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Political Science and Political Economy Research Seminar

How Does the State Replace the Community? Experimental Evidence on Crime Control from South Africa

Anna Maria Wilke (Berkeley)

Tuesday 22 February 2022 14:00 - 15:30

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as in person or as hybrid (online and in person) events. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, in-person seminars are open to the public.

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom if the event is hybrid.


About this event

Throughout the developing world, citizens often rely on mechanisms other than the state’s justice system to deal with crime. A common form of informal crime control is mob vigilantism, the physical punishment of criminal suspects by groups of ordinary citizens. This paper sheds light on the relationship between state capacity and citizens’ willingness to rely on state rather than informal justice mechanisms. Citizens who perceive an increase in the capacity of state institutions may expect them to provide better enforcement services and may voluntarily substitute away from vigilantism. A more capable state may also have a greater ability to punish perpetrators of vigilante violence. I present results from a field experiment in South Africa that creates variation in the capacity of police to locate households. Findings from mid- and endline surveys suggest households exposed to an increase in police capacity became more willing to rely on police and less willing to resort to vigilantism. Results from a mechanism experiment point towards increased fear of state punishment for vigilante violence rather than improved service quality as the link between state capacity and vigilantism.

The Political Science and Political Economy (PSPE) research group at the LSE brings together faculty and PhD students who do quantitative and/or formal research on political institutions, political behaviour, public policy, and political economy.

The PSPE Research Seminar provides a venue for researchers (mostly from outside of the LSE) to present their work.

These seminars are held on Tuesdays in term time at 14.00-15.30, both ONLINE AND IN PERSON in room 32L 3.05, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar coordinator: Dr Stephane Wolton

Contact gov.comms@lse.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list and to recieve the zoom link.