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Political Rigging

A primer on political capture and influence in the 21st century.

With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, much attention has focused on the white working class voters fueling anti-establishment movements far and wide. But the elites they are railing against deserve at least as much scrutiny if we are to truly grasp these anti-system revolts and where they might lead. Over the past few decades, amid seismic social, governmental, and technological change (not just globalization), many of these elites have operated in new and insidious ways that “rig” the system to benefit their set. They have helped usher in surging inequality, arguably the single greatest economic threat facing democracy today. 

Mass movements, right and left, are laying the blame on what many have called a “corrupt” or “rigged” system. But the discussion of rigging, which should be dispassionate and analytical, has fallen prey to demagoguery. Authors Janine R. Wedel, Nazia Hussain, and Dana Archer Dolan bring urgently needed sobriety and scholarship to the discourse. What they call “political rigging” is a systemic, structural problem that has not been fully conceptualized, until now. Their examination commissioned by Oxfam, “Political Rigging: A Primer on Political Capture and Influence in the Twenty-First Century,” provides an invaluable roadmap for practitioners, journalists, and scholars on understanding how political rigging occurs and how it is different from the ways influence has been deployed and exploited in the recent past. 

Drawing on literature from disparate fields and examples from five continents, the authors lay out how to conceptualize and chart rigging. The stakes here could not be higher. In a time of staggering division and invective, we must make unpacking the true nature of modern-day rigging a critical priority. We need to identify the processes of rigging and, in doing so, protect the vulnerable unfairly vilified by citizens and “leaders” unclear about what is really enriching the few at the expense of the many.

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Research

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