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when anarchism is a decent option: the case of somalia

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Africanists like to toss around the words “failed state.” But what they falsely assume is that there is only one option – building a stronger state. What would happen if the state just withered and people just let it go? Are people better off by just ditching the weak state? A 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization by Benjamin Powell, Ryan Ford, and Alex Nowratseh asks exactly this question. They ask, what happened in Somalia after their state collapsed 1991?

Somalia is a nation that was hammered by war, famine, dictators, and an out of control socialist state. In the 1991, the state collapsed and people reverted to tribal forms of governance based on Islamic courts and kinship (the Xeer system). In 2005, Powell et al. collected basic data on longevity, health, roads, money, and law. Then they asked, how does Somalia compare with other African states?

The answer is surprising. On many measures, Somalia post-1991 actually does well compared to 42 other sub-Saharan states. On at least five measures (including life expectancy and mortality), Somalia is in the top half (p. 662). On a few important measures (such as water access and immunization), they are near the bottom. Even then, they often improved in absolute terms, though not in relative terms. When you compared Somalia with neighbors that had been at war, they report improvements in most measures while other warring states saw declines. Somalia has also seen an expansion of its pastoral economy, a functional currency, and the best mobile phone system in the region. The major setback for Somalia is a depressing performance with regard to infant mortality, which probably relates to poor immunization rates. Still, statelessness did not lead to chaos. Rather, Somalia continued to resemble other African societies on most measures.

This is not an argument for selling off the White House, but it does make an extremely important comparative institutional point. High quality Western systems of governance are simply not on the table. There is no way these impoverished societies can create the level of wealth needed for Western style states in the short term. It is also the case that the options are horrible – dictatorships or Marxist states. If those are your choices, it might be plausible to evolve into a decentralized legal system.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Stree

Written by fabiorojas

July 1, 2015 at 12:01 am

where is rick perry? – a serious response to reihan salam about the republican field

This weekend, Slate published an article by Reihan Salam about Governor Rick Perry. Once considered a front runner, Perry quickly imploded in 2012 and is having trouble finding traction in the current primary. Why? As Reihan correctly notes, he has a record that indicates great political strength. On twitter, I offered the cheeky response: he once promoted legislation that allowed some undocumented Texans to receive financial aid from the University of Texas. Poison. Gabriel Rossman also notes that he “crashed and burned,” a reference to some poor campaigning. But still, he did manage to get the second most endorsements after Romney, which is usually a strong correlate of success as shown in the book The Party Decides.

I’d like to offer a deeper response which situates Perry within the broader evolution of national Republican politics and why he might have an even tougher time in 2016 than before. Let’s start with my master theory of national Republican politics as presented in the post Nixon’s Revenge. What you notice is that almost every single GOP Presidential ticket since 1952 has had someone from Nixon’s personal network – Nixon (1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972), Dole (1976, 1996), Ford (1976), Bush (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992), and Cheney (2000, 2004). This network is what you might call the elite of the national security wing of the GOP, since they focus on foreign intervention.

The next observation is that this ruling faction of the GOP has lost its grip, somewhat. Romney emerged from a more liberal wing of the GOP that is now almost extinct. Palin is the GOP’s version of the social justice warrior. McCain earned his political stripes by virtue of military service and family connections in Arizona and, as far as I know, has relatively little connection to the network of elite Republicans centered around Nixon in the late 20th century.

In theory, Rick Perry might be a strong candidate in this environment. A strong electoral record in a big Republican state would be an asset and you no longer need the sponsorship of the Bush/Nixon coalition. He could, in theory, beat a path similar to Reagan in the 1970s. Work the activist base, develop strong media skills, and use the home state at a launch pad for national politics. When the Nixon sponsored candidate lost in 1976, Reagan could step in and claim the mantle in the next election cycle.

So why can’t Perry use this strategy? First, the Bush faction recovered and Jeb is their guy. That is one very important faction that Perry can no longer rely on. A lot of donors, staff, and activists are off limits. Second, Perry has not projected himself in a way that allows him to be strongly identified with any other faction that is large enough to make a difference in the primary. For example, Romney and McCain easily appealed to centrist Republicans. Palin appealed to the Fox news crowd. Currently, Scott Walker has been able to appeal to anti-unionists, populists and Tea Partiers. Rand Paul can appeal to the 10% of the GOP that is libertarian. Ask yourself who Perry represents in the GOP and it is hard to clearly align him to a faction, even though it is fairly clear that he is a social conservative.

One might ask why Perry has failed to become the standard bearer for a GOP faction. I am not an expert on Texas politics, but I can offer a few conjectures. First, maybe Perry simply isn’t as adept at playing the game of conservative social identities. Walker has spent a lot of time fighting unions and is now tweaking tenure, which is a love letter to the GOP base. When every GOP governor is rushing to create a no-abortion zone, you’ll probably need to do more to stand out from the crowd than pass another law aimed at abortion clinics. Walker understands that better than anyone. Second, Perry is old (66). His career started in the 1980s. He may not have the energy, or the flexibility, to stand out in this environment. Third, Perry may be a Texas specialist. There are a lot of effective governors who did well in their states but failed to make any headway nationally. Fourth is what I call “Mitch Daniels syndrome.” Signal any compromise with the enemy and that can sink you quickly (e.g., the famous debate when Perry was booed for a rather modest higher ed reform benefiting immigrants). There’s a really good reason Mitch Daniels is now a university president and not a serious contender for the nomination.

Bottom line: With the Bush coalition pushing a candidate, there is less room for someone like Perry. Also, Perry hasn’t been able to make himself into a “brand name.” There isn’t much else to say.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

dear UK: more tweets, more votes!!!!

Previous More Tweets, More Votes coverage

The Oxford Internet Institute reports that Twitter data picked up some of the trends in last week’s election, when traditional polling did poorly. In their blog, they ask – did social media suggest the massive upset from last week? Answer, somewhat:

The data we produced last night produces a mixed picture. We were able to show that the Liberal Democrats were much weaker than the Tories and Labour on Twitter, whilst the SNP were much stronger; we also showed more Wikipedia interest for the Tories than Labour, both things which chime with the overall results. But a simple summing of mention counts per constituency produces a highly inaccurate picture, to say the least (reproduced below): generally understating large parties and overstating small ones. And it’s certainly striking that the clearly greater levels of effort Labour were putting into Twitter did not translate into electoral success: a warning for campaigns which focus solely on the “online” element.

One of the strengths of our original paper on voting and tweets is that we don’t simply look at aggregate social media and votes. That doesn’t work very well. Instead, what works is relative attention. So I would suggest that the Oxford Institute look at one-on-one contests between parties in specific areas and then measure relative attention. In the US, the problem is solved because each Congressional district has a clearly identified GOP and Democratic nominee. The theory is that when you are winning people talk about you more, even the haters. People ignore losers. Thus, the prediction is that relative social media attention is a signal of electoral strength. I would also note that social media is a noisy predictor of electoral strength. In our data, the “Twitter signal” varied wildly in its accuracy. The correlation was definitely there, but some cases were really far off and we discuss why in the paper.

Finally, I have not seen any empirical evidence that online presence is a particularly good tool for political mobilization. Even the Fowler paper in Nature showed that Facebook based recruitment was paltry. So I am not surprised that online outreach failed for Labour.

Bottom: The Oxford Internet Institute should give us a call, we can help you sort it out!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

May 11, 2015 at 12:01 am

states, states, and more states – a guest blog post by nick rowland

Nicholas Rowland is an associate professor of sociology at Penn State – Altoona. He is a sociologist of science and an Indiana alumnus. In this guest post, he asks for your help in exploring how social scientists imagine the state.

Greetings Orgtheory community,

I write to ask for help, help in hunting-down states. I am in the middle of compiling a list of different state concepts from all over academia. By “state concepts” (specifically plural) I am referring of concepts that appear to be crafted according to the formula “[select key term] state” wherein “[s]tate activity related to [select key term] becomes the definition of the self-referential term” (2015). Many of you are doubtlessly familiar with these sorts of concepts, for example, Adams’ “spectacular state” or Karl’s “petro state” of Guss’s “festive state” or Geertz’s “theater state” and so on. While some of these terms are esoteric and perhaps only used once or only by one scholar, others – such as “modern state,” “bureaucratic state” or “administrative state” – are so commonplace they almost appear to have no progenitor at all.

If you are familiar with concepts not featured below, please do leave a quick comment with the name of the concept and, if possible, some idea of where it comes from – even a vague idea of its origins helps. So far, this is the list of state concepts, and “thank you in advance” to those who offer to help.

[Ed. – It gets real statey and fun below this page break… you’ve been warned.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

April 2, 2015 at 1:51 am

Call for papers: Social movements and the economy

This is not an April Fool’s joke.

Call for Papers: Social Movements and the Economy
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
Date: October 23-25, 2015

We invite submissions for a workshop on the intersection of social movements and the economy, to be held at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management from Friday October 23 to Sunday October 25, 2015.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of a vibrant literature engaging with questions of how social movements challenge firms, support the rise of new industries, and engender field change in a variety of domains of economic activity. A growing amount of attention has also been devoted to the ways that actors with vested interests in particular types of economic activity may resist, co-opt, imitate, or partner with activist groups challenging their practices. On the whole, there is now substantial evidence of a variety of ways that social movements effectively influence the economy.

And yet there has been less recent attention paid to the inverse relationship: classic questions related to how economic forces – and the broader dynamics of capitalism – shape social movements. This is all the more remarkable given the major economic shifts that have taken place in the U.S. and abroad over the past decade, including economic crises, disruptions associated with financialization and changing corporate supply chains, the struggles of organized labor, and transformations linked to new technologies. These changes have major implications for both the theory and practice of social movement funding, claims-making, strategic decision-making, and the very targeting of states, firms, and other institutions for change.

This workshop seeks to bring together these two questions in order to engage in a thorough reconsideration of both the economic sources and the economic outcomes of social movements, with careful attention to how states intermediate each of these processes.

The keynote speaker will be John McCarthy, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Pennsylvania State University.

The workshop is planned to start with a dinner in the evening on Friday 10/23, to conclude with morning sessions on Sunday 10/25. Invited guests will be provided with domestic travel and accommodation support.
Submissions (PDF or DOC) should include:
– A cover sheet with title, name and affiliation, and email addresses for all authors
– An abstract of 200-300 words that describes the motivation, research questions, methods, and connection to the workshop theme
– Include the attachment in an email with the subject “Social Movements and the Economy”

Please send abstracts to walker@soc.ucla.edu and b-king@kellogg.northwestern.edu by May 15, 2015. Notification of acceptance will occur on or around June 15.

Contact Brayden King (b-king@kellogg.northwestern.edu) or Edward Walker (walker@soc.ucla.edu) for more information.

Written by brayden king

April 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm

ISIS’ state building strategy

The SSRC blog, The Immanent Frame, has an interesting post on the strategy of ISIS. From Steve Niva:

In its particular contribution to “jihadi security studies,” The Management of Savagery provides what Will McCants and Jarret Brachman call the “playbook” for what is referred in these writings as “regional jihad”: the attempt to seize territory within the Muslim world and establish a self-governing Islamic state in a sea of hostile opponents backed by the West.

In order to do this, Naji’s strategic doctrine echoes Mao’s familiar three-phase theory of revolutionary warfare in which the insurgent organization can be in one or all phases simultaneously. In the first phase, the Islamist insurgent actor seeks to create or exploit “regions of savagery” through violent or shocking actions that collapse central authority or state control via “damage and exhaustion.” The second phase establishes primitive forms of government to “manage” such “regions of savagery,” which he claims would be accepted by shell-shocked people desperate for security. These forces would gradually expand government services while engaging in even more shocking violence in order to extend the “regions of savagery” and defend them. The final phase is the transition from the “administration of savagery” in various regions to a fully governed Islamic state under a Salafist version of Islamic law.

What is distinctive in Naji’s doctrine is his emphasis on shocking and spectacular violence as an asymmetric warfare strategya jihadist shock doctrine. One of most important lessons of Robert Tabler’s The War of the Flea is that insurgent actions must always mobilize a population to side with their cause. In a chapter dedicated to “Using Violence,” Naji emphasizes that shocking violence is not only effective for recruitment and instilling fear, but that it is the primary means to create a society-wide crisis that will polarize the population and drag everyone into the battle. Naji contends that, “We must make this battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away, so that the two groups will realize that entering this battle will frequently lead to death. That will be a powerful motive for the individual to choose to fight in the ranks of the people of truth in order to die well, which is better than dying for falsehood and losing both this world and the next.”

Interesting – the strategy is to make death so likely that you care about how you will die, so you are attracted to triumphalist ideologies. Niva’s essays take a Weberian turn. After ISIS creates perpetual crisis, then comes the phase of pacification and monopolization of violence.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!!

Written by fabiorojas

April 1, 2015 at 12:01 am

free grad skool rulz book….

… if you attend any of the book talks listed below. I’ll send a free copy to a friend if you live tweet the talk w/photo.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 2, 2015 at 7:08 am

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