Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 June 2018
Can technological change contribute to political turnover? Influential theories suggest that technological change represents a form of creative destruction that can weaken incumbents and strengthen outsiders, leading to political turnover. This paper investigates a large-scale historical natural experiment: the impact of the green revolution on single-party dominance in India. Drawing on a theoretical framework based on models of contests, this paper argues that high-yielding variety (HYV) crops strengthened the incentives and capacity of a politically excluded group, in this case agricultural producers, to seek greater political representation. Exploiting the timing of the introduction of HYV crops, together with district-level variation in suitability for the new crop technology, instrumental variables analyses show that the green revolution played a pivotal role in the rise of agrarian opposition parties and decline of single-party dominance. The findings support theories linking technological change to political turnover, with important implications for the political economy of democratization.
I thank Volha Charnysh, Dipak Dasgupta, Daniel de Kadt, Devesh Kapur, Tesalia Rizzo, James Robinson, Prerna Singh, Sandip Sukhtankar, Pavithra Suryanarayan, Steven Wilkinson, George Yin, Daniel Ziblatt, Adam Ziegfeld; seminar participants at the Historical Political Economy Working Group, UC-Berkeley Contemporary India Politics Seminar, Harvard Economic History Workshop, Yale Conference on History and Politics, University of Pennsylvania Comparative Politics Workshop, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and three anonymous reviewers for valuable feedback. Replication files are available on the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/PSGCJH.