Embittered Winners: Rights Deprivation and Ideology Distortion
What is the long term impact of political victimization on people's attitudes toward the society in authoritarian regimes? In this paper, we identify a political mechanism through which individuals with higher socioeconomic status exhibit more embittered beliefs in societal fairness and equality. We argue that regime's repression not only reshapes victims' attitudes permanently, but also reduces their opportunity cost of entering the market sector under the transformation of authoritarian rule. Repression thus has a long-lasting impact on attitude even if victims later benefitted from their reluctantly chosen career along with the success of market development. We examine the implications of our theory in China, where allocation of political and economic resources heavily depended on the affixed "class labels" from 1950s to 1970s. Using a nationwide survey, we show that victimization due to discriminated "class labels" gave rise to both an attitude shift and a "reversal of fortune" by pushing individuals with "bad" class background to non-governmental sectors, the later more lucrative career path. Somewhat surprisingly, we also find that the regime's transformation can block the mechanism of intergenerational transmission of political knowledge.