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Book Review: The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa

April 7, 2021
I love it when a book nails something that’s been lurking at the back of my mind, but never pinned down. The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa, by Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis, does just that. It explores the gulf between how politicians (and not just in Africa) see themselves (motivated by ideas of virtue as well
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Book Review: How to Rig an Election, by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas

November 3, 2020
Thought I’d repost this book review from 2018 today. No particular reason…. A lot of the power of a successful book is in its ‘big idea’ – the overall frame that endures long after the detailed arguments have faded in the memory. On that basis, ‘How to Rig an Election’ looks set to do very well indeed. The authors are

Against fascism in India: in solidarity, through care

February 26, 2020
Enda Verde and Chandan Kumar write about how women are leading the resistance against the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act in India. Enda Verde is a Ph.D. candidate working in both Europe and India. Chandan Kumar is a labor rights activist based in Pune, India, and part of a citizen’s movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act called “Hum Bharat Ke Log.”
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Some reading for Election Day

December 12, 2019
It’s election day in the UK and I’m not allowed to say very much, or Oxfam could get into trouble. So instead, here are some of the best pieces on democracy and elections that have appeared on this blog over the years. Any comparison with current events in Britain is purely accidental. Honest. Democracy’s Retreat: a ‘how to’ guide. Book

What are the politics of our survival as a species? Introducing the Climate Change Trilemma

November 22, 2017
So a physicist, an anthropologist, and two political economists have lunch in the LSE canteen and start arguing about climate change….. I was (very notionally) the physicist; my other lunchtime companions were Robert Wade, Teddy Brett and Jason Hickel (the anthropologist). Jason was arguing for degrowth and reminded me of the excellent debate on this blog a couple of years ago

Current aid design and evaluation favour autocracies. How do we change that?

June 30, 2015
I loved the new paper from Rachel Kleinfeld, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and asked her to write a post on it What strategy can make a government take up smart development programs, better policing techniques, or tested education initiatives?  RCT and regression-based studies have taught us a great deal about “what works”, but we still

What are the links between authoritarianism, democracy and development? Magisterial (and short) new overview

December 19, 2014
Sometimes, with heavy heart, I pick up yet another example of ‘grey literature’ only to find I’ve wandered into an Aladdin’s cave of ideas. That was my sensation on reading Tim Kelsall’s new paper for the Developmental Leadership Program, on ‘Authoritarianism, democracy and development’. In just 14 pages, he summarizes a huge literature, with the aim of boiling it all down

Using aid to strengthen Parliaments: fix the car, or worry about the driver?

November 24, 2014
You’d think that all the aid money trying to install functioning democracies around the world would target parliaments and political parties. In fact, they are more often an afterthought. Alina Rocha Menocal (Developmental Leadership Program, University of Birmingham) looks at the evidence and explains the neglect. People all over the world have a very low opinion of parliaments and parliamentarians.

The case for democracy – a new study on India, South Africa and Brazil (shame it’s not much good – missed opportunity)

May 23, 2014
The ODI is a 10 minute train ride from my home, so I’m easily tempted out of my lair for the occasional lunchtime meeting. Last week it was the launch of ‘Democracy Works: The Democratic Alternative from the South’, a paper on the three ‘rapidly developing democracies’ of Brazil, India and South Africa, co-authored by the Legatum Institute and South

What’s at stake in the South African and Malawi elections this month?

May 6, 2014
Max Lawson, Oxfam’s Head of Advocacy and Public Policy, reflects on impending elections in South Africa and Malawi Malawi and South Africa’s election cycle is identical.  Both had their first democratic multi-party elections 20 years ago this month.  Who can forget the incredible photos of black people queuing from before dawn across South Africa to exercise their right to vote

W(h)ither Democracy; Latin American progress; China’s tobacco problem and poor world cancer; climate change progress: a Developmentista’s Guide to this week’s Economist

March 5, 2014
Should I be worried about how much I enjoy The Economist? I get some stick from colleagues, who reckons it is surreptitiously dripping neoliberal poison into my formerly socialist soul. But it’s just so good! On a good week, there are half a dozen must-read articles on development-related issues, which I try to tweet. But based on last week’s issue,

10 Killer Facts on Democracy and Elections

July 12, 2013
Ok this is a bit weird, but I want to turn an infographic into a blogpost. The ODI, which just seems to get better and better, has just put out a 10 killer facts on elections and democracy infographic by Alina Rocha Menocal, and it’s great. Here’s a summary: Most countries today are formal democracies. An astonishing political transformation has taken