Democracy and State-building


‘Credible Enforcement before Credible Commitment: Exploring the Implications of Institutional Sequencing’ (funded by the Swedish Research Council)

Samuel Huntingdon first observed that while Western countries democratized after the state had become strong, most developing countries today are following the opposite sequence. In this project, together with Marina Nistotskaya at the University of Gothenburg, we explore the implications of Huntingdon’s observation, offering a new theoretical argument about why sequencing matters and testing our argument with a novel measure of historical state capacity – the extent and quality of cadastral records.


D’Arcy, Michelle (with Marina Nistotskaya). 2017. ‘State First, Then Democracy: Using Cadastral Records to Explain Governmental Performance’. Governance 30.2 (2017): 193-209. Available here.

D’Arcy, Michelle (with Marina Nistotskaya). 2015. ‘The Early Modern Origins of Contemporary Tax Systems.’ Under Review. Available here.

D'Arcy, Michelle (with Marina Nistotskaya) 2015. ‘Getting to Sweden:The Origins of High Tax Compliance in the Swedish Tax State’

D’Arcy, Michelle (with Marina Nistotskaya). ‘The Irish Tax State and Historical Legacies: Slowly converging capacity, persistent unwillingness to pay’

D’Arcy, Michelle (with Marina Nistotskaya and Robert Ellis). 2015. ‘State-building, democracy and taxation: Why Ireland will never be Sweden’ University of Tokyo Journal of Law and Politics Vol.12. Paper.


Decentralization and Development


Do Local Elections Foster Local Democracy? – Party Strategies in the First Elections at the Country Level in Kenya (funded by the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy)

In this project, together with Agnes Cornell at Aarhus University, we investigated the electoral strategies of candidates seeking election as governor in the first elections under devolution in Kenya.


D'Arcy, Michelle (with Agnes Cornell). Everyone’s Turn to Eat? Devolution and Corruption in Kenya. Forthcoming African Affairs

D'Arcy, Michelle (with Agnes Cornell). 2014. "Plus ça change? County-level politics in Kenya after devolution." Journal of Eastern African Studies 8.1: 173-191. Abstract.

Conference Proceedings:

D’Arcy, Michelle (with Agnes Cornell) eds. 2014. ‘Devolution and Local Development in Kenya: Conference Proceedings.’ International Centre for Local Democracy. Proceedings No. 2. Available here.

Policy Briefs:

D’Arcy, Michelle. 2015. ‘Decentralization, Corruption and governance in Africa: what we can learn from Kenya’, Development Studies Association of Ireland Research Brief 2015/001. Available here.


Elites, Democracy and Corruption in the Developing World


I am interested in investigating how democratization affects elite incentives for corruption in African states. I argue that democratization in weak states initially creates incentives for corruption. Democratization creates more routes to power, destabilizes rulers in relation to elites and reduces their ability to employ strategies of control, making corruption the key means of elite management.

Book Chapter:

D’Arcy, Michelle. 2015. ‘Rulers and their Elite Rivals: How democratization has increased incentives for corruption in sub-Saharan Africa.’ In Dahlström, C and L. Wängnerud (eds.). Elites, Institutions, and the Quality of Government. London: Palgrave Macmillan. See here.


Taxation and Social Services in Africa


In my PhD I investigated the fiscal contract in Africa, looking at how taxation and spending reflecting and reinforced existing patterns of political development.


D’Arcy, Michelle (2013) ‘Non-State Actors and Universal Services in Tanzania and Lesotho: State-building by Alliance’, Journal of Modern African Studies, issue 51:2. Abstract.

D’Arcy, Michelle (2012) ‘Taxation, Democracy and State-Building: how does sequencing matter?’ Quality of Government Working Paper, 2012:4. Available here.

D'Arcy, Michelle. (2011) ‘Why Do Citizens Assent to Pay Tax? Legitimacy, Taxation and the African State?’ Afrobarometer Working Paper Series No 126. Available here.