Explaining Patterns of Redistribution Under Autocracy: The Case of Peru’s Revolution from Above
University of Chicago - Department of Political Science
July 3, 2013
Forthcoming, Latin American Research Review
Who benefits and who loses during redistribution under dictatorship? This paper argues that expropriating powerful preexisting economic elites can serve to demonstrate a dictator or junta’s loyalty to their launching organization while destroying elite rivals out of government that could potentially threaten the dictator's survival. It also provides resources to buy the support of key non-elite groups that could otherwise organize destabilizing resistance. An analysis of the universe of 15,000 land expropriations under military rule in Peru from 1968-1980 demonstrates the plausibility of this argument as a case of redistributive military rule that destroyed traditional elites and empowered the military. Land was then redistributed to “middle-class” rural laborers that had the greatest capacity to organize anti-regime resistance if excluded from the reform. This finding directly challenges a core assumption of social conflict theory: that nondemocratic leaders will act as faithful agents of economic elites. A discussion of other modernizing militaries and data on large-scale expropriation of land, natural resources, and banks across Latin America from 1935-2008 suggests the theory generalizes beyond Peru.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 45
Date posted: May 23, 2011 ; Last revised: August 1, 2013