Article written by DPDF 2007 The Political Economy of Redistribution fellow Tod S. Van Gunten, featured in the International Journal of Comparative Sociology.
Observers of economic policy-making in developing countries often suggest that consensus and cohesion within technocratic policy elites facilitate the implementation and consolidation of reforms, but have not clearly defined these terms or the relationship between them. Likewise, political sociologists argue that social networks account for elite cohesion, but have not adequately specified the relevant structural properties of these networks. This article argues that structural network cohesion facilitates elite consensus formation by enabling cooperation, while fragmented networks promote competition between factions and hence conflict. I support this hypothesis empirically by examining two cases in which elite consensus was severely challenged by financial crises: Mexico and Argentina. Mexican policy elites sustained consensus throughout the crisis, whereas conflict plagued the Argentine elite. Likewise, while the Mexican technocratic elite is highly cohesive, the Argentine elite is fragmented and factionalized. I document this hypothesis using a mixed-methods approach that embeds an analysis of elite networks within a comparative analysis of policy-making patterns drawing on extensive fieldwork in both countries.