Friday, January 21, 2011

Scott Radnitz's "Weapons of the Wealthy"

Scott Radnitz is Assistant Professor in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Weapons of the Wealthy: Predatory Regimes and Elite-Led Protests in Central Asia, and reported the following:
My book uses in-depth research from a region unfamiliar to most people—Central Asia—to make a larger point about the political dynamics of authoritarian regimes. I contrast Uzbekistan, which made minimal economic reforms and left the economy in state hands, with Kyrgyzstan, which underwent thorough market reforms and allowed private actors to gain control of important resources. The critical point in my argument is that new elites separate from the regime emerged in Kyrgyzstan and invested some of their wealth in needy communities. Charity helped these elite-patrons to (1) win elections to parliament, (2) demonstrate a commitment to social justice (however cynical their actual intentions), allowing them to legitimate their political agenda and withstand accusations of corruption, and (3) mobilize loyal supporters as a last line of defense against a predatory state.

Page 99 is unfortunately a transitional page, concluding a section in which I use my fieldwork in the region to detail the activities of some of these patrons in Kyrgyzstan, and starting a discussion of the absence of such elite-patrons in Uzbekistan.

These elite-mass ties outside the ambit of the state, which I term subversive clientelism, turned out to be consequential in Kyrgyzstan, where parliamentary candidates who had invested in communities mobilized their supporters in 2005 to protest fraudulent elections, culminating in the overthrow of the president.

The processes I describe point to a broader trend in the region—the dispersion of power in states that carried out early reforms. In such systems, which are sometimes called hybrid regimes, intricate and dynamic struggles for power take place between the state leadership and autonomous elites. In some cases, notably Georgia and Ukraine, opposition elites mobilized street protests, toppling their regimes. Looking through the lens of the Kyrgyz case, we should not assume that mass demonstrations truly represent grassroots aspirations—protest can also be a weapon of the wealthy, who otherwise have few means at their disposal to resist the state.

It’s a shame I am unable to promote other pages ending in “9.” For example, if I could highlight 109, 149, and 159, I could elaborate on fascinating maps, riveting narratives of ordinary people who challenge their government, and deconstruction of the dynamics of protest. I hope page 99 will turn out auspiciously in the sequel.
Learn more about Weapons of the Wealthy at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue