Researching the politics of development



Mass movements and government commitment to inclusive development


The primary aim of this project is to develop a database of mass movements and their characteristics. There are two specific analytical aims:

  1. to examine the role of mass movements in inclusive policymaking; and
  2. to identify internal characteristics of mass movements that are associated with success or failure in realising more inclusive policymaking.



A pilot study has been carried out in 10 geographically disparate countries: Brazil, Ghana, Taiwan, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. A further 28 additional countries will add to the geographical breadth of the dataset, including countries from sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Research question

What explains government commitment to inclusive, pro-poor development policies?
Analytical aim 1, specific hypotheses:

  1. Across countries, governments are systematically more likely to make policies that benefit citizens in lower socioeconomic groups, such as small farmers or manual workers, when these citizens are organised into mass movements.
  2. When a government becomes associated with an organised mass movement demanding policy change – such as increased provision of public goods like health care and education – the government will subsequently alter its policies to meet this demand.

Analytical aim 2, specific hypotheses:

  1. Movements that pursue specific policy aims are more likely to produce shifts towards more inclusive policymaking than movements that seek general benefits for their constituents.
  2. Movements succeed in producing shifts towards more inclusive policymaking when they are bottom-up, rather than when they are hierarchical.
  3. Conditions that decrease regime willingness and ability to put down protests – economic stagnation, ethnic homogeneity, or international influence – increase the probability that movements succeed in producing shifts towards more inclusive policymaking.


Methods and research design

The project consists of three phases. Phase 1, the pilot to test the methodology in 10 countries, has already been completed. Phase 2 involves the coding of a further 28 countries. In Phase 3, the completed dataset will be merged with existing cross-national datasets and analysed using appropriate statistical techniques to test the hypotheses for analytical aims 1 and 2.

How does this project fit within ESID’s research agenda?

The project primarily addresses core research question 2, focusing on the response of policymaking elites to organised citizens. It has implications for core research question 3, helping to explain where governments have the incentive to develop state capacity for inclusive policymaking.


Lead ResearcherStephen KosackWashington State University, USA