Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tony's Summary of Caspersen Article

"Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? A Comparison of Conflict-Regulation Strategies in Postwar Bosnia" by Nina Caspersen
This article is a study of the two models of conflict resolution strategies as applied to institutional solutions to moderating ethnic tensions in post-war Bosnia. These models are two different ways of ameliorating ethnic conflicts but deal with the issue of identity and ethnicity in two very different ways. The Dayton Agreements contained elements of both of these theories and the author, Caspersen, looks closely at how effective both were, if at all.
The first is the theory of consociational democracy by Lijphart and it relies on the cooperation of ethnic elites in institutions. These institutions are designed in a way that explicitly acknowledges ethnic differences. There are four models of institutions that work best for this consociational set up according to Lijphart. These are a power sharing government, minority veto power, proportional electoral system, and ethnic autonomy. Lijphart's model relies on a “self-negating prophecy” which is that ethnic leadership has to realize the dangers posed by ethnic differences and choose to cooperate instead of destroy each other. Lijphart's model regards identity as a permanent feature, whereas the following model by Horowitz does not.
The opposing theory of cooperation between electorally motivated politicians by Horowitz posits that consociational democracy does not specify how the institutional arrangements motivate elite cooperation. According to this theory, identities and ethnicities are not permanent. In order to achieve institutional moderation and multi-ethnicity, Horowitz says that an electoral system in which candidates would be elected by getting votes from outside their ethnic group is the best. This would help candidates moderate themselves because it's a form of coalition building, like that seen in minority governments in parliaments the world over. Caspersen thinks that this theory leaves out group protection because there is no need for any sort of specific accommodation. Accommodation is unnecessary because to recognize anyone as deserving of any is counter-intuitive to this theory. Horowitz more desires to put aside the ethnic divide and create greater cooperation through inter-ethnic integrations.
One interesting aspect of this article was the examination of the ethnic makeup of municipalities and whether or not more heterogeneous populations fostered or moderated extremism or nationalism. The common held belief is that municipalities with a heterogeneous population will have less instances of extremism and nationalism because the population is forced to coexist and moderates extremist views due to interaction and understand of others. However, the data set showed that in certain situations where divisions are deep due to ethnic conflict there is a greater amount of extremism. The behavior is linked to a greater desire to protect group status and a fear of domination by other groups. This generally leads to election of extremist parties and this is also demonstrated in the data set.
Caspersen shows that both of these approaches fall short of fostering moderation in the various institutions in the Balkans. Whether it is through the electoral system, legislature, or constitution, neither approach was fully moderating the ethnic tensions.
Liberals do not loose hope, however, as the article shows that over the long term, heterogeneity might lead to more moderation. The author actually suggests to mix consociational and integrative institutional measures and to change the balance of that mix as time goes on to dampen the shortcomings of both approaches in regards to promoting moderation.
Overall a strong analysis of the various aspects of the Dayton Agreements as applied to the two democracy theories on ethnic cooperation. I would be interested to see what Caspersen sees now as the institutions have been aged three more years since the publication of her article.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Amanda Marie Hunter on Ballentine and Snyder

In Nationalism and the Marketplace of Ideas, Jack Snyder and Karen Ballentine explore the relationship between elites, constituents, and nationalism in the environment of newly democratizing states. The article makes plain the strong appeal nationalism offers to political elites in this context: It allows them to makes claims and mobilize the masses without encumbering future actions with the economic specificities detailed in socialism and liberalism. Further, segmentation, or diversity, in a population allows elites to capitalize on its manipulation. That is, demographic cleavages channel the flow of information along preexisting paths of exchange, which are often defined by religion, language, and geography. This allows elites to craft narrow nationalist messages and direct them at select populations while successfully excluding others, which was done with terrifying accuracy in Nazi Germany and the former Yugoslavia.

Snyder and Ballentine argue that the perfect conduit for the dissemination of an elitist nationalist propaganda is a media industry that has recently undergone rapid expansion and liberalization. A new and unprofessionalized press corp., which is likely lacking investigative ethics or a moral code of conduct, behaves in a vastly different manner than in the west, where the role of the press as a public forum for debate was conceived and developed. This is, in part, due to the fact that economic transitions in post-communism often lead to a narrow type of privatization in which previous elites divide the stakes among themselves. Hence, the operators of authoritarian media sources become the owners of the ‘free’ press. In these situations, the press is less of venue of analysis as it is an arm of the state, and as such easily falls prey to nationalist mythmaking and mass mobilization. The authors charge that NGO’s have consistently and recalcitrantly failed to recognize that it is not the mere existence of a free press, but rather the qualities that they traditionally embody, that are essential to a liberal democracy.

The authors constructively point out that certain types of myths would not weaken, even under the influence of a professionalized press, because of their inherent subjective nature. Claims relating to deserts or inherent ‘goodness’ cannot be defeated in the public sphere because they are not falsifiable. Thus, the authors have acknowledged two types of national myths: preventable and unpreventable. Perhaps, as a corollary to this argument, a content analysis of the press during the dissolution of Yugoslavia could strengthen this position. In short, these claims ought to be supported by empirical evidence. In that way, one would be able to more precisely identify the role of preventable myths as related to a larger confluence factors that lead to nationalism.

However, the authors do go quite a long way in thematizing ideas that resonate beyond the particular cases discussed in the article. Essentially, it does not follow that the installation of institutions will necessarily be accompanied by the suitable corresponding practices and behaviors. Thus, intuitively, they will not generate comparable results. In fact, a priori actions that treat democracy as merely a commodity to be imported and exported are likely to do more harm than good, both within the unlucky nation and to democratic theory itself. Clearly, politics and culture are not mutually exclusive processes. The implementation of foreign political practices into a rapidly changing nation with disregard to a rich and entrenched culture is beyond cavalier – it smacks of assimilation. Ultimately, the only guaranteed results are unintended consequences.

Posting Paper Comments (the new procedure)

Because of changes in Blogger that make it more difficult to separate the Blogger account from the course email count, Wayne State students should post their paper analyses as "comments" to this post (or can request the password directly from Kevin Deegan-Krause).