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Clan Governance and State Stability: The Relationship between Female Subordination and Political Order


We propose that the relative influence of clans is an important explanatory factor producing significant variation in state stability and security across societies. We explore the micro-level processes that link clan predominance with dysfunctional syndromes of state behavior. Clans typically privilege agnatic descent from the patriline and are characterized by extreme subordination of women effected through marriage practices. Particular types of marriage practices give rise to particular types of political orders and may be fiercely guarded for just this reason. We construct and validate a Clan Governance Index to investigate which variables related to women's subordination to the patriline in marriage are useful to include in such an index. We then show that clan governance is a useful predictor of indicators of state stability and security, and we probe the value added by its inclusion with other conventional explanatory variables often linked to state stability and security.

“I against my brothers; my brothers and I against my cousins; my cousins, my brothers, and I against the world” (Bedouin saying)

“At the heart of tribes, to varying levels, is a severe patriarchy” (Jacobson 2013, 58).

Corresponding author
Valerie M. Hudson is professor of international affairs in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University (
Donna Lee Bowen is professor of political science and Middle East Studies coordinator at Brigham Young University.
Perpetua Lynne Nielsen is associate teaching professor of statistics at Brigham Young University.
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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Supplementary Materials

Hudson supplementary material
Tables S1-S3 and Figure S1

 PDF (143 KB)
143 KB
Supplementary Materials

Hudson supplementary material
Tables S1-S3 and Figure S1

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