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Inequality and Democratization: An Elite-Competition Approach

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Speaker: Professor Ben Ansell

Research on the relationship between inequality, development, and regime change has seen a recent surge of interest. But while many argue that inequality harms the prospects of democracy because wealthy elites fear that the poorer majority will use the vote to ‘soak the rich’ (for example, works by Boix, 2003 and Acemoglu and Robinson, 2006) this book presents a different explanation that identifies the real tension as existing between property and autocracy, not property and democracy. Instead, it is fear of the autocratic state by politically disenfranchised, but economically rising groups who are wary of the power of autocratic elites to expropriate their assets that drive efforts at democratic transitions and regime change.

Professor Ansell is Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. His initial research focus was the politics of education, with his book From the Ballot to the Blackboard: The Redistributive Politics of Education, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010 and winning the 2011 William H. Riker prize for best book in political economy. His most recently published book, coauthored with David Samuels, Inequality and Democratization: An Elite-Competition Approach won the 2015 Woodrow Wilson Prize for the best book in politics, government and international affairs from the American Political Science Association and the 2015 William H. Riker prize for best book in political economy.

This talk is part of the POLIS Department Research Seminars series.

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