Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't Abandon Materialist Conceptions of Politics Just Yet

. Thursday, April 25, 2013

New research:

"Economics and Elections Revisited"
Richard Nadeau & Michael S. Lewis-Beck & Éric Bélanger3
Comparative Political Studies 46(5)
The economics and elections connection has been heavily investigated, although mostly through single-country studies. The first comparative, survey-based research on economic voting, by Lewis–Beck, found serious effects. Subsequently, other comparative scholars have explored this terrain. The most recent, and most ambitious, examinations are by Duch and Stevenson and by van der Brug et al. These impressive efforts arrive at opposing conclusions about the importance of economic voting. We carry out another major examination, with an eye to reconciling these differences. A carefully specified model of vote choice is estimated on a balanced survey pool (N > 40,000) from 10 Western European nations. Special pains are taken with issues of economic measurement, estimation, and endogeneity. The finding is that economic perceptions are formed from economic reality, and importantly influence vote choice. Besides enhancing our understanding of comparative political behavior, the strong result speaks to the functioning of government accountability in advanced democracies.


"The Left and Organized Labor in Low-Inflation Times"
Marco Simoni
World Politics 65(2)

This article presents fresh empirical data showing that policy alignment between center-left governments and trade unions was a sustained feature of European politics between 1974 and 2005. This contradicts expectations of a wide delinkage between the electoral left and labor as a consequence of globalization, deindustrialization, and unionization decline. However, structural economic change has altered the policy field so that sustained policy alignment can no longer be explained by existing theoretical frameworks.
Based on a theoretical argument and a multivariate empirical test, the article contends that policy alignment is likelier to occur if labor plays an important role in economic management at the microlevel and the industry level and if unions are politically cohesive agents thanks to powerful confederation leadership supported by democratic decision-making practices. In making its case, the article bridges the literatures on comparative capitalism and party politics, in order to account for change and continuity in policy-making processes
The first seems like one of those "Yes, Virginia" moments, although it's nice to see a proper comparative large-N analysis of the question. The second is probably more interesting theoretically. Something that SBD thinks/writes a lot about is how many of our models work against each other. For example, models of partisan politics tend to expect left-wing governments of developing countries to tend to be more anti-capitalist and therefore anti-globalization. But labor is often the abundant factor of production in developing countries and would therefore benefit from trade, in which case trade openness should be supported by left parties in these countries. This article appears to be showing one way in which this could occur.

On similar questions, see previous work by Oatley here and here.


Don't Abandon Materialist Conceptions of Politics Just Yet
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