it can accept a tactical loss of legislative seats in exchange for gains in the arena of regime transition.

Antonis A. Ellinas and Iasonas Lamprianou, "Political Trust in extremis"

Political trust can have a major impact on democratic politics by affecting political participation, institutional effectiveness, and policy choices. Given the significance of political trust for the functioning of democracy, it is important to know how the way citizens relate with political actors and institutions changes in times of extraordinary shock. Using Greece as a case, this article shows that during times of major distress, the way schools and hospitals are run—the “social” performance of government—has an important effect on political trust. This effect is stronger during extraordinary circumstances than under normal conditions. The evidence suggests that international creditors must pay more systematic attention to the administrative effectiveness of social welfare institutions rather than focusing solely on economic performance.

Volume 46, Number 1, October 2013

Rafaela Dancygier, "The Left and Minority Representation: The Labour Party, Muslim Candidates, and Inclusion Tradeoffs"

As ethnic diversity increases across Europe, the Left faces a trade-off between incorporating new minorities and retaining support from settled, working-class voters. An examination of the Labour Party’s selection of Muslims, employing a dataset containing over 42,000 local election candidates in England, indicates that inclusion is less likely where core voters are most concerned about the representation of Muslims’ material and religious interests, in economically deprived areas with sizable Muslim populations. In these areas Muslim candidates underperform at the polls, and labor parties are less likely to choose Muslim candidates as a result. Selection thus varies based on the economic and cultural threats that Muslim representation poses to the Left’s core constituency. These findings contribute to understanding the forces that shape ethnic minority political incorporation across contexts.

Kerstin Hamann, Alison Johnston, and John Kelly, "Striking Concessions from Governments: The Success of General Strikes in Western Europe, 1980–2009"

Since the early 1980s, Western European labor unions in eleven of sixteen West European countries have mobilized protesters in a rising number of general strikes, opposing policy reforms by national governments. In over 40 percent of the cases, governments ceded concessions in response. The variation in government responses to general strikes can be explained by examining properties of governments, such as type of government and party family. Based on an original dataset using logistic regression, analysis of the outcomes of seventy-five general strikes indicates that concessions to unions are more likely when governments rule in coalition, and are led by center or Christian Democratic parties, compared to social democratic and conservative governments. A tentative explanation for this ?nding is based on shifting ideological alliances in multi-party systems.

Natasha Borges Sugiyama and Wendy Hunter, "Whither Clientelism? Good Governance and Brazil's Bolsa Família Program"

A clear development goal is to provide the poor with the benefits essential to human dignity without rendering them vulnerable to patronage politics. This is difficult to accomplish, especially in large federal countries where public policy requires cooperation between national and local authorities. Brazil’s Bolsa Família (Family Grant) confronts such a challenge. Have federal authorities managed to administer this complex and large-scale anti-poverty program while avoiding local “politics as usual?” The findings, based on survey data and focus group evidence from Northeast Brazil, a regional bastion of clientelism, suggest that municipal politicians do not use the Bolsa Familia for vote buying. The success of the Bolsa Familia in remaining insulated from clientelistic networks yields lessons that go well beyond Brazil.

Michael Buehler, "Subnational Islamization through Secular Parties: Comparing Shari'a Politics in Two Indonesian Provinces"

The Arab Spring has reinvigorated debate about the impact of Islamist groups on policy-making, particularly the adoption and implementation of Islamic law (shari’a), in democratizing, Muslim-majority countries. Most studies emphasize the causal primacy of Islamist parties in shari’a policymaking. Yet, determining policy agendas is almost never under the absolute control of one group. This is especially true for democratizing, Muslim-majority countries where decades of authoritarian rule have allowed secular elites to become deeply entrenched in state institutions. Field research in Indonesia shows that shari’a policymaking is politically mediated between secular elites and a broad range of Islamist forces situated both inside and outside the formal political arena.

Jaroslav Tir and Shane P. Singh, "Is It the Economy or Foreign Policy, Stupid? The Impact of Foreign Crises on Leader Support"

The public support literature maintains that leader popularity is driven by the state of the economy. Yet, according to the diversionary theory of war, foreign crisis participation may help an unpopular leader bolster his or her political fortunes through a rally-around-the-flag effect. Utilizing CSES Module II surveys covering twenty-six countries, 2001-2006, comparative investigation that links countries’ foreign crises participation with individual-level data on subsequent support for their leaders is useful. Multi-level analyses reveal that foreign crisis participation draws attention to foreign policy issues, increases support for the leader, and comes close to offsetting the negative impact of unemployment. While employed and unemployed individuals respond to crises nearly equally, the crises help the leader less among citizens concerned about foreign policy.

Review Article: Julie Hollar, "Human Rights Instruments and Impacts"

Human rights research has begun to shift from questions of why and under what conditions repression happens to analyzing and theorizing the impact of human rights instruments like treaties and trials. Recent works still use aggregated macro-level data and gloss over important struggles over the meaning and deployment of the concept of human rights. By questioning and taking apart both the concept of human rights and the presumed unity of the actors who struggle over them, scholars could begin to provide a more satisfying account of who gains and who loses through manipulation of human rights instruments, through what mechanisms, and how these processes and outcomes differ across time and place.

Volume 45, Number 4, July 2013

Aníbal Pérez-Liñán and Scott Mainwaring, "Regime Legacies and Levels of Democracy: Evidence from Latin America"

During the third wave of democratization, all Latin American countries except Cuba have had competitive political regimes, but the quality or level of democracy has varied significantly across countries and over time. One of the best predictors of this variance across countries and time is each country’s experience with competitive politics before 1978. Even controlling for a wide range of other explanations, countries with more democratic heritages before 1978 have higher levels of democracy in the contemporary period. This finding, in turn, raises another question: what accounts for the effects of past levels of democracy on the post-1978 period? A hybrid fixed-effects model shows that democratic trajectories are institutionalized through political parties and judicial institutions. Countries that had institutionalized parties under democracy and supreme court justices who served under democracy in the pre-1978 period have been more able to build high-level democracy in the contemporary period.

Kathleen Bruhn, "Electing Extremists? Party Primaries and Legislative Candidates in Mexico"

When parties adopt internal elections to choose candidates, power shifts from party leaders to party activists. Some authors suggest that this results in more ideologically extreme candidates and helps party outsiders. However, based on surveys of legislative candidates in Mexico’s 2006 national elections, two findings are evident. First, candidates chosen via internal elections were significantly more moderate and more likely to be party insiders than candidates chosen by party leaders. Second, organizational dynamics explain these outcomes. Because in Mexico legislative primary elections get little media attention, candidates rely on factional networks to mobilize support. Successful candidates appeal across factional divisions, resulting in winners who are more moderate, but not less connected to the party.

Matthew S. Winters and Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, "Lacking Information or Condoning Corruption? When Will Voters Support Corrupt Politicians?"

Why are citizens willing to cast ballots for corrupt politicians? On the one hand, voters may simply lack information about corruption. On the other hand, voters may knowingly overlook corruption when politicians otherwise perform well in office, delivering public goods to their constituents. Citizen responses to a nationwide survey in Brazil indicate that the vast majority of voters express a willingness to punish corrupt politicians, regardless of politician performance. High income voters form a partial exception to this overall rejection of corruption; they react less negatively to information about corruption and more strongly to information about competence than the general population. These findings imply that specific, credible, and accessible information will lead most voters to punish corrupt politicians at the polls.

Wouter Veenendaal, "Political Representation in Microstates: The Cases of St. Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, and Palau"

Recent research on political representation in new democracies indicates that the quality of representation in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe is substandard when compared to the older, Western democracies. There are, however, theoretical reasons to presume that microstates form an exception to this rule, especially in light of the natural closeness between citizens and politicians in these states. On the basis of an in-depth, qualitative analysis of the characteristics and quality of political representation in the microstates of St. Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, and Palau, this expectation is rejected. Instead, it is found that the small-scale political dimensions of microstates engender a political environment that is marked by personalistic politics and the pervasiveness of various forms of particularism.

Jae-jin Yang, "Parochial Welfare Politics and the Small Welfare State in South Korea"

Why is the Korean welfare state underdeveloped? From the institutionalist point of view, it is evident that existing institutions influence the policy preferences of key actors of welfare politics: organized labor and employers on the demand side and politicians on the supply side. Distributive demands of organized labor have been satisfied by affluent big business (or chaebol) through an implicit or explicit cross-class alliance with parochial enterprise unions, and the nation’s single-member-district electoral rules have induced politicians to sell geographically targeted benefits rather than promising social welfare for all beyond their district. As a result, despite the nation’s successful economic growth and democratization, neither the supply nor the demand side has been conducive to significant welfare state expansion in Korea.

Erin Hern, "Perspectives on the Power and Persistence of States in Africa and Beyond"

State legitimacy is a concept that is frequently invoked, rarely defined, and notoriously difficult to pin down. The four books under review represent three schools of thought that dominate the scholarship on the legitimacy of the African state. The first approach relies on universal standards of governance to assess state legitimacy. The second attributes legitimacy to culturally specific understandings of appropriate forms of power, and the third uses institutional coherence to evaluate the legitimacy of state rules. While each approach contains insightful and convincing pieces of scholarship, no one provides a satisfying account of legitimacy and the state. A more holistic approach to state legitimacy as a dynamic, interactive process is needed.
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