orgtheory.net

Archive for the ‘political science’ Category

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

collective memory & presidents – a guest post by raj ghoshal

This guest post is by Raj Ghoshal, an assistant professor of sociology at Goucher College. Previously we discussed presidents and collective memory in these two posts: Warren G. Harding is awesome & popular presidents kill people.

Presidents’ Day had me thinking about presidential rankings and collective memory. We commonly learn that a certain set of our presidents were great, while others were not – and for presidencies we (or our parents) didn’t personally live through, history textbooks and teachers are often the messengers. But how do presidential historians determine greatness? Are there sociological patterns worth noticing?

I looked at Wikipedia’s aggregation of U.S. presidential rankings by historians. A few patterns jumped out:

  1. Era matters greatly. Presidents who held office during broad periods of prosperity or national success are more likely to be considered great. Of course, presidents influence a country’s well-being, but the size of the era effects suggests historians are like the rest of us: they give individual presidents more credit or blame than they deserve. The first seven presidents, associated with the country’s birth and rise, are all ranked positively—this should be only 0.8% probable, if ratings are independent of era effects. The twelfth through twenty-first are all rated negatively, with the striking exception of Lincoln. (Perhaps Lincoln was genuinely greater, perhaps others could have been equally successful in leading through the Civil War, and/or perhaps his star dims the lights for those who came around him.) Presidents leading up to the Great Depression are rated poorly (#s 29-31), those in the era coming out of the Depression are rated positively (#s 32 to 36), and the mixed economic and social trends of the last five decades have yielded mainly average presidential ratings. Across these periods, the clustering is clear enough that individual differences between presidents are unlikely to be the sole cause.
  2. Presidential historians’ collective memory is stable, as the surveys show great consensus over time (this doesn’t mean that individual historians agree, since each data point is a survey). The only two cases out of all 43 where there’s even moderate evidence of changes in historians’ opinions after a president leaving office are Reagan and perhaps Nixon, and those changes are small, even though their supposed rehabilitations were widely discussed in the press (G.W. Bush’s standing among historians fell, but the drop came while he was still in office). While memory projects or changing norms can alter historical figures’ standing, this doesn’t seem to be very common with American presidents. More broadly, studying change is often interesting and revealing, but we should remember that change is usually the exception rather than the rule.
  3. For the five presidents where there’s data, future ratings closely follow the ratings a president had while in office. These five cases also suggest that historians tend to evaluate currently-in-office presidents fairly positively, at least at first. It’s impossible to disentangle this from era effects without more data, though.
  4. I didn’t look at how closely historians’ opinion follows public opinion, economic news, wars, or success in getting one’s agenda enacted, but those all probably matter too.

Feel free to use the comments.

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

Written by fabiorojas

February 24, 2015 at 5:41 pm

party in the street: discussion at popular resistance

My friend and co-author Michael Heaney has a post about our work at Popular Resistance, a web site dedicated to contemporary activism. A key quote:

So what would genuine independence from a political party look like for a social movement?  My view is that independence means choosing allies regardless of their partisan affiliation.  An independent movement should have allies that are Democrats, Republicans, members of other political parties, and nonpartisans.  Independence means educating activists that parties are neither the enemy nor the savior; rather, they are one more political structure that can be used for good or ill.  An independent movement should embrace working with allies on one issue if there is agreement on one issue, even if there is disagreement on a multitude of other issues.   Independent movements should advance the best arguments supporting their cause, regardless of whether these arguments are typically classified as conservative, liberal, socialist, or using some other label.  They should socialize their supporters to learn about and care about their cause above achieving electoral victories.  Elections are a potential means of achieving social and political change, but they are neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for doing so.

I concur. There needs to be a discussion within modern movements about learning to work cross-party and often independently from parties. Read the whole piece.

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

Written by fabiorojas

February 16, 2015 at 4:58 am

party in the street: the first podcast

New Books in Political Science has dedicated their first podcast of the year to Party in the Street:

Heaney and Rojas take on the interdisciplinary challenge at the heart of studies of interest groups and social movements, two related subjects that political scientists and sociologists have tended to examine separately from one another. What results is a needed effort to synthesize the two social science traditions and advance a common interest in studying how people come together to influence policy outcomes. The particular focus of this work is on how the antiwar movement that grew in the mid-2000s interacted with the Democratic Party. They ponder a paradox of activism that just as activists are most successful – in this case supporting a new Democrat controlled House and Senate in 2006 – the energy and dynamism of the movement often fades away. Heaney and Rojas look to the relationship between antiwar activists and the Democratic Party for answers. They find that in a highly polarized partisan environment, party affiliations come first and social movement affiliations second, thereby slowing the momentum movements generate in their ascendency.

Please click on the link for the podcast.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!!

Written by fabiorojas

January 12, 2015 at 12:01 am

party in the street: the main idea

For the last eleven years, my friend Michael Heaney and I have conducted a longitudinal study of the American antiwar movement. Starting at the 2004 Republican National Convention protests in New York City, we have been interviewing activists, going to their meetings, and observing their direct actions in order to understand the genesis and evolution of social movements.  We’ve produced a detailed account of our research in a new book called Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11. If the production process goes as planned, it should be available in February or early March.

In our book, we focused on how the antiwar movement is shaped by its larger political environment. The argument is that the fortunes of the Democratic party affect the antiwar movement’s mobilization. The peak of the movement occured when the Democratic party did not control either the White House or Congress. The movement demobilized as Democrats gained more control over the Federal government.

We argue that the the demobilization reflects two political identities that are sometimes in tension: the partisan and the activist. When partisan and activist goals converge, the movement grows as it draws in sympathetic partisans. If activism and partisanship demand different things, partisan identities might trump the goals of activist, leading to a decline of the movement. We track these shifting motivations and identities during the Bush and Obama administrations using data from over 10,000 surveys of street protestors, in depth interviews with activists, elected leaders, and rank and file demonstrators, content analysis of political speeches, legislative analysis, and ethnographic observations.

If you are interested in social movements, political parties and social change, please check it out. Over the next month and a half, I will write posts about the writing of the book and the arguments that are offered.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!!

Written by fabiorojas

January 6, 2015 at 12:01 am

response to seth masket on social protest and civil rights

Seth Masket recently discussed the popularity of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement more generally. In general, the civil rights movement was deeply unpopular, even at its height. Polls showed that a majority approved of civil rights after the fact.

The point is well taken, but there is more to the story of public opinion and civil rights. Roughly speaking, public opinion was moving the direction of civil rights for decades, even if the general public didn’t quite approve of individual people or groups. It didn’t happen by itself. As Taeku Lee shows in Mobilizing Public Opinion, public opinion started to soften because of activism. A lot of local action caused civil rights to emerge on the agenda of elites at the state and federal levels.

Seth is right that for most people, the time is never right for protest. But that is not necessary for movements. You can accomplish a lot with a strongly motivated coalition of activists and elites. And if you push hard enough, public opinion will follow.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

December 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,185 other followers