Coevolution of capitalism and political representation: The choice of electoral systems

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Protocorporatist West European countries in which economic interests were collectively organized adopted PR in the first quarter of the twentieth century, whereas liberal countries in which economic interests were not collectively organized did not. Political parties, as Marcus Kreuzer points out, choose electoral systems. So how do economic interests translate into party political incentives to adopt electoral reform? We argue that parties in protocorporatist countries were representative of and closely linked to economic interests. As electoral competition in single member districts increased sharply up to World War I, great difficulties resulted for the representative parties whose leaders were seen as interest committed. They could not credibly compete for votes outside their interest without leadership changes or reductions in interest influence. Proportional representation offered an obvious solution, allowing parties to target their own voters and their organized interest to continue effective influence in the legislature. In each respect, the opposite was true of liberal countries. Data on party preferences strongly confirm this model. (Kreuzer's historical criticisms are largely incorrect, as shown in detail in the online supplementary Appendix.). © 2010 American Political Science Association.






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Cusack, T, T Iversen and D Soskice (2010). Coevolution of capitalism and political representation: The choice of electoral systems. American Political Science Review, 104(2). pp. 393–403. 10.1017/S0003055410000134 Retrieved from

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David Soskice

Research Professor Emeritus of the Department of Political Science

David Soskice is Research Professor of Political Science at Duke University. And he is Research Professor of Comparative Political Economy at Oxford University and Senior Research Fellow of Nuffield College. He was Director of the Research Institute for Economic Change and Employment at the Wissenschaftszentrum für Socialforschung in Berlin (WZB)from 1990 to 2001; and School Centennial Professor of European Political Economy at the London School of Economics from 2004 to 2007. He did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Trinity and Nuffield Colleges at Oxford, and from 1968 to 1990 he was Official Fellow in Economics at University College, Oxford, where he is now Emeritus. He has been visiting professor at the Dept of Economics, Berkeley (1973/4, 1977, 1979, 1983), the Dept of Political Science, Duke University, the Industrial and Labour Relations School, Cornell University, at the Johns Hopkins Graduate Center for Advanced International Studies at Bologna, and in Dept of Social Sciences at Trento; he was adjunct Professor at the Research School of Social Sciences in the Australian National University. In 2004 he was the Mars visiting professor of Political Science at Yale. And in Spring 2007 he was visiting professor of Government at Harvard. He was seconded to the Prime Minister's Policy Unit in 10 Downing St (May 1998 to Feb 1999) to develop long-term policies on education and training. He wrote Unionism, Economic Stabilization and Incomes Policies: Euopean Experience (Brookings, 1983) with Robert Flanagan and Lloyd Ulman, and Macroeconomics and the Wage Bargain (OUP,1990) with Wendy Carlin. His major research area is comparative systems of advanced capitalism, and he and Peter Hall published an edited volume, Varieties of Capitalism (Oxford Univ Press, 2001) in which much of this work is summarised. With Wendy Carlin, he published Macroeconomics: Imperfections, Information and Policies (OUP, 2006); a second edition is in preparation. He is currently working with Torben Iversen on the interrelationship of capitalism and political institutions. He is beginning a project with Nicola Lacey on the comparative political economy of crime and punishment.

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