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Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics$
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Kanchan Chandra

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199893157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199893157.001.0001

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Ethnicity and Pork: A Virtual Test of Causal Mechanisms

Ethnicity and Pork: A Virtual Test of Causal Mechanisms

(p.341) 9 Ethnicity and Pork: A Virtual Test of Causal Mechanisms
Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics

David D. Laitin

A. Maurits Van Der Veen

Oxford University Press

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

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