Ethnicity and Pork: A Virtual Test of Causal Mechanisms

David D. Laitin and A. Maurits Van Der Veen

in Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199893157
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980079 | DOI:
Ethnicity and Pork: A Virtual Test of Causal Mechanisms

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This chapter explores the elective affinity between the activation of ethnic identities and the exclusionary distribution of political benefits, also known as “pork.” An agent-based model explores the link between pork politics and the activation of “sticky” identities. “Pork politics” is operationalized using the size of the “optimal winning coalition": The value and appeal of exclusionary, distributive politics, the reasoning goes, will decrease as the fraction of the population a leader needs to attract increases. “Stickiness” serves as a proxy for an ethnic attribute dimension. The model reveals that when optimal winning coalitions are small (allowing for pork to be distributed to all supporters), ethnic entrepreneurs predominate in elections and ethnic identities become more politically salient for the entire population.

Keywords: pork politics; optimal winning coalition; ethnicity; stickiness; constructivism; agent-based models; ethnic demographies

Chapter.  7787 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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