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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Political Reform and Challenges to Order in Weak States: Center-Periphery Relations in the Sahel
by Szarke, Daniel Eric, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2015, 288; 3705375
Abstract (Summary)

In weak states marked by clientelism, how does political reform impact the ability of regimes to control outcomes in the periphery? What is the role of center-periphery relations in generating these effects? While conventional understandings of political order would suggest that political reform leads to the introduction of ‘illiberal’ forces on the political scene absent sufficient means to channel mobilization, on the one hand, or improves government accountability from the national down to the local level, on the other, this work proposes an alternative perspective that takes account of pre-existing center-periphery relations.

Drawing on a comparative analysis of outcomes in Mali and Niger, I identify varied effects on conflict levels in the periphery as regimes shift from circumscribed competition in formal institutions toward expansive competition as a result of political reforms. I explain this variation as a result of regime strategies of rural elite assimilation. In cases in which regimes have institutionalized the integration of customary chiefs into state structures, these rural elites possess longer time horizons and greater incentives to support the central state. When competition within formal institutions remains circumscribed, institutionalized guarantees lead to low levels of conflict in the periphery. As these countries shift toward more expansive competition over power and resources due to political reforms, customary authorities face potential challenges to their authority, yet preserve incentives to support the center—in spite of potential losses—resulting in limited conflict levels.

On the contrary, when regimes treat the integration of customary rural elites as variable—a deregulated system of assimilation—their time horizons are shortened and incentive structures vary based on their integrated status. Under circumscribed competition, threats to their predominance at the local level are more restricted, as conflict remains limited. When expansive competition is introduced in formal institutions, however, the position of established rural elites becomes threatened—and the potential for political disorder becomes acute as high levels of conflict erupt in the periphery.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Reno, William
Commitee: Arjona, Ana, Caverley, Jon
School: Northwestern University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Conflict, Political order
Publication Number: 3705375
ISBN: 978-1-321-78312-4
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