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The political economy of subnational political dynasties: theory and evidence from Argentina

Public Accountability and Public Administration Seminar
18 October 2018, h. 17.00

Speaker: Jacqueline Behrend(Universidad Nacional de San Martín/CONICET)
Chair: Paola Mattei (University of Milan)

SPS Seminar Room (Room 215, II Floor,  Passione side)
Dipartimento di Scienze sociali e politiche
Via Conservatorio 7, Milano

The existence of “political dynasties” is usually associated with traditional or patrimonial forms of rule. This image is normally opposed to the idea of democracy, party competition and electoral alternation. However, in many contemporary democracies around the world there are political dynasties that successfully compete for office, are elected through political parties and actively participate in party organization, most notably at the subnational level. These dynasties are not merely present in recent or developing democracies, but also in established and long-standing ones. This observation suggests that democracy does not eradicate powerful families’ ability to dominate the political process (Smith 2012), as democratic theory predicted (Dahl 1961). Indeed, democracy can aid the establishment of new subnational political dynasties. Although the existence of subnational political dynasties has important consequences for democracy and governance, we still know very little about how and why these family networks are built. Evidence from Argentina (Behrend 2008, 2011), India (Chandra 2016, Chhibber 2011) and other world regions suggests that the development of political dynasties is linked to structural and institutional causes. This paper builds on existing research on political dynasties in Asia, Latin America and the United States,

and proposes the hypothesis that the development of a political dynasty is part of a broader strategy by local elites who seek to diversify their “investments” into both politics and business. In the framework proposed in this paper, local elites develop an “investment portfolio” depending on opportunities and returns (Schneider 2010) that ranges from participation in politics and elected office, to ownership of local media and local business sectors. This form of diversification requires the existence of a family network that can occupy different positions of power in both the public and the private arena. The development of a political dynasty allows local elites to ensure their survival in the long-term. The paper argues that local elites’ possibilities of developing a political dynasty depend on: 1. the ability to access provincial state resources; 2. the ability to control the political party; 3. the existence of a family network that can penetrate the different arenas.

This seminar is part of the Cycle of seminars "Public Accountability and Public Administration"

01 October 2018
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