Collective Action and Representation in Autocracies: Evidence from Russia's Great Reforms
Forthcoming, American Political Science Review
72 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016 Last revised: 17 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 6, 2017
We explore the relationship between capacity for collective action and representation in autocracies with data from Imperial Russia. Our primary empirical exercise relates peasant representation in new institutions of local self-government to the frequency of peasant unrest in the decade prior to reform. To correct for measurement error in the unrest data and other sources of endogeneity, we exploit idiosyncratic variation in two determinants of peasant unrest: the historical incidence of serfdom and religious polarization. We find that peasants were granted less representation in districts with more frequent unrest in preceding years — a relationship consistent with the Acemoglu-Robinson model of political transitions and inconsistent with numerous other theories of institutional change. At the same time, we observe patterns of redistribution in subsequent years that are inconsistent with the commitment mechanism central to the Acemoglu-Robinson model. Building on these results, we discuss possible directions for future theoretical work.
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