. "Inequality and Democratization: a Contractarian Approach." - Journal Review

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Journal Review
Andrew Parker

Comparative Politics
Dr. John Sutherlin
March 26, 2013

Ansell, Ben, and David Samuels. "Inequality and Democratization: A Contractarian Approach." Comparative Political Studies 43.12 (2010): 1543-574. SAGE. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://cps.sagepub.com/content/43/12/1543.full.pdf+html>. Introduction

Ben Ansell and David Samuels, authors of the article, are Political Science professors at the University of Minnesota and have each published works through the renowned Cambridge University Press. This article was published in the Comparative Political Studies journal in 2010 and predominately focused on two questions: Is the relationship between economic development and democratization effected by economic inequality? In addition, do “land inequality” and “income inequality” affect democratization differently? Ansell and Samuels took a different approach than their predecessors; “drawing on contractarian political theory,” rather than “redistributivist theories” of democratization, to develop their arguments against the previous theories (Ansell 1543).

The purpose of this article was to approach a long-debated question in the field of Political Science from a “fundamentally distinct theoretical premise” than that of previous scholars (Ansell 1544). The authors presented a theory and hypothesis that was political, testable, falsifiable, and observable. This article is relevant to the field of Political Science, as well as Comparative Politics, because it questions the utility of the redistributivist approach to democratization and “highlights the utility” of their contractarian alternative (Ansell 1546). Article Summary

The bulk of the research that was conducted in this article was based on a number of theoretical premises, which the authors successfully portrayed to the reader. The authors used the literary works of Carles Boix, Daron Acemoglu, and James Robinson as the literary basis for their comparative study of the topic. Boix and A&R used the redistibutivist theory of democratization to develop their arguments; a theory that suggests, “Regime change is driven by autocratic elites’ fear of the relative costs of redistribution under democracy” (Ansell 1544). In contrast, the contractarian theory, based on insights from political theorists such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, views regime change more as a “function of politically disenfranchised yet rising economic groups’ struggles to obtain credible commitments against expropriation of their income and assets by the autocratic governing elite” (Ansell 1544). Ansell and Samuels proposed that the source of increasing income inequality cannot accurately be found without the differentiation of land inequality and income inequality into separate economic sectors (agriculture and industry), which ultimately describes why “different sectoral growth rates can have different political effects” (Ansell 1550). The contractarian approach coneptualizes economic inequality differently than the redistributivist approach; which, “differentiates the political impact of land inequality verus income inequality” (Ansell 1548). The authors declared that this is “theoretically critical” to the research, implying that Boix and A&R’s outcome may have several shortcomings without accounting for unequal distribution of fixed resources such as land or growth of new economic sectors. In regards to the concept of income inequality, the authors theoretical framework was based on the notion that income inequality is “commonly associated with the emergence of a sizeable middle class,” which they refer to as the “bourgeoisie,” that is “outdistancing the poor and that expropriation of the middle class’s wealth is more of a threat under autocracy than democracy” (Ansell 1550). The author’s findings implied that democratization is likely to follow from increased income inequality that stems from industrial sector growth. Inequality in land has the...
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