Cover of Dynasties and Democracy by Daniel M. Smith
Dynasties and Democracy
The Inherited Incumbency Advantage in Japan
Daniel M. Smith


July 2018
384 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9781503605053
Digital ISBN: 9781503606401

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Excerpts and More

Although democracy is, in principle, the antithesis of dynastic rule, families with multiple members in elective office continue to be common around the world. In most democracies, the proportion of such "democratic dynasties" declines over time, and rarely exceeds ten percent of all legislators. Japan is a startling exception, with over a quarter of all legislators in recent years being dynastic. In Dynasties and Democracy, Daniel M. Smith sets out to explain when and why dynasties persist in democracies, and why their numbers are only now beginning to wane in Japan—questions that have long perplexed regional experts.

Smith introduces a compelling comparative theory to explain variation in the presence of dynasties across democracies and political parties. Drawing on extensive legislator-level data from twelve democracies and detailed candidate-level data from Japan, he examines the inherited advantage that members of dynasties reap throughout their political careers—from candidate selection, to election, to promotion into cabinet. Smith shows how the nature and extent of this advantage, as well as its consequences for representation, vary significantly with the institutional context of electoral rules and features of party organization. His findings extend far beyond Japan, shedding light on the causes and consequences of dynastic politics for democracies around the world.

About the author

Daniel M. Smith is Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Harvard University.

"Daniel Smith's Dynasties and Democracy is a triumph of expositional clarity and measurement. It is hard to think of a sharper evaluation of the effects of political institutions on the quality and nature of democratic competition."

—Frances McCall Rosenbluth, Yale University

"Smith's book on dynastic politicians in Japan is a gem. He firmly and usefully places Japan into the comparative context through extensive presentation and analysis of data in other countries. His analysis will become the standard explanation for dynastic politicians in Japan. The prolific anecdotes and illustrations will also make this book appealing in classrooms."

—Robert J. Pekkanen, University of Washington

"As E. E. Schattschneider put it, 'he who can make the nominations is the owner of the party.' Dynasties and Democracy investigates parties in which such 'ownership' is effectively inheritable, giving rise to political family dynasties. It provides both a fascinating comparative study of nominations and the most compelling analysis to date of democratic dynasties."

—Gary W. Cox, Stanford University

"This deep dive into the phenomenon of democratic electoral dynasties is a valuable contribution to the comparative politics literature, not the least because the author makes good use of comparable findings from the Philippines and established democracies beyond Asia, such as the US, Ireland, and Israel. The puzzle presented by the high rate of such dynasties in the Japanese Diet by comparison with other liberal democracies and their implications for governing tie together the book's narrative and empirical findings....Recommended."

—J.C. Hickman, CHOICE

"Finding the right balance between a deep understanding of a given context and a broader perspective on political phenomena is difficult. There is no doubt that Daniel M. Smith succeeds in his book...This is part of a much broader comparative endeavour that has the potential to reinvent the study of institutionalized political actors. Some scholars are better than others at maximizing the output from such data and Smith is among the best."

—Marc André Bodet, Cahiers d'études africaines

"Daniel Smith demonstrates that political institutions, especially electoral systems and candidate selection procedures, influence the dominance of political dynasties in Japan, thereby countering the view that the dominance is merely a reflection of Japan's indigenous traditions and culture.Smith tests the fascinating hypothesis persuasively by using extensive data and sophisticated methods and paints a vivid picture of the reality of Japanese politics."––Yosuke Sunahara, Japanese Journal of Political Science