Discrimination & Defiant Pride: How the Demand for Dignity Can Create Slack for Poor Governance

56 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2022

Date Written: February 24, 2022


Why do poorly governing ethnic parties persist? Dominant approaches to ethnic voting explain this persistence by arguing that core supporters receive material benefits in exchange for loyal support. In this paper, I argue that within-group variation in continued support for ethnic parties is not explained by such instrumental theories. Instead, I show that core supporters remain loyal in the face of poor governance because of dignity concerns. Those in-group members who face more discrimination from state arms dominated by other ethnic groups are also those who place a higher value on the provision of group status through descriptive representation. As a result, these subgroups are also more willing to trade-off good governance with descriptive representation. This creates a perverse incentive for ethnic parties to under-serve their most loyal supporters. Because individuals from lower social classes are more exposed to state discrimination, this means that those who would benefit most from improvements in public goods and services are also (1) least likely to see these improvements, and (2) most likely to forgive ethnic parties for failing to address bread and-butter issues. This argument is supported by ethnographic, descriptive, and experimental evidence from the megacity of Karachi, Pakistan.

Suggested Citation

Malik, Mashail, Discrimination & Defiant Pride: How the Demand for Dignity Can Create Slack for Poor Governance (February 24, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4043185 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4043185

Mashail Malik (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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