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.
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.
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
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.
Fabián A. Borges, Neoliberalism with a Human Face? Ideology and the Diffusion of Latin America’s Conditional Cash Transfers
This article challenges the view that Latin America’s “left turn” was not associated with the adoption of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs. It is shown that the left initially opposed CCTs, but changed its view after Brazil’s center-left President “Lula” da Silva reluctantly embraced and adapted the CCTs he inherited to emphasize poverty reduction over building human capital. Only once this new model of CCT was developed did the left elsewhere in the region support and adopt CCTs. Thus, ideology did influence the spread of CCTs. Ideology’s impact was, however, conditional on the type of CCT being considered, and the diffusion of CCTs was mediated through ideology. This is supported by research on left-party attitudes, the design of ten programs, and three country case studies.
Sandra Botero, Judges, Litigants, and the Politics of Rights Enforcement in Argentina
Under what conditions can courts produce political and social change? My claim is that courts can be most consequential when they act in concert with other actors to create political spaces for ongoing discussion and engagement with regard to rights. In explaining judicial impact, I focus on the novel and understudied oversight mechanisms—like follow-up committees and public hearings—that some assertive high courts deploy to monitor adherence to some of their rulings. The analysis is based on comparative case studies of two landmark socioeconomic rights cases handed down by the Argentine Supreme Court. I show that the deployment of oversight mechanisms can create institutional spaces where the court, elected leaders, and private and civil society actors converge to generate change, resulting in greater impact.
Michael Wahman and Catherine Boone, Captured Countryside? Stability and Change in Sub-National Support for African Incumbent Parties
We analyze geographic dimensions of African voting to suggest that the salience of previous explanations of vote choice, including clientelism, performance evaluation, and local strong-arming varies across different types of constituencies. Analysis of Government-to-Opposition Swing (GOS) voting in seven countries over time reveals that GOS varies not only across the urban-rural divide but also across different types of rural constituencies. While GOS is uncommon in rural parts of the president’s home region, we discover significant variation across other types of rural constituencies: GOS is most likely in densely-populated rural constituencies and less likely in sparsely-populated rural constituencies that are often among the poorest in the country. We infer that political and economic geography shapes prospects for autonomous vote choice, performance voting, and quality of democracy.
Catherine Lena Kelly, Party Proliferation and Trajectories of Opposition: Comparative Analysis from Senegal
Over thirty years after Africa’s “democratic experiments,” the number of registered political parties in many countries continues to multiply, and few such parties oppose incumbents throughout a presidency. These patterns challenge theories predicting that parties with poor electoral performance will disappear and that many remaining parties will rival those in government by staying outside of the president’s electoral coalitions. Analysis of original data from elite interviews and archival research in Senegal shows that on an uneven playing field, most party leaders are primarily concerned with negotiating patronage; few are regular vote-seekers and fewer consistently oppose the ruling party in elections. Party leaders rely on personal resources for party-building and rarely possess the endowments that facilitate consistent opposition: experience as state administrators and international private financing.
Natalie Wenzell Letsa and Martha Wilfahrt, Popular Support for Democracy in Autocratic Regimes: A Micro-Level Analysis of Preferences
Scholarly opinions diverge as to which citizens in autocratic regimes actually prefer democracy to the status quo. While some argue that citizens with higher levels of socioeconomic status are more likely to prefer democracy because they desire political equality, others argue that the poor should prefer democracy most because they will have more relative power to affect redistributive policies. Analyzing public opinion data for tens of thousands of respondents living in autocracies around the world, we show that all types of citizens in authoritarian countries—rich and poor alike—prefer democracy to autocratic rule. Drawing on two case studies, we also show that political and economic factors are more likely to mobilize different types of people to protest for democracy.
Frank C. Thames, The Electoral System and Women’s Legislative Underrepresentation in Post-Communist Ukraine
In comparison with the global average of democracies, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, remains well below average in terms of women’s legislative representation. This article attempts to explain Ukraine’s poor record by examining the impact of different electoral systems. Since the first post-Communist election in 1994, Ukraine has used three different electoral systems: majoritarian SMD, MMM, and closed-list PR. By examining the impact of these different systems on women’s representation, we can test for the effect of different institutions on representation while holding political culture constant. The empirical results find that PR systems consistently nominated and elected more women than did the SMD systems. In addition, there is little evidence of gender bias among voters against female candidates in either PR or SMD elections.
Sarah E. Parkinson and Sherry Zaks, Review Article, Militant and Rebel Organization(s)
An emerging trend in research on militant groups asks how structures, dynamics, and relationships within these organizations influence key wartime and postwar outcomes. While the analytical pivot toward organizations advances the field in essential ways, scholars still lack a unified conceptual approach to organization-centric analyses of militancy. This article distills four key dimensions for analysis from organizational sociology: roles, relations, behaviors, and goals. It then reviews four new works on militant organizations and outlines their place in this emergent research trajectory. These books, we argue, underscore how situating research at the organizational level sheds new light on political outcomes such as rebel resilience, social service provision, and deployment of violence. We then highlight two related and promising organizational research agendas for future studies.
Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz, Loyalty Premiums: Vote Prices and Political Support in a Dominant-Party Regime
While electoral clientelism is common, we know little about what determines vote prices, which often vary significantly within country-elections. Extant literature offers differing predictions of whether supporters of the incumbent or outsiders receive higher-value outlays. I expect past supporters of the incumbent charge higher prices, as their ability to threaten defection helps them extract “loyalty premiums.” Further, incumbent-allied brokers will seek to provide higher payments to followers, to maintain their own networks, while parties will be loath to make high-value payments to outsiders, which might only encourage opponents’ turnout. Analyzing original panel data from Uganda, I find that ruling-party affiliates’ reports of vote prices are significantly higher than others’, suggesting that electoral clientelist strategies reward loyalty, at least in non-competitive settings.
Eun Kyung Kim, Party Strategy in Multidimensional Competition in Africa: The Example of Zambia
Just as voters have ethnic identities, they also have economic interests. Government policies create winners and losers, favoring some economic groups or sectors and disfavoring others. And to the extent that economic interests divide populations into different blocs as ethnic identities do, politicians have options for building coalitions. Using the example of Zambia, I show that the recipes for successful coalition building have varied from election to election, and that shifting bases of partisan competition eventually brought about party turnover in power. With a demonstration of multidimensional party strategies, a clear contribution of the work lies in enhancing our ability to explain partisan change and alternation in power, despite a static ethnic map.
Caroline Beer, Making Abortion Laws in Mexico: Salience and Autonomy in the Policymaking Process
What explains the changing policymaking process for abortion law in Mexico over the past century? From the 1930s until the 1970s, abortion laws across the thirty-two federal entities in Mexico were nearly identical. Between 1979 and 1987, almost half of the states liberalized abortion laws, but very little attention was paid to the reforms. Abortion suddenly emerged as a central polarizing conflict in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential elections that ushered in multiparty democracy. This article provides a comparative analysis of criminal codes and abortion law through time and across the Mexican states. It builds on the theoretical insights of U.S. public policy research on federalism and Mexican research on policymaking to present a comparative framework for understanding policymaking in federal systems. The article argues that policy salience and policy autonomy are key variables for understanding different types of policymaking processes.
David A. Steinberg, Interest Group Pressures and Currency Crises: Argentina in Comparative Perspective
This article develops and tests a political-economy explanation for the most common type of financial crisis: a currency crisis. I argue that currency crises often reflect pressures from powerful interest groups to adopt unsustainable financial policies that generate short-term booms followed by painful currency crises. To test the theory, this article uses a multi-method research design that combines cross-national statistical analyses with a case study of Argentina that draws on extensive primary sources. The quantitative analyses demonstrate that currency crises are more likely in countries with organized labor movements and large industrial sectors, and that imprudent financial policies are an important channel through which interest groups contribute to currency crises. The case study shows that Argentine policymakers adopted crisis-prone policies in response to pressures from the country’s powerful industrialists and labor unions. These findings suggest that interest group pressures help explain why currency crises are so common.
Jody LaPorte, Foreign versus Domestic Bribery: Explaining Repression in Kleptocratic Regimes
This article investigates variation in the governing strategies of wealth-seeking autocrats. Why do some kleptocrats grant political opponents significant leeway to organize, while others enforce strict limits on such activities? Through detailed analysis of post-Soviet Georgia and Kazakhstan, I trace variation in the intensity of repression back to differences in the sources of rulers’ illegal wealth. I argue that where rulers’ wealth is accumulated from society, they are constrained in their treatment of wealthy opposition leaders. In contrast, rulers who can extract bribes from foreign companies based on natural resource wealth can pursue aggressive repression without jeopardizing their illicit profits. The findings underscore the importance of rulers’ motives and informal institutions in shaping non-democratic regime outcomes.
Lawrence P. Markowitz, Beyond Kompromat: Coercion, Corruption, and Deterred Defection in Uzbekistan
Kompromat, or compromising material used against political elites, is widely considered to be essential in shoring up authoritarian durability. While it is useful in preempting or penalizing individual challengers, however, kompromat is a highly targeted and selective tool that does little to deter widespread elite defection in authoritarian regimes in the middle of a crisis. Instead, where autocrats have previously contracted on violence—coopted security for their use in repression—ruler concessions concentrate rent seeking under the national executive, creating winner-take-all stakes that makes defection prohibitively risky. Through the example of Uzbekistan’s regime durability during the 2005 Andijan uprising, this article examines the effect of this political economy of coercion on deterring elite defection.
Nicholas Rush Smith, Review Article, The Rule of Rights: Comparative Lessons from Twenty Years of South African Democracy
Reviewing four books on South African politics, this article explains outsize scholarly interest in South Africa by referencing contradictions of its democratic transition—contradictions that provide generalizable insights on democratization, law, and rights. Broadly, the literature suggests that rights form the foundation of robust democracies by stabilizing political systems, reducing violence, and lessening inequality. By contrast, proliferating rights in South Africa have had contradictory effects and, unexpectedly, enable political disorder. Ordinary citizens use South Africa’s expansive rights guarantees to make claims for greater social justice. Yet, citizens also use contrasting meanings of rights to justify violence against others, particularly foreigners. To explain these contradictory usages of rights, the article advances a meaning-making approach to the study of rights.