FWPs of Conflict Researchers

I rather like this quote of Tilly’s from his From Mobilization to Revolution (p. 5):

The analysis of collective action is a risky adventure.  For one thing, there are too many experts around.  It is a bit like food, or sex, or speech.  Almost all of us know enough about food, sex, and speech to survive in our own environments, and none of us likes to be told he is ignorant in any of these three regards.  Yet from a scientific point of view, we all have lots to learn about all three.  The same is true of collective action.


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Massasoit’s Decision: First Contact and Teaching IR

Many of us who teach international relations turn to fictional accounts of “first contact” to illustrate processes such as the security dilemma, alliances, balancing power, and so on. Indeed, Dan Drezner has rather famously shown us the many ways we can use the zombie genre to illustrate the explanations we have created to explain the processes we study.

I recently encountered an American Experience series, We Shall Remain (2009), that turned to historians to produce documentary films of the European conquest of the North American indigenous people, but told from the vantage of the victims of that genocidal conquest. Episode 1, After the Mayflower, provides a non-fiction account that anyone interested in the security dilemma, alliances, terror, and so on will want to watch.[1] Doing so will also provide you with a useful corrective to whatever you (and your children) are taught in K-12 schooling in the US. In the interest of not spoiling, I sketch the issues that arise that are of interest.

Massasoit Ousamequin2

After having secretly watched the newcomers for months, Massasoit, the leader of the the Wampanoag Confederacy, made contact with the small group of Pilgrims who had survived the first winter on March 22, 1621. Remarkably, the two groups signed a written treaty that very day, which said in part:

1. That he nor any of his should do hurt to any of their people.

2. That if any of his did hurt any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him.

3. That if anything were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored; and they should do the like to his.

4. If any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; if any did war against them, he should aid them.

5. He should send to his neighbors confederates to certify them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise compromised in the conditions of peace.

6. That when their men came to them, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them.

7. That King James would esteem Massasoit (Ousamequin) as his friend and ally.

They strengthened their ties via an additional treaty on September 13, 1621.

The first portion of the episode focuses upon Massasoit’s decision to ignore the advice of some of his counselors who wanted to destroy the colony while it was so weak and vulnerable.  I have long known that Plymouth Colony could have easily been destroyed during the first few years of its existence, as as a descendant of William Bradford I owe my very life (as do my daughters, mother, grandparents, cousins, and so on) to Massossoit’s choice not to slaughter the invaders.  Watching this dramatization made it personal in a way I have not before experienced, and compels me to say: Thank you, sir.

The remainder of the episode covers the period through King Philips War (i.e., 1678), nicely illustrating the problem of incomplete contracting,[2] and also touches on the colonists’ use of mass slaughter and terror to secure quiescence, as well as the geopolitics involved among the various inhabitants of New England.


My ancestors publicly displayed on pikes the head of vanquished foes. Metacomet’s head was displayed for more than two decades.


If the security dilemma, alliances, terror, etc. interest you, I urge you to check it out. If you teach you will want to consider whether the episode could be useful in the classroom. Inevitably there are issues about the production that I can quibble with, but I think you will agree your time was well spent.


[1] The five episode series, which has an 8.2 score on IMDB, is currently streaming free on Amazon Prime. At present there is also a copy of episode 1, the one discussed here, on YouTube.

[2] For a discussion of the impact of the incomplete contracting problem upon military alliances, see BA Leeds (2003) Alliance reliability in times of war: Explaining state decisions to violate treaties.

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An Apology to Paget, Pity for Deneice & Sydney, and an Explanation for Nadia

Yesterday I confessed to reading a thread at PoliSciRumors.  ‘Tis about my accepting a post at Arizona State.  Paget[1] observed that I once gave a lousy talk, but was otherwise very kind:


D’oh!  Sorry about that.  I have definitely given some awful talks, I do digress (this is true in conversation, classroom discussion / lectures, and even my posts here), and that does sometimes become inglorious rambling.  I like to tell my students that one great thing about our line of work is that the public speaking and prose bars are low, and thus it is pretty easy to stand out positively.  My favorite line is: “Try not to suck.” Paget’s observation is a reminder that I don’t always heed my own advice: I blew my one chance to make a good impression upon Paget.  <sigh>

Deniece decided to troll the thread, posting six times before getting someone to join the fun.







Sydney was keen enough to recognize the awesome opportunity for witty repartee that Deniece was providing, but the rest of the troglodytes had failed to appreciate:



Whether Deniece climaxed, or not, I cannot say, but s/he chimed in one final time:


I’d recommend Deniece and Sydney to Chris Miller and Phil Lord, but alas, Deniece and Sydney are pseudonyms.

I cannot help but wonder what the life of someone who trolls threads at sites like PoliSciRumors looks like. S/he sits alone with a device, multi-tasking between whatever other things such a person does and following threads on PoliSciRumors. Or perhaps this isn’t solo play?  In any case, is it possible to feel anything but pity for a person who spends time this way?

Moving on to Nadia, as seems to always happen in conversations about person X choosing job R when they could have stayed in their current job, Q, a number of folks asked why Moore would leave FSU for ASU.[2]  Someone shared that while s/he had no knowledge of my case, faculty who lose out in departmental politics sometimes look around, and upon attracting an outside offer, learn that their colleagues are happy to see them go and prevail upon Admin not to make an attractive counter offer.  Nadia, apparently, is well informed, and posted this:


Thanks for playing, Nadia!

Since the set of people who might have genuine interest in my view of my options may not be empty, for the record my department chair, Charles Barrilleaux, asked me, prior to going on any interviews last fall, whether he’d be wasting his time pursuing a counter offer, should I attract an offer.  I told him that the only reason he should do so is if he thought it would have value to the Dept: demonstrating to faculty that the Admin supports the Dept by making strong counter offers can have value.  As I recall, he felt that given the recent history of strong counter offers that wasn’t necessary.  So I told him, no, there was no need.  Seventeen years is a long run, and I have never much liked gerbil wheels–except for the one Mark Donaldson built for Burning Man–and I am just ready for something new.

My colleagues have known for years that once my kids were in college I’d be interested in bugging out to see what’s over the horizon.  Does that mean I “wanted out of FSU”?  Nope.  But it did mean I have looked around with interest for the past several years. When ASU made me the offer Charles did ask me about the specifics, expressed confidence that he could get the Dean to at least match it, and asked whether I was sure I wanted to go exploring.  I told him I was, Charles did not seek a counter (the Dean apparently pressed him on the matter), and I am off to Tempe to see what fun I can get into with great new colleagues there.[3]  I’ll do my best not to suck.

As for those FSU colleagues who are happy to see me go, Nadia, HeeMin Kim left FSU a number of years ago, so he doesn’t count.[4]  But feel free to poll the current faculty.  I’ll be happy to buy your drinks for an evening for each of those you locate.


[1] As I understand it, people have an option to post under a randomly assigned pseudonym or their own moniker, and the majority opt for the former.

[2] My participant observant status in such conversations has been face to face, but I suspect it is common online as well.  My goal during such conversations is to manage my frustration and hope it ends soon (I may explain this in a future post).

[3] If you are thinking “That is not an income maximizing strategy!”, you win a Kewpie doll.  File this under: I guess he’s serious when he quips that if making money was what drove him, he wouldn’t have gone into academia.

[4] I don’t actually know that HeeMin would have been pleased to have seen me go. But it does strike me as plausible.

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FSU Reloads in IR

This morning I noticed an unexpected spike on my blog.


Curiously, a post I had written on 1 March was getting traffic 9 days later.  I got to wondering whether someone had mentioned it on PoliSciRumors, a site a ignore.  So I did a search for my name and found no such mention, leaving me none the wiser about the source of the interest.

I did find a Moore –> ASU thread.  “Never read the comments!  NEVER read the comments!” my brain screamed.  I clicked the link.

To my considerable surprise,[1] the threads comments are overwhelmingly positive toward me, perhaps due to the initial posts.[2]


Not surprisingly some reflected that my departure bodes poorly for Florida State’s Poli Sci Dept.  And that gives me an opportunity to reflect on the history of the IR group at FSU and the great hires coming aboard in Tallahassee.

When I joined the faculty at FSU the IR group was Dale Smith, Doug Lemke and Paul Hensel.  In addition to hiring myself (6 years removed from my PhD), the department also hired Ashley Leeds and Sara Mitchell, both ABD at the time.[3]   As is so often the case at FSU, a few years would demonstrate what a great reload that was.  But in 1997 few could see it.

“Reload?” you may be thinking.  The problem was that the line I was hired in was created by Jim Ray‘s departure to Vanderbilt.  Smith was an Associate, Lemke and Hensel early Assistants, and I came on board untenured.  I don’t know that the percentage drop in the group’s citations was, but it was substantial.

Fast forward to today.  In fall 2013 the IR group was Smith, myself, Sean Ehrlich, Meg Shannon, and Mark Souva.  Meg joined the faculty in Boulder last fall and I am off to Tempe in August.  Again, the group has lost its largest citation producer.[4]  Reloading has been a big deal, and everyone in the department knows it.[5]

In 2014 the department hired Inken von Borzyskowski.  If you are unfamiliar with Inken’s work, change that.  I’m not willing to argue that she is guaranteed to have the impact of an Ashley Leeds or a Sara Mitchell, but I’m equally unwilling to say she won’t have even more of an impact of those two ABD hires by FSU.

Last week Rob Carroll accepted an offer to join the faculty in August.  Rob strikes me as an excellent “Isle of Misfit Toys” hire, an ABD who flys under the radar due, perhaps, to some unorthodox projects, who has an outstanding science mind.  I started using the term to describe FSU hires around 2004, shortly after we hired T.K. Ahn, Bumba Mukherjee and Jeff Staton.   The most recent misfit hires at FSU were David Siegel and John Ahlquist.[6]  Again, I am not saying that Caroll’s work will necessarily have the influence of the other FSU misfits, [7] but I can’t say it won’t surpass the median nor become the group’s maximum.

Maintaining an active, excellent, stimulating group of faculty is difficult.  Doing it in a state in the Southeast is remarkable.  When that faculty stands out for its comity it becomes ridiculous.  I set several goals for myself when I joined the department at FSU in 1997.  One of those collective oriented goals was “Work to make the Dept better when you leave than it was when you arrived.”  In general I am better at achieving my personal goals than the collective oriented ones.  But I will leave feeling bullish about the future of FSU’s department.[8]


[1] For those unfamiliar with the reputation of PoliSciRumors, [formerly Poli Sci Job Rumors], it is generally described as a cesspool, exhibiting the well known problems of Internet forums and Comment sections.

[2] Yup, I just went “broken lights” there.

[3] Lemke took a job at Michigan the following year

[4] Don’t get me started on diversity.  My one frustration during my 17 years at FSU is our failure to address the lack of diversity of the faculty.

[5] American Politics has even more challenges than IR.

[6] If you are thinking “Those folks were misfits?” that demonstrates the success that they were able to have.  None of them were doing orthodox work when they entered the market, and each will tell you they benefited from starting their career at the FSU incubator.

[7] This is an illustrative list: I count myself and several other folks as members of the misfit crew at FSU.

[8] If you are thinking “Seriously, you compared the female hire to women and the male hire to men?” I hear you.  It bugs me too.  But von B does not strike me as a misfit, and the two most influential IR ABD hires from FSU happen to be women (and I am familiar with hires in the Dept back to the 70s).  On the other hand, the bookend misfits are all male.  Small samples can be irritating.

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Pegida Protests Podcast Illustrates Concepts & Processes

In a recent podcast, Germany, Islam & The New Right, BBC Radio 4 explores the remarkable rise of Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) in Dresden, Germany (see here and here).  A local political scientist interviewed in the podcast explains that Americans should think of Pegida as the Tea Party, Brits as the BNP,[1] and the French as the National Front.

What interests me is the extent to which the podcast illustrates a number of concepts and processes I teach my students.  Pegida’s Monday protests echo those begun in Leipzig in 1989, which spread to many East German cities, including Dresden. Thus, Tilly’s “repertoires” are nicely illustrated.[2]  Informational theories of mobilization are also illustrated: the public display of opinions that are considered verboeten by political rulers makes others who hold such views more willing to air them in public, which creates a bandwagon among those who hold such views, but have different thresholds for taking the risk of being singled out and shamed or otherwise punished.[3]  Finally, Loewen’s argument about mono-cultures (highly homogenous ethnic communities) being most likely to vilify “the other” is borne out during the podcast.[4]

Finally, if you enjoy irony, that is yet another reason to check out the podcast.[5]


Cross posted at Mobilizing Ideas.

[1] A Pegida UK branch launched last month.

[2] From Mobilization to Revolution, 1978.

[3] For examples, see Suzanne Lohmann “The Dynamics of Informational Cascades: The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, East Germany, 1989–91,” 1994 (ungated PDF here) and Timur Kuran “Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution,” 1989 (ungated PDF here).

[4] Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, 2006.  This is a variant of the contact hypothesis.  See, also, Keith E. Schnakenberg “Group Identity and Symbolic Political Behavior,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2014. Ungated at SSRN.

[5] The reporter, who clearly finds Pegida’s view unpalatable, is blissfully unaware of the information theories in [3].

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Post Modern Scientists who Study Politics

The other day I invited the PhD students in my seminar to have a gander at a couple of prints in my office.  I had no idea #TheDress would become a thing later in the week, much less that Dan Drezner would write a fun post about it.  But I invited me students to have a look precisely because I have, for my entire career, held unorthodox views contrary to those held by the vast majority of my intellectual type–scientist–including Drezner.  Photos of the two prints on my office wall are below.

Relativity, by M. C. Escher, 1953

Relativity, by M. C. Escher, 1953

First, the orthodoxy, courtesy of Professor Drezner:

This might be the most depressing conclusion of all. Most mainstream takes on international relations are “positivist” — that is to say, there is an objective reality that is observable and verifiable by others. This is a pretty widespread assumption. Social scientists who believe in the power of falsifying testable theories are positivist.

My academic research into international relations is positivist, and a debate about dress color is not going to change my fundamental worldview. But it turns out that we cannot even agree on the color of a dress. So now all my positivist friends will possess just a smidgen of doubt about whether that objective reality is truly knowable and verifiable. And it will haunt us until our dying days.

Up and Down by MC Escher, 1947

Up and Down by MC Escher, 1947

I held positivist views from the time I was taught about science in elementary school through about my sophomore year in college.  What changed?  I took courses in the history of science and philosophy the led me to abandon positivist beliefs about “facts.”  As a graduate student I pursued the topic further (mostly on my own, outside of seminar reading) and by the time I was taking my preliminary/qualifying exams, I wholly, and without qualification, rejected positivist beliefs about “facts” as, well, sophomoric.

I would debate these issues some with fellow students like David Davis, Keith Jaggers, Sean Kelly, Steve Majstorovic, Sheen Rajmaira, and Jeff Ross, but had the good sense not to raise it in discussions with the faculty.  And I have rarely discussed it with colleagues in the profession (indeed, only when they raise the issue and show genuine interest in discussing it).

So, why raise this with my PhD students?  My motive was to emphasize the importance of theory to the scientific enterprise, and in particular in juxtaposition to some of the otherwise excellent, but theoretically impoverished, research being produced by members of the causal inference zealots in the field.[1]  It turns out that I have drafted a couple of brief, and frankly sophomoric, but still useful essays to share my views on “Observing the Political World: Ontology, Truth, and Science” and “Evaluating Theory in Political Science.”  They are dated, and certainly nothing to submit for peer review (hence my labeling them sophomoric), but should it interest you, feel free to give ‘em a look.  I also pointed them in the direction of A.F. Chalmers’s What is this thing called science?

So, while the vast majority of scientists who study politics for a living hold, to the best of my knowledge, positivist ontological beliefs, not all of us do.  And those of us with postmodern ontological beliefs (bumper sticker: all facts are theory laden) experienced no crisis due to #TheDress.


[1] I have given thought, on multiple occasions, to posting my thoughts about the poverty (and value) of the causal inference zealotry, and one of these days will likely do so.


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Jigaboo, etc.

Following the Oscars, a local news anchor groused on air that it was difficult to hear Lady Gaga’s voice “over all of that jigaboo music,” and then tweeted a faux apology, explaining that she did not know the meaning of the word.

As a public service I recommend to all news readers James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot’s song, “Colored Spade,” which they wrote for their musical, Hair.  You can listen to the song here.

I’m a colored, spade
A nigger, a black nigger
A jungle bunny, Jigaboo, coon
Pickaninny, Mau Mau

Uncle Tom, Aunt Jemima
Little Black Sambo

Cotton pickin’
Swamp guinea
Junk man
Shoeshine boy

Elevator operator
Table cleaners at Horn and Hardart
Slave, voodoo, zombie
A baggie lip

Flat nose, tap dancin’
Resident of Harlem

And president of
The United States of Love
I said President of
The United States of Love

Shiiiiiittt.  You ask me to dinner

You’re gonna feed it

Watermelon, hominy grits
An’ shortnin’ bread
Alligator ribs, some pig tails
Some black eyed peas
Some chili

Some collard greens

And if you don’t watch out
This boogie man will get you
Boo, yeah!  Boo!

So you say.


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