Jens Rudbeck, Erica Mukherjee, and Kelly Nelson, When Autocratic Regimes Are Cheap and Play Dirty: The Transaction Costs of Repression in South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt

Why do autocratic regimes use paramilitary groups, death squads, vigilantes, gangs, and other types of irregular, non-state actors to suppress popular opposition movements? We argue that the use of this type of state repression is a way for political leaders to lower the transaction costs of repression. Contrary to the use of regular security forces, which may trigger a host of consequences ranging from international economic sanctions to strikes and boycotts, irregular non-state violence specialists constitute an alternative governance structure for repression that, potentially, is less costly to elites. To substantiate this argument, the article investigates the use of informal violence to suppress opposition movements in South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt. It demonstrates how repression was shaped by the transaction costs that political leaders were confronting.

Terrence Lyons, The Importance of Winning: Victorious Insurgent Groups and Authoritarian Politics

What is the relationship between how a war ends and the post-war political order? Civil wars that end in rebel victory follow distinct war-to-peace transitions compared to the more often analyzed cases of negotiated settlement and internationally supported peacebuilding. When one side wins, the victors shape the post-war political order, not the international community. In the cases of Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, the insurgents used the war-to-peace transition to transform their military institutions into authoritarian political parties and to consolidate power. It is not surprising that the winning military party becomes the post-war ruling party, but it is less obvious why victorious insurgents so often become powerful authoritarian parties. This paper argues that the legacies of protracted civil war and the imperatives of the war-to-peace transitions following victory provide the mechanism that links victory by insurgents to the creation of strong authoritarian parties and will illustrate the argument with the cases of Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.

Glen Biglaiser, Mandate and the Market: Policy Outcomes under the Left in Latin America

Over the past fifteen years, Latin America has seen a wave of leftist governments take office with some leaders increasing the state’s role in the economy, while others continue and even intensify market-oriented reforms. Building on the concept of mandates in the American politics literature, and supplemented by personal interviews conducted with Latin American policymakers and empirical work, I argue that whether leftist presidents implement policies away from the market depends on their margin of electoral victory combined with whether the president’s party holds a majority of seats in the legislature. As much American politics work shows, presidents that win elections by landslides are better able to claim a mandate. However, the capacity of presidents to convert massive victories into policy change also requires control of the legislature by the president’s party.

Katherine Bersch, The Merits of Problem-Solving over Powering: Governance Reforms in Brazil and Argentina

Scholars of governance reforms in developing countries often argue that the surest way to address corruption, cronyism, inefficiency, and red tape is swift, dramatic change enacted by political leaders during moments of upheaval (i.e., “powering” reforms). This research finds that a very different type of change is not only possible but also more effective and enduring. A comparison of attempts to increase accountability, transparency, and institutional strength in Brazil and Argentina demonstrates that incremental changes sequenced over time in response to failings in previous policy (i.e., “problem-solving” reforms) provide two crucial advantages over powering’s wholesale and rapid overhauls of the state: (1) continual adjustments and modifications benefit from learning; and (2) an incremental approach makes reform more durable and helps preserve bureaucratic autonomy.

Eric M. Uslaner and Bo Rothstein, The Historical Roots of Corruption: State Building, Economic Inequality, and Mass Education

We show a link between levels of mass education in 1870 and corruption levels in 2010 for seventy-eight countries that remains strong when controlling for change in the level of education, GDP/ capita, and democracy. A model for the causal mechanism between universal education and control of corruption is presented. Early introduction of universal education is linked to levels of economic equality and to efforts to increase state capacity. First, societies with more equal education gave citizens more opportunities and power for opposing corruption. Secondly, the need for increased state capacity was a strong motivation for the introduction of universal education in many countries. Strong states provided more education to their publics and such states were more common where economic disparities were initially smaller.

Jan H. Pierskalla, Splitting the Difference? The Politics of District Creation in Indonesia

What explains the patterns of local government proliferation in Indonesia? I argue that ethnic heterogeneity, paired with the political ability to lobby for boundary changes, explains territorial reform. Using data on Indonesian district splits from 2001 to 2012 and information at the district and sub-district levels, I provide evidence in support of these propositions. To further trace the logic of district splitting, the paper draws on census data, as well as information on local violent conflict, to show that newly created districts have higher levels of ethnic homogeneity and experience less political violence. These findings provide new and important insights to existing debates on optimal federalism and the emerging literature on the politics of administrative unit proliferation.

Fabrice Lehoucq, Review Essay, Does Nonviolence Work?

Chenoweth and Stephan’s award-winning book, Why Civil Resistance Works, boldly claims that political protest is more successful than armed conflict. This finding is novel in its design and innovative in its defense. This essay, however, suggests that civil disobedience fails just as often as violence in toppling authoritarian regimes. Moreover, my review of several important books on political protest, autocracy, and regime change concludes that the choices made by dictators shape whether the opposition remains peaceful or becomes violent. Deepening our understanding of democratization requires integrating the analysis of the nature and impact of political protest with the study of regimes, their dynamics, and how and when they split.