This paper demonstrates the utility of a sociology of regional integration by addressing two central questions that have sparked much debate over the welfare state. Is there evidence of long-anticipated retrenchment? Does globalization cause that retrenchment? I redirect these debates by showing that there is evidence of retrenchment in Europe, and that regional integration—not globalization – accounts for it. Regional integration is conceptualized as the construction of supranational political economy in negotiated and bounded regions through political institutionalization and market expansion. I develop the argument that regional political integration should constrain the welfare state through policy feedbacks, the politics of blame avoidance, and the diffusion of classical-liberal policy scripts, while regional economic integration should constrain the welfare state by expanding labor markets and undermining labor
unions. I assess these arguments with time-series cross-section models and data from 13 European Union (EU) and non-EU states. The results show that (1) there is evidence of
retrenchment, (2) regionalization is significantly associated with retrenchment, and (3) the effect of regional integration is dampened in the strongest welfare states. I draw the general conclusion that regional integration is a new and consequential part of the social context that should receive
more attention from sociologists.
The larger project from which this paper was drawn was awarded the American Sociological Association Dissertation Award in 2006.Download PDF
A newer version of this paper was published on Demography, August 2008.This paper investigates how migrant social capital differentially influences individuals’ migration and cumulatively generates divergent outcomes for communities. To combine the fragmented findings in the literature, the paper proposes a framework that decomposes migrant social capital into resources (information about or assistance with migration), sources (prior migrants), and recipients (potential migrants). Analysis of multi-level and longitudinal data from 22 rural villages in Thailand shows that the probability of internal migration increases with the available resources, yet the magnitude of increase depends on recipients’ characteristics and the strength of their ties to sources. Specifically, individuals become more likely to migrate if migrant social capital resources are greater and more accessible. The diversity of resources by occupation increases the likelihood of migration, while diversity by destination inhibits it. Resources from weakly-tied sources, such as village members, have a higher effect on migration than resources from strongly-tied sources in the household. Finally, the importance of resources for migration declines with recipients’ own migration experience. These findings challenge the mainstream account of migrant social capital as a uniform resource that generates similar migration outcomes for different groups of individuals or in different settings. In Nang Rong villages, depending on the configuration of resources, sources and recipients, migrant social capital leads to differential migration outcomes for individuals and divergent cumulative migration patterns in communities.
We characterize optimal taxation of foreign capital and optimal sovereign debt policy
in a small open economy where the government cannot commit to policy, seeks
to insure a risk averse domestic constituency, and is more impatient than the market.
Optimal policy generates long-run cycles in both sovereign debt and foreign direct investment
in an environment in which the first best capital stock is a constant. The
expected tax on capital endogenously varies with the state of the economy and investment
is distorted by more in recessions than in booms amplifying the effect of
shocks. The government’s lack of commitment induces a negative correlation between
investment and the stock of government debt, a "debt overhang" effect. Debt relief is
never Pareto improving and cannot affect the long-run level of investment. Further,
restricting the government to a balanced budget can eliminate the cyclical distortion
Regional institutions are an increasingly prominent feature of world
politics. Their characteristics and performance vary widely: some are
highly legalistic and bureaucratic, while others are informal and
flexible. They also differ in terms of inclusiveness, decision-making
rules and commitment to the non-interference principle. This is the
first book to offer a conceptual framework for comparing the design and
effectiveness of regional international institutions, including the EU,
NATO, ASEAN, OAS, AU and the Arab League. The case studies, by a group
of leading scholars of regional institutions, offer a rigorous,
historically informed analysis of the differences and similarities in
institutions across Europe, Latin America, Asia, Middle East and
Africa. The chapters provide a more theoretically and empirically
diverse analysis of the design and efficacy of regional institutions
than heretofore available.
US objectives during the Cold War were to prevent Soviet attacks on the United States and its
allies and to prevent the spread of communism as a political and economic system to other countries,
whether by force or by threat, subversion, persuasion, or bribery. The principal instrument to prevent
attack was an extensive build-up of defensive and retaliatory military forces, combined with political and
military alliances that extended US protection to other countries in exchange for their engagement and
support. The principal instruments for preventing the spread of communism by non-military means
involved building an international economic system conducive to economic prosperity; engaging in
persuasion, providing incentives, and occasionally imposing economic sanctions; and, not least, promoting
a robust US economy that could serve as a stimulant to others and as a beacon for the benefits of a free,
enterprise-based, market-oriented economy.
Along with the rest of America, I've been breathlessly following the caucuses. I cringed when Huckabee won Iowa, shrugged when Obama did, sniffed sympathetically with Hillary Clinton, cheered for McCain in New Hampshire and sorted out my mixed feelings over Romney's Michigan win. And no, I'm not an independent. In fact, I have no voice in the American presidential election at all. I'm not a US citizen. And yet, like millions of other non-Americans, most of whom do not even reside in this country, I care deeply and passionately about who the next commander-in-chief is going to be. This is, therefore, my formal request for the extension of universal adult franchise in the presidential elections of the self-titled global champion of democracy, to every non-American. In this age of American empire (albeit an empire in denial as Niall Ferguson famously put it), it is a call to separate US citizenship from the right to vote.
Admittedly, my dissatisfaction with my disenfranchised state was fostered on more petty grounds. I married an American citizen and promptly lost the benefits of a nifty Indo-US tax treaty which allowed me to save most of my graduate student fellowship. Thereafter, like clockwork every April, my husband and I engage in a battle of the taxes. Rebelliously muttering "no taxation without representation", I tout the advantages of tax evasion and just as strongly (and unreasonably), he insists on filing the entire details of our meagre income. But the domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration post-9/11, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo, have not only polarized Americans, they have starkly highlighted the incredible reach and the consequences of American power for a global audience. Suddenly, pax americana seems more real than just the tentacles of Hollywood culture, the evils of multinational (mostly American) companies and the general nuisance of having a sole busybody superpower around.
Growing up in India, Kenya and the UK, I was familiar with anti-US exasperation (and its paradoxical companion, anti-US envy), which is very different from today's discussions of anti-US hatred. The US always stuck its nose in where it didn't belong—this was a well-known fact. But you got over it—presidents like Bill Clinton for example, a thorn in India's side during his presidency, acquired the status of a superstar after his term. But it all changed post-9/11. The "with us or against us" slogan lent a menacing edge to that interference. Clearly, in the wrong hands, the hegemon unleashed could be terrifying. Sovereignty and individual rights now seemed violable—Iraq today, your country tomorrow. And the disquiet has only grown.
This explains why the other day I found myself in deep discussion with a friend about the candidates over lunch—he's not American either but is just as deeply concerned. An Israeli, he worries about the Middle East and the commitment of the candidates. And this is evident in the Christmas email that my husband's distant German cousin, living in a remote part of Germany, sent to my mother-in-law (outraging some of her more conservative relatives in the process): "we all look forward to 2008 when you will elect a new President. Will it be Hillary or Obama? Anyway it can't be worse than now. This President did so much damage in Europe and all over the world, and that takes time to heal." And it explains why newspapers and magazines all over the world are scrutinizing the US primaries down to the last detail. In the last elections, The Economist, a British magazine, declared it a choice between "the incompetent and the incoherent" and plaintively urged Americans to elect Kerry. The sense of outraged helplessness was and still is, palpable.
So here's a way to advertise America's benign intentions, floor the detractors and truly spread democracy around the globe. It's simple and it's brilliant. Give us non-Americans the vote. Keep every other benefit of citizenship. Every empire has held out lures to those it's governed. Under pax romana, citizenship was a reward to be doled out to individuals who met the criteria. Pax britannica held out the theoretical option of non-Britishers joining the powerful civil service. Pax americana has its coveted citizenship of course, but the country is constantly divided on the issue of immigration. Separate the vote as a tool of diplomacy, however, and in one stroke, you spread your core values, enhance your image and appease critics without stoking domestic fears of a huge influx of foreigners. And it would go a long way towards bringing back the days of happy exasperation. In the meanwhile, I will continue obsessing over elections news and attempting to swing my long-suffering and apolitical husband's vote in the right direction.
Approach any serious-looking college student in the Boston area, where I teach, and ask them what kind of food and farming system they would like to see. Most will say they don't want food from factory farms with a large carbon footprint. They want foods locally grown on small family farms. They don't want crops grown using synthetic chemical fertilizers or pesticides; they want crops grown "organically." They want farm animals to be able to range freely. They want "slow" food rather than fast food. And they don't want "Frankenfoods"—crops developed through genetic engineering.What might such an idealized food system actually look like? Take a trip to Africa. The small farmers who populate the continent's impoverished countryside are living out something close to this post-materialist fantasy. Two-thirds of all Africans depend on farming or animal grazing for their food and income, and nearly all of their operations are small-scale.Eighty percent of the labor on these farms is done by women and children, in part because it provides so little income for working-age men. There is no power machinery (only two tractors for every thousand agricultural workers) and only 4 percent of crops are irrigated. More than two thirds of all cropland is still planted with traditional crop varieties rather than with scientifically improved varieties. The animals—mostly cattle and goats—for age for their own food.Agribusiness firms are nowhere to be seen, and chemical fertilizer applications per hectare are less than one-tenth the industrial world average. Insecticides and herbicides are not affordable, so crops suffer pest damage, and the weeding is done by children who would be better off in school. Nobody grows genetically engineered crops because governments in Africa—following Europe's lead—have not approved such crops for use.Nearly all of Africa's farms are thus de facto "organic." Poor and non-productive, but organic.Africa's traditional rural food systems are definitely "slow." To serve maize meal (called nsima) to her family, an African woman must first spend a season planting, weeding, harvesting and storing her corn, then she must strip it, winnow it, soak it, lay it out to dry, carry it to a grinder or pound it by hand, dry it again, and finally—after walking to gather enough fuel wood—cook it over a fire.Cereal crop yields in Africa are only one-third as high as in developing Asia, and only one-tenth as high as the United States. Average income from this kind of farming amounts to only a dollar a day, which is why nearly 80 percent of all those officially classified as poor in Africa are farmers, and why one third of all farmers are chronically malnourished.Without modern agricultural science, food production in Africa has fallen ominously behind population growth. Total agricultural production per capita today has fallen 19 percent below the level of 1970. Increasingly, Africans must depend on imported food aid.Africa's urgent need for agricultural modernization is being rudely ignored. When elite urbanites in rich countries began turning away from science-based farming in the 1980s, external assistance for agriculture in poor countries was cut sharply. As late as 1980 the U.S. Agency for International Development was still devoting 25 percent of its official development assistance to the modernization of farming, but today it is just 1 percent. Nearly 30 percent of World Bank lending once went to agricultural modernization, but now it is just 8 percent.In Europe, meanwhile, some official donors and nongovernmental agencies are working to block farm modernization in Africa. Despite Africa's worsening soil nutrient deficits, European donors like to promote costly organic farming techniques as the alternative to chemical fertilizer use. This is not how European farmers escaped poverty. Only 4 percent of cropland in Europe is currently being farmed organically (and less than 1 percent in America), but European NGOs such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace tell Africa's poor this is the path they should follow.European governments and NGOs also promote regulatory systems that block the use of genetically engineered crops, including crops capable of resisting insects without pesticide sprays. Europe's own science academies have found no new risks to human health or the environment from any of the genetically engineered crops placed on the market so far, but since overfed Europe can do without this technology, underfed Africa is told to do the same.In this fashion, and perhaps without realizing it, wealthy countries are imposing the richest of tastes on the poorest of people. The rich are, in effect, telling Africa's farmers they should just as well remain poor.Robert Paarlberg is a professor of political science at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and the author of "Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa" (Harvard University Press, March 2008).
Presdent Pervez Musharraf's stunning defeat in Monday's elections in Pakistan represents a decisive rejection of what his opponents called his policies of "subservience" to the United States. An American press that has been virtually unanimous in opposing Musharraf will now predictably call for his resignation in favor of "genuine democracy." Since this outcome is a possibility, it is essential to ask where a government that accurately reflects the views of Pakistani citizens would stand on issues that matter most to America.Would such a government follow Musharraf's lead as a grudging shot-gun ally? Recall that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as Musharraf tells the story, the United States gave him the choice of becoming an ally or being "bombed back to the Stone Age."How vigorously would a new democratic government support the US-led war on terrorism in which Pakistan's army is now fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates headquartered in Pakistan's ungoverned Northwest Territories? Would such a government be more likely to cooperate with the United States and NATO in the ongoing but faltering war against the Taliban in Afghanistan? Recall again that the rise of the Taliban took place during the term of Musharraf's civilian predecessors, including Nawaz Sharif, the leader of one of the parties that won in Monday's election.The answer to each of these questions is as unambiguous as it is uncomfortable. A Pakistani government whose actions align with its citizens' views on these issues would be at loggerheads with the United States. Over the past year, polls have highlighted the sharp decline in Musharraf's popularity, with his approval ratings dropping to 15 percent in December. Several recent polls, including ones from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the International Republican Institute, and Terror Free Tomorrow echo those sentiments, with one showing that 70 percent of Pakistanis "want Musharraf to immediately resign."But what most American commentators have missed is that however much Pakistanis dislike Musharraf, they are more hostile toward the United States. When asked to name the "single greatest threat" to their country, 64 percent of Pakistanis named the United States. Historic archrival India, with whom Pakistan has fought five bloody wars, was second, well behind America.Eighty-nine percent of Pakistanis said they disapprove of the US war on terrorism. Eight in 10 Pakistanis oppose allowing the United States to pursue Al Qaeda terrorists in their country. A similar percentage rejects US pursuit of Taliban forces into Pakistan. In opposing Musharraf, opposition parties called him "Busharraf" and accused him of being a "lackey" of the United States in the "so-called war on terrorism," which they say is a US-led war on Islam.The US military presence in Afghanistan, where earlier Pakistani governments were the primary sponsors of the Taliban, is opposed by 83 percent of Pakistanis. Critics of Musharraf's limited cooperation with the US-NATO campaign should recognize that a government that more closely followed the wishes of its people would be less cooperative in combating the Taliban.The United States has two vital national interests in Pakistan: first, to prevent any of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and bomb-making materials from being stolen, sold or transferred to terrorists; second, to destroy Al Qaeda's leadership, sanctuary, and training camps. Neither interest will be advanced by a transition from the devil we know to the new democratic Pakistani government.Fortunately, Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secured by its army, the country's most effective national institution. Unless the army were destabilized or became substantially disaffected because of extended political instability, it will fulfill its custodial responsibilities. In contrast, a government that truly reflects the current views of the Pakistani people is more likely to be an unspoken opponent than an ambiguous ally in the US war against Al Qaeda and other terrorists in the region.Hard as it is to believe, Osama bin Laden is four times as popular among Pakistanis as President Bush, whose approval rating is 7.7 percent.That leading US opinion pages generally critical of Bush's democracy crusade in Iraq should now so uncritically promote democratic shock-therapy as a panacea for Pakistan's problems is puzzling. The inconvenient, painful truth is that a truly democratic Pakistan would be, at least in the foreseeable future, less inclined to act in ways that advance urgent American interests.Advocates of instant democracy should be careful what they wish for.Graham Allison Faculty Associate; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
We are living through a paradox—or so it seems. Since September 11, 2001, according to a number of neo-conservative commentators, America has been fighting World War III (or IV, if you like to give the Cold War a number). For more than six years, these commentators have repeatedly drawn parallels between the "War on Terror" that is said to have begun in September 2001 and World War II. Immediately after 9/11, Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups were branded "Islamofascists". Their attack on the World Trade Center was said to be our generation’s Pearl Harbor. In addition to coveting weapons of mass destruction and covertly sponsoring terrorism, Saddam Hussein was denounced as an Arab Hitler. The fall of Baghdad was supposed to be like the liberation of Paris. Anyone who opposed the policy of pre-emption was an appeaser. And so on. Yet throughout this period of heightened terrorist threats and overseas military interventions, financial markets have displayed a remarkable insouciance.
Also part of Brooking Papers on Economic Activity.Download PDF
This paper studies the dynamic relationship between exchange rate fluctuations and world commodity price movements. Taking into account parameter instability, we demonstrate
surprisingly robust evidence that exchange rates predict world commodity price movements, both in-sample and out-of-sample. Our results are consistent with a present value relationship in which the exchange rate depends on a present value of fundamentals including, for a core group of commodity exporters, the world price of their commodity exports. Because global commodity prices are essentially exogenous to these countries, we are able to avoid the endogeneity pitfalls that plague most of the related exchange rate literature. More directly, the analysis suggests that where commodity price forward markets are thin or non-existent, exchange rate-based forecasts may be a viable alternative for predicting future price movements.
Policymaking in large bureaucracies is hardly a simple process. Even the most respected policymakers have to contend with obstacles that seemingly have little to do with the issue at hand—office politics, work structure, and shifting political environments. Yet learning to manage such complex environments is necessary for good policymaking. In Living the Policy Process, Philip Heymann outlines the complex thought processes of policymakers as they struggle to influence both foreign and domestic policy decisions from within the United States government bureaucracy.
Focusing on three critical situations to illuminate the politics of policy choice—the successful attempt to sell missiles to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s; the Iran-Contra scandal; and the FDA's attempt to regulate smoking as well as the efforts to do the same by an outside lobbyist—Heymann dissects the intuitive yet rigorous framework that highly skilled policymakers follow to influence government outcomes. Throughout, he offers detailed accounts of the policy process at work in the Reagan, first Bush, and Clinton administrations, from the cabinet level down to the middle tiers of the federal bureaucracy.Heymann deftly describes the shifting real-world conditions that government officials face as they struggle to shape the policy agenda. Ultimately, Living the Policy Process offers a clear, incisive look at the complex considerations involved from all perspectives, with concrete examples, and enriches the understanding of the overall policy process for students, scholars, and practitioners.
W. Arthur Lewis argued that a new international economic order emerged between 1870
and 1913, and that global terms of trade forces produced rising primary product
specialization and de-industrialization in the poor periphery. More recently, modern
economists argue that volatility reduces growth in the poor periphery. This paper assess
these de-industrialization and volatility forces between 1782 and 1913 during the Great
Divergence. First, it argues that the new economic order had been firmly established by
1870, and that the transition took place in the century before, not after. Second, based on
econometric evidence from 1870-1939, we know that while a terms of trade improvement
raised long run growth in the rich core, it did not do so in the poor periphery. Given that
the secular terms of trade boom in the poor periphery was much bigger over the century
before 1870 than after, it seems plausible to infer that it might help explain the great 19th
century divergence between core and periphery. Third, the boom and its deindustrialization
impact was only part of the story; growth-reducing terms of trade
volatility was the other. Between 1820 and 1870, terms of trade volatility was much
greater in the poor periphery than the core. It was still very big after 1870, certainly far
bigger than in the core. Based on econometric evidence from 1870-2000, we know that
terms of trade volatility lowers long run growth in the poor periphery, and that the
negative impact is big. Given that terms of trade volatility in the poor periphery was even
bigger during the century before 1870, it seems plausible to infer that it also helps explain
the great 19th century divergence between core and periphery.
Female leadership remains strikingly low in most democracies, and voter preferences are
often suggested as a likely explanation. In this paper, we present experimental evidence
from India which suggests that, on average, villagers, especially men, are prejudiced
against female leaders. For example, men rate a hypothetical leadership speech more
negatively when the speaker's voice is experimentally manipulated to be female, rather
than male. However, randomly assigned exposure to a female leader (due to mandated
political representation for women) reduces such prejudice by 50-100% depending on
the measure. We also provide suggestive evidence that prejudice influences perceptions
of actual performance. Despite outperforming their male counterparts on many dimensions of performance, first time women leaders receive worse evaluations. Consistent
with our experimental evidence that exposure reduces prejudice, second time female
leaders are rated at par with male leaders.
The essays in this volume reflect on the nature of subjectivity in the diverse places where anthropologists work at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Contributors explore everyday modes of social and psychological experience, the constitution of the subject, and forms of subjection that shape the lives of Basque youth, Indonesian artists, members of nongovernmental HIV/AIDS programs in China and the Republic of Congo, psychiatrists and the mentally ill in Morocco and Ireland, and persons who have suffered trauma or been displaced by violence in the Middle East and in South and Southeast Asia.
Social scientists have long emphasized the importance of institutions in nurturing economic growth
and development. Douglass C. North defines institutions as the "rules of the game in a society" which limit the set of choices for individuals and argues that institutions, both formal ones such as laws and constitutions, as well as informal ones such as social norms, are important in determining the transaction costs of production and exchange, and thereby have an impact on economic growth. He goes on to discuss the mostly incremental nature of institutional change and highlights the difficulties in implementing radical institutional change. This line of argument therefore suggests that
the impacts of institutions are likely to be felt for a very long time, and hence points to the need for
detailed historical analysis over long periods in order to quantify the impact of institutions.
Also Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-062.Download PDF
Charles Cogan's new book, La République de Dieu arrived in Paris bookstores on February 22, 2008, coinciding with a five-part series of interviews with him, February 25-29, on Radio France Culture. The book is a collection of essays on the idea of God; on evangelism (La République de Dieu); on Islamic fundamentalism (L'Islam médiéval); and followed by empirical chapters analyzing a number of conflicts between the Muslim and non-Muslim world: Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine.
The period from 1960 to 2000 was one of remarkable growth and
transformation in the world economy. Why did most of Sub-Saharan Africa
fail to develop over this period? Why did a few small African economies
succeed spectacularly? The Political Economy of Economic Growth in
Africa, 1960–2000 is by far the most ambitious and comprehensive
assessment of Africa's post-independence economic performance to date.
Volume 2 supports and extends the analysis of African economic growth
presented in the first volume by providing twenty-six case studies of
individual African economies. The book is broken into three parts based
on the three main types of economy found in Sub-Saharan Africa:
landlocked, coastal and resource-rich. Eighteen of the case studies are
contained in the book and a further eight are included on an
accompanying CD-Rom. This is an invaluable resource for researchers and
policy-makers concerned with the economic development of Africa.
The concept of honor has an extensive and
lineage in the study of international relations, although contemporary
has lost sight of its importance. This study begins to remedy that
It does so by first setting out the place of honor in relation to a
other related concepts, like prestige and status. It then outlines a
theory of “negative
honor,” and situates this in relation to existing theoretical and
accounts of honor-related variables. This theory draws on extant work
psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, and other
fields, to set
out hypotheses on why, how, and when political leaders of states might
to certain kinds of challenges in a way that constitutes honor-seeking
behavior. The second part of the paper tentatively sets out one way to
empirically evaluate these hypotheses. While unsuccessful, this
blueprint for further research and a number of soon-to-be-implemented
Paper presented at Princeton Graduate Conference on Psychology and Policymaking, October 2008.Download PDF
The trial of Saddam Hussein will likely result in his execution. Thus satisfied will be the Greek goddess of justice. Blind, with scales in her hand, she balances evil with justice, dollar for dollar, punishment equaling debts. It was her signature principle—retributive justice—that animated the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, and trials following war, dictatorship, and genocide in Yugoslavia, East Germany, Greece, Argentina, and Rwanda. Only retribution for the ancient regime, claim the defenders of trials, can establish the rule of law in Iraq under its new Constitution.But trials have their limitations. Politically they often backfire. Erich Honecker, the deposed premier of communist East Germany, arrived at his trial in the newly unified Germany pumping his fist in the air, decrying victors' justice—and became more popular for it.Trials rarely succeed in prosecuting more than a fraction of major perpetrators, even when they are lengthy and expensive. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has spent more than $1 billion over eight years to produce 20 convictions—out of 125,000 alleged genocidaires awaiting trial. Political pressures frequently undermine verdicts. Due process, legal procedures, and adversarial incentives often hinder the public revelation of the truth about past injustices. Under pressure for a speedy execution, Saddam's prosecutors may exclude from their case his colossal massacres of Shi'ites and Kurds, thus inhibiting their public exposure.Most of all, trials will contribute little to the chief US foreign policy goal of a stable, democratic regime. The persistent hindrance is hatred. Historical wounds fester between Sunnis and Shi'ites, Kurds and Arabs, Islamists and secularists, and now Iraqis and Americans, breaking out in continual attack, revenge, and counter-revenge. Steps forward—elections, rebuilt institutions, and a new Constitution—seem constantly checked by steps backward—assassinations, detonations, and proliferating jihadi factions.Trials are unlikely to assuage these wounds. In fact, news reports indicate that Saddam's trial is already pitting his sympathizers against his avowed enemies—yet another source of division.What is needed is a dulcet in the din, a strong antidote to communal violence. Where might such medicine be found? One source of hope lies in a truth commission, a body charged by a state to investigate its past. Roughly 30 countries have turned to this solution in dealing with their own troubled histories.Arising from the rhetoric is an ancient principle found in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures: reconciliation. Connoting the restoration of right relationship, reconciliation provides a blueprint for dealing with the past.It begins by publicly acknowledging the suffering of thousands of victims of political violence. One of the remarkable themes to emerge from truth commissions in South Africa, Guatemala, El Salvador, and East Timor was victims finding healing through public testimony. Recent interviews with ordinary Iraqis find them welcoming just such an opportunity to speak publicly about the injustices that they and their loved ones have suffered at the hands of the state and to discover the truth about injustices that the state has hidden. The same exposure of deeds can foster accountability for perpetrators and assist trials.Truth commissions even encourage apology and forgiveness. Following the publication of the final report of Chile's truth commission, President Patricio Aylwin called for nationwide repentance for injustices committed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Enjoined by the Koran, apology and forgiveness might also be realized in Iraq.For entire societies, truth commissions create a public historical record. The report of Argentina's truth commission, Nunca Mas ("Never Again"), became a bestseller on the streets. Perpetrators are thereby denied the lies through which they vindicate and reempower themselves, and new regimes are founded on truth and accountability.To realist ears, reconciliation sounds remote from the necessities of sandbags, M-16s, and barbed wire. But to sound the principle is not to expect a utopian reconciliation of all with all. It is rather to urge a set of practices that can begin to heal the social divisions that now endanger a new regime. On this logic, many Iraqis have called for a truth commission, including a broad consensus of Iraqi citizens interviewed for a report of the International Center for Transitional Justice. As history's schisms roil on, their plea emerges not merely as an alternative concept of justice but also as sound foreign policy.
The undergraduates who gather around the seminar table at 61 Kirkland St. have a lot on their minds. Not just final papers, athletic matches, and music performances, but a range of issues that run far beyond the daily stresses of college: Refugee resettlement. Human trafficking. Child soldiers. These human rights issues—along with many others—are the challenges that have inspired this group of passionate students to add another course to their jam-packed schedules.
This fall marks the inaugural semester of the Human Rights Scholars Seminar, a biweekly, noncredit class for juniors and seniors with a dedicated interest in human rights-related research. The yearlong course provides a forum for the discussion of human rights scholarship, research methods, and practices."The seminar aims to introduce students to a range of methodologies relevant to human rights research, to put them in touch with ongoing human rights research by faculty and leading experts in the field, and to give them an opportunity to discuss this material in a small, interdisciplinary group context,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, director of the Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies (UCHRS).
Conceived and developed by UCHRS committee members, the course is one of many Harvard initiatives to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The seminar is led by Cosette Creamer, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government and a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School."For me... the most rewarding aspect of teaching this seminar is what I hope is also the most rewarding aspect for the students: a broadened perspective on how to think about conducting human rights research," Creamer said.Entry to the seminar was determined by a competitive application process in September. The group numbers 24 students from a variety of concentrations, including government, history and literature, social studies, and biology.Sara O’Rourke ’09, a social studies concentrator, applied to the seminar to "learn about the dominant discourse and literature on human rights, and to meet other students whose work has to do with human rights." She is interested in women’s rights, current issues facing Islam, and the relationship between international and domestic law.
On alternate Thursday evenings, Creamer and students like O’Rourke gather to discuss various aspects of human rights scholarship. They have addressed ways to conceptualize human rights, how human rights norms develop, and the relationship between advocacy and scholarship. The class has also considered sociological, anthropological, and political science approaches to human rights research.
"The study of human rights can play a key role in introducing students to ethical dilemmas, normative approaches to their resolution, and cutting-edge contemporary problems and research findings," said Bhabha. "This is an inherently interdisciplinary field which offers students a wide range of disciplinary methodologies and the possibility of engaging with urgent real-life issues in a way that is both academic and practical."The theoretical framework of the course is complemented by practical examples. Students read case studies from leading scholars and enjoy talks by practitioners and researchers whose work is shaping the field. In early November, for example, Tamara Kay, assistant professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, presented her work on the ways in which Sesame Street International helps to promote human rights worldwide. Workshops with scholars and practitioners will continue in the spring.At the most recent course meeting on Nov. 20, the students discussed research methods with Beth A. Simmons, Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs and director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. The group analyzed two chapters from Simmons’ forthcoming book, "Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics" (Cambridge University Press, 2009). The text explores how the ratification of international treaties influences state behavior, to see if such treaties actually lead to better protection of human rights. Simmons uses both qualitative and quantitative analysis to evaluate issues such as equality for women, the prevalence of torture, and children’s rights.
Simmons answered questions about how she came to the topic, why she chose certain case studies, and the challenges of approaching human rights research from a social science perspective. She also recounted the difficulties of translating, or "coding," qualitative descriptions of human rights violations into a quantitative system for statistical analysis."I fully expect that this book will make people mad," she said. "There are those who will have a moral reaction—‘Why should we be quantifying human suffering? Is it not dehumanizing to cram this information into a regression?’
"I don’t want to belittle that point of view," she continued. “But my goal is to systemize the data as best we can to get a broad sense for what’s going on, so that we can add to—not supplant—the literature and accounts we have of individual cases of suffering. This will enable us to provide a different kind of reference."In addition to the workshops with scholars such as Simmons, the seminar also provides undergraduates the opportunity to present their own research projects. Many of the students are working on a junior essay, senior thesis, or independent project that is focused on human rights issues.O’Rourke, for example, is writing her thesis on the French Muslim Council, the official interlocutor between the Muslim community and the French state. She is exploring the politics of recognition and political representation in relation to national narrative.
"It has been rewarding to have a place where I can discuss ideas with students from a variety of fields and with a variety of interests, but who all share a common foundation—a deep interest in human rights," said O’Rourke.