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

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

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

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

Haifeng Huang, "Propaganda as Signaling"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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