Why teaching IR & Political Science is important

From McMurdo and Hocking in War on the Rocks:

“Citizens cannot be expected to hold institutions and leaders accountable for issues on which they have not been properly educated.

Even at America’s most elite institutions of learning, there is work to be done. In an international security course that one of us attended at Yale last spring, approximately 40 undergraduates were asked what event led to America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. The most common answers were: to unseat Saddam Hussein; to dismantle Afghanistan’s weapons of mass destruction; and “oil.” Eventually, the only student who could correctly name the 9/11 attacks as the impetus was a student born and raised in another country.”

The dark side of civil society: Indonesia edition

One of my favorite articles is Sheri Berman’s “Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic” because it pushed past the blandly positive celebrations of civil society that have been very prominent in political science.

UChicago Ph.D student Sana Jaffrey has a fascinating preview of ongoing dissertation research in New Mandala. It explores how civil society in Indonesia has become an increasingly illiberal force:
“Yet instead of advancing progressive reforms that guarantee civic equality, these energies are being deployed to articulate illiberal demands that emphasise communitarian differences. . . .

Unlike the New Order, however, there is considerable slippage in the way that local leaders interpreted and executed their reinstated social control functions, far beyond just reporting suspected terrorist activity. They have, in fact, expanded to regulate a host of activities that allegedly “agitate” residents.

Most frequently, these efforts target individuals belonging to religious and social minorities. These include rejection of “deviant” sectsprohibition of worship by minority religionspunishment of alleged fornication and even the forced eviction of homosexuals, transgender people, and families of suspected terrorists. Troublingly, most of these interventions are made in consultation with local law enforcement officials, who acknowledge RT/RW chiefs as representatives of their residents’ demands and facilitate their requests as part of community policing.. . . .

recent events indicate that the RT/RWs may also be resuming their political control functions amid contests over the allocation of state funds by rival candidates”



Why is West Bengal so politically violent?

This is a thoughtful piece by Shoaib Daniyal; I’ve long thought that the particular fusion of violence and party politics West Bengal (and Kerala) is among the most under-studied topics in Indian politics:

“What makes politics in West Bengal express itself with such blood and fury? The answer might lie in the structure of rural politics in West Bengal and the existence of the “party-society”: a system where political parties dominate every strand of rural life”

Political violence in the developed world

The vast majority of research on civil war and political violence focuses on the “developing world.” Which makes sense, since that there is where we find most contemporary conflict.

But it’s worth remembering how widespread violence has been in what we now consider the relatively calm, stable, non-violent developed world as well. And often very recently.  Here are a few works I’m familiar with – staggeringly far from complete, of course – that provide insights into this history and its implications for the present. I’ll be adding new items as I remember them, come across them, or get recommendations.

Siniawer, Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists: The Violent Politics of Modern Japan.

Obert, The Six-Shooter State: Public and Private Violence in American Politics.

Mobrand, “The Street Leaders of Seoul and the Foundations of the South Korean Political Order,” Modern Asian Studies.

Frymer, Building an American Empire: The Era of Territorial and Political Expansion.

Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End.

Diehl, Paramilitary Politics in Weimar Germany.

Cunningham, There’s Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan, and FBI Counterintelligence and Klansville, USA: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-era Ku Klux Klan.

Belew, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

Bloom and Martin, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party.

Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.

Bensel, Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877.

Balcells, Rivalry and Revenge: the Politics of Violence During Civil War (about Spain)

Gerwarth and Horne, War in Peace: Paramilitary Politics in Europe after the Great War.

Della Porta, Social Movements, Political Violence, and the State: A Comparative Analysis of Italy and Germany.

Kopstein and Wittenberg, Intimate Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms on the Eve of the Holocaust.

Acharya, Blackwell, and Sen, Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics.

Soss and Weaver, “Police are our Government: Politics, Political Science, and the Policing of Race-Class Subjugated Communities,” Annual Review of Political Science.

Wachsmann, KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps.

Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (chapters on Greece).

Hoffman, Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947.

Volkov, Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism.

Useful anti-Naxal overview

Jake Shapiro, Oliver Vande Eynde, Katherin eIngram, and Emefa Addo Agawu have written a really useful piece outlining the nature and timing of counter-Naxal strategies by the Indian central government and by various states. In addition to the case studies, they do some preliminary statistical analyses and find that “it is striking that no policy intervention was followed by marked drops in violence across the 8 states we study.” The Naxalite conflict has received too little scholarly attention, so it’s great to see this.