Riker in the Tropics: Revisiting the Theory of Political Coalitions (1962)

As part of DLP’s coalitions series, this paper revisits one of the earliest attempts to develop a theory of political coalitions, or perhaps a political theory of coalitions – William Riker’s classic account of The Theory of Political Coalitions, first published in the early 1960s. While Riker’s account focused essentially on legislative and electoral coalitions in stable institutional environments, many of the insights and questions in the book – such as, size, duration, stability, and coherence of goals – remain relevant for a wide range of reform and developmental coalitions in the politics of developing countries.

This is illustrated in the findings of a DLP coalitions workshop report published on the website recently, which  reviewed contemporary forms and experiences of coalitions for change in both developing and developed countries, and the lessons for policy-makers and practitioners. The present paper reviews Riker’s theory, assesses its limitations, and suggests a series of important issues that require attention.

The third paper in the series – a review of the literature on ‘reform coalitions’ – will follow, laying out the basis for a comparative research project dealing with how donors have worked to promote reform or developmental coalitions in a variety of sectors and issue areas, the outcome of that work, and the lessons for policy and practice that flow from those experiences.

Download the paper:

Adrian Leftwich and Edward Laws (2012) "Riker in the Tropics: The Theory of Political Coalitions (1962) and the politics of change in developing countries." DLP Concept Paper 02.
 

Tags

Related items

DLP's core research themes

Friday 30th May 2014

Five core themes run through the heart of this new-look Developmental Leadership Program website. They are signposts to help visitors explore our research, and they are the building blocks of the new strategy that will guide our work over the next three years.

Read more

New DLP research on the Medellin Miracle

Tuesday 4th March 2014

From the most murderous city on earth to 'a new global standard for urban policy': Kate Maclean's DLP Research Paper unpacks the politics of change in the wake of crisis.

Read more

New book on social sector policy reform in the Philippines

Tuesday 4th March 2014

'Room For Maneuver' explores the politics of social sector policy reform in the Philippines. The book, co-edited by the late Adrian Leftwich, highlights lessons for reform advocates.

Read more

Adrian Leftwich Memorial Conference

Friday 24th January 2014

We were delighted that over 100 scholars and development practitioners joined us for the Adrian Leftwich Memorial Conference on 24 January. We commemorated DLP's founding Director of Research with a fascinating day of reflection and discussion.

Read more

'Reform' Coalitions: A New Concept Paper

Wednesday 9th May 2012

'Reform' coalitions have been noted by many authors in a very diverse range of literatures. But what do we know about them? And should we not understand better their role in the politics of development? What are the circumstances of their provenance, and the political conditions and characteristics of successful ones? Can it be demonstrated that such coalitions have contributed directly to growth and poverty reduction? And, if so, can or should donors work politically to facilitate, encourage and promote their emergence and functioning? In this paper Caryn Peiffer identifies some of the common features of these coalitions and suggests some of the important questions that will be explored by further DLP research.

Read more

Riker in the Tropics: Revisiting the Theory of Political Coalitions (1962)

Wednesday 25th April 2012

As part of DLP's coalitions series, this paper revisits one of the earliest attempts to develop a theory of political coalitions, or perhaps a political theory of coalitions - William Riker's classic account of The Theory of Political Coalitions, first published in the early 1960s. While Riker's account focused essentially on legislative and electoral coalitions in stable institutional environments, many of the insights and questions in the book - such as, size, duration, stability, and coherence of goals - remain relevant for a wide range of reform and developmental coalitions in the politics of developing countries. The paper reviews Riker's theory, assesses its limitations, and suggests a series of important issues that require attention.

Read more

Coalitions in the Politics of Development - A Workshop Report

Wednesday 18th April 2012

'Coalitions' are part and parcel of everyday politics, everywhere, nationally and sub-nationally and in all sectors and issue areas. They are also central to the inner politics that shape political settlements and help solve collective action problems. Yet we know very little about what makes for successful coalitions, or what the international community can do to support the emergence of developmental coalitions. The workshop brought together practitioners, researchers and theorists from developed and developing societies and this report summarises the important continuities, generalizations and messages that we identified. It is the first in a series of papers that seek to clarify this pervasive feature of the politics of development.

Read more

Coalitions Workshop Sydney 15-16 February 2012

Wednesday 15th February 2012

Despite a potentially huge range of empirical evidence and examples, our understanding of how coalitions are formed, managed and funded, and what makes for successful coalitions remains remarkably limited. The purpose of the workshop is therefore to deepen our understanding of these crucial developmental political processes, to help classify different forms of coalitions, to derive significant policy and programmatic messages, and to formulate guidelines for the international community about how to broker, facilitate and support progressive developmental coalitions across sectors and issue areas. The workshop will draw on the rich experience and thinking of its participants - a mix of distinguished researchers and practitioners from a variety of contexts.

Read more

A new series of DLP Concept Briefs: No. 1 Predatory Leaderships, Predatory Rule & Predatory States

Tuesday 11th October 2011

As the development community moves towards a better understanding of, and engagement with, the political economy and politics of development, it is important to ensure the clarity of the concepts and terms used for analytical and policy purposes. This series of DLP Concept Briefs is intended as a contribution to that effort. Written as short essays, these Briefs will focus mainly on concepts used in DLP publications (for example, leadership, coalitions, structure and agency). But they will also deal with wider issues in the political analysis of development, such as 'political settlements', 'collective action' and 'political economy'.

Read more

Princeton University Program: Innovations for Successful Societies

Thursday 6th October 2011

Policy-makers, researchers and practitioners can learn a great deal about the complexity of the politics of reform from the direct experiences of reform leaderships in developing countries. The Innovations for Successful Societies at Princeton University is building a series of case studies and recordings of interviews with developmental leaders from around the world. This rich source of information will be of great value to those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the role which developmental leaderships and coalitions can play in promoting locally appropriate institutional and policy innovation and reform in the diverse contexts of their own countries.

Read more

Working Politically for Pro-Poor Policies in Indonesia

Friday 5th August 2011

This excellent paper by the Asia Foundation explores the politics of local coalitions working to expand coverage of health services for the poor in two municipalities in Central Java, Indonesia - Semarang and Pekalongan. The research, by Laurel MacLaren, Alam Surya Putra and Erman Rahman, shows that facilitating and supporting the emergence and activities of coalitions of leaders and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) can be a highly effective means of achieving pro-poor policy outcomes in some institutional contexts.

Read more

A Report on DLP's first Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt

Monday 20th June 2011

There is now wide recognition that political processes - and especially the role of leaderships and coalitions - are fundamental in shaping and sustaining the institutional and policy environment that promotes or frustrates sustainable economic growth and inclusive social development. That being so, what is to be done? What does it mean for development policy and practice? In seeking to address some of these issues, the DLP held its first Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt in March, 2011. This paper provides a summary of the key findings, insights and initial guidance arising from the workshop and from recent phases of DLP research.

Read more

UN Women International Roundtable in Egypt

Thursday 2nd June 2011

Dr. Mariz Tadros presented the findings from her recent DLP research paper, "Working Politically Behind Red Lines: Structure and agency in a comparative study of women's coalitions in Egypt and Jordan", at the International Roundtable: "Pathways for Women in Democratic Transitions - International Experiences and Lessons Learned", on June 2nd 2011in Cairo. The objective of this Roundtable was to explore paths towards democratic transitions that ensure good governance, gender equality and social justice.

Read more

Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt

Monday 4th April 2011

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) held its first Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt on 10th and 11th March, 2011, facilitated by the GIZ. The focus of the DLP is on the role of developmental leaderships and coalitions in the politics of sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development. The purpose of the workshop was to explore and elaborate the policy, programme and operational implications of the recently completed phase of DLP research and to map the way forward for future research, policy and communications activities.

Read more

New Paper: Working Politically Behind Red Lines: Women's Coalitions in Egypt and Jordan

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

"Engaging politically behind red lines" examines six cases of collective initiatives to advance women's rights in Egypt and Jordan between 2000 and 2010. The study explores what accounts for the emergence, success and failure of women's coalitions in these two countries. Using a case study approach, the study examines the interface between collective agency and structure in two national contexts characterized by authoritarian rule and powerful Islamist movements strongly opposed to any structural transformation of gender hierarchies.

Read more

New Paper: The Politics of a Women's Rights Coalition in South Africa

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

How do women's rights groups campaign for vital institutional reform of archaic laws on sexual violence in new democracies? How can they best 'work politically' to achieve positive outcomes? What lessons are there for donors and supporters? This research paper uses findings from a study of the National Working Group on Sexual Offences to demonstrate how civil society coalitions may draw on and expand their elite networks and exploit political and institutional arrangements to build developmental partnerships.

Read more

New paper on 'Growth Alliances: Insights from Egypt'

Wednesday 5th January 2011

A recent paper in Business and Politics explores the emergence, evolution and forms of 'growth alliances' in Egypt. Professors Abla Abdel-Latif, of the American University in Cairo, and Hubert Schmitz, of the Institute of Development Studies, show how largely informal and politically-negotiated relations helped to shape alliances between some business sectors and key policy-makers without apparently becoming abused for private gain.

Read more

GTZ Brown Bag Lunch

Monday 22nd March 2010

Adrian Leftwich gave a brown bag lunch at GTZ talking on: "Beyond Institutions: Leaders, Elites and Coalitions in the Politics of Development"

Read more

About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

Find out more

News

Research Fellow vacancies at La Trobe, Melbourne

Thursday 28th August 2014

Two exciting opportunities have arisen for an accomplished research fellow and senior research fellow to work with DLP at La Trobe University's Institute for Human Security and Social Change.

Read more

Security and justice: the first in a new series of literature reviews

Monday 21st July 2014

The first of the Developmental Leadership Program's 'State of the Art' papers is now available. Our SOTA series aims to lay the groundwork for future DLP research by setting out what existing research evidence and development practice tell us about the politics of development in key areas.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog