In a previous post, I discussed the challenges of conceptualizing and measuring state capacity. Today I want to talk about something related -- how we measure state capacity also has implications for how we study its origins. I noted in the post that building state capacity in the short run is inordinately hard because an … Continue reading The origins of state capacity
Identity politics — a phrase that defines our times. The rise of right-wing populists in countries as different as India, the US and Brazil, has increased the urgency with which we seek to understand how race or ethnicity matter to political behavior. The steady stream of articles on "what do Trump voters want" in the … Continue reading Propaganda and the rise of identity politics
A few months ago a tweet got under my skin, as they often tend to do. Matthew Yglesias writing about state capacity tweeted the following: https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/1346144331774750724?s=20 The tweet generated a really interesting exchange about whether the concept of state capacity had been expanded to such an extent as to render it meaningless. Ben Ansell, an … Continue reading State capacity: a useful concept or meaningless pablum?
From the invention of the plough to the world wide web, technology has transformed economic, political, and social arrangements. The impact of technological change on wages and inequality have been well documented. But how do studies in historical political economy inform our understanding of the relationship between technological shocks and politics? Recent works by scholars … Continue reading Technological shocks and democratic politics- BFF or frenemies?
As we take stock of the events of the past week, a clear consensus has emerged – one of America’s two major parties is in trouble. The Republican Party now has a substantial Trump faction, and this faction has the support of rank-and-file party workers (intentionally so because of a makeover of the party in … Continue reading Change the rules – a message from 19th century Europe for America’s political elites
This month India hit a historic milestone. One hundred years ago, in November 1920, Indians in direct-rule British provinces, albeit a small section of the elite, went to the polls for the very first time and elected their representatives. Following the elections, the first provincial councils with majority Indians sat down to legislative business in … Continue reading A hundred year journey
In August 1990, the Prime Minister of India, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, made a historic speech to implement affirmative action to lower castes in central government jobs and higher education -- domains that had long been dominated by upper-castes. The speech, that came be known as "Mandal", was the start of a profound realignment in Indian … Continue reading The persistence of identity
In my last post I discussed how elites might weaken bureaucratic institutions in anticipation of losing electoral power, a phenomenon I call ``hollowing out the state.” In this post I want to tackle a more fundamental chicken or egg question: do historic institutions even matter? If we believe institutions matter, then they shape political and … Continue reading Colonial Institutions and Long-run Development in India
I doubt many of us picking out our 2020 American politics bingo cards anticipated a pitched battle over the continued existence of the post office. Or, that the USCIS could run out of funds, essentially halting legal immigration into the country (a more ludicrous aspect of this particular saga is that the USCIS has been … Continue reading Hollowing out the state