Main | July 2007 »

June 29, 2007

Bussmann and Schneider on Economic Globalization and Civil War

Abstract: One of the disputed consequences of global economic integration is the possible effect that foreign economic liberalization exerts on social cohesion. Proponents of commercial liberalism see stabilization as an indirect consequence of growing economic interdependence, while globalization critics are much more skeptical. They expect, at least during the liberalization process, destabilizing effects. We examine in this paper the contradictory claims in the light of what we call the distributional theory of civil war. This variant of commercial liberalism qualifies the peace-through-trade hypothesis and expects, based on political economy models of trade policy making, that the redistributive struggle associated with foreign economic liberalization can culminate in violent forms of protest. We demonstrate that a higher level of economic openness is indeed associated with a lower risk of civil war. At the same time, economic liberalization increases the chances of instability weakly. None of the following factors are found to exert any compensatory influence on instability: social spending, foreign aid, and financial flows from the International Monetary Fund. Discontent over the process of globalization is thus a destabilizing force despite the pacifying effect that the level of economic integration exerts.

Margit Bussmann and Gerald Schneider, ” (2007) When Globalization Discontent Turns Violent: Foreign Economic Liberalization and Internal War,” International Studies Quarterly 51:79-97. Available (sub required) here.

Raas And Long on whether Israel can destroy Iran's nuclear facilities

Abstract: Does Israel have the ability to conduct a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities similar to its 1981 strike on Iraq’s Osirak reactor? The Israeli Air Force has significantly upgraded its equipment since the early 1980s, but the Iranian nuclear complex is a much harder target than was the Osirak reactor. Iran has three facilities that are critical for nuclear weapons production: a uranium conversion facility, an enrichment facility, and a heavy-water production plant and associated plutonium production reactor. This article analyzes possible interactions of Israel’s improved air force, including the addition of F-15I aircraft and U.S.-supplied conventional “bunker-buster” precision-guided munitions, with the Iranian target set and air defense systems. It concludes that Israel has the capability to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure with at least as much confidence as it had in the 1981 Osirak strike. Beyond the case of Iran, this finding has implications for the use of precision-guided weapons as a counterproliferation tool. Precision-guided weapons confer the ability to reliably attack hard and deeply buried targets with conventional, rather than nuclear, weapons. Intelligence on the location of nuclear sites is thus the primary limiting factor of military counterproliferation.

Whitney Raas and Austin Long (2007), “Osirak Redux? Assessing Israeli Capabilities to Destroy Iranian Nuclear Facilities,” International Security 31:7-33. Available (sub required) here. Earlier working paper version available here.

June 28, 2007

Hall on the Dilemmas of Contemporary Social Science

This forthcoming article by Peter Hall doesn’t have an abstract, but deserves wide readership. Hall writes as a political scientist who is deeply interested in how his discipline has engaged with other disciplines (and vice versa) as it has developed. He argues that while quite substantial gains have been made over the last twenty-five years in related fields (history, economics, political science, sociology), we have lost something important too. The article begins by examining how post war social science began from the desire to make sure that the catastrophes of the Holocaust and collapse of democracy in Weimar Germany never happened again. Consonances between history (in its Annaliste and social historical moments) and the social sciences created the possibilty of dialogue between these various disciplines - the modernization paradigm, flawed as it was, provided common ground for debate. Economists like Gerschenkron and Landes played an important role in these arguments too. This dialogue combined respect for historical specificity with generalizing aspirations.

Over the last twenty-five years we have seen a bifurcation between scholars interested in culture and those interested in material forces - the former moving closer to cultural studies and the latter towards economics. “Like the kid left to play alone, American sociology has flirted with the others without being able to draw them into a game of its own.” This has yielded many benefits. Historians deconstructed the assumption that historical classes were unified actors, and cultural history and gender studies yielded important advances. The various schools of institutionalism within political science have also done much to elucidate politics, even while rational choice social scientists have pulled the discipline into the icy embrace of economics. Economics itself has changed - we no longer see the conditions under “which a Hirschman could debate a Hoffmann,” and economic history has become an endangered species, even while some economists have sought to apply their insights far outside the market economy. This has all yielded gains - we have a more richly coloured quilt of insights across the disciplines. But cultural studies and cultural history have perhaps exhausted themselves, while political scientists’ arguments about credible commitments are becoming more formulaic and uninteresting. Furthermore, a gap has opened between a history linked to cultural studies and a political science mesmerized by economics, which not only hampers debate, but means that both disciplines miss out on part of the picture. “On neither side are systematic explanations for political and economic outcomes being integrated with contextually informed analyses of social relations.”

Both disciplines may be swallowed up by an emerging intellectual hegemony that privileges a combination of economics and genetic science. More generally, there is a feeling of dispiritedness among liberals and leftists in the university - “the formative context for young scholars today is not the collapse of Weimar or the politics of the 1960s but the experience of life under neo-liberalism and globalization.” Radicalism has shifted towards cultural studies, but has been shron of any tools for systematic investigation of social problems and identification of solutions as a result.”

There’s plenty that I at least disagree with in this essay, but it deserves wide readership, and seems extremely well suited to adoption in graduate Intro to Political Science courses. Available here.

Stow on September 11 and Public Mourning

Abstract: What does the choice of the Gettysburg Address as a eulogy for the September 11 dead reveal about public mourning in the polity that made it? Tracing the genealogy of the Address back to Pericles’ Funeral Oration, this essay argues that Thucydides provides two models of public mourning: one based on the Oration alone, the other on the rituals surrounding the Festival of Dionysia. Each generates a particular patriotic perspective: one unquestioning and partial, the other balanced and theoretical. Using Plato’s Menexenus to distinguish the models, the essay employs them as a lens to view two moments of American public mourning linked by the Gettysburg Address. Suggesting that 1863 saw a Dionysian approach; and 2002, one based on the Oration alone, it traces the beneficial impact of the 1863 choice for American politics, and considers the possible consequences of the 2002 reading in light of American and Athenian historical experience.

Simon Stow (2007), “Pericles at Gettysburg and Ground Zero: Tragedy, Patriotism, and Public Mourning,” American Political Science Review 101:195-208. Available (sub required) here.

Zorn and Gill on the Politics of the Designated Hitter

Abstract: Since its introduction in 1973, major league baseball’s designated hitter (DH) rule has been the subject of continuing controversy. Here, we investigate the political and socio-demographic determinants of public opinion toward the DH rule, using data from a nationwide poll conducted during September 1997. Our findings suggest that it is in fact Democrats, not Republicans, who tend to favor the DH. In addition, we find no effect for respondents’ proximity to American or National League teams, though older respondents were consistently more likely to oppose the rule.

Zorn, Christopher, and Jeff Gill (2007), “The Etiology of Public Support for the Designated Hitter Rule.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2:189-203. Available here.

June 27, 2007

White on when race matters

Abstract: Building on previous research on the effects of racial priming on the opinions of White Americans, this paper engages the question of how exposure to racial cues in political messages shapes the opinions of African Americans. I argue that explanations of racial priming that focus exclusively on White Americans are insufficient to explain how racial cues influence the opinions of Black Americans, as they fail to account for the activation of in-group attitudes and mis-specify the role of explicit racial cues. In two separate laboratory experiments, I test the effects of explicitly racial, implicitly racial, and nonracial verbal cues on both Black and White Americans’ assessments of an ostensibly nonracial issue. The results point to important racial differences in the effectiveness of explicit and implicit racial verbal cues in activating racial thinking about an issue. Only frames that provide oblique references to race successfully activated racial out-group resentment for Whites. Among Blacks, explicit references to race most reliably elicited racial thinking by activating racial in-group identification, whereas the effect of implicit cues was moderated by the activation of negative representations of the in group. These findings not only demonstrate that racial attitude activation works differently for African Americans than for Whites but also challenge conventional wisdom that African Americans see all political issues through a racial lens.

Ismail K. White (2007), “When Race Matters and When It Doesn’t: Racial Group Differences in Response to Racial Cues,” American Political Science Review 101:339-354. Available here.

Lorentzen on Riots in China

Abstract: The occurrence of protests in authoritarian countries is often seen as a harbinger of regime collapse. Yet China since the 1990s has seen a significant rise in popular protest while maintaining economic growth and its reform trajectory. Furthermore, the Chinese government has shown its ability to effectively suppress dissent when it chooses to. This paper argues that deliberate toleration of narrow economic protests serves the Chinese government’s purposes in two ways. First, it allows the government to identify and defuse discontented groups. Second, it provides a useful signal of local government corruption that can be used to supplement and direct limited administrative monitoring resources. This mechanism has become particularly useful to the government of contemporary China as the processes of decentralization and market reform have made identification and investigation of local corruption more difficult.

Peter L. Lorentzen, “Regularized Rioting: Strategic Toleration of Popular Protest in China,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Review: Scott Page - The Difference

[cross-posted from Crooked Timber]

Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies (Princeton University Press). Available from Powells, Amazon.

Scott Page, who’s in the political science department at University of Michigan, has written a book that’s valuable on two levels. First, it provides a more rigorous take on some of the issues that James Surowiecki dealt with in his popularizing book, The Wisdom of Crowds. To say that Surowiecki’s book is written for a popular audience of course isn’t to say that it’s bad (to the contrary, see dsquared’s review), but it certainly doesn’t go to the same kinds of lengths as does Page’s to establish careful definitions, dot terminological i’s, and cross conceptual t’s. Page also goes rather further than Surowiecki in specifying his arguments about group decision making (providing a very good, if individually flavoured, account of the relevant cognitive science literature in the process), which means that he’s able to offer more specific claims than Surowiecki about the circumstances under which groups will or will not be able to beat experts. Second, Page uses this to offer a broad defence of the cognitive virtues of diversity. When the members of a group have diverse sets of mental tools, group decision making (under certain assumptions) is less likely to get stuck at suboptimal solutions, and more likely to arrive at superior ways of doing things. As Jim Johnson pointed out a few months ago, this means that Page is able to offer a pragmatic defence of diversity practices in hiring, education etc - having a diverse set of points of view in a group means better decision making.

First, Page’s underlying theory, bits of which have been developed at greater length and in more forbidding detail in his academic work. He starts from basic arguments about heuristics - mental tools or rules of thumb for dealing with complex situations - and perspectives, basic mappings of reality. Given a perspective, a heuristic tells individuals how to search for a solution or to identify an appropriate action; some are simple rules of thumb; others such as simulated annealing are more sophisticated. Individuals can also have different interpetations, which allow them to lump things together into categories by highlighting one dimension and ignoring others in ways that exploit underlying structures of some kind. Finally, predictive models are interpretations which provide a prediction for each set or category created by the interpretation.

This framework allows Page to argue that individuals will build from their perspectives and interpretations towards quite different predictive models. When individuals have different perspectives and/or interpretations, and when they communicate with each other, they are obviously likely to arrive at better solutions than they might in isolation from each other. Different interpretations allow individuals to highlight different aspects of the situation they find themselves in, and thus make them less likely to get stuck at inefficient local optima. This carries a number of interesting implications.

First, there are quite plausible conditions under which groups composed of diverse individuals will be able to outperform groups of ‘experts;’ individuals who are better capable of solving problems on their own. Page uses some simple agent-based modelling to support this claim, and outlines the underlying logic of a “mathematical proof that provides sufficient conditions for the … result.” The necessary conditions are that there have to be enough agents, groups of moderate size, agents who are sufficiently smart, and problems that are sufficiently difficult. The reason why this result holds is fairly straightforward; experts tend to be quite like each other, so that they tend to converge on the same solution, while heterogenous agents have a better chance of coming across other, superior solutions. This suggests both that there is an important role for diverse groups of non-experts, and that the dumbed down versions of the Wisdom of Crowds thesis don’t hold (i.e. that experts will still beat people who don’t have a clue about the underlying problem). In Page’s words:

when solving problems, diversity may matter as much, or even more than, individual ability. From this we can infer that organizations, firms, and universities that solve problems should seek out people with diverse experiences, training, and identities that translate into diverse perspectives and heuristics. Specifically, hiring students who had high grade point averages from the top-ranked school may be a less effective strategy than hiring good students from a diverse set of schools with a diverse set of backgrounds, majors, and electives.

This all suggests that diversity of outlooks holds quite considerable benefits for decision making. Indeed Page argues that the accuracy of prediction models and the success of diverse teams in problem solving provides substantial evidence of these benefits (but see below). However, in the final section of the book, Page complicates things by looking at how diversity of outlooks and diversity of preferences interact. He provides a quick tour of the basic social choice literature, moving from single peaked preferences to the various chaos results in order to illustrate how preference divergence may make it hard (or even impossible) for people to coordinate. More specifically, he argues that where people’s fundamental preferences over basic social goods - conflict, then diversity will obviously lead to political conflict of one sort or another. It’s considerably less problematic where people hold diverse instrumental preferences (i.e. they agree on basic goals, even while they disagree about which means are best to reach these goals). Page argues that overall, diversity is beneficial even if it goes along with the likelihood of increased conflict - but presumably, this claim depends on the degree to which one values better solutions over a higher risk of conflict. Indeed his empirical analysis suggests to me that more risk-averse types may prefer less diversity; this may be associated with worse average results, but also with a lower degree of variance in expected results too.

Which leads on to the most politically interesting claim in Page’s book - that his arguments provide quite strong support for hiring or admitting people from diverse identities and backgrounds. He notes that the empirical evidence provides only mixed support for the claim that identity diverse groups are better at problem solving, and argues that this may not only be because identity diversity is not always linked to cognitive diversity, but also because there are tradeoffs between preference diversity and cognitive diversity. There seems to be some plausible evidence of this from studies that show that even while diversity produces higher revenues, say, in business, it also is associated with lower cooperation and employee satisfaction, both of which likely lower revenues and to some extent weaken the positive (putatively cognitive) consequences. Nor is it likely that cognitive diversity is likely to produce positive outcomes when the tasks assigned to the group are simple and repetitive, or when people’s conceptual toolboxes are limited, say, by poor education.

However, the book does nonetheless offer a set of arguments supporting diversity as a means of selecting students, employees, or others who might contribute to group problem solving. If one goes for a narrow pool of the ‘best’ people according to some categorization, one is likely to draw upon a pool of individuals that are quite like each other in some very important ways, and that are likely to have broadly similar conceptual toolkits. If, instead, one draws upon people who are only good, but from a wide variety of backgrounds, one is likely to end up with people who have a much broader range over-all of problem solving tools, and who (communications problems discounted) can probably do a better job of figuring out interesting things. This argument for diversity notably doesn’t suggest that one hires or admits a token group of visible minorities in order, in Walter Benn Michael’s terms, to assuage the class guilt of the rich elites who form the very substantial majority of, say, the student population at elite universities. It means that one should select from a genuinely diverse set of class backgrounds, cultural viewpoints etc, in order to maximize the likelihood of collective problem solving.

As I said at the beginning, there’s a lot to like in this book. There also are a couple of holes. Some of the arguments about the empirical benefits of, say, prediction markets, are more heated than this book suggests; I’ll leave it to those who are better versed in these arguments (e.g. dsquared) to get into this in comments if he feels like it. More to the point however, the big gap in Page’s argument is that there’s little to no discussion of how individuals communicate with each other, or don’t, and how this affects problem solving. His exposition for the most part assumes that individuals communicate with each other in such a way that the additive benefits of different perspectives cumulate unproblematically; where one person’s cognitive tools prove insufficient, and strand them at some not-very-satisfactory local optimum, another person’s cognitive tools kick in without the need for explicit coordination and perhaps get both of them to a better overall outcome. Page does touch on problems of communication a bit when he talks about preference divergence, but only a bit; the basic social choice results that he draws on don’t explicitly model communication processes either, so that whatever discussion there is is mostly in the way of side-arguments that don’t fully connect with his underlying theoretical claims. This is a problem because there is good reason to believe that communication problems can have serious consequences for the nice results that Page is talking about; they can lead (as Cass Sunstein notes) to various failures of deliberation when people are talking to one other, or to various forms of self-reinforcing death-spirals in markets where the participants are watching each other in order to figure out what is going on. Fair enough that Page doesn’t want to go into detail about these issues - he has enough on his plate as it is trying to explain agent based modelling to the masses - but a few pages towards the end which talked to these problems and what they might mean for his findings would have been nice.

My other niggle is writing style - at times, Page goes a bit too far for my tastes in reaching out for homey metaphors to sugercoat the occasional indigestible theoretical horsepills that he has to shove down the reader’s craw in order to get his point across. Trying to make the Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem (that any nondictatorial rule for aggregating diverse preference orderings over more than two outcomes is manipulable) more palatable by describing its consequences for recipes for slow-cooked tarragon chicken is less likely to elucidate the subject matter than to induce fits of double-vision-induced migraine in the reader.1 I suspect that this style is in part a response to the success of Gladwell and his scions in identifying or creating a new market segment for the quasi-mathematical bestseller. But I don’t think that this book belongs inside this market segment (although it isn’t entirely outside it either). Its actual virtues are largely academic ones - it’s quite careful in stating the limits of its claims, building up a coherent argument, employing careful terminology etc, none of which sit well with folksy anecdotes and everyday examples (this is not to say that there isn’t a middle ground between Gladwell and the academy, but it’s bloody hard to write for it). What the book does do is to illustrate the benefits of a way of thinking about problem solving, to provide people with the conceptual tools to understand what lies behind some of the more popular treatments of the topics (and to evaluate their more breathless claims) and, perhaps, to reshape the public debate about the benefits and disadvantages of diversity. All of which are good things, which may not land the book on the bestseller list, but which should, I imagine, appeal to a fairly broad swathe of people who have some idea of the basic landscape of these debates, but want to find out more.

1 This said, it has to be acknowledged that Page makes a quite significant contribution to the field of comparative ketchup research. How he knows that Irish people, unlike Americans, don’t keep tomato ketchup in the fridge, I don’t know (unforgivably, he provides no footnotes to document his source for this claim). But it’s undeniably true (and the source of minor domestic friction over appropriate ketchup-heuristics in this cross-cultural household.

June 26, 2007

Mosher on Union Power and Inequality in the US

Abstract: Wage inequality, including the college/high school education premium, has increased substantially in the United States. A key part of the most widely accepted explanation for this is that skill-biased technological change accelerated during this time. This article suggests that the impact of skill-biased technological change was closer to constant in the second half of the twentieth century. This leaves a large unexplained decrease in the college/high school education premium in the 1940s and a large unexplained increase in the 1980s. The current article provides evidence that the upsurge and decline in union power during those respective periods provide a good explanation for these unexplained wage inequality changes.

James S. Mosher (2007), “U.S. Wage Inequality, Technological Change, and Decline in Union Power,” Politics and Society 35:225-263. Available (sub required) here.

Stathis N. Kalyvas and Matthew Adam Kocher on ethnic cleavages in Iraq

Abstract: The conflict in Iraq has been portrayed as “ethnic” civil war, a radically different conflict from “ideological” wars such as Vietnam. We argue that such an assessment is misleading, as is its theoretical foundation, which we call the “ethnic war model.” Neither Iraq nor Vietnam conforms to the ethnic war model’s predictions. The sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni militias is not simply the outcome of sectarian cleavages in Iraqi society, but to an important extent, a legacy of U.S. occupation. On the other hand, although Vietnam was a society riven by ethnic cleavages, the Vietnam War also fails to conform to the ethnic war model. We show that there is no necessary overlap between ethnic conflict and ethnic war. Some ethnic conflicts evolve into ethnic wars, and others develop dynamics virtually indistinguishable from those of ideological civil wars. We suggest that the state’s role is essential in transforming conflicts into either ethnic or irregular wars. We conclude with an analysis of the current situation and future prospects in Iraq.

Stathis N. Kalyvas and Matthew Adam Kocher (2007), “Ethnic Cleavages and Irregular War: Iraq and Vietnam,” Politics and Society 35:183-223. Available (sub required) here. Earlier draft available here.

Beissinger on Colour Revolutions

Abstract: The article develops an approach to the study of modular political phenomena (action based in significant part on emulation of the prior successful example of others), focusing on the trade-offs between the influence of example, structural facilitation, and institutional constraints. The approach is illustrated through the example of the spread of democratic revolution in the post-communist region during the 2000–2006 period, with significant comparisons to the diffusion of separatist nationalism in the Soviet Union during the glasnost’ era.

Mark R. Beissinger (2007), “Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The Diffusion of Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions, Perspectives on Politics 5: 259-276. Available (sub needed) here. Earlier draft available here.

June 25, 2007

Political Science Papers Blog

Welcome to the political science papers blog, which seeks to serve as a rough-and-ready guide to political science papers which are likely to have some appeal to a general audience (as measured by the editor’s idiosyncratic notions of ‘appeal’). As currently constituted, the blog will post entries consisting of the abstracts of the papers, bibliographic details, and, where available, links to the papers in question. Where the editor has something additional to say about the paper, and time to say it, he’ll include this too. To submit papers for consideration, send the details (including URL, cut-and-pastable abstract and bibliographic details please) to henry at the domain name henryfarrell with the suffix .net. If the paper is available outside a journal’s paywall, this is obviously likely to make non-academics more likely to read and download it. More as the project develops …

Brown on Palestine-Israel

Nathan Brown, The Peace Process Has No Clothes

One month before the most vicious round of intra-Palestinian fighting in Gaza, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, testified before Congress, seeking to justify American intervention on the side of Fatah using the terms that have grown familiar over years of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. He explained that the United States sought to back the legal presidential security forces—who were working to meet Palestinian obligations under the Road Map—against the forces of disorder. The statement may have made sense according to some logic followed in the US capital, but it was utterly disconnected from realities in the region.

Fatah—as much if not more than Hamas—bears deep responsibility for the deepening chaos in Palestinian society. And American policy has deepened that chaos in some fundamental and absolutely deliberate ways. There is no peace process for Hamas and Fatah to fight over. The Road Map was already anachronistic when it was announced in 2003 and is pursued seriously now by none of the concerned parties. Even General Dayton’s description of the legal situation was simply wrong: the Palestinian constitution was amended in 2003 at American insistence to make internal security a cabinet and not a presidential responsibility. While officials spoke of peace and order, American policy in effect—and sometimes by design—supported the political disintegration of Palestinian society and the slide toward civil war. …

Full text available here.

Ben-Josef Hirsch on the New History in Israel

Abstract: In the last round of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the Taba Conference (January 2001), Israeli negotiators went where no Israeli officials went before: they considered the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and a quasi-statement that acknowledges the Palestinian tragedy and Israel’s share of historical responsibility. This paper argues that at least in part this shift in the negotiations’ framework can be traced back to the public debate instigated by the work of Israeli New Historians.

Michal Ben-Josef Hirsch (2007), “From Taboo to the Negotiable: The Israeli New Historians and the Changing Representation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” Perspectives on Politics 5, 3:241-258. Available here.

Givens on Immigration in Europe

Abstract: Most European countries are examining how they have sought to integrate immigrants in the past and how they might change their policies to avoid some of the problems exhibited in immigrant and minority communities today. Discrimination and issues of racism, including the rise of anti-immigrant radical right parties, have become important, as evidenced in part by the passage of the European Union’s Racial Equality Directive in 2000. This essay reviews comparative research in political science on immigrant integration in Western Europe. It discusses multiculturalism and assimilation, party politics, antidiscrimination policy, and policy at the European Union level.

Terry E. Givens (2007), “Immigrant Integration in Europe: Empirical Research,” Annual Review of Political Science 10: 67-83. Available (sub needed) here.

Chong and Druckman on Framing Theory

Abstract: We review the meaning of the concept of framing, approaches to studying framing, and the effects of framing on public opinion. After defining framing and framing effects, we articulate a method for identifying frames in communication and a psychological model for understanding how such frames affect public opinion. We also discuss the relationship between framing and priming, outline future research directions, and describe the normative implications of framing.

Dennis Chong and James N. Druckman, “Framing Theory.” (2007), Annual Review of Political Science 10: 103-126. Available (sub needed) here.