The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Three Assistant Professors of Government Sweep Awards at Annual Political Science Meetings

Fri, September 19, 2008

Kenneth Greene won the best book award of 2008 for his Cambridge University book, Why Dominant Parties Fail. The Committee wrote:

"Why have dominant parties persisted in power for many decades in countries across the globe? Why after such long periods of dominance do most of these parties eventually lose? Kenneth Greene's, "Why Dominant Parties Lose" is a masterful investigation of these questions, and will be of great interest to all members of the Comparative Democratization section. Greene shows that the key to dominant parties' success is their control over public resources. This allows them to engage in extensive patronage, attracting ambitious elites and ensuring voter loyalty. When the system works well, dominant parties are ensured of the electoral college before the voting even begins; they are thus able to avoid the taint and potential loss of legitimacy that often accompanies electoral fraud or open repression. But Greene goes beyond this to show how dominant parties control material resources and does more than simply ensure their hold over elites and voters. He shows how it "warps" the development of opposition groups as well. Since the material incentives to support the dominant party are so high in these systems, only those with strong ideological commitments will opt out. This means oppositional parties are likely to be highly ideological, a factor that, when coupled with their lack of resources, limits their appeal to the most discontented, fringe elements. Given these dynamics, Greene shows that a dominant party is only likely to see its grip on power erode when its control over material resources wanes. (As when, for example, a state loses control over nationalized industries). Although his research and evidence is primarily drawn from the case of the PRI in Mexico, Greene extends his analysis to dominant party regimes in other authoritarian (Malaysia and Taiwan) and democratic (Japan and Italy) contexts. Greene's findings have important implications for our understanding of dominant party regimes, their transitions to democracy, the stability/fragility of authoritarianism, and the interaction between economic and political reform. The committee was impressed by the force and originality of Greene's arguments, the scope and range of his methods and research, and the care he took to investigate the dominance, persistence and downfall of dominant parties. Why Dominant Parties Lose reminds us that investigating why democratization does not happen is as interesting and important as investigating why it does.

Jason Brownlee won the Section's award for the best paper published in the past year on the subject of democratization. The citation read:

"In addition to a dozen nominated articles, the committee considered all the articles published during the 2007 calendar year that were listed in the Comparative Democratization Section's Newsletter. This yielded a total of 114 articles, which were divided equally among the 3 committee members. In evaluating the articles, the committee considered the importance of the core question addressed, as well as the magnitude of the empirical and theoretical contribution. The members of the committee were especially looking for work that made them think about issues of democratization in a new way. In particular, the committee aimed to select the article most likely to be assigned in a world-class graduate course on democratization taught ten years from now.

The Prize for the Best Article of 2007 was awarded to Jason Brownlee (University of Texas at Austin) for his article, "Hereditary Succession in Modern Autocracies," published in World Politics. Brownlee's analysis takes a two-pronged approach, addressing the questions: (1) under what conditions can dictators control their own successions? and (2) when dictators can control their own successions, how do they do it? Brownlee aims to explain why some rulers are able to "keep things in the family", thereby extending their rule through hereditary succession and dynasticism. Brownlee cogently argues that understanding hereditary succession requires a focus on cases of non-hereditary succession, and he thus constructs an impressive and original data set of 258 dictators who ruled for at least three years during the post-World War II period. Brownlee builds an innovative explanatory framework focusing on the institutional context in which non-democratic rulers operate, especially on the critical relationship between authoritarian leaders and the political parties through which they govern. This focus on ruler-party relations yields a key finding: Where the ruler's authority predates the party, hereditary succession is most likely, because there is no established institutional mechanisms through which elites who are not part of the ruling family can preserve the regime and, hence, their own privileges. Conversely, where the ruler is himself a product of a preeexisting party, hereditary succession occurrs very rarely.

Brownlee's analysis is important because it gets inside non-democratic regimes by focusing on ruler-party relations, thereby shedding new light on the contrasting fortunes of modern autocracies. The study is remarkable for its impressive empirical scope. Brownlee provides a unifying conceptual and explanatory framework that pulls together cases as disparate as Bulgaria, Paraguay, Haiti, Tanzania, China, Iran, North Korea, Singapore, and Togo. The committee thus concludes that Brownlee's article is the most likely to be assigned in a world-class graduate course on democratization taught ten years from now."

In addition to these prizes, Zachary Elkins received honorable mention for the best article award:

"An Honorable Mention was awarded to Zachary Elkins (University of Texas at Austin) and John Sides (George Washington University) for their co-authored article, "Can Institutions Build Unity in Multiethnic States?" published in The American Political Science Review. This article offers a creative synthesis of literatures on nationalism, democratization, and conflict resolution. Moreover, it demonstrates an impressive and imaginative use of different data sets to address an important, timely question."

Gary P. Freeman

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