Ethnicity and Democratic Stability

Ethnic identity and the interaction of ethnic groups form form the basis of a disparate and burgeoning literature in the field of comparative politics (and economics, sociology, psychology, etc.) Two important sub-literatures in this field analyze the effect of ethnicity, and ethnic homogeneity and democratic stability. The first is Arend Lijphart’s consociational theory (consociationalism) and Shepsle and Rabushka’s “ethnic outbidding” model.

The State–Weber’s definition, the role of legitimacy & Iraq

The state is an important concept in politics, and it is often one that is difficult to grasp for many students new to the study of comparative politics. Probably the most studied work on the state is that of German social scientist Max Weber, who in a lecture given in 1918 (which would eventually be published in 1919 under the name “The Politics of Vocation”) set out a formal definition of the state, and demonstrated the link between that and what is called “legitimacy”.

Below the fold, I’ll provide what I consider to be the crucial part of Weber’s lecture, with an assessment of how this relates to the contemporary situation in Iraq below:
Continue reading “The State–Weber’s definition, the role of legitimacy & Iraq”

Foreign Direct Investment(FDI)–an Indicator of Globalization

As we will see, globalization is a word (and phenomenon) that is analogous to a Rorschach test in that everyone seems to have his, or her, own slightly unique definition of what it actually means. There is wide agreement, however, that an important characteristic of contemporary globalization is the level of economic integration internationally. One such component of that integration is foreign direct investment (FDI). From the World Resources Institute, here is a map that shows the differing levels of FDI around the globe. The patterns should, by now, be exceedingly familiar.


Here is the map description:

Foreign direct investment data do not give a complete picture of international investment in an economy. Balance of payments data on foreign direct investment do not include capital raised locally, which has become an important source of financing for investment projects in some developing countries. In addition, foreign direct investment data capture only cross-border investment flows involving equity participation and thus omit nonequity cross-border transactions such as intrafirm flows of goods and services. For a detailed discussion of the data issues see the World Bank’s World Debt Tables 1993-1994 (volume 1, chapter 3). Also, cross-country comparisons may not be accurate, because of differences in the definition of what constitutes foreign direct investment.

Source: World Bank Group. 2004, World Development Indicators Online. Washington, DC:World Bank.
Available On-line at: Source Link

A Unique Indicator of Economic Development–Luminous Flux

Or light. Below you will find a fascinating map from the World Resources Institute, (which is a great website, featuring information on such matters as renewable fresh water resources, literacy rates, and other phenomena that are found at the “intersection of the environment and human needs.”


Here is a description of the map:

“The National Geophysical “city lights” database depicts stable lights and radiance calibrated lights of the world (which includes lights from cities, towns, industrial sites, gas flares, fires, and lightning illuminated clouds). A high concentration of city lights is especially found in industrialized densely populated regions such as western Europe, Japan, and the U.S.. Alternatively, few “city lights” are shown in economically poorer and sparsely populated regions (e.g. central and northern Africa and South America). Moderate “city lights” are found in several densely populated “developing countries” (e.g. India, Indonesia, eastern Brazil, and South Africa). The “city lights” data may be used a proxy for population distribution or infrastructure (e.g. in which it may be assumed that the occurrence of few city lights is correlated with the presence of institutional, political, and industrial infrastructure).”

European Politics Source

One of the best sources for European politics in the English language is certainly the Financial Times, published in London. Don’t let the name of the newspaper fool you, the Financial Times writes about much more than financial and economic news. It’s coverage of domestic European politics is first-rate.

What does an Intro to Comparative final exam at MIT look like?

Here are a couple of examples:

Final exam last semester

After three and a half years of occupation, U.S. attempts to build stable, democratic government in Iraq have utterly failed. Iraq is plagued by a weak state unable to guarantee public order, mounting ethnic conflict, pervasive corruption, anemic economic performance, and poor prospects for democracy. Drawing on the knowledge you have gained over the semester, think about the five issues mentioned above (state-building, ethnic conflict, corruption, economic growth, and democracy).

Then answer the following three questions:

1. What recommendations would you have made to Coalition authorities at the beginning of the occupation to maximize the odds of a successful outcome?
2. To the extent that they are different, what recommendations would you make now?
3. How effective or ineffective do you think these your recommendations would have been or would be?

At 1:30 p.m. on the day of the exam (Tuesday the 19th), we will ask you to address ONE of these topics only, and we will specify which one you should address. For instance, we might ask you to answer the three questions listed above as they apply to economic growth: (1) what policies should the Coalition have adopted to maximize economic growth, (2) what recommendations would you make now to increase economic growth, and (3) how effective or ineffective do you think these recommendations would have been or would be in stimulating economic growth? The exam topic will be emailed to the class and posted on the class website. You are encouraged to collaborate with your fellow students in working through possible responses between now and the 19th. However, you must write the exam entirely by yourself. We do NOT expect you to do additional reading for the exam beyond the materials covered in class and the papers on Iraq that is now posted on Rather, you should leverage the general knowledge you have obtained over the semester — and the rather limited information you have acquired on Iraq — to address the topic.

Submit your exams to me and Professor Lawson byemail as an MS Word attachment or hand in a hard copy to Professor Lawson’s office. The deadline is 7:30 p.m. December 19th. No extensions will be given, and you will be penalized for lateness in a draconian fashion. If you hand your exam in by email, you are responsible for ensuring that the attachment can be opened in MS Word.

Final exam topic two years ago
Continue reading “What does an Intro to Comparative final exam at MIT look like?”

Islam, Religious Attitudes, and Democracy

There is a lot of ink being spilled on the question of the compatibility of Islam with democracy. Here is a link to a paper by Mark Tessler, published in the journal, Comparative Politics, in 2002.

“Islam and Democracy in the Middle East: The Impact of Religious Orientations on Attitudes Toward Democracy in Four Arab Countries,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 34 (April 2002): 337-354.

If you are on campus, here is a direct link to a pdf version of the article.

From the Abstract:

Continue reading “Islam, Religious Attitudes, and Democracy”

“And you thought choosing your Spring Course Schedule was difficult…”

Here is a picture of the ballot that faced Iraqis as they arrived at the polls in late January, 2005. That’s correct; each of those is a different political party, 111 in all!


And what about the results? Here was the structure of the parliament following the January 2005 Parliamentary elections: Continue reading ““And you thought choosing your Spring Course Schedule was difficult…””

What is Comparative Politics?

Most students (and non-students, for that matter) have only a vague idea of the content of “comparative politics.” In other sub-disciplines in political science, such as American Politics, and International Relations, the subject matter is almost self-explanatory. In a subsequent post, I’ll tell you what I think comparative politics is about. For now, I provide for you (once again, free of charge!) a sample of the titles of some recent articles published in one of the leading journals in the field of comparative politics, the aptly titled Comparative Politics.

Volume 40, Number 2, January 2007

  • John Sidel, “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy Revisited: Colonial State and Chinese Immigrant in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia”
  • Frances Hagopian, “Latin American Catholicism in an Age of Religious and Political Pluralism: A Framework for Analysis”
  • Gary L Goodman and Jonathan T. Hiskey, “Exit without Leaving: Political Disengagement in High Migration Municipalities in Mexico”
  • Ozge Kemahlioglu, “Particularistic Distribution of Investment Subsidies under coalition Governments: The Case of Turkey”
  • Lianjiang Li, “Political Trust and Petitioning in the Chinese Countryside”

Volume 40, Number 1, October 2007

  • J. Samuel Valenzuela, Timothy R. Scully, and Nicolás Somma, “The Enduring Presence of Religion in Chilean Ideological Positionings and Voter Options”
  • Christina Davis and Jennifer Oh, “Repeal of the Rice Laws in Japan: The Role of International Pressure to Overcome Vested Interests”
  • Linda J. Cook, “Negotiating Welfare in Postcommunist States”
  • Wim van Oorschot and Wilfred Uunk, “Welfare Spending and the Public’s Concern for Immigrants: Multilevel Evidence for Eighteen European Countries”
  • Christian Albrekt Larsen, “How Welfare Regimes Generate and Erode Social Capital: The Impact of Underclass Phenomena”
  • Review Article: Veljko Vujačić, “Elites, Narratives, and Nationalist Mobilization in the Former Yugoslavia”

Continue reading “What is Comparative Politics?”

The Failed States Index by the Fund for Peace

Here is another great resource compiled by the Fund for Peace. The Failed States Index tracks the stability of, at last count (2007) 177 states around the world on the basis of twelve indicators, grouped into social, economic and political categories. Some of the specific indicators are demographic pressures, a legacy of vengeance, uneven economic development and the rise of factionalized elites. Once again, there is a wealth of information and data at the Fund for Peace website, which goes beyond the Failed States Index. Here is a map based on data from 2007:


Continue reading “The Failed States Index by the Fund for Peace”