Tag: shameless self-promotion (page 2 of 5)

Hanging Out on the Theory-Practice-Policy Divide

In Spring of 2006, I was nearing the end of data collection on my investigation into the human rights of children born of rape and exploitation in conflict zones, and I presented my preliminary findings on the topic atUniversity of Pittsburgh’s Research in International Politics (RIP) monthly brown-bag. In such circles, heavily dominated by empirical approaches, one does not present normative theory (that is, value-laden arguments about how the world should look) or policy-oriented sets of recommendations about particular problems. Rather, one identifies empirical puzzles about the world and then goes
about solving them by applying or modifying existing theories. Theories, in this sense, are lenses said to explain and predict major patterns in world affairs. 

Therefore, I had organized this particular paper not as a problem-focused human rights argument about children born of war, but rather as an empirical study on “issue non-emergence” within advocacy networks. I presented the subject of “children born of war” as a negative case and demonstrated why, from the perspective of agenda-setting theory, this might be considered an interesting puzzle. The case, I argued, showed that we needed a different understanding of the obstacles to issue emergence. This was the working paper version of a longer book project exploring why children born of war rape had received so little attention from advocacy organizations aiming to protect war-affected children. 

My colleagues provided a variety of suggestions on the theory, the methods, and the structure of the argument. But one piece of advice particularly sticks out in my mind. “You’d better stop talking to international organizations about this issue until you publish,” said one senior faculty member. “Otherwise, before you know it, you will no longer have a puzzle to explain, because these children will be on the agenda.”  

Two things struck me about this comment. First was the suggestion that in researching the non-emergence of “children born of war,” I might in fact be engaged in a form of issue entrepreneurship that could alter the research findings. Second was the suggestion that the idea that more attention to this population should have been less preferable to me (or anyone) than the ability to advance my career by publishing an interesting paper. In this essay, I grapple with those two problematiques as a way of thinking about what we aim for when we choose political science as a vocation, and to what extent our answers to that question are implicated in the social constructions we study.

Thus begins my reflection essay in this month’s issue of Perspectives on Politics. This piece began as the concluding chapter of the my book on human rights agenda-setting, but I was asked to remove it by the Columbia University Press editor as the price of publication. The essay reflects on that maneuver and its meaning in the context of a wider set of ruminations about academic norms, scholarly inquiry and the ways we interface with and affect the world we study.  We do this both through our practices as scholars and through our many every-day interactions with the public, practitioners and policy-makers on the research frontier, but this dialectic is masked by our professional norms. I hope that’s starting to change.

This set of ruminations from my professional journey along theory-data-practitioner-policy-public-sphere continuum remains very relevant to my new book project. These days, I think of what I learned on the Bosnia project constantly as I navigate semi-structured interviews and informal conversations with human security elites in the areas of civilian protection, children’s health, and arms control. I hope that in my new manuscript I can find a way to acknowledge my embeddedness within these communities of practice as a methodological choice in a way that nonetheless passes academic peer review.

Along those lines, Stephen Walt reminds us in an new important essay that hanging out on the divide between academe and the real world is necessary, yet full of pitfalls. He proposes a menu of strategies by which academic institutions can incentivize an ethical, reflexive and transparent approach that encourages such bridge-building. But he also insists we must acknowledge and render transparent the academic and political significance of such interactions between scholars and practitioners, policymakers and the public. If we can find a way to do that without unhelpfully blurring the line between academe and the ‘rest’ perhaps we can rescue the discipline from what he calls the “cult of irrelevance.”

To do it, we need to rethink how we train and socialize students, reward our junior colleagues, and report on our consulting relationships, as Walt points out. But in my view we also need to change our publishing norms to include and honor scholarly reflections on one’s journey through one’s subject matter as a staple component of analytical presentations.

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Social Media and International Law

I have an essay online this morning at Opinio Juris as part of a symposium they are running this week on social media and international law:

One of the most curious aspects of the Kony2012 campaign is its backing by an important and powerful public servant, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. In publicly endorsing the campaign, Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, has espoused a powerful causal hypothesis: that social media campaigns are an indispensable new tool for the promotion of international justice. In the original Kony2012 video Moreno-Ocampo states: “We’re living in a new world, a Facebook world, in which 750 million people share ideas, not thinking in borders.” In the follow-up video, Beyond Famous, Moreno-Ocampo repeats the message: “We are changing the world, guys. This is completely new.”

Moreno-Ocampo’s enthusiasm for the campaign and for Invisible Children can be understood partly in terms of public relations for his own institution, and for the synonymity of IC’s narrative with the one underlying his own indictment of Joseph Kony for crimes against humanity. But his claims that campaigns like this will decisively shift public attention (and therefore policy attention toward international law and justice and the global institutions that promote them) deserve critical inquiry.

And we need to break this down a bit. Does social media impact citizens’ appreciation of and understanding of international law as Moreno-Ocampo implies? These are two separate questions and two separate processes. Even if they both hold true, does this imply that policy-makers will listen? And if that’s true, then in a world where social media and international law are routinely utilized and invoked by actors on both sides of any political issue, can we assume the net gain for human security will be positive? I don’t know the answers, but it’s worth thinking the questions through a little more carefully.

Some questions I ask:

1) Does social media impact citizen engagement with global social issues?

2) Does “citizen engagement on social issues” (where we see it) necessarily equate to “citizen understanding”?

3) What is the relationship between citizen engagement and citizen understanding, and what engagement/information ratio is most helpful in generating political will for international law enforcement?

4) How much does citizen engagement matter anyway?

5) To the extent that social media empowers the public, and the public empowers policy-makers, can we assume this will result in the promotion of human security and international law?

6) What do we mean by “promoting international law” anyway?

7) In an era of social media that empowers advocacy claims both consistent with and at odds with the spirit of international law, what is the best advocacy formula for mobilizing support for the implementation of international law to protect human security?

Read my answers here or leave your own in comments on either thread.

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Friday Nerd Blogging

Just in time for Game of Thrones‘ Season 2 (which happens inconveniently right in the middle of ISA), Foreign Affairs has posted this constructivist riposte to the foreign policy commentariat‘s realism-worship-fest from last Season (warning: contains Season 1 spoilers):

Commentary by foreign policy analysts on the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones stressed its supposed underlying theme of political realism. Thus one writer claimed that the TV show and the George R.R. Martin novels on which it is based “clearly demonstrate the power of might over right,” and another agreed: “In this kind of harsh relative gains world, realpolitik should be the expected pattern of behavior.” But a closer look of Game of Thrones suggests a different take.

To be sure, life in Westeros is poor, nasty, brutish and short, and Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and David Benioff’s television program are laced with Hobbesian metaphors, Machiavellian intrigues, and Carr-like calculations of power. But the deeper message is that realism alone is unsatisfying and unsuccessful — that leaders disregard ethical norms, the needs of their small-folk, and the natural world at their own peril. Jockeying for power by self-interested actors produces not a stable balance but suboptimal chaos; gamesmanship and the pursuit of short-term objectives distracts players from the truly pressing issues of human survival and stability.

Read the whole thing here; and Kelly DeVries’ excellent historical treatment here. And, if you’re not caught up on Season 1, here’s a helpful recap and commentary. And now, a fresh video:

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Geeking Out on the Theory-Policy Divide

As I gathered content today for my upcoming ISA presentation on social media, I was delighted to discover that my “Blog Wars” video from few years back (a response to a theory-policy debate stirred up by Joseph Nye and Dan Drezner) is cited in an academic paper as an actual contribution to the debate!

The paper itself is quite good: Bradley Parks and Alena Stern conduct one of the few empirical studies I’m aware of how scholars actually interface with the world of policy. They use as a hook the debate over policy relevance sparked off by Joseph Nye’s “Scholars on the Sidelines?” op-ed back in 2009, Dan’s response and the following ripostes by Jim Vreeland and Raj Desai, and others. Unlike most of these scholars and prior literature on the subject, they test causal propositions rather than engage in prescriptive argument, with rather interesting findings. In particular, they show that leaving academia for policy work results in a likelihood of later publishing in policy journals, whereas mere consulting doesn’t apparently impact scholars’ likelihood of publishing outside the academy.

I have only one quibble with their argument, which is that they can’t really tell us whether “in-and-outers” publish in policy journals because they want to more than “moonlighters” or whether both groups attempt to do so but only “in-and-outers” have mastered the requisite skills. Or maybe both. The answer is relevant to thinking about how to restructure doctoral studies in the profession to both incentivize and train young political scientists for this type of technical writing, something I’m experimenting at present. In general, however, this is precisely the kind of work I’ve been telling my students we need to see in IR journals: empirical studies of the discipline itself and how it interfaces with the real world. Kudos to the authors.

Two additional things about this paper, and in particular the debate the authors use as a jumping off point:

1) the citations in this paper itself signal that user-generated media (blog conversations, blog comments, tweets and YouTube videos) are being genuinely interpreted as academic contributions these days, and that’s a fascinating shift that frankly I think has some bearing on the closing of the theory-policy divide since the use of social media by academics has broadened our audiences, changed our discourse and altered our communication styles. (I guess it’s good that MLA just came out with its guidelines on how to properly cite tweets: here. Not sure when they’ll have rules on YouTube videos, although to be fair the authors didn’t cite the video itself but rather the blog post where I disseminated it.)

2) the satirical and geeky nature of that debate as it played out in the blogosphere when it occurred strikes me as itself an interesting counter-point to David Newsom’s claim way back that

“IR scholars appear caught up in an elite culture in which labels, categories and even the humor have meaning ‘for members only’… they speak to each other rather than a wider public.”

I hypothesize that the increasing use of pop culture allegories and satirical arguments to make political points is an example of the exact opposite – the widening of academic and policy discourse to express debates through humor that appeals to a much broader audience.

However these are only hypotheses, since unlike Parks and Stern I’ve not constructed a research design to investigate whether they’re actually true. Whether they are (and whether or not that’s a good thing on balance) will have to be explored by future studies. But if you want to hear my rambling thoughts on the subject thus far, come to Henry Farrell’s roundtable on “Transnational Politics and the Information Age” Sunday April 1 at 1:45 at the International Studies Association Annual Conference. (Or, simply wait for the post-conference YouTube version, which you can obviously cite to your heart’s content.)

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Transnational Battle over Gay Rights

The transnational battle over gay rights took an interesting turn last week when the Obama administration announced that it would work hard to promote gay rights worldwide. The gay community welcomed the news. But more strategic thinkers also raised questions. As Neil Grungras of San Francisco’s Organization for Refugee, Asylum and Migration cautioned:

“In countries where U.S. moral leadership is not high and where increasingly Western values are [seen as] negative . . . there is a real danger people can use this issue and say, ‘No, we are cleaning up here, we are going to reject this American imposition of decay.’” As an example, Grungras pointed to last year’s gay pride event at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. This sparked large demonstrations against the U.S., gay rights, and homosexuals.

Also of interest is the reaction from American religious conservatives active in the fight against gay rights. They decried the Obama initiative, and vowed to oppose it. In the past, they have scored successes. They have formed a “Baptist-burqa” network of religious conservatives, both state and nonstate, including Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, and more, spanning the world, just like the gay rights network. They have successfully blocked major new UN initiatives on gay rights and excluded gay activists from participation in international institutions. They raise rival norms, primarily to religious freedom and cultural autonomy, as a means of attacking gay rights. And they are supporting the backlash against gay rights in many countries, especially in Africa.

This may be a rearguard action, but there is little doubt that it has and will slow the progress of gay rights around the world. True, there have been major, hard-fought advances for gay rights in some countries in recent years. But many countries remain indifferent or, if anything, have become more overtly hostile as gay rights advance. Uganda’s horrific Anti-Homosexuality Law, complete with death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality,” is an example.

Scholars who study such issues sometimes ignore “retrograde” networks, in favor of studying progressive new norms and their moral entrepreneurs. Yet in the transnational battle over gay rights at the UN and in many countries, opponents are powerful and important. One can’t understand the politics of gay rights without examining their sworn enemies. One can’t appreciate the framing of a “new” norm without noting its rivals’ frmaing. One can’t explain the shifting policy outcomes without analyzing the bitter conflict among hostile sides.

Beyond gay rights, this is true of countless other policy issues, from global warming to global health. One side’s solution to what it portrays as a pressing crisis will itself be a problem for another group, generating fervent opposition activism. One side’s initiatives are invariably matched by a rival’s counterpunch.

[SELF-PROMOTION WARNING!] For those interested in transnational battles over gay rights and other issues – as well as the implications for understanding global public policy more broadly – my book, The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics – is due out next month from Cambridge UP. [STORY IDEA for Brian Rathbun: Things PSers Like: Ironic attitude toward shameless self-promotion.]

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3rd Annual 3QD Blog Post Prize

Steve Walt, who won last year’s prize, is judging.

If anyone wanted to nominate a post from the Duck, that would be a nice thing to do.

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Knowing and the Known

Although the majority of the offerings in the European Consortium on Political Research’s inaugural Winter School in Methods and Techniques (to be held in Cyprus in February 2012) are pretty firmly neopositivist, at the risk of sound like a shameless self-promoter I’d like to call your attention to course A6, “Knowing and the Known: Philosophy and Methodology of Social Science,” which I am teaching. The short description of this course is:

“The social sciences have long been concerned with the epistemic status of their empirical claims. Unlike in the natural sciences, where an evident record of practical success tends to make the exploration of such philosophical issues a narrowly specialized endeavour, in the social sciences, differences between the philosophies of science underpinning the empirical work of varied researchers produces important and evident differences in the kind of social-scientific work that they do. Philosophy of science issues are, in this way, closer to the surface of social-scientific research, and part of being a competent social scientist involves coming to terms with and developing a position on those issues. This course will provide a survey of important authors and themes in the philosophy of the social sciences, concentrating in particular on the relationship of the mind to the social world and on the relationship between knowledge and experience; students will have ample opportunities to draw out the implications of different stances on these issues for their concrete empirical research.”

Further details, including the long course description, below the fold.

======================

The First ECPR Winter School in Methods and Techniques – REGISTER NOW!
Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, North Cyprus
11th – 18th February 2012

We are very pleased to announce that registration for the first Winter School in Methods and Techniques (WSMT) is now officially open!

This year’s school is being held at the Eastern Mediterranean University in the beautiful surroundings of Famagusta. Register for your course(s) before 1st November and you will receive a special ‘Early Bird Discount’. All information, including registration form, to be found via https://new.ecprnet.eu/MethodSchools/WinterSchools.aspx (move your cursor on “Winter School” –> “2012 – Cyprus” to consult the various pages.

The Winter School will be an annual event that is complementary to the ECPR’s Summer School and there will be a loyalty discount for participants who wish to take part in the 3 step programme at both of these schools (further details on the “course fees” page).
The comprehensive programme consists of introductory courses and advanced courses, in a one-week format, suitable for advanced students and junior researchers in political science and its adjacent disciplines. There will also be the opportunity to participate in one of the software training courses.
Intermediate-level courses will continue to be held at the 2012 Summer School in Methods and Techniques in Ljubljana, in either one two-week or two consecutive one-week courses.

If you have any questions or require any further information please contact Denise Chapman, Methods School Manager on +44 (0)1206 874115 or by email: dchap@essex.ac.uk

Best regards,
Profs. Benoît Rihoux & Bernhard Kittel, Academic convenors

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This course is a broad survey of epistemological, ontological, and methodological issues relevant to the production of knowledge in the social sciences. The course has three overlapping and interrelated objectives:

  • to provide you with a grounding in these issues as they are conceptualized and debated by philosophers, social theorists, and intellectuals more generally;
  • to act as a sort of introduction to the ways in which these issues have been incorporated (sometimes— often—inaccurately) into different branches of the social sciences;
  • to serve as a forum for reflection on the relationship between these issues and the concrete conduct of research, both your own and that of others.

That having been said, this is neither a technical “research design” nor a “proposal writing” class, but is pitched as a somewhat greater level of abstraction. As we proceed through the course, however, you should try not to lose sight of the fact that these philosophical debates have profound consequences for practical research. Treat this course as an opportunity to set aside some time to think critically, creatively, and expansively about the status of knowledge, both that which you have produced and will produce, and that produced by others.

The “science question” rests more heavily on the social sciences than it does on the natural sciences, for the simple reason that the evident successes of the natural sciences in enhancing the human ability to control and manipulate the physical world stands as a powerful rejoinder to any scepticism about the scientific status of fields of inquiry like physics and biology. The social science have long laboured in the shadow of those successes, and one popular response has been to try to model the social sciences on one or another of the natural sciences; this naturalism forms one of the recurrent gestures in the philosophy of the social sciences, and we will trace it through its incarnation in the Logical Positivism of the Vienna Circle and then into the “post-positivist” embrace of falsification as the mark of a scientific statement. Problems generated by the firm emphasis on lawlike generalizations through both of these naturalistic approaches to social science lead to the reformulated naturalism of critical realism, as well as to the rejection of naturalism by pragmatists and followers of classical sociologists like Max Weber. Finally, we will consider the tradition of critical theory stemming from the Frankfurt School, and the contemporary manifestation of that commitment to reflexive knowledge in feminist and post-colonial approaches to social science.

While not an exhaustive survey of the philosophy of the social sciences, this course will serve as an opportunity to explore some of the perennial issues of great relevance to the conduct of social-scientific inquiry, and will thus function as a solid foundation for subsequent reading and discussion—and for the practice of social science. Throughout the course we will draw on exemplary work from Anthropology, Economics, Sociology, Political Science; students will be encouraged to draw on their own disciplines as well as these others in producing their reflections and participating in our lively discussions.

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The US Department of Defense Law of War Manual: An Update

They’re updating this.

I have a report in the 2009 (they’re a bit behind…just go with it) Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law on efforts to produce a new service-wide US Department of Defence Law of War Manual. This would replace FM 27-10 and (should it ever see the light of day…just go with it) will be an incredibly important statement of US practice on the laws of war.

I consulted on and observed this project from August-December 2009 and I keep in contact with some of the editors. The description of the Manual (and estimate of delivery) are now outdated, but there is a good description of the process and methodology behind it. I can’t go into any more details than that (there is a crazy on-going process) but it is “an update” for those who are interested. Here’s the abstract:

One of the major legal instruments the US Department of Defense (DoD) will be relying on in terms of planning and carrying out its activities in the near future is a new law of war military manual which is expected to be published sometime in 2011. While on the surface such a document may not seem of critical interest to those interested in security/strategic studies or to humanitarian activists seeking to ban rather than regulate violence, there are important reasons to place a certain amount of emphasis on this DoD product and to expect that it will have a significant impact, especially on issues that are presently widely debated within the humanitarian legal community.

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Abdullah Khadr, Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism: Or what I was really trying to say

I was quoted in Canada’s Globe and Mail today about a trial involving a Canadian citizen, Abdullah Khadr, who the US has requested for extradition on terrorism charges. (This is the older brother of Omar Khadr who is still in Guantanamo prison.) It’s an interesting case for a variety of reasons so I thought I would expand upon my thoughts here – and the fact that I’m slightly concerned that the summary of my comments in the article were slightly crunched in a strange way.

The facts of the case seem to be that Khadr, operating in Afghanistan/Pakistan was sought by the United States in 2004. They placed a $500,000 bounty on his head and was captured by Pakistan and detained in a prison for 14 months. Khadr argues that during his time in Pakistani custody that he was routinely abused and tortured. He was interrogated for several days by US agents in Pakistan, before being released. Khadr was then repatriated to Canada in December 2005 and arrested a few days later by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the basis of an indictment by a court in Boston Massachusetts on terrorism charges. 


Unsurprisingly, Khadr and his lawyers claim that he will not have a fair trial as the evidence garnered against him was obtained after he was tortured and his right of due process was seriously violated through his treatment. The case has been working its way through the Canadian justice system and earlier this year it was determined that he should be extradited to the US because of the way he was treated. Khadr then walked free. Yesterday, the Canadian government filed a ‘leave to appeal’ stating that “This case raises issues of national importance that require consideration by this court,” and that principles of fundamental justice “should not be used to impose the technicalities of our criminal law on a foreign partner.”

A couple of points that I made in my discussion with the reporter that didn’t quite make the story, but I think are important.

First, I think it that what the Courts are being asked to ultimately decide on is whether Canada’s obligation to fight international terrorism (found in various UN Security Council resolutions, etc) trumps its obligations to ensure the human rights of individuals, including the right to a fair trial and due process (found in Human Rights agreements). Fundamentlally, the right to a fair trial is a non-derogable  right. A state can’t suspend it, even in the wake of threats or emergencies, so I think the Court’s choice here is pretty clear. (Hence my comment about human rights taking precedence.)

Second, the part that may have gotten a bit mangled in editorial translation, is that this is an interesting case because Canadian courts have, by and large, been very sympathetic to the needs and concerns of the government/security service. For example, they have sided with the security service when it comes to not disclosing evidence that is of a sensitive/secretive nature in terrorism trials. However, in this case the Courts have effectively drawn a line in the sand and said that while they are sympathetic to the need to fight terrorism, that the treatment of Khadr is a step too far.

Third, a point I was really trying to get across but did not make it into the article, is that the Canadian government is in the position that it is in because of the terrible Bush administration policies on detention and enhanced interrogation. If the Bush administration had ensured that Khadr had fair treatment, this wouldn’t have been a problem – his due process would have been followed and he could have been extradited and prosecuted. And, perhaps if Canada had worked harder to ensure that his rights were being protected (though the historical record here is somewhat vague), they’d have an easier time mounting their case for extradition. 

Let’s face the facts – Khadr ain’t Mr. Rogers. He holds terrible views, probably did some terrible things and is not a great guy to be walking around on our streets. I would very much like to see him go on trial for the allegations that have been presented against him – but I know that ultimately he shouldn’t be sent because of the fact that his case was so incredibly poorly handled. It would be a complete and utter violation of everything the Western criminal justice system is supposed to be. 

Basically, without trying to sound like a poor man’s Human Rights Watch, the key lesson is that when stated do not following human rights, suspected terrorists can walk free. Not following human rights has made fighting terrorism in this case a lot harder. This is something that must constantly be borne in mind when the temptation to engage in “enhanced interrogation” exists. You often hear arguments about following human rights because ‘it’s the right thing to do’ or it reflects our values, etc. but this is a hard case which demonstrates the real national security interests at stake in ensuring the rights of terrorist suspects are accounted for.  
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On Paradigms, Policy Revelance and Other IR Myths


I had every intention this evening of writing a cynical commentary on all the hoopla surrounding Open Government, Open Data and the Great Transparency Revolution. But truth be told, I am brain-dead at the moment. Why? Because I spent the last two days down in Williambsurg, VA arbitrating codes for a Teaching, Research and International Politics (TRIP) project (co-led by myself and Jason Sharman) which analyzes what the field of IR looks like from the perspective of books. It is all meant as a complement to the innovative and hard work of Michael Tierney, Sue Peterson and the TRIP founders down at William & Mary, who have sought to map the field of IR by systematically coding all published articles in the top 12 peer-reviewed disciplinary journals for characteristics such as paradigm, methodology, epistemology and policy relevance. In addition, the TRIP team has conducted numerous surveys of IR scholars in the field, the latest round capturing nearly 3000 scholars in ten countries. The project, while not immune from nit-picky criticism about its methodological choices and conclusions, has yielded several surprisingly results that have both reified and dismantled several myths about the field of IR.

So, in the spirit of recent diatribes on the field offered by Steve and Brian, I summarize a few of the initial findings of our work to serve as fodder for our navel-gazing discussion:

Myth #1: IR is now dominated by quantitative work

Truth: Depends on where you look. This is somewhat true if you confine yourself to the idea that we can know the field only by peering into the pages of IO, ISQ, APSR and the like. Between 2000-2008, according to a TRIP study by Jordan et al (2009), 38.8% of journal articles employed quantitative methods,while 30.4% used qualitative methods. [In IPE, however, the trend is definitely clearer: in 2006, 90% of articles used quantitative methods — see Maliniak and Tierney 2009, 20)]. But the myth of quantitative dominance is dispelled when we look beyond journals. In the 2008 survey of IR scholars, 72% of scholars reported that they use qualitative methods as their primary methodology. In our initial study of books between 2000-2010, Jason and I found that 58% of books use qualitative methods and only 9.3% use quantitative (the rest using mainly descriptive methods, policy analysis and the rare formal model).

Myth #2: In IR, it’s all about PARADIGMS.

Truth: Well, not really. As much as we kvetch about how everyone has to pay homage to realism, liberalism, constructivism (and rarely, Marxism) in order to get published, the truth is that a minority of published IR work takes one or more of these paradigms as the chosen framework for analysis. Surveys reveal that IR scholars still think of Realism as the dominant paradigm, yet realism shows up as the paradigm of choice in less than 10% of both books and article. Liberalism is slightly more prevalent – it is the paradigm of choice in around 26% of journal articles and 20% of books. Constructivism has actually overtaken realism, but still amounts to only 11% of journal articles and 17% of books in the past decade. Instead, according to the TRIP coding scheme, most of the IR work is “non-paradigmatic” (meaning it takes theory seriously, but doesn’t use one of the usual paradigmatic suspects) or is “atheoretic”. [Stats alert: 45% of journal articles are non-paradigmatic and 9.5% atheoretic, whereas books are 31% non-paradigmatic and 23% are atheoretical).

So, Brian: does IR still “really like” the isms?

Myth #3: Positivism rules.

Truth: Yep, that one is pretty much on the mark. 86% of journal articles AND 85% of books between 2000-2010 employed a positivist methodology. Oddly, however, only 55% of IR scholars surveyed report to see themselves as positivists. I’m going to add that one to the list of “things that make me go hmmmmm…..”

Myth #4: IR scholarship is not oriented towards policy.

Truth: Sadly, true. Only 12% of journal articles offer policy recommendations. [Ok, a poor proxy, but all I had to go on from the TRIP coding system]. Books are slightly more likely to dabble in policy, with 22% offering some sort of policy prescriptions – often quite limited and lame in my humble coding experience. Still, curiously, scholars nonetheless perceive themselves differently. 29% of scholars says they are doing policy-oriented research. This could be entirely true if they are doing this outside the normal venues of published research in the discipline and we’re simply not capturing it in our study (blogs, anyone?). All of which begs several questions: are IR scholars really engaging in policy debates? If so, how? Where? If not, why not? (Hint: fill out the next TRIP survey in the fall 2011 and we’ll find out!!)

(Note to readers: I was unable to provide a link to the draft study that Jason and I conducted on books, as it is not yet ready for prime time on the web. But if you have any questions about our project, feel free to email me).

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Battlefield Normatica

Last week’s vote for gay marriage in New York state was a signal win for U.S. advocates.  Two weeks earlier, in a move hailed by gay groups and the Obama administration, the UN Human Rights Council  voted 23-19 to commission a study on “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”  Do these and other recent advances for gay advocates demonstrate that a new norm of gay rights is establishing itself on the global scene?

Certainly this seems to be the case, although the arrival of any “norm” is much harder to pinpoint than the promulgation of a new policy or law, such as New York’s.  Many more countries, and, in the U.S., states expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation than even 20 years ago.  And the lives of gay people are far more open and accepted today, influencing broader heterosexual culture.
Nonetheless, foes of gay rights remain powerful.  In the U.S., this is primarily the case with regard to gay marriage, which is likely to be a battlefield for years.  Internationally, the U.N. Human Rights Council vote was in fact only a small step, notwithstanding the fact that it received major media attention.  It did represent the first time that the Council as a whole had used the terms “sexual orientation and gender identity” in a resolution.  But foes were quick to denigrate the accomplishment.  They also vowed to fight any further steps, as they have been doing consistently at the UN and in many countries for years.
The broader point is that gay activists face powerful opponents at home and abroad.  And they too operate through networks that cross national and institutional boundaries.  What I have termed the “Baptist-burqa” network spans religious conservatives among many faiths, most importantly Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim.  It encompasses both states, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, and NGOs.  And it fights the gay rights network, which in turn fights back, on varied issues and in many forums worldwide.
Notably, these kinds of protracted and vehement conflicts are not confined only to gay rights.  They go well beyond culture war issues—to numerous others.  Josh Busby’s recent post makes the point that in the U.S. at least, how one stands on global warming has become something of a litmus test for party affiliation.  As Josh points out, there are Republicans who fear climate change (and different ones who support gay marriage) just as there are some on the left who remain climate skeptics.  But although the battle lines are sometimes blurry, on most global issues, groups of civil society “good guys” do not face off against “bad” old states or corporations.  Rather, contending networks encompass the gamut of international actors, both state and nonstate.
Those of you who know my recent work will know that this is a lead-in to a bit of shameless self-promotion for my forthcoming book, The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics (Okay, I’m a tiny bit ashamed–sorry).  That book will explore this network vs. network conflict, and the diverse ways that contending networks duke it out in varied institutions worldwide.  I still have one last chance to tweak the final product and would be interested in YOUR thoughts.

I hope that the book will serve as a corrective to the many studies focusing primarily on networks promoting change, even though real change is in fact rare and difficult.  A better approach to understanding how politics works, I claim, is to examine the ongoing conflicts—and to analyze powerful contenders in those conflict on a more or less equal footing.  How do they mobilize?  How do they affect and attack one another?  What tactics do they use, not just to promote themselves, but equally important, to torpedo their foes?  True there are differences between the strategies of those protecting the status quo and those seeking change.  But often it is not so easy to place antagonists in either of those boxes, particularly as time passes and policies change.
These analytic points are equally valid in international and domestic settings. Consider, for instance, the case of health care reform in the U.S.  The idea that all Americans should have some form of health insurance has been around for many decades.  But to have analyzed only those promoting this policy would have missed the vast bulk of the day-to-day politics that made this goal so difficult to achieve.  Even to examine the “political opportunity structure” for proponents would miss the fact that this “structure” is in large part the continuous creation of powerful political actors.  In that context, it is true, the Obama health care law was a milestone.  But of course, it came long after its original proposal, at very high political cost, and with the ultimate outcome still uncertain because opponents, now on the defensive, continue to fight on in the courts—and probably ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court. 
All the more so in the international realm, where this kind of protracted policy conflict is endemic, where there are any number of institutions national and international in which “defeated” opponents can fight on, and in which normative talk is so cheap.  All the more reason then for analysts not to dwell on the few victories, usually at best partial and contingent.  To understand how the politics of norms works most of the time, one must look at the conflicts, the defeats, and the contending networks equally.  A few other analytic points I’ll throw out there for YOUR thoughts: 
Political scientists including myself have focused too much on “agenda setting.”  Certainly it can be a major accomplishment to draw media attention to an issue and even more so to put it on a governmental decision agenda.  But there is of course no guarantee that this will lead to anything–or at least anything anytime soon.   In fact getting one’s issue onto an agenda, invariably mobilizes contrary forces who work hard to get it off the agenda and their own ideas back on.
Political scientists and sociologists, including myself, have focused too much attention on “framing” as key to understanding policy change.  Yet there are a huge variety of frames out there, even within a single polity—and many of them are equally compelling (at least if one looks at them objectively).  Consider the supposed “master frame” of human rights.  It is so broad as to make it possible for all sides in many policy battles to tap it for their own uses.  Even more specific frames such as “harm to bodily integrity” often remain available for multiple sides to take up.
Political scientists, including myself, have focused too much attention on “persuasion” as the mechanism by which policy change happens.  Unless that term is given a broader meaning than normal, “persuasion” fails to capture the concrete combat that dwarfs most rhetorical efforts, even if it is often harder to see and study.  This includes efforts at excluding the other side from key institutions, at silencing opponents, at keeping others’ ideas off the agenda, at fighting back even after a policy has been established (see the continuing court battles over California’s Prop 8), and of course at raising money.
Finally, political scientists, in this case not including myself, have put too much faith in the power of deliberation to elevate the decision processes of leaders and citizens.  Recent work on deliberative democracy finally seems to be getting this criticism.  Many “target” audiences are beyond persuasion, due to self-interest or ideology.  And few promoters of ideas, whether new or old, truly want a free and fair debate.   Obviously such debate would be optimal–if it were possible to establish agreement on what that would mean, not in the abstract, but in an actual political conflict.  In reality, decisions are invariably made in the absence of the kind of deliberation political philosophers would prefer.
Gay rights is just one of numerous issues in which these normative battles play themselves out.  Those of us studying them ought to pay more attention to the fray itself, rather than primarily to those promoting change. 
Your thoughts welcome either on this blog or direct to me at cliffordbob2@gmail.com 

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Bahrain’s Base Politics

Alex Cooley and I have just published an article at Foreign Affairs Online on Bahrain and the politics of the US overseas basing network. An excerpt:

U.S. policymakers have long struggled to reconcile their support for friendly authoritarian regimes with their preference for political liberalization abroad. The ongoing upheavals in the Middle East, like so many developments before them, shine a bright light on this inconsistency. In Egypt, the Obama administration struggled to calibrate its message on the protests that toppled longtime ally Hosni Mubarak; in Libya, it leads a multinational coalition intent on using airpower to help bring down Muammar al-Qaddafi; and in Bahrain, the United States stands mostly silent as Saudi troops put down popular protests against the ruling al-Khalifa family.

Washington’s balancing act reflects more than the enduring tensions between pragmatism and idealism in U.S. foreign policy. It highlights the specific strains faced by defense planners as they attempt to maintain the integrity of the United States’ worldwide network of military bases, many of which are hosted in authoritarian, politically unstable, and corrupt countries. Now, with the “Arab Spring” unfolding, even U.S. basing agreements with some of its closest allies are vulnerable.

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Quacking about an award

Since Dan is entirely too modest to blog this himself, I thought I’d do it myself:

International Security Studies Section Best book Award to: Daniel H. Nexon (Georgetown University) for The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires, and International Change (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Yes, that’s right: our very own Dan Nexon won the best book award from the International Security Studies section of the International Studies Association for this year. I did see that they gave him a nice plaque, but I was not quick enough with my camera to snap a photo for posting.

Congratulations to Dan! Richly deserved recognition for an excellent book.

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Strengthening Civilian Protection

My review essay on the protection of civilians is out in Foreign Affairs. I discuss two books – Michael Gross’ Moral Dilemmas of Modern War, and Stephen Rockel and Rick Halpern’s edited volume Collateral Damage. All these authors clearly care deeply about protecting civilians in armed conflicts, and worry in different ways that the existing laws of war are flawed. I have somewhat more faith, particularly in the ability of global civil society organizations to build upon these foundations in order to fill the existing gaps; in fact, as I argue, this process is already underway:

In Moral Dilemmas of Modern War, Michael Gross contends that the current safeguards against civilian casualties are too stringent to address the complexities of today’s wars, barring states from adequately combating irregular forces. Meanwhile, Stephen Rockel and Rick Halpern argue in Inventing Collateral Damage that the current international regulations are too weak, permitting and even enabling states to harm civilians during combat.

From two widely different perspectives, the books cast doubt on the value of the existing international regulations presumably designed to mitigate war’s impact on civilians. But a closer look suggests that these authors overstate the tensions between the laws of war and the modern battlefield and underestimate just how well the existing statutes are working. Although the laws of war require strengthening, they constitute a firm foundation on which to better protect civilians.

Entire essay here.

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Science Fiction and International Orders

Today at the LSE there are two fabulous (read: fabulously nerdy) events on Science Fiction and IR. Even better, it’s full of ducks! The event was organized by Chris Brown and features Dan Nexon and Prof PTJ.

The first event, chaired by Chris Brown, features three prominent Science Fiction authors: Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Paul McAuley, Ken McLeod. The second event features several prominent academics who will be discussing the implications for IR. Chaired by Barry Buzan, it features our two ducks and Iver Neumann.

My only regret is a lack of female voices. So, in an attempt to rectify this, I will (read: attempt) to live-blog these events here at the Duck which start at 1:15pm GMT (8:15am EST – you’ll have to work the rest out for yourselves).

It promises to be an entertaining (read: fabulously nerdy) day! (There may be a pod cast of both events as well. I’ll post ’em if they got ’em.)

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On Why There is No International Law Against Using Very Large Rocks in Battle

I have a new article in the journal International Organization entitled “Vetting the Advocacy Agenda.” It tries to explain why some issues get noticed by transnational campaigners and others don’t, using weapons advocacy as a focal point of study. Key argument: it matters which organizations take up the issue; the global agenda is as much a function of structural relations within advocacy networks as of relationships between advocacy groups and states. You’ll need an institutional subscription to access the article online, or you can read the proofs version here. Abstract below.

While a number of significant campaigns since the early 1990s have resulted in bans of particular weapons, at least as many equivalent systems have gone unscrutinized and uncondemned by transnational campaigners. How can this variation be explained? Focusing on the issue area of arms control advocacy, this article argues that an important influence on the advocacy agenda within transnational networks is the decision-making process not of norm entrepreneurs nor of states but of highly connected organizations within a given network. The argument is illustrated through a comparison between existing norms against landmines and blinding laser weapons, and the absence of serious current consideration of such norms against depleted uranium and autonomous weapons. Thus, the process of organizational issue selection within nongovernmental organizations and international organizations most central to particular advocacy networks, rather than the existence of transnational networks around an issue per se, should be a closer focus of attention for scholars interested in norm creation in world politics.

I’ll have some findings on that latter written up in book form in the next year or so, Gods willing.(This of course means the larger project is still in progress, so feedback on this short early version quite welcome.)

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New book – Radicalisation and Media – out now

Routledge has published Radicalisation and Media: Connectivity and Terrorism in the New Media Ecology, co-authored by Akil Awan, Andrew Hoskins and Ben O’Loughlin. The book presents results from our two-year ESRC-funded project on Radicalisation & Violence, which was awarded the maximum ‘Outstanding’ grade by the Economic and Social Research Council in 2010.
Our chief finding, in a nutshell, is that despite the potential connectivity between radicalising networks like Al-Qaeda and ‘vulnerable’ youth and ‘terrorised’ publics, there is in fact a profound and structural disconnection. Security policymakers, journalists and audiences have little agreed understanding of what ‘radicalisation’ might mean, but a residual sense of anxiety that there is something threatening out there, possibly close to home. That diffuse threat is often spoken about as radicalisation through the internet, over the web, which could happen anywhere, to anyone, “at the click of a button”. Such statements do not aid public understanding of how individual opinions are shaped by on- and offline experiences, nor offer any evidence base of how and why individuals have turned to violence. Caught in the middle of this confusion are mainstream Security Journalists who deliver to audiences spasmodic episodes of bombings, arrests and warnings, the occasional, subtitled glimpse of an angry jihadist, but little insight or explanation of how political and religious violence is generated or prevented. Such news contributes to assumptions about an enduring social mainstream and radical margin; this may indeed feed back into potential disaffection by those identified as potentially radical. In short, we suggest that discourse about radicalisation may be as significant for Western societies as discourses of radicalisation, i.e. actual jihadist propaganda.
The study offers a cross-section of global (un)connectivities across a series of critical security events since 2006 by integrating three strands of data: audience research from the UK, France, Denmark and Australia, an ethnography of jihadist culture, and analysis of English and Arabic-language news.
Please contact Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk if you require further information or wish to receive a review copy from Routledge.
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Preview of an immanent online symposium

Here’s a quick heads-up about something that will be concluding here — and over at The Disorder of Things — in a couple of weeks:

This is the third in a series of posts by several of us at The Disorder Of Things on Patrick Thaddeus Jackson‘s The Conduct Of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and Its Implications for the Study of World Politics. Paul started things off with his post setting up Jackson’s methodology of politics in order to ask important questions about the politics of Jackson’s methodology. Joe continued with his post and a discussion of the relationship between the scientific and the normative, and their institutionalization within IR. Next week will see a final post, followed by a reply by Jackson himself.”

Four very bright graduate students are working their way through my book and posting some extremely detailed engagements with it, so of course the least I can do is to post a reply of my own to their great set of engagements once they finish their series. And they all seem to come from the PTJ School of Methodology Blogging, which means essays of a substantial length rather than the sharp quips that the blogging format so often features; hence reading through their essays before I post my reply might be advisable. I’ve been having a lot of fun reading through their pieces and taking copious notes for my reply, so I thought I’d share the fun and let everyone know where they too can get their philosophical fix for the semester.

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Light Reading in Genocide Studies

If you’re looking for something to read for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, let me humbly suggest Adam Jones’ volume Evoking Genocide, which has won a 2010 Outstanding Academic Title Award by the American Library Association’s Choice Magazine. Here’s their review:

This compilation has a simple yet fascinating premise: ask leading human rights scholars and activists to reflect on the art and literature that most influenced them. The result –60 two-to-three page essays mediating on a wide variety of sources, from the essential (Elie Wiesel’s Night, 1960) to the unexpected (Star Trek)—is highly engaging and thoughtful. The beauty here is that these well-known intellectuals and activists are honestly writing about the things that move them, capture their imaginations, and propel them onward in their work. Reading the book is akin to talking to a favourite professor about why he or she chose a specific field of study. The essays, covering events ranging from genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas to the genocide in Darfur, are not traditionally academic, a fact that may make this book more accessible to students. An excellent starting place for those interested in developing classes on the art and literature of genocide. Jones includes a list of resources for further reading.

The credit goes, of course, to the editor Adam Jones, who conceived and shepherded this book into being, on top of countless other scholarly contributions to the subfield of genocide studies.

Anyone who would like a breakdown of my “unexpected” contribution on genocide and the Borg can go here.

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New Year, New Writing Gig

Just wanted to let everyone know that starting January 4th I will be writing a weekly baseball column (sometimes twice weekly if I am feeling especially opinionated) at Beyond the Box Score.

Beyond the Box Score is a fantastic site, examining baseball from an analytical perspective.  The authors definitely embrace sabermetrics, but they don’t beat readers over the head with complex statistics.  As with most things that I do, the subject of my columns will vary quite a bit.

Generally speaking I’ll likely focus on team performance, player valuation, and lots of exploratory questions about the game.  Oh, and you can be sure there will be lots of pretty visuals and laments about the NY Mets.

Be sure to stop by if you are interested.  You can read and subscribe to my entries here, but I encourage you to subscribe to the site as a whole (RSS feed here).

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