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Social Forces and Regime Change: Beyond Class Analysis

Abstract

This article discusses three recent books that analyze patterns of political conflict and regime change in postcolonial Asia and Africa using a social forces approach to political analysis. The social forces tradition, originally pioneered by Barrington Moore, studies the social origins and political consequences of struggles between social groups whose members hold shared identities and interests. The works under review examine, respectively, the varied regime trajectories of Southeast Asia's states, divergent regime outcomes in India and Pakistan, and the institutional origins of social cleavages and political conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. Although historically the social forces paradigm has focused on conflict between class actors, the author argues that these three works fruitfully extend the social forces approach to encompass struggles between nonclass social groups, including those defined along the lines of ethnicity, religion, nationality, region, and family. This pluralized version of the social forces approach is better suited to studying patterns of regime change in Asia and Africa, where the paradigm has been less frequently applied than it has been to cases in Europe and Latin America.

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* I thank three anonymous reviewers for comments and feedback on earlier versions of this article.

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World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
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