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My research began with a focus on the conditions of democratic consolidation in advanced industrial countries, especially in Western Europe. My first book — The Sources of Democratic Consolidation (Cornell University Press, 2002) — argued that the key right-of-center political movements formed long-term commitments to democracy only when their political risks in democracy became relatively low as left agendas moderated across time. Variation in these risks was used to explain variation in conservative regime preferences and in regime outcomes in Europe’s five largest countries from the 1870’s France to 1980’s Spain.
This first research project also included two articles with related but distinct arguments. In the Journal of Theoretical Politics (2001), I argued that formal political institutions in democracy cannot create the degree of predictability needed for consolidation. In Comparative Political Studies (2002), I argue that non-formal social-structural characteristic of countries are more important causes of regime outcomes than the formal regime characteristics emphasized in prominent claims concerning the rule of law and “institutionalized uncertainty.” Related reasoning is the basis of an article in The National Interest, “The Authoritarian Illusion” (2004).
My current research concerns factors affecting the size and role of government in selected cases in Western Europe and also the United States, and how they influence conservative attempts at reform of welfare states.