Concept Paper 2 - Riker in the Tropics

It is more than 50 years since William Riker published his classic book on The Theory of Political Coalitions (1962). The important role that coalitions of many different kinds play in the complex politics of development has become increasingly recognised. As a result, this paper revisits Riker’s work to see what contribution his insights and conclusions may have for understanding the success (or failure) of developmental coalitions in the politics of developing countries. The paper suggests that in a number of ways Riker identified certain key issues that remain relevant for understanding the formation, functioning and activities of coalitions. But by restricting the analysis to narrowly political (electoral and legislative) coalitions in stable and consolidated institutional environments, the theory has some important limitations when applied to a wider set of coalitions and especially those in unstable or multiple institutional contexts that are common in developing societies.
 
The paper first briefly re-states the central theory of the book and some of its important insights. Using these as a springboard, it goes on to explore some of their limitations in terms of both method and application – especially for politics in unstable institutional contexts. Finally, the paper outlines some questions and research issues that need attention if policy-makers and practitioners are to better understand the centrality of coalitions in the politics of development and also consider whether, when, where and how to promote, broker, facilitate or support the emergence and activities of reform and developmental coalitions, nationally and sub-nationally, as well as in all sectors and issue areas.
 
Given the importance of achieving a better understanding of the politics of development in which coalitions are central, this re-evaluation of Riker’s important book forms part of a series of work by The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) on this subject.

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

Doing Development Differently workshop - Jakarta 2017

Thursday 30th March 2017

Putting the concept of Thinking and Working Politically into practice was at the heart of a workshop on 15-16 March attended by more than 200 delegates from the field of international development. Delegates from the government, civil service and local organisations of the host country, Indonesia, were joined by academics, including DLP researchers, and staff from donor organisations and NGOs.

Read more

DLP shares research at FCO Africa Study Day

Monday 27th March 2017

DLP findings on the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the topics discussed with with UK diplomats and civil servants at the FCO's Africa Study Day, held at Sandhurst on 21 March. This year's Foreign and Commonwealth Office event was organised by University of Birmingham's International Development Department, home to DLP.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog