Counter Music


India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has dominated Indian politics in the past decade, upending the country’s long-standing Congress Party rule at the national level and competing with regional and ethnic parties in state elections. While the BJP’s Hindu nationalist ideology and economic agenda appeal to elite Hindu voters, the party has also secured votes from marginalized communities, using tactics that fall outside of well-documented clientelist models.

In a 2011 paper, political scientist TARIQ THACHIL examines the role of nonstate service provision in building lower-caste support for the BJP, which has been central to the party’s electoral success.

From the text:

“The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) efforts to woo lower castes were seen as particularly daunting, given that the Brahminical ideology it espouses has largely been understood as one appealing to Hindu elites and not to those subjected to the daily humiliations of caste practice or to those whose spiritual traditions have been denigrated as improper or even uncivilized. Further, the party supported policies that largely appealed to upper castes, whose economic interests and preferences were the diametrical opposite of those of most poor voters. However, recent electoral evidence suggests several instances of counterintuitive support for the BJP from two of India’s most marginalized communities: Dalits (former “untouchable” castes) and Adivasis (India’s indigenous tribal populations).

I analyze how the upper-caste BJP has relied on the services provided by its grassroots affiliates in the Hindu nationalist Sangh Parivar (family of organizations) to make unexpected inroads among lower-caste voters in India. I argue that even when used to win votes, service provision should not be narrowly classified as simply a variant of clientelist strategy. There can be no doubt that a major part of the appeal of services for poor communities is material, particularly in areas where basic health and educational services remain woefully inadequate, as they do still in many parts of India. Yet to be successful, service activists had to provide services over multiple electoral cycles without linking provision to the quid pro quo protocol that underpins clientelist exchange. Further, to provide services reliably, activists must literally embed themselves within communities. This embedded quality generated several nonmaterial mechanisms through which activists could affect political choices, including even those of many voters not directly benefiting from their services. Providers exploit their formally nonpartisan status and the high regard accruing from their dedicated provision to garner credibility and influence within their local communities.”

Link to the paper.

  • Vidya Bharati ran approximately 6,000 schools in the late 1980s, and by 2003 this number had reached a total of 19,741.” In an earlier paper, Thachil argues that India’s defunding of education facilitated the growth of private schools (called Vidya Bharati) run by Hindu nationalist group RSS, which played a key role in service provision to rural communities. Link.
  • Susan Stokes’ definitive account of clientelism emphasizes the centrality of excludable benefits and qui pro quo exchange. Link. James C. Scott’s earlier work defines patron-client relationships through their socioeconomic asymmetries. Link.
  • For more on the BJP’s rise, see Pradeep Chhibber’s 1999 book on the transformation of India’s party system and Christophe Jaffrelot’s 1996 book on the Hindu nationalist movement. Link, and link.


The Latin American service sector since 1980

Postdoctoral researcher at Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niteroi, Brazil GRACIELE PEREIRA GUEDES studies the growth of the Latin American service sector using new data. In a new English-language summary of her dissertation, she presents key findings from her study of 18 Latin American countries from 1980 to 2014.

From the summary:

“Although the most recent service employment literature has investigated the explanations for the different trajectories and characteristics of service sector development in developed economies, the characteristics of LA (Latin American) tertiarization remain partially unexplored. This leads to the following questions: has service sector employment simply unfolded in a delayed fashion in LA countries, or does it have its own contours? Moreover, which factors account for the expansion of service sector employment within LA countries? This study seeks to address these questions by investigating 18 LA countries over the 1980–2014 timeframe.

The main results suggest that, although the LA service sector is distributive-based par excellence, some distinct long-term moves occurred. It is remarkable that greater variations were observed in the producer subsector and, within the social subsector, in health activities. During the period from 2000 to 2014, a distinct set of factors influenced the expansion in the service sector employment share—the average number of years of schooling, GDP per capita, female labor force participation, and the degree of urbanization. In contrast, increased wage inequality tended to inhibit the growth of the service sector as a share of total employment.”

Link to the summary. (Stay tuned for an essay on this work forthcoming on the Phenomenal World.)

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way:

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  • This week marked the announcement of the Compton Pledge, the largest city-based guaranteed income initiative in the US, led by Compton Mayor Aja Brown in partnership with JFI and the Fund for Guaranteed Income. View the press release here, and a story in the Los Angeles Times here.
  • For more on this new pilot, join us on Tuesday, October 27 at 6 pm EST for the next Social Wealth Seminar featuring Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton. Mayor Brown will present on “The Compton Pledge: An Economic Resilience Strategy for Strengthening Community in Compton.” Link to the website. RSVP to
  • We are hiring for a full-time Vice President of Strategy & Operations to assist with the management of JFI’s projects. Link to the job description. Link to the job description.
  • “The most important predictors of which cities were hardest hit by the pandemic are exogenous characteristics such as population and density.” A new NBER working paper examines temporal and geographic variation in the early US Covid pandemic. Link.
  • Rodrigo Custodio Urban and Liane Yuri Kondo Nakada use GIS-based modeling to analyze Covid deaths in São Paulo. Link.
  • “We found that, regardless of the source of the information, recommendations for behavioral changes decreased individuals’ willingness to take personal actions to reduce greenhouse gases, decreased willingness to support proclimate candidates, reduced belief in the accelerated speed of climate change, and decreased trust in climate scientists.” By Risa Palm, Toby Bolsen, and Justin T. Kingsland. Link. Last month, NPR covered oil and gas companies’ misleading, multimillion dollar campaign to encourage plastic recycling. Link.
  • Pelin Demirel, Ekaterina Nemkova, and Rebecca Taylor on global inequalities between online freelancers. Link.
  • “City-level minimum wages seem to be able to tailor the policy to local economic environment without imposing substantial distortions in allocation of labor and businesses across locations.” By Arindrajit Dube and Attila S. Linder. Link.
  • “After a year of turmoil, political repression, and corruption, Bolivians overwhelmingly voted back into office the same progressive political party that was ousted a year ago.” By Linda Farthing. Link. And Pablo Stefanoni on the challenges of the new MAS government. Link.
  • “Whaling during the era of Dutch dominance was an ‘open access fishery.’ Was the extinction of the Bowhead whale, therefore, an example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’? Could regulation designed to solve the problem of open access have saved the whales? We show that the issue is complex. Although regulation was a necessary condition for saving the whales, it was not sufficient. Regulations designed to prevent excess entry and rent dissipation would have saved the whales under the static and ahistorical assumptions typically made in the resource management literature. These assumptions include the single regulatory objective of profit maximization, perfect foresight into the indefinite future, and the indefinite maintenance of a regulatory regime once it is put in place—policy updating, in other words, is precluded. However, when other objectives such as the maintenance of employment are allowed or when policy is revised in the light of new information, the stock of whales once again begins to decline. The trend toward extinction is less rapid than under open-access conditions, but it is inexorable even when the industry is regulated.” By Robert C. Allen and Ian Keay. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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