People often claim that publishing in US outlets is be perceived to be optimal, and English is the lingua franca in IR. But those from a non Engliish-speaking background are confronted with the problem of deciding whether the paper should be written in English (and be published in English journals) or whether it is more advisable to write in one’s native language.
In the last edition of the German flagship IR journal ‘Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen (ZIB)‘, Matthias Albert and Michael Zürn issued a plea to also publish in German. They neither say that one should publish in one’s native language exclusively, nor that the ratio of English language to native language authored papers should be determined by any arbitrary rule. IR scholars should rather publish both in English and in their native language. It’s a great piece, and I suggest reading it, but I also want to address some bits and pieces that I find hard to swallow. Continue reading Should I publish in my native language?→
In a recent article, Marko Klasnja and Joshua A. Tucker provide evidence from the experiments in Moldova and Sweden to show there is a relationship between the economic perceptions of the voters and their reactions to corruption in their respective countries [gated version, ungated version]. They argue that in low corruption countries such as Sweden, voters punish the corrupt politicians in the elections regardless of the state of the economy. However, in high-corruption countries such as Moldova, voters tend to be less concerned about corruption when they are satisfied with the government’s economic policy performance. I wouldn’t hesitate to add Turkey to the group of high corruption countries, especially after the corruption investigations started in December 2013, revealing illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects. Some have called the charges the biggest corruption scandal of Turkish Republican history. Very briefly, Turkish police seized shoeboxes stashed with $4.5 million in cash at the home of a state-owned bank’s chief executive and arrested sons of four cabinet ministers and several high-profile businessmen. Continue reading Corruption, Elections and Political Turmoil: Is more ahead for Turkey?→
There are many “facts of (IR) life” that need to be explained to beginning graduate students–those regarding professional development, comprehensive exams, publishing, etc. But I don’t think I’m alone when I write that the biggest hurdle to finishing the degree is the dissertation.
What (meaningful) advice can I give graduate students about the dissertation stage? By no means am I an expert on the dissertation process, but listed here are a few things I wish I could have told myself early on.
MPSA makes an effort to address grad students. Multiple poster sessions take place in the exhibition hall (so you actually run into them), and there’s a reception for first time attendees as well as a mentoring session.
While I did not sign up for mentoring, I attended the reception. It’s a great idea and free food is always nice. However, there are no real guidelines for the hosts, who are supposed to give advice to a bunch of grad students at their table, and at least my table did not fill up as planned. Maybe it would make more sense to have some sort of intro speech and then form groups?
The smartphone/tablet app was a good idea poorly executed. The search function did not work consistently, the dates and times were messed up (leading me to miss stuff), and sometimes it wouldn’t display the room. I think the best idea would be to have a good mobile website, on which you could display room numbers after people log in with their MPSA account.
Now let me shout out a non-exhaustive list of people whose presentations I found interesting (dropping the non-IR stuff I attended):
I liked what Swati Srivastava had to say about varieties of constructivism in IR. She argues that “thin” vs. “thick” is not very helpful, and we should instead look two dimensions: how does the author assume that social construction work, and at what level of analysis?
Jonathan Ring presented two papers on the diffusion of gender quotas. One used agent-based modeling, the other dyadic event history analysis. I hope we’ll learn more about mechanisms of diffusion from Jon’s work.
Ari Weiss presented research on which states are more likely to be involved in international conflict after regime change. While some explanatory factors were not addressed yet, I found the approach extremely interesting and am looking forward to further results.
Finally, my co-panelists tackled the politics of global anti-corruption from different perspectives: Ellen Gutterman works on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, how it is enforced, and what that means for IR theory. Hongying Wang presented an overview of how the rise of China affects anti-corruption. And Holger Moroff spoke about how global anti-corruption is based on a very narrow consensus between powerful actors.
What I have gleaned substantively is that there is no set definition for what a post-doctoral position actually is, and the importance varies from discipline to discipline as well as country to country. Moreover, what you do in the postdoc may be somewhat dependent on what you did during your PhD – for example, if you did not produce enough publications, you may spend some time publishing work from your dissertation. Another important distinction is if your postdoc position is part of a larger research project, or essentially just funding for you to do your own research (and perhaps a bit of teaching).
However, a survey of postdoc positions identified some common characteristics: the recent completion of a PhD prior to the postdoc position; the position is temporary; the appointment involves substantial research, with a goal towards further training; there is an expectation that work will be published; and the postdoc works under the supervision of a senior scholar.
It was not too long ago that I found myself elbow deep in articles with titles such as “Toward a theory of the political entrepreneur” and “A general theory of entrepreneurship.” I was becoming more and more convinced that policy entrepreneurship–as a powerful and potentially disruptive kind of 21st century leadership–was becoming more relevant than ever in International Relations.
Definitions of “policy entrepreneurship” have often highlighted the qualities of risk-taking, the ability to introduce new ideas, and a willingness to work with unique resources and methods that other actors ignore. In addition to these traits, I have found it important to highlight the qualities of alertness and creative discovery.
In my own research on Japanese defense politics, I saw the “entrepreneurial spirit” in many of the endeavors of former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. His bold political strategy allowed him to overcome significant political obstacles and implement important changes in the US-Japan security relationship and to achieve his chief political goal of postal reform. Few who watched Japanese news at this time will forget reports of Koizumi serenading President George W. Bush with Elvis’s “I Need You, I Want You, I Love You”.
I could see a similar appetite for risk and the use of unusual resources in the activities of Ishihara Shintaro, former governor of Tokyo. Ishara’s attempt to purchase several of the Senkaku islands from their private owners in 2012 spurred the national government to nationalize the islands before he could get his hands on them. This action in turn has sparked increased hostilities with China that have led to spiraling nationalism in both countries.
Perhaps this was simply a case of a researcher diagnosing a phenomenon where he we looking for it, and I had to caution myself against over-estimating the influence of these upstarts.
I am still convinced, however, that the current era is ripe for policy entrepreneurs. Whether the current period is still the “post Cold War,” or whether we have entered the Asian Century or a post-international world or a new interwar period, one thing is certain—policy entrepreneurs are more relevant in times of uncertainty. Their appetite for risk, their ability to recognize and exploit hitherto underutilized resources, to stir the pot and try to open up new policy spaces can have consequences–both good and bad.
Policy entrepreneurs will be just as influential through their dramatic failures as they will through their dramatic successes.
Nevertheless, against the backdrop of this increasing policy entrepreneurship, I remain skeptical that policy entrepreneurs can or should be theorized, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m skeptical that they can be theorized beyond a certain point. At a basic level, this observation follows logically from a definition of the subject matter. Policy entrepreneurs are interesting because of their differences. They are often products of very unique environments, thus our ability to generalize about them across different policy contexts may be limited even within their unique subgroup.
I also draw my skepticism and pessimism from the attempts of others who have written in the field of leadership more broadly. As James MacGregor Burns wrote in his book Leadership (1978):
Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.
Or, as Patricia Maclachlan wrote in a paper presented at the Stanford Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Japan in 2010:
Leadership matters deeply in political studies, but the social scientist who cares about theory and methodological purity would be well advised not to touch it. As most scholars would agree, the definition, causes, and consequences of political leadership are conditioned by a complicated web of variables ranging from the leader’s individual psychological characteristics and his relationship with his political constituency, to the structure of the institutional arena in which he operates.
To an extent, theorizing about policy entrepreneurs has not been a completely fruitless affair. Principles developed thus far in leadership studies more generally will be relevant to understanding policy entrepreneurs. Authors have been able to hypothesize (and find solid evidence) for several general principles: that leaders matter more in times of crisis; that leaders matter most when they are more risk-accepting; and that the more dramatic the means by which leaders come to power, the more potential for dramatic impact once they are in power.
However, rather than seeing policy entrepreneurs as objects of theorization and hypothesis testing, perhaps it is better to view them as sources of new insights about the world. Thus, rather trying to explain the emergence of policy entrepreneurs or identify their constitutive features, researchers may find it more useful to ask questions such as: “What motivated policy entrepreneur A to try action B? Was the actor acting irrationally or capriciously, as others contend, or was there another underlying motivation?”
Since alertness and creative discovery are key qualities of policy entrepreneurs, their bold new actions can often serve as natural experiments. Not all of these experiments succeed, of course. But even an exploration of failed policy entrepreneurship can yield insights into how policy environments are evolving or what opportunities leaders expect to see in the future. Paying close attention to why they act, what assumptions drive their actions, and what limitations they are testing can yield valuable new insights about the policy space they inhabit.
In addition, attempting to “see the world like a policy entrepreneur” may provide the habits of mind that can more easily bridge the gap between policy and research.
This was a guest post by Daniel Clausen, who is a graduate of Florida International University’s PhD program in International Relations. He graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and American Studies. His research has been published in Strategic Insights, Asian Politics and Policy, Culture and Conflict Review, and the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies. You can follow Daniel’s work at Academia.edu.
[I]nternational law reflects a real-world distribution of power such that nations are free, in a sense, to test the will of other nations, to stretch the law and assert their own sovereignty. (…) Though international law may allow for this elasticity, and though it may be abused, it is precisely this relaxed approach that allows international law to act as both a codification of appropriate norms and a growing, living system.
Kim Yi Dionne takes a look back at what happened in Mali since 2012. In particular, she points to a discussion of a recent Afrobarometer poll: “In a complete reversal of opinion from one year earlier, two out of three Malians say that their country is moving in the ‘right direction’ at the end of 2013.”
Everything that has happened on and since that day twenty years ago is under dispute. From the question of who shot down the plane, to which members of the regime were involved in planning and executing the genocide, to the number of people killed overall, to whether and how revenge killings unfolded, to the continuation of Rwanda’s civil war on the soil of Congo/Zaire and the tremendous suffering that has occurred there, too, to whether the Rwandan government’s success in poverty reduction is justified by its repressive authoritarianism – all of it is contested.
On a completely different note: Now we have some backing for my perception that German scientists don’t really use Twitter. In this recently published survey [in German], 15% of respondents said they use microblogs, and 61% of that subgroup then said they actively post. 30% of all respondents said they use blogs, with a third of that subgroup saying they write posts themselves. Overall, male respondents were much more likely to report an active use of (micro)blogs.
A rather curious finding: The number of people saying they don’t know what a blog is was higher than the number of people saying they don’t know what a microblog is. I guess there really is a lot of hype around Twitter. (The questionnaire mentioned Twitter as an example of the latter category, but did not mention WordPress or any other recognizable brand name for the former.)