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Elite Networks and contentious politics in the developing world


How does elite cooperation or fragmentation influence mass collective action and political order in ethnically divided states? This question is at the core of this research topic, which aims to theorize and empirically examine the long-term effects of historically developed informal elite networks on contentious politics in developing countries. As such, it will extend my previous macro- and meso-level research to the study of the actions of, and relationships between, key elite individuals who, as a function of their preeminent socio-economic and political status, have a disproportionate impact on their countries' political life.

Existing scholarship emphasizes the importance of political institutions for the establishment of stable political order. Yet, many developing countries are relatively young and feature unconsolidated political institutions that are likely to be too weak to enforce cooperative elite behavior by themselves. Thus, in contrast to the prevalent institutionalist approach, I emphasize the role of elite individuals and the informal relationships between them as crucial factors to explain patterns of contention and political order in the developing world. I draw on novel data sources, such as my new EPR-Organizations dataset, which provides information on both violent and non-violent ethno-political organizations in a global sample of countries. Moreover, I am currently collecting historical data on the structure of national elite networks through an innovative, semi-automated coding of encyclopedic sources.

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