Rethinking the Study of Electoral Politics in the Developing World: Reflections on the Indian Case

Rethinking the Study of Electoral Politics in the Developing World: Reflections on the Indian Case

By Adam Michael Auerbach, Jennifer Bussell, Simon Chauchard, Francesca R. Jensenius, Gareth Nellis, Mark Schneider, Neelanjan Sircar, Pavithra Suryanarayan, Tariq Thachil, Milan Vaishnav, Rahul Verma, and Adam Ziegfeld
Cambridge University Press, 22 March 2021

In the study of electoral politics and political behavior in the developing world, India is often considered to be an exemplar of the centrality of contingency in distributive politics, the role of ethnicity in shaping political behavior, and the organizational weakness of political parties. Whereas these axioms have some empirical basis, the massive changes in political practices, the vast variation in political patterns, and the burgeoning literature on subnational dynamics in India mean that such generalizations are not tenable. In this article, we consider research on India that compels us to rethink the contention that India neatly fits the prevailing wisdom in the comparative politics literature. Our objective is to elucidate how the many nuanced insights about Indian politics can improve our understanding of electoral behavior both across and within other countries, allowing us to question core assumptions in theories of comparative politics.