Volume 44, Number 3, April 2012

Allyson Lucinda Benton, "Bottom-Up Challenges to National Democracy: Mexico's (Legal) Subnational Authoritarian Enclaves"

How have Mexico’s community-based democratic institutions, known as Usos y Costumbres (UyC) or Uses and Customs systems, affected local and national politics? Although informal UyC practices exist throughout Mexico, the state of Oaxaca formally changed its electoral codes in 1995 to legalize UyC. Statistical analysis of national election results shows that Oaxacan municipalities that formally adopted UyC systems thereafter experienced higher first-place party margins and higher levels of abstention compared to non-UyC systems. That these systems helped local leaders engineer election outcomes while reducing participation, even in national elections, undermines arguments about their democratic benefits. UyC rules appear to help preserve local authoritarian enclaves, with negative consequences for national democracy.

Peter Thisted Dinesen, "Parental Transmission of Trust or Perceptions of Institutional Fairness? Generalized Trust of Non-Western Immigrants in a High-Trust Society"

Looking at young immigrants from low-trust, non-Western countries in the high-trust society of Denmark, two perspectives on how generalized trust is formed can be examined. The first is a cultural perspective emphasizing that trust is a stable cultural trait passed on from one generation to the next through parental socialization. The second is an experiential perspective emphasizing the role of perceptions of fairness of state institutions concerning equal treatment of immigrants and natives. Building on a new Danish survey, results show that both parental transmission of trust as well as perceptions of institutional fairness matter for the level of trust of young immigrants, but the impact of the latter is considerably stronger. Additional analyses show that these perceptions are mainly formed by concrete experiences of fairness of teachers in school.

Evgeny Finkel, "The Authoritarian Advantage of Horizontal Accountability: Ombudsmen in Poland and Russia"

In recent decades, the number of national level ombudsmen has more than quintupled. The institution now exists in about 120 states, many of which are new democracies, hybrid regimes, or states undergoing regime transition. Some ombudsmen are powerful and influential; others are weak and marginalized. This variation can be explained by three factors: (1) the type of regime under which the institution was created; (2) whether the ombudsman challenges the government; and (3) the ombudsman’s ability to build coalitions with other actors. Though counterintuitive, more powerful ombudsmen are those created before the transition to democracy. The implication of this argument is that the creation of ombudsmen should precede rather than follow the formal transition to democracy.

Amos J. Zehavi, "Veto Players, Path Dependency, and Reform of Public Aid Policy to Private Schools: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States"

Two main weaknesses of the new institutionalism literature, one associated with veto player theories and the other with path dependency theories, help account for the framework’s inadequacy in theorizing change, especially radical change. A comparison of the divergent development of public aid to private schools in three countries—Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—demonstrates the importance of two factors that potentially mitigate the status quo—preserving effect of veto points and path dependency: the multifaceted nature of veto points and the political clout of status quo challengers. Even in what initially appear to be highly constrained institutional systems, significant reform can occur, at either a rapid or slow pace.

Eitan Y. Alimi and Sivan Hirsch-Hoefler, "Structure of Political Opportunities and Threats, and Movement-Countermovement Interaction in Segmented Composite Regimes"

How do changes in the structure of political opportunities and threats shape movement- countermovement interaction in composite regimes where different groups within the population are divided along ethnonational lines? In cases where one movement is structurally disadvantaged and the other is structurally advantaged, valuable theoretical insights into movement-countermovement interaction can be generated. Employing the case of the Palestinian and Jewish settler movements during the 1987—1992 Intifada, three theoretical propositions are critically examined as they relate to how changes in the structure of political opportunities and threats influence the emergence and endurance of movement-countermovement interaction, the strategy and tactics of both movements, and the internal dynamics within each.

Review Article: David Art, "What Do We Know About Authoritarianism After Ten Years?"

The study of authoritarian regimes has become one of the hottest subfields in comparative politics over the last decade. The books covered in this review take up the critical questions of how authoritarian regimes are created and maintained. While this research program has profitably opened up the black box of authoritarian polities and taken their institutions seriously, there has been an asymmetric attention to the quasi-democratic features of these regimes—such as political parties and legislatures—at the expense of their coercive ones. Future work in this area would do well to address this imbalance, as well as to provide richer explanations of how institutions matter and better evidence of their effects.

Volume 44, Number 2, January 2012

Eva Bellin, "Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring"

The events of the Arab Spring have suggested the necessity of rethinking the logic of authoritarian persistence in the Arab world. However, the internal variation in regime collapse and survival observed in the region confirms earlier analyses that the comportment of the coercive apparatus, especially its varying will to repress, is pivotal to determining the durability of the authoritarian regimes. At the same time, the trajectory of the Arab Spring highlights an empirical novelty for the Arab world, namely, the manifestation of huge, cross-class, popular protest in the name of political change, as well as a new factor that abetted the materialization of this phenomenon—the spread of social media. The latter will no doubt be a game changer for the longevity of authoritarian regimes worldwide from now on.

Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo, "Coercive Capacity and the Prospects for Democratization"

How does the strength of a state’s coercive apparatus under autocracy affect the likelihood of democratic transition? While a broad range of literature posits a negative link between repression and democracy, empirical models of the determinants of democratization rarely include measures that capture this relationship. An original panel dataset with a global scope from 1950?2002 enables an empirical assessment of whether coercive capacity is negatively associated with democracy. The dataset demonstrates that increased coercive capacity under autocracy has a strong, robust negative impact on both a country’s level of democracy as well as the likelihood of democratization. The analysis suggests that empirical studies of democratization should include measures of repression to account for the widely assumed link between coercive capacity and autocracy.

Michael D. Driessen, "Public Religion, Democracy, and Islam: Examining the Moderation Thesis in Algeria"

Much of the scholarly debate over Islam and democracy has centered on what has been referred to as the “inclusion-moderation hypothesis,” and whether democratic institutions are capable of incorporating hostile religious actors. To build on this debate, the concept of inclusion and the expectations about its political effects should be broadened to include the interaction between religion-state relationships and democratization processes in predominantly Muslim societies. Inviting ambivalently democratic religious actors into the public democratic space produces dynamics of both political moderation and religious change. The mechanisms of this theoretical model can be evaluated by tracing the evolution of two Islamist political parties in Algeria, the MSP-Hamas and Ennahda-Islah.

Lynette H. Ong, "Between Developmental and Clientelist States: Local State-Business Relationship in China"

The changing nature of state-business relations in China can be analyzed in light of recent privatization experiences. Drawing on an analytical framework based on statist literature, the pervasive governance problems occurring during the privatization of local government-owned firms can be explained by two contributing factors. These are the state’s declining capacity to regulate the market and its reduced autonomy from emerging elites. Consequently, local states were transformed from those in which there was “embedded autonomy” to those with a “clientelistic” form. Thus, the conventional wisdom that local states have played a positive role in China’s economic development is subject to question. A more nuanced understanding of cronyism helps explain the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and capitalists.

Anoop Sadanandan, "Patronage and Decentralization: The Politics of Poverty in India"

Decentralization advances patronage politics in distinct ways. First, in decentralized states both central and local politicians distribute patronage to enhance their political support. Second, local elections reveal information to central leaders about the geographic distribution of electorally salient voters. Central leaders can use this information to target particularistic benefits to these voters. Third, elected local politicians have individual strategies to distribute patronage, in spite of or in addition to the clientelistic strategies of the political parties they represent. Evidence from India indicates that decentralization has contributed to more extensive distribution of patronage in decentralized states. Data from Indian states and villages illustrates the incentives at the state and local levels that shape the distribution of patronage.

Review Article: Mai'a K. Davis Cross, "Identity Politics and European Integration"

Many theories attempt to explain European Union (EU) integration—the gradual and voluntary transfer of national sovereignty to the supranational level of governance—but few studies have addressed this phenomenon from a grassroots perspective. The books under review shed light on the human dimension of EU integration, utilizing sociological and ethnographic approaches. In particular, these recent studies show how sociological approaches to political science can breathe life into a debate that is oftentimes too academic and theoretically inconclusive. They address a number of questions about the future of Europe, including the extent to which EU citizens identify with Europe and the legitimacy of EU integration in the eyes of European citizens.

Volume 44, Number 1, October 2011

Michael Bernhard and Ekrem Karakoç, "Moving West or Going South? Economic Transformation and Institutionalization in Postcommunist Party Systems"

Patterns of party system institutionalization have varied widely across regions. In postcommunist democracies, weak party system institutionalization exists at high levels along three dimensions—volatility of representation, party extinction, and incumbency disadvantage—despite sustained economic growth. In these cases, the effects of economic restructuring are critical to electoral outcomes. A sample of democratic elections from 1990 to 2006 shows that postcommunist countries whose reform strategies minimize increases in inequality have more institutionalized party systems.

Nicholas C. Wheeler, "The Noble Enterprise of State Building: Reconsidering the Rise and Fall of the Modern State in Prussia and Poland"

Analysis of the state-building process in modern Europe rests upon the traditional assumption that monarchs were the central driving force behind the consolidation of power in the form of a centralized state. However, an alternative state-society account challenges the supposition that monarchs were always the centralizing group in early modern society. The formation of the modern European state was ultimately shaped by the state-building strategies adopted by societal elites who possessed certain forms of social power. This alternative understanding of the state-building process helps explain the puzzling developments surrounding the successful rise of Brandenburg-Prussia and the collapse of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the early modern period.

Sangmin Bae, "International Norms, Domestic Politics, and the Death Penalty: Comparing Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan"

Why do countries with similar cultures and political institutions respond differently to international norms? The varied responses among East Asian democracies to the growing international movement to abolish the death penalty show that Japan has been the most resistant, while Taiwan and South Korea have moved closer to embracing the international human rights norm. The movement in these latter countries toward a moratorium on capital punishment has little to do with public opinion, which generally favors retaining the death penalty. Rather, it reflects specific domestic political contexts, especially the power and autonomy of the executive and the experience of a drastic regime change, that open the way for rethinking human rights norms.

Ravi Bhavnani, Dan Miodownik, and Hyun Jin Choi, "Violence and Control in Civil Conflict: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza"

What explains the use of selective and indiscriminate violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza from 1987 to 2005? Using microlevel data, an aggregated analysis indicates that areas of dominant but incomplete territorial control consistently experience more frequent and intense episodes of selective violence, providing support for Stathis Kalyvas’s theory on the logic of civil violence. Disaggregating the analysis by each zone of control and perpetrator, however, offers only mixed empirical support for Kalyvas’s predictions. While Palestinian-perpetrated violence is still consistent with theoretical expectations, Israel more frequently resorts to the use of selective violence where Palestinians exercise greater control. Such disconfirming evidence points to causal mechanisms previously unaccounted for and contributes to a more nuanced specification of the microfoundations of violence in civil conflict.

Maureen M. Donaghy, "Do Participatory Governance Institutions Matter? Municipal Councils and Social Housing Programs in Brazil"

Scholars often recommend the implementation of participatory governance institutions to promote pro-poor policy outcomes. Incorporating civil society organizations into decision making should lead to increasing government responsiveness and accountability in addressing key social problems. Few scholars, however, have systematically tested this proposition across contexts. An assessment of the impact of municipal housing councils on the adoption of social housing programs in Brazil indicates that housing councils are associated with an increase in social housing program adoption across municipalities, regardless of whether a strong civil society is in place. This suggests that the act of incorporation into decision making is more important than the strength of civil society for producing pro-poor policy outcomes.

Review Article: Kevin M. Morrison, "When Public Goods Go Bad: The Implications of the End of the Washington Consensus for the Study of Economic Reform"

A principal approach to theorizing about economic reform in developing countries has been to assume that market-oriented policies have the properties of public goods, in that their benefits are widespread and their costs concentrated. This article reviews several books, one of them from the World Bank, that suggest that skepticism about these policies has entered the mainstream, calling into question this benchmark approach to reform. In the context of ongoing debate over which policies are best for developing countries, the review offers a framework for future study of reform, arguing that while past work has yielded important insights on how societal divisions and institutional characteristics affect reform, these insights now need to be combined with scholarship on how governments learn and form preferences about policies.

Volume 43, Number 4, July 2011

Grigore Pop-Eleches and Joshua A. Tucker, "Communism's Shadow: Postcommunist Legacies, Values, and Behavior"

Twenty years after the collapse of communism, a rough consensus in the literature on postcommunist politics is that the past matters. Many questions remain, however, about exactly how, when, and why the past matters, especially in terms of political values and behavior. An original theoretical framework facilitates the consideration of the effect of communist-era legacies on postcommunist political values and behavior. The framework includes a set of mechanisms by which these effects can be transmitted and a set of particular values and behaviors whose legacy effects may be particularly important. Illustrating its utility, the framework is applied to an examination of the issue of trust in political parties.

Edmund Malesky, Regina Abrami, and Yu Zheng, "Institutions and Inequality in Single-Party Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of Vietnam and China"

Despite the fact that China and Vietnam have been the world’s two fastest growing economies over the past two decades, their income inequality patterns are very different. An examination of the political institutions in the two countries shows that profound differences between these polities influence distributional choices. In particular, as compared to China, elite institutions in Vietnam encourage the construction of broader policymaking coalitions, have more competitive selection processes, and place more constraints on executive decision making. As a result, stronger political motivations exist for Vietnamese leaders to provide equalizing transfers that limit inequality growth among provinces than for Chinese leaders.

Elliott Green, "Patronage as Institutional Choice: Evidence from Rwanda and Uganda"

An increasingly large literature on patronage has developed within political science in recent years. Yet this body of scholarship has thus far failed to explain variation in patronage allocation across countries. An original theory based on the logic of institutional choice, whereby political leaders allocate patronage in accordance with the varying political threats they face, explains this variation. Two variables—geography and visibility—capture this variation and thus explain patronage allocation. The theory is tested and validated through a comparative analysis of Rwanda and Uganda, whose current regimes are remarkably similar in origin and structure. The analysis extends to previous regimes in both countries.

Christopher R. Day, "The Fates of Rebels: Insurgencies in Uganda"

What explains the range of nonvictorious outcomes experienced by rebel groups in civil wars? Varying combinations of two structural factors produce different types of rebel groups, whose organizational configurations predict their outcomes. These factors are the external resources provided by cross-border support networks found within regional state systems, and the status reversal grievances produced by the politics of fragmented authority in weak states. Insurgent types are then associated with a given level politico-military effectiveness and a corresponding fate. Eight Ugandan insurgencies illustrate variation in outcomes across groups within a context of contentious domestic and regional politics that controls for the state, regime, and time period.

Manuel Balán, "Competition by Denunciation: The Political Dynamics of Corruption Scandals in Argentina and Chile"

Corruption has become a key concern throughout the world. Most of what is known about corruption comes from instances in which misdeeds become public, generating a scandal. Why do some acts of corruption become scandals and others do not? Corruption scandals are not triggered by corruption, but rather are initially caused by dynamics of political competition within government. Insiders leak information on misdeeds in order to gain power within the coalition or party in power. A powerful opposition, contrary to common belief, acts as a constraint for insiders, making corruption scandals less likely. These arguments are evaluated using empirical evidence from Argentina and Chile (1989–2008). The findings support the notion that corruption scandals emerge as a consequence of political competition.

Review Article: William R. Nylen, "Participatory Institutions in Latin America: The Next Generation of Scholarship"

Assessing four recent books on participatory budgeting and other participatory innovations in Latin America, this review article identifies these works as illustrative of a “second generation” of scholarship on what the author calls the “Participatory Promise.” Following upon the first generation of mostly single case studies of mostly successful cases, this second generation of scholarship tends to draw on a wealth of data from multiple comparable cases, both successful and unsuccessful. The end result is a clear social scientific advancement in understanding these real-world political phenomena that have demanded the attention of analysts and practitioners of contemporary democracy in Latin America for the last two decades.

Volume 43, Number 3, April 2011

Richard Traunmüller and Markus Freitag, "State Support of Religion: Making or Breaking Faith-Based Social Capital"

Two views on the impact of church-state relations on civil society draw competing conclusions. According to the first view, state support of religion encourages faith-based social capital by providing vital resources for religious organizations. In contrast, the competing view holds that state support of religion crowds out religious civic engagement, as responsibilities are transferred from citizens to the state. Based on a sample of twenty-four European countries and combining a wide range of church-state indicators with survey data, it is evident that state support of religion does not foster faith-based social capital. Rather, overwhelming evidence shows that government involvement in religion weakens religious membership, volunteering, and donations.

Amy C. Alexander and Christian Welzel, "Measuring Effective Democracy: The Human Empowerment Approach"

The core idea inspiring democracy is to empower people. To measure democracy in ways that capture its empowering nature, one must focus on popular rights and take into account rule of law as a state quality that makes these rights effective. Based on this premise, an index of “effective democracy,” tested for 150 states, best represents the empowering nature of democracy because it most clearly captures democracy’s embedding in empowering conditions in the wider society. Effective democracy is shown to be most firmly embedded in (a) empowering socioeconomic conditions that make people capable of practicing democracy and (b) empowering sociocultural conditions that make them willing to do so. People empowerment appears to be a unity of empowering societal conditions and empowering regime characteristics.

Kent Eaton, "Conservative Autonomy Movements: Territorial Dimensions of Ideological Conflict in Bolivia and Ecuador"

Three related arguments can be made about the autonomy drives that have gathered strength in the last decade in the most economically vibrant subnational regions in Bolivia and Ecuador. First, based on analysis of the actions and actors associated with each, these phenomena are classifiable as “conservative autonomy movements.” Second, the disjuncture between the concentration of political power in national capitals and economic power in vibrant subnational regions explains why these movements emerged in Bolivia and Ecuador but not elsewhere in Latin America and why they have emerged now and not earlier in each country. Third, the mobilizing structures that these twin movements draw on, as well as the framing choices that each has made, account for the greater strength of the autonomy movement in Bolivia.

Eduardo Dargent, "Agents or Actors? Assessing the Autonomy of Economic Technocrats in Colombia and Peru"

The current theoretical debate about the heightened role of Latin American technocrats centers on their autonomy from other sociopolitical actors, especially their political superiors, international financial institutions, and business interests. Assessment of the independence técnicos wield, based on an in-depth analysis of the work of economic experts in Colombia and Peru, shows that a “technocratic autonomy” perspective best accounts for the activity of experts in these countries. Two crucial factors explain this autonomy: (1) technocrats’ use of expertise to enhance and maintain their influence; and (2) the mutual balance among powerful stakeholders, who prefer technocratic independence to control of economic policy by a competing actor.

Ching-Ping Tang, Shui-Yan Tang, and Chung-Yuan Chin, "Inclusion, Identity, and Environmental Justice in New Democracies: The Politics of Pollution Remediation in Taiwan"

A transitional polity in the third wave of democratization may adopt many western institutional forms, yet its minority and disadvantaged groups may continue to face greater obstacles in addressing environmental injustice issues than those in more mature democracies. In a recent case in Taiwan, residents in a disadvantaged community were initially unaware of or reluctant to acknowledge the environmental harms that had been inflicted upon them. They were not mobilized until policy entrepreneurs from outside the community began to press the issue on their behalf by gaining their trust and support and by navigating various political and policy institutions, which at the same time were undergoing democratic transformations toward more inclusiveness. The case illustrates the interactions of identity politics and social movement leadership in the context of changing political opportunity structures.

Review Article: Scott Radnitz, "Informal Politics and the State"

Political scientists typically study how formal institutions work, yet many of the most interesting political phenomena being investigated today involve informal institutions. The books under review represent advances in an emerging research program on informal politics and the state. They address several important questions, including (1) when does informality undermine the state, and when does it compensate for deficiencies in the state? (2) what are the historical roots of the mechanisms by which informality interacts with the state? (3) what are the sources of cohesion that enable actors to pursue goals informally? and (4) how does the relationship between informal politics and the state change over time? Informal politics is found to be consequential even in the presence of “strong” states, and can sometimes interact with the state in unexpected ways. The theoretical issues raised by these works have broader implications for how informality should be conceptualized and studied within comparative politics.