Monopolies of Violence: Criminal Governance in Rio De Janeiro
Nicholas Barnes (Brown University)

Abstract : A thousand favelas dot the sprawling urban landscape of Rio de Janeiro. In these communities, gangs have replaced state authority with governance forms of their own. Some gangs implement responsive systems of law and justice, allow for democratic practices, and maintain a high degree of social order while others develop more coercive and unresponsive governing institutions. What accounts for this variation? This dissertation's central argument is that local security environments determine these governance outcomes as gangs can face two primary threats to their territorial control: competition from rivals and enforcement by the state. On one hand, rivals that seek to invade and conquer favela territory for their own represents an existential threat and forces gangs to engage in more coercive governance practices as they seek to ensure their territorial control and resident compliance. On the other, high levels of police enforcement, a non-existential form of threat, incentivize gangs to develop closer and more responsive forms of governance to the local population. Based on nearly three years of fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro, this project employs a thoroughly mixed-method design, which includes both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and data collection. I conducted 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in three different gang territories, which included participant observation, archival research, and 175 semi-structured interviews with current and former gang members, NGO workers, local politicians, and long-term residents. In addition, a dataset of geo-processed anonymous hotline denunciations of gang members from Disque Denúncia, a Rio de Janeiro non-governmental organization, provides a further test of the theory and a glimpse into how residents respond to gang governance strategies.

Democratic Stability in Ancient Greece
F. Andrew Hanssen (Clemson University)
Robert K. Fleck (Clemson University)

Abstract : Efforts to establish an effective system of “rule by the people” have had mixed results. Some polities have developed into stable democracies (e.g., ancient Athens, the modern United States), while others have produced merely transitory democracies, with periodic reversions to oligarchy or autocracy (e.g., ancient Syracuse, modern Venezuela). To provide new insight into the reasons why some democracies are stable while others are not, we study the world’s first great democratic expansion, that of ancient Greece. Building on recent work by classicists, we develop a data set of government types for nearly 200 Greek poleis (city-states) spanning several centuries. We find evidence that ancient Greek democracies, whether stable or unstable, are associated with coastal locations (a proxy for commercial potential), while stable regimes, whether democratic or non-democratic, are associated with historical records of less civil strife. We also find evidence that stable democracies were wealthier than unstable democracies. These findings support a simple theoretical model, in which decisions to democratize – and the subsequent stability of newly democratized regimes – depend on exogenous changes in economic conditions, notably changes that influence expectations regarding the prospects for economic growth.

Post-communist Transition As a Critical Juncture: Political Origins of Institutional and Cultural Bifurcation
Leonid Polishchuk (Higher School of Economics)
Kharis Sokolov (Higher School of Economics)

Abstract : Quarter of a century after market reforms, countries of the former Eastern Bloc exhibit vastly different economic and political institutions — from successful market democracies to autocracies with oligarchy-dominated economies. We trace these differences in institutional quality to the political environments at the time of reforms. Insulation of reformers from the society was considered instrumental to expediting unpopular transformations and protecting the reforms from populist backlash. However, the representation vacuum at the critical juncture of post-communist transition was filled by narrow interests, which established extractive institutions serving the elites, instead of inclusive institutions, which are in broad societal interests. Choices made at critical junctures were pivotal for subsequent institutional trajectories, and extractive and inclusive regimes sustained themselves over long periods of time. We use the number of political veto players in the early 1990s as a measure of plurality of post-communist transition, and show that it is a consistently strong predictor of the institutional quality over the next twenty-five years period. We also demonstrate that the same transition plurality measure explains cross-country differences in economic inequality across the post-communist world, and uneven social support of market and democracy, indicating ongoing “institutional learning”. In a placebo test where post-communist countries are replaced by the sample of Latin American and Caribbean nations, we find that the number of veto players in the early 1990s was either statistically insignificant, or, for some institutional indexes, negatively correlated with subsequent institutional performance.

The Dynamics of Weak Institutions: Rethinking Information and Elite Mobilization in Nondemocratic Politics
Hans H. Tung (National Taiwan University)

Abstract : The paper studies stability and change of authoritarian/weak institutions. In contract to strong institutions, weak ones do not allow binding agreements to be made among players---especially, between the ruler and the ruled---under them. For over a decade, there has been such a vast literature telling us their profound implications for the survival of dictatorships and the making of inefficient economic policies. For example, Acemoglu et al. (2004) explains how a weakly institutionalized environment allows kleptocrats to use a divide-and-rule strategy to exacerbate the collective action problem among potential opposition groups and stay in power. This literature, however, hasn't told us much so far about how and why weak institutions can remain stable or are subject to change. The chief theoretical advance this paper makes to the formal literature on nondemocratic politics is that I characterize the authoritarian/weak institutions as noisy signaling of the information about regime strength. This then allows us to base our new modeling approach on a theoretical finding that an actor's higher-order belief in a global game about others' participation decisions could become non-Laplacian. Owing to the self-enforcing nature of weak institutions, their change and stability clearly depend on whether, collectively, the elite are able to pose credible rebellion threats to the dictator. An important implication following this result is that the variance of one's belief will be increased and, instead of giving all aggregate actions an equal probability, individuals give weights only to the extreme outcomes and therefore are less likely to reach coordination with others to push back the dictator's attempts to change authoritarian institutions.