My job market paper – “The Lock, Stock, and Barrel: Redistributive Threats and Democratic Breakdown in Latin America” – draws on, and extends in new directions, work from my book project. My book project argues that party systems are at the root of broader patterns of social reform, redistribution, and levels of inequality across space and time. Countries, or other political units, with more stable multi-party systems are more likely to redistribute income and possess lower levels of inequality than those with inchoate, two-party, or hegemonic counterparts. However, important to caution is that the development of strong parties – particularly those with interests that run counter to elites – can be a double-edged sword that undermine the very foundation of democracy.
Existing literature has long argued that strong political parties are instrumental for a well-functioning democracy. Yet, in highly unequal societies, parties – particularly those that threaten to redistribute income or wealth – may also constitute democracy’s most dangerous threat. Latin American elites have long ‘locked in’ institutions that curb the rise of redistributive threats, but when parties with strong ties to popular sectors overcome these barriers and threaten elites, or traditional parties are captured by redistributive-seeking politicians, democracy is unlikely to survive. With a primary goal of theory-building, I draw on original elite survey data, historical observational data, as well as analyze the deviant case of Brazil.
Feel free to contact me for the latest version of the working paper.