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Technological Change and Political Turnover: The Democratizing Effects of the Green Revolution in India

  • ADITYA DASGUPTA (a1)
Abstract

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.

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Corresponding author
Aditya Dasgupta is an Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Merced, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, 5200 North Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343, USA (adasgupta3@ucmerced.edu).
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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.

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