Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Networks of Power. Using Social Network Analysis to Understand Who Will Rule and Who is Really in Charge in an Authoritarian Regime. Theory, Method, and Application on Chinese Communist Elites (1982-2012)
by Keller, Franziska Barbara, Ph.D., New York University, 2015, 147; 3740801
Abstract (Summary)

Patronage networks are said to help elites advance into a regime's inner circle or lead to their downfall, as well as influence regime stability and other political outcomes. But researchers have only systematically studied individual patron-client ties instead of taking advantage of the tools provided by social network analysis (SNA). In three related papers, this dissertation evaluates the best method to measure patronage networks, develops a theory of coalition formation along them, and tests it on the members of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee from 1982 until 2012.

The first paper argues that informal politics is better conceptualized through networks than factions, and identifies and evaluates two common approaches to measure such networks: the inductive approach, which relies on a qualitative assessment of insider sources, and the deductive approach, which infers the network from publicly available data. The paper evaluates several commonly used approaches to deduce networks among Chinese political elites. Using methods and concepts developed in Social Network Analysis, it finds that coworker networks perform best in these tests, but can be further refined by noting the number of instances of working together, or by taking into account promotions that have occurred while the two individuals were coworkers.

The second paper develops a model in which one or two leaders form their coalitions along network ties connecting the relevant political elites, the selectorate. Simulations on random networks and real-life patronage networks among Chinese elites illustrate how all but the regular (lattice or complete) network lead to power differentials between the members of the selectorate. The model identifies three specific network positions: those that increase the chances of entering the winning coalition, those that enable coalition leaders to remain in charge of the coalition, and those that help a ruler fend off the opposition. It discusses their respective properties, and shows that powerful Chinese elites do indeed hold the corresponding positions. Furthermore, in a model with two competing leaders the network structure provides an endogenous explanation for winning coalition sizes smaller than the bare majority.

The third paper tests the theory on promotion networks - indicating who has been promoted under whom - among the Chinese Communist elite 1982-2012. A hazard analysis demonstrates that direct connections to patrons double the chance of being appointed to the Politburo. But links to current and former subordinates - unlike those to superiors - among the other elite also have a significant positive effect. Finally, network centrality measures can identify current patrons and predict appointments to the inner circles five or ten years later even if the identity of the patrons is unknown. Future Politburo members are found in network positions that capture popularity as a coalition partner (closeness centrality), while patrons hold network positions from which they can preempt opposition from within their coalition (betweenness centrality).

The dissertation thus shows the importance of analyzing informal elite networks instead of just the ties between one specific leader and his or her followers. It also proposes SNA as a new theoretical and empirical approach to the understudied informal institutions of authoritarian regimes, suggesting a more principled, but also more nuanced way of measuring one such institution: political patronage.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Larson, Jenn
Commitee: Przeworski, Adam, Tucker, Joshua
School: New York University
Department: Politics
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Asian Studies, Political science, Sociology
Keywords: Authoritarian regimes, China, Coalition formation, Patronage, Political elites, Social network analysis
Publication Number: 3740801
ISBN: 978-1-339-32915-4
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