Richard Gunther, “Parties and Electoral Behavior in Southern Europe”
While the anchoring or encapsulation of the vote in social cleavages can serve as an important source of electoral stability in party systems, a simple determinist socioeconomic model is inadequate in explaining varying levels of interbloc volatility. An explanation of electoral volatility must also take into consideration the role played by political elites in crafting key political institutions that channel parties’ programmatic offerings and mobilize voters. Initial decisions by elites to establish mass-based cleavage parties, as compared with organizationally thin electoralist parties, help account for the extent to which parties impose significant institutional constraints on subsequent patterns of electoral behavior.
John R. Heilbrunn, “Oil and Water? Elite Politicians and Corruption in France”
In the Elf Aquitaine scandals the informality of French politics prevented control agencies from preventing corruption. A principal-agent approach and lessons drawn from political economy applications of network theory show how individuals nested informal groups in formal associations to conceal criminal activities and engage in corruption. In contrast to studies of corruption in developed countries, policy dysfunction is not explained as a failure of formal institutions. Rather, concentration on informal institutions applies methods commonly used to explain corruption in developing countries. The nested network enabled unscrupulous executives at Elf to enrich themselves and other officials in both Europe and Africa.
Michael Herb, “No Representation without Taxation? Rents, Development, and Democracy”
It is widely thought that oil and democracy do not mix. Rentier states need not tax their citizens, thus breaking a crucial link between citizens and their governments and dimming the prospects for democracy. The link between rentierism and democracy is examined using a cross-regional dataset. Particular attention is paid to the possibility that there are both positive and negative effects of rentierism on democracy. Consistent support is not found for the notion that there is a net negative effect of rentierism on the prospects that a country will be democratic. Instead, democracy scores in the surrounding region are strongly correlated with a country’s own democracy score.
Jonathan Fox and Shmuel Sandler, “Separation of Religion and State in the Twenty-First Century: Comparing the Middle East and Western Democracies”
The separation of religion and state in western democracies and the Middle East is examined using five measures from the Religion and State dataset: the official relationship between religion and the state, the comparative treatment of different religions, discrimination against minority religions, regulation of the majority religion, and religious legislation. The results show that, while all the these factors are more prevalent in the Middle East, all of them are also present in at least some western democracies. Also, all western democracies except for the U.S. have at least some of these five forms of government entanglement with religion. These results imply that the U.S. separation of religion and the state is the exception for liberal democracies rather than the rule and that religious democracy, including Islamic democracy, is possible.
Aseema Sinha, “Political Foundations of Market-Enhancing Federalism: Theoretical Lessons from India and China”
Decentralization’s welfare effects on economic reform are dependent upon crucial political conditions that are left unanalyzed in the conventional theories of fiscal and market-preserving federalism. This lacuna can be addressed only if decentralization is disaggregated along its different political and economic dimensions and the combined effect of the two dimensions is then reanalyzed. Certain political dimensions provide linkage mechanisms between regional and national politicians, making economic reform self-enforcing. Three such mechanisms — of authority, institutions, and personnel — are identified and used to compare India’s and China’s reform trajectories.
Review Article: Andrew Roberts, “The Quality of Democracy”
Many new democracies and perhaps even some older democracies do not appear to be functioning as democracies should. Politicians ignore public opinion, go back on their campaign promises, and are not held accountable at elections. The five books under review chart a new research program that addresses these issues. They attempt to measure the presence of responsiveness, mandates, and accountability and explain their causes. This new agenda might be termed the quality of democracy, and it constitutes the next step in research on democratization.