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 47, Number 2, January 2015

Tom Goodfellow, "Taming the 'Rogue' Sector: Studying State Effectiveness in Africa through Informal Transport Politics"

Despite widespread reference in international development discourses to the importance of “effective states,” the meaning of effectiveness is often unclear. This article presents a theoretical framework for analyzing state effectiveness and evaluates it through a comparative empirical study. Focusing on efforts to regulate and tax the lucrative informal urban transport sector, it maps out the landscape of institutions and political interests that underpinned remarkably effective outcomes in Rwanda and serial failure in Uganda in the decade 2000–2010. The article argues that the divergent outcomes are not so much a function of differing bureaucratic capacity as the interaction between factors such as the credibility of government policies, sources of legitimacy, and the role of “infrastructural power,” and how these are mediated through differences in political space.

Yen-Pin Su, "Anti-Government Protests in Democracies: A Test of Institutional Explanations"

This paper tests two institutional explanations for why some democratic countries have experienced more anti-government protests than others. The first explanation deals with certain political institutions as structural determinants that shape protest activities, and the second explanation considers opposition parties as agents of protest mobilization. Using a zero-inflated negative binomial regression applied to a global sample of 107 democratic countries from 1990 to 2004, the empirical analyses show that the second explanation works better. The results demonstrate that a larger opposition camp fosters more anti-government protests only if this opposition camp is more united. Moreover, the finding suggests that the mobilization capacity of opposition parties matters for anti-government protests in developing countries but not for those in developed countries.

Alexander Stroh and Charlotte Heyl, "Institutional Diffusion, Strategic Insurance, and the Creation of West African Constitutional Courts"

The creation of constitutional courts is a political affair because the judicial review of laws and competences potentially curbs the power of the elected branches. This paper seeks to explain the spread of constitutional courts and the extent of their formal independence. Our comparison of nine former French colonies in West Africa is built upon (a) the combination of the two competing theories of international diffusion and domestic strategic action—the political insurance model—and (b) a new, theoretically and arithmetically refined index of formal independence. The empirical analysis in this area of similar political context supports the argument that global trends and foreign reference models set a minimum standard and that interests in political insurance determine the deviations from institutional diffusion.

Carolyn M. Warner, Ramazan Kılınç, Christopher W. Hale, Adam B. Cohen, and Kathryn A. Johnson, "Religion and Public Goods Provision: Experimental and Interview Evidence from Catholicism and Islam in Europe"

Religions such as Catholicism and Islam are generators of substantial amounts of charitable donations and volunteer work, and they sustain themselves as organizations. How do they produce charitable public goods and their own religious club goods when they are open to extensive free-riding? We argue that mainstream religions facilitate club and public goods provision by using their community structures and theological belief systems to activate members’ prosocial tendencies. The study is based on experiments with over 800 Catholics and Muslims in Dublin and Istanbul and on semi-structured interviews with over 200 Catholics and Muslims in Dublin, Istanbul, Milan, and Paris. The article also demonstrates the methodological advantages of combining field experiments with case study-based interviews.

Christopher W. Hale, "Religious Institutions and Civic Engagement: A Test of Religion's Impact on Political Activism in Mexico"

How do religious institutions facilitate secular political activism? Existing literature suggests that mainstream religious organizations provide institutional resources and civic skills that facilitate collective action. However, the literature has generally overlooked the agency of individuals at the grassroots level who pay the costs associated with political activism. This study contends that lay political engagement is impacted by the extent to which the management of religious institutions is decentralized. I test my argument along with several theoretical alternatives using survey data collected from over 9,000 Mexican citizens by the National Survey of Political Culture and Citizen Practices (ENCUP). The results demonstrate that religious decentralization is positively associated with political activism in Mexico. Religious decentralization also interacts with the presence of progressive political theology to positively impact political activism.

Anna Persson and Bo Rothstein, "It's My Money: Why Big Government May Be Good Government"

This article explores why, quite contrary to what dominant theories of corruption predict, bigger governments tend to be less corrupt than smaller ones. The findings—derived from the combination of an in-depth interview study conducted in Uganda, a cross-country, quantitative analysis, and an illustrative case study of a prominent political scandal in Sweden—reveal the important role of taxation in explaining this puzzle. Where citizens pay few direct taxes, they are less likely to feel a sense of “ownership” of the state and are thus also less likely to punish corrupt behavior. In contrast, citizens that are more heavily taxed are likely to keep track of the use of “their” money and are thus also more likely to hold corrupt public officials accountable.

Volume 47, Number 1, October 2014

Neophytos Loizides and Iosif Kovras, “The Greek Debt Crisis and Southern Europe: Majoritarian Pitfalls?”

Although widely debated in broader socioeconomic terms, the Eurozone crisis has not received yet adequate scholarly attention with regard to the impact of alternative political systems. This article revisits the debate on majoritarian and consensus democracies drawing on recent evidence from the Eurozone debacle. Greece is particularly interesting both with regard to its potential “global spillover effects” and choice of a majoritarian political system. Despite facing comparable challenges as Portugal and Spain, the country has become polarized socially and politically, seeing a record number of MP defections, electoral volatility and the rise of the militant extreme right. The article points to the role of majoritarian institutions to explain why Greece entered the global financial crisis in the most vulnerable position while subsequently faced insurmountable political and institutional obstacles in its management.

Yuen Yuen Ang, “Authoritarian Restraints on Online Activism Revisited: Why 'I-Paid-A-Bribe' Worked in India but Failed in China”

Authoritarian states restrain online activism not only through repression and censorship, but also by indirectly weakening the ability of netizens to self-govern and constructively engage the state. I demonstrate this argument by comparing I-Paid-A-Bribe (IPAB)—a crowd-sourcing platform that collects anonymous reports of petty bribery—in India and China. Whereas IPAB originated and has thrived in India, a copycat effort in China fizzled out within months. Contrary to those who attribute China’s failed outcome only to repression, I find that even before authorities shut down IPAB, the sites were already plagued by internal organizational problems that were comparatively absent in India. The study tempers expectations about the revolutionary effects of new media in mobilizing contention and checking corruption in the absence of a strong civil society.

S. Erdem Aytaç and Ziya Öniş, “Varieties of Populism in a Changing Global Context: The Divergent Paths of Erdogan and Kirchnerismo”

While the literature on populism is rich on specifying the characteristics of populist movements that distinguishes them from non-populists, much less attention has been paid on distinguishing between different types of populist movements. In this article we highlight and account for divergent trajectories of populist practice in two major emerging economies—Argentina and Turkey. We stress that both the Kirchner governments of Argentina and the Erdoğan governments of Turkey closely fit to the populist pattern of rule, yet a close analysis of their policies suggests a left-wing type of populism in Argentina and a right-wing type in Turkey. Beyond identifying divergent strands of populism in two national contexts, we also explain the mix of domestic and external factors that accounts for this contrasting pattern.

Chappell Lawson and Kenneth F. Greene, “Making Clientelism Work: How Norms of Reciprocity Increase Voter Compliance”

Recent research on clientelism focuses on mercenary exchanges between voters and brokers. In this “instrumentalist” view, machine politics is only sustainable where patrons can punish clients for defection—a situation that does not apply in many places known for clientelism. We build a different theory of clientelism around the norm of reciprocity. If exchanges rely on clients’ feelings of obligation to return favors to their patrons, then clientelism can be sustained even where the ballot is genuinely secret. To support this argument, we draw on a range of research, including a series of split-sample experiments embedded in two surveys on Mexico specifically focused on reciprocity. Our findings have implications for voting behavior, party organization, and the types of public policies that may prevent clientelism.

Paula Muñoz, “An Informational Theory of Campaign Clientelism: The Case of Peru”

While electoral clientelism has been studied from very different theoretical perspectives and angles, scholars typically emphasize the importance of organized networks and long-term relations for sustaining it. However, electoral clientelism continues to be widespread in many countries despite the absence of organized parties or electoral machines. In order to solve this puzzle, I propose an informational approach that stresses the indirect effects on electoral outcomes that early investments in electoral clientelism have. I argue that clientelism during campaigns is crucial for signaling candidates’ electoral viability. Politicians buy the participation of poor voters at campaign events. By turning out large numbers of people at rallies, candidates establish and demonstrate their electoral prospects to the media, donors, activists, and voters. Evidence from Peru supports these expectations.

Paul Staniland, Review Essay, “Violence and Democracy”

Elections are standard practice in most of the world. Yet the rise of elections has not banished violent conflict; instead, they often co-exist. This review essay evaluates three recent books on electoral violence, and puts them in dialogue with previous research. It makes two arguments. First, electoral violence has been poorly conceptualized, undermining theoretical and empirical progress. The article provides a new typology of the varieties of electoral violence to guide future work. Second, an exciting new research frontier is explaining the consequences of electoral violence. From state building to patronage politics, electoral violence deserves a more central place in the study of the politics. Improving our understanding of electoral violence is crucial because the central challenge of contemporary democratization is transforming formal electoral processes into meaningful political participation free of the shadow of the gun.

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.
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