Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 18 > Issue 4

Social Conflict and the Predatory State

Brenton Kenkel, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University, USA, brenton.kenkel@vanderbilt.edu
Suggested Citation
Brenton Kenkel (2023), "Social Conflict and the Predatory State", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 18: No. 4, pp 437-468. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00020116

Publication Date: 03 Oct 2023
© 2023 B. Kenkel
Political economygame theorycivil conflict


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In this article:
Related Literature 
The Model 
Rentier State Revenues 
Revenues from Labor Extraction 
Empirical Implications 


Empirical scholarship identifies social cleavages as a predictor of slower economic growth, greater civil conflict, and other socioeconomic ills. Meanwhile, accounts of divide-and-rule politics claim that predatory rulers may benefit politically from exploiting internal schisms. Altogether, then, does internal fractionalization work to the benefit or detriment of a rent-seeking ruler? To answer this question, I model the political economy of predatory governance in a fractionalized society. For rentier states, whose revenues derive from control over natural resources or a similar exogenous source, internal divisions work to the ruler's benefit by depressing collective resistance. The opposite is true for a state financed by endogenous labor output, as the negative effect of social fractionalization on economic production outweighs the decrease in collective action against predatory rule. The analysis thus highlights a new channel by which rentier states are distinctive: they are the sole beneficiaries of divide-and-rule politics.