States, Neopatrimonialism, and Elections: Democratization in Southeast Asia
Tom Pepinsky (Cornell University)
The theory of democratization by elections (Lindberg 2009) holds that elections—even when flawed—can over time have an independent causal effect on democratic transitions. Despite the recent growth of this literature, questions remain about the global scope of the argument and its structural preconditions. We argue that both strong states and effective neopatrimonialism can undermine the democratizing power of elections. We use Southeast Asia to probe the applicability of this theoretical argument to an important but critically understudied world region, and to illustrate the mechanisms through which state capacity and neopatrimonial practices limit the ability of elections to bring democratic change. Our argument has implications both for Southeast Asian democratization and for existing scholarship from other world regions.
Tom Pepinsky is an associate professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University and member of the Southeast Asia Program. He studies comparative politics and political economy, with a focus on emerging market economies in Southeast Asia. Here at Cornell Pepinsky also serves as Director of the International Political Economy Program and the Associate Director of the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2007. His research centers around two themes: the relationship between economic interests and political outcomes, and the interaction between domestic politics and the global economy. He is the author of Economic Crises and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and his current work focuses on financial politics in emerging market economies, authoritarianism and regime survival, and political Islam in Indonesia and beyond.
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