11 December 2013 § Leave a Comment
2 December 2013 § Leave a Comment
Judith Verweijen has written an interesting post about her recent research on justice populaire in the Kivus. I’ve always thought of mob justice as a reaction to the state’s inability to provide security or prosecute those accused of wrong-doing, but Verweijen points out that it may also be a response to the declining authority of customary officials.
In some places, vigilante committees, sometimes dominated by demobilized soldiers, have been key in orchestrating the killings. This has been especially the case where vigilantes have taken on the role of assessing witchcraft allegations, which are the second major source of mob justice next to crime suspicions. … The events in the chefferie (chiefdom) of Wagongo in Mahagi territory seem to corroborate this conclusion. In the course of a recent visit, I was told that there had been a strong increase in witchcraft-related mob justice since a conflict around customary power had split the vieux-sages (old, wise men) into two opposing camps, thus reducing their capacity to credibly deal with these cases.
The whole piece is worth reading.
16 November 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m currently working on a paper about when demobilization occurs after civil war without international intervention. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rigorous political science literature (in English) on the reasons that some countries implement DDR after conflict and others don’t, or whether peacekeeping makes DDR more likely to succeed. At a more basic level, I also haven’t found a comprehensive list of DDR programs and their outcomes.
Nicholas Sambanis and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl have a good overview of the conceptual problems with measuring demobilization, and there have been some interesting studies focusing on the individual-level effects of DDR, like Blattman & Annan in Liberia [PDF], Humphreys & Weinstein in Sierra Leone [PDF], Gilligan, Mvukiyehe & Samii in Burundi [PDF], and D’Aoust, Sterck & Verwimp in Burundi [PDF]. Any other recommendations addressing the issues above? Suggestions in English and French are welcome.
13 November 2013 § Leave a Comment
From The Germany Ideology (1846), critiquing other social thinkers of the time who saw “liberation” as a purely philosophical question:
Nor will we explain to them that is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world and by employing real means, that slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and that, in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. ‘Liberation’ is a historical and not a mental act (p. 169).
Presages the Lewis-Ranis-Fei model of agricultural productivity by a good century.
10 November 2013 § Leave a Comment
Just wanted to point out that I’ve been listing links to datasets on conflict and governance on the righthand sidebar of the blog’s home page. If you read the blog in an RSS reader or just click on links to specific posts, you may not have seen this. Right now it’s at 24 links and counting, ranging from large dataverses (Harvard, World Bank) to mid-size databases (AidData, PRIO Armed Conflict Data, Yale ISPS,) replication datasets for individual papers (Mapping Migration in the DRC, Non-State Actor Data).
If you’re a Stata user, you may also be interested in the -wbopendata- module, which allows you to download World Bank data directly from Stata.
3 November 2013 § Leave a Comment
I attended an interesting presentation recently by Michael Callen (UCSD) on the political economy of public employee absence in Pakistan (PDF). In an observational study of doctors at public clinics in Pakistan’s Punjab region, he and his co-authors found that doctors who personally knew their MPs were almost twice as likely to be absent as those who did not. Furthermore, doctors in districts which were less politically competitive, and where their sponsoring MPs would thus face less risk of public backlash over poor service provision, were more more likely to be absent than those in competitive districts. The idea here is that MPs face two conflicting incentives: it’s cheaper to them to provide patronage goods (like jobs in the public health service) to individuals in exchange for votes, but if they face political competition, they instead have an incentive to try to provide higher quality goods to more voters.
31 October 2013 § Leave a Comment
The recent push by FARDC and the FIB to uproot M23 from some of their strongholds in North Kivu looks, as Jason Stearns put it, historic. African Defence Review has the single best article I’ve seen on how the FARDC has started getting its act together and the FIB has taken advantage of its component forces’ air power to take the fight to M23. Jason also points out that Rwanda has largely stayed out of the fighting, under diplomatic pressure from the US and UK. Digital Djeli has a good piece on how amnesty for M23 leaders is the “elephant in the room” at the Kampala negotiations; it will be interesting to see how the negotiations proceed now that the rebels’ military position is weaker.
30 October 2013 § 1 Comment
Danny Hirschel-Burns had a great post earlier this month on whether people are violent by nature over at The Widening Lens. He reviews a number of seminal works on this issue (Stanley Milgram, Christoper Browning, Dave Grossman and Randall Collins) and concludes that while most people are “inherently adverse” to killing others, violent coercion and social sanctioning can lead people to kill. Notably, he estimates that intergroup coercion is probably more effective in this regard than either authority or ideology.
This fits very well with Scott Straus’ findings about adult men’s participation in the Rwandan genocide. In his 2006 book The Order of Genocide, he interviews convicted genocidaires* about their actions, and found that the two most common reasons for killing others were “intra-Hutu coercion” and “wartime fear and combativeness” (p. 136). In his telling, the invasion of the Tutsi-led RPF rebels from Uganda in 1990 deeply unsettled ethnic relations, made violence less unthinkable in daily life, and made people more receptive to genocidal political propaganda. When the genocide began in 1994, however, ideology and fear alone were not enough to convince most men to kill. Genocidaires were provided with material incentives, like claiming the houses and cattle of their victims, but were also violently threatened by other Hutus if they didn’t participate.
*Straus notes that because his respondents had already been convicted, they should not have felt it necessary to downplay any anti-Tutsi ideology which motivated them, since they presumably couldn’t be punished again. I think this misses the possibility that prisoners who continued to be openly anti-Tutsi might be socially sanctioned in other ways within the prison system. However, in general I don’t think this detracts from the plausibility of his overall argument.
27 October 2013 § Leave a Comment
Paul Avey and Michael Desch had an interesting post on this question at the Monkey Cage a few weeks ago. While the authors focused on American policymakers, I suspect that these findings are generalizable to policymakers outside of the US, and, on a slightly different set of topics, to managers at development NGOs as well. The graph of their findings is striking (click to enlarge):
The categories with a clear preponderance of “very” or “somewhat” useful results are area studies, case studies and policy analysis. Respondents appeared more divided over quantitative and theoretical analysis and operations research, but still generally favorable. The only category to receive majority unfavorable responses was formal modeling.
Note that the favorability of these approaches increases linearly with the amount of context and detail they tend to provide. Formal modeling is based on the idea that a set of simplified yet powerful assumptions about human nature can yield predictions about behavior which would apply to any actor in the same situation, regardless of context. This is about as far as it gets from the types of qualitative, richly detailed works which often show up in area studies or policy analysis.
The point I took away was not that formal modeling is useless, but that research which provides detailed, contextualized descriptions of the problem at hand is more likely to be accessible to policymakers. Barbara Walter’s book on the use of third parties to enforce civil war settlements is a great example of a work which uses formal modeling to derive its conclusions, but then highlights their policy relevance with a series of case studies. It’s clearly not the case that policy-oriented research should sacrifice rigor, but rather that even the most rigorous research isn’t worth much if practitioners can’t understand it.
That said, even research which does not immediately appear to have policy implications can turn out to be useful in the long run. Walter’s work was based on research like Bob Powell’s article on war as a commitment problem, which is a heavily mathematical study of “the inefficiency puzzle in the context of complete-information games” (p. 195). Sounds about as far removed as possible from the messy real world, no? And yet, while the policy implications of Powell’s article may not have been clear to practitioners, later researchers were able to build on it to make well-informed policy recommendations. It’s the political science version of developing an incredible adhesive from biomechanical studies of gecko feet. (The much beleaguered study of duck penises has yet to produce any such useful applications, sadly.)