Book Project:

How Parties Collapse: The Politics of Creative Destruction in India

How do established parties collapse and get replaced by competitors? Established parties benefit from decades of accumulated party brand, organization, and access to finance — making their collapse not only destabilizing for democracy but also theoretically puzzling.

Drawing an analogy to the collapse of established firms, this book identifies a combination of two factors as the root cause of party collapse: i) the mobilization of new interest groups stemming from technological and structural change or “creative destruction” and ii) a failure to incorporate new groups into the party due to the organizational entrenchment of pre-existing party elites, who block adaptation in order to protect their private rents at the cost of the party as a whole.

The theory is applied to explain the long-run collapse and resilience of the historically dominant Congress party across regions of India, the world’s largest democracy. Drawing on historical research and statistical data, I document why the Congress party collapsed in regions of India that were strongholds of the colonial-era independence movement — a “reversal of fortune” that emerged over time as a result of the party’s failure to incorporate newly mobilized lower-caste and rural groups in the wake of large-scale technological shocks, notably the green revolution. By contrast, the party survived in regions where it began with relatively weaker organizational roots.

The findings highlight the importance of technological change and organizational capacity to adapt as key variables determining the long-run performance of parties and other political organizations.