Please join us on Tuesday, February 20th for “A Loyal Middle Class: How Post-Communist Autocrats Use the State Sector to Secure Support”, a talk with Bryn Rosenfeld, University of Southern California. This event is part of the Occasional Series, co-sponsored by the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia and NYU Department of Politics.
The question of how society’s class structure affects the prospects for democracy has long been a core preoccupation in the study of politics. One of the most enduring arguments in this literature holds that growth of the middle class gives rise to democratization. This view is echoed in canonical approaches to democratization, including both political economy’s redistributive theories and cultural values-based theories. Yet remarkably little systematic research examines middle class attitudes toward democracy in contemporary autocratic settings. Will growing post-communist middle classes enhance their countries’ prospects for democracy? Or standing the conventional logic on its head: Might it be the case that certain modes of state-supported middle class growth, in fact, delay democratization? Drawing lessons from the post-communist countries, this talk will examine how autocracies use the institution of public sector employment to secure the support of key middle class constituencies. The evidence shows that support for democracy and the prospects for mobilized democratic transition hinge considerably on the middle classes’ degree of state dependence.
Bryn Rosenfeld is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include comparative political behavior, with a focus on regime preferences and voter behavior in nondemocratic systems, development and democratization, post-communism, and survey methodology. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and Sociological Methods & Research. She is a recipient of the Juan Linz Prize for Best Dissertation and a Best Article Award honorable mention, both by the American Political Science Association’s Comparative Democratization Section. Prior to joining the faculty at USC, she was a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. She has also worked for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Opinion Research, where she designed studies of public opinion in the former Soviet Union. She earned her Ph.D. at Princeton University in 2015.