This paper evaluates conceptualizations of democracy used in empirical research, in particular the influential minimalist conception of democracy that operationalizes democracy as the occurrence of competitive elections. I find that although some degree of conceptual minimalism may be desirable for the purpose of operationalizing the definition in research, these considerations do not give the analyst carte blanche to stipulate definitions. Limitations include a desire to communicate with other researchers studying the same topic, and some degree of correspondence with the background concept as used in ordinary language.
Coauthors Andy Lamey, Noel Martin and I investigate the potential of a role-immersion game in teaching political philosophy. We designed, developed and playtested a game where students took on the role of prominent political thinkers in a legislature asked to decide important political issues. We then implemented the game in Fall 2019, in two sections of a course on contemporary political philosophy. Student reactions were positive, and focus groups and follow-up surveys reveal that in addition to accomplishing the learning objectives, students developed ‘soft’ skills including respectful communication and charitable consideration of opposing views.
I introduce Luc Boltanski’s critique of Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of a critical approach to sociology. I explain Boltanski’s intriguing notion that because the subjects of sociological inquiry are themselves equipped with a critical attitude, the sociologist must abandon any such attitude in order to understand the complex struggle to define value. I then explore the implications of this idea for normative political theory.
This paper sets out a formal model of individual-level prosocial contribution. I argue that the individual utility of contribution is a function of the cost of contribution, the reputational impact of (non)compliance with prevailing norms, and any individual satisfaction produced by the act of contribution itself. I further argue that social sanctions are themselves a function of the magnitude of group-oriented social norms and the extent of monitoring mechanisms to relay individual compliance decisions to the group. I construct and test a formal model incorporating these parameters. Agents in the model exhibit behavior that resembles the concepts of rapid norm shifts (Bicchieri 2006) and “norm cascades" (Keck and Sikkink 1998). Counterintuitive conclusions are developed, particularly the dependence of group-oriented norms on the presence of altruistic actors. Finally, I use the model developed in Kuran 1991 to introduce the concept of “contribution thresholds,” and I explore deep structural resemblances between the concepts of revolution and prosocial contribution.
This paper presents a theory of occupation-induced corruption as an accelerant of conflict. I present a model of territorial occupation by a foreign power that increases corrupt practices among the local population. Increased corruption in turn creates sharp divides between insiders and outsiders, and engenders significant resentment towards both the occupying power and its collaborators in the civilian government. This resentment causes militant youths to join existing rebel groups, and increased activity by these insurgents causes the security environment to deteriorate, making the occupying power more likely to extend its occupation. After outlining these theoretical propositions, I present a thorough research design for the investigation of this question, including a discussion of sampling, conceptualization, operationalization and validity. Finally, I turn to specific predictions and policy implications.
his article re-estimates and extends published work on the impact of government-issued taxpayer receipts on political knowledge and political attitudes. Previous work had found that tax receipts can increase knowledge but have no effect on attitudes or preferences (Barnes et al (2018), JoP). After reproducing the authors’ findings using the original survey data, I fit a cumulative logistic regression model in place of the authors’ ordered logit, and use this cumulative logistic regression to test the parallel regressions assumption on which the authors’ use of an ordered logit relied. Finding that this assumption is not satisfied, I fit a multinomial logistic regression in place of the authors’ ordered logit. I find evidence to suggest that a multinomial logistic regression is a better model of the data-generating process studied in Barnes et al. (2018).
Part of a larger book project, this paper explores the differential effects of corruption on infrastructure spending.
“Corruption and systems collapse” (2017)
Part of a larger book project, this paper explores the role corruption has played in the collapse of complex societies.