Saturday, June 24, 2006

Diplomatic Melioration vs. Diplomatic Transformation: A Case for Deterrence Pessimism in regards to the Subcontinent

Introduction: Setting Benchmarks

One view of nuclear deterrence rests as such: two rivals armed with nuclear weapons will not fight one another. Such an outcome may be beneficial to the all players in the world system. Instead of costly conventional war, countries will maintain security and have to accommodate one another.

Yet, the aforementioned view is incomplete. In assessing the relations between the USSR and America, China and the USSR, and now India and Pakistan, a clear corrective has been added to the theory of ‘nuclear stability’: countries will accommodate only after an initial period of crisis-adjustment.

To reach a conclusion on whether India has passed this transitional state, the paper will present three arguments that support deterrence optimism on the subcontinent, followed by three related counter-arguments. The first argument will present two viewpoints on developments within Kashmir, the most important conflict between the two nations. Next, the paper will present two viewpoints on recent comprehensive threat reduction measures and other ‘trust’ building exercises currently underway in the subcontinent. Finally, the paper will gauge the lessons of the most nuclear flashpoint: the 1999 Kargil crisis.

This paper will argue, while India and Pakistan are now doubt in a process of diplomatic melioration, the case for deterrence pessimism. India and Pakistan’s relations require a transformation of viewpoints and security needs that has yet to occur, and most likely retard in the future.

Kashmir: Defining Progress

A clear difference the Cold War and the current nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan is 1) their neighboring locations and 2) the existence of a clear boarder conflict. A key piece of nuclear-derived stability must have with it improvement in Kashmir.

I. Optimism

It is clear that the Kashmir dilemma moving in a positive direction. While there have been a recent massacre of Indians within Jammu & Kashmir, the peace process has not been deterred as of yet. Furthermore, this year’s release of the first Kashmiri film in nearly four decade shows that there has been at least an apparent thawing of the Kashmiri situation.[1]

What has changed recently in the position of Pakistan and India?

Pakistan has dropped the ‘non-starter’ demand for a plebiscite within the disputed region. Furthermore, Musharraf has pledged to halt terrorist incursions of the Line of Control (LOC) and, in the words of Musharraf, “Pakistan has taken the considered decision to be a part of the coalition, to be with the United States, to fight terrorism in all its forms wherever it exists.” Additionally, Musharraf has made sweeping calls for the demilitarization of the LOC—calls that have as of yet not been reinforced by India. But Pakistan foreign does seem to have a clear objective: moving away from maximalist goals in regards to Jammu & Kashmir.

India, as well, has moved back from maximalist demands. As Manju Parikh points out, India has not only removed troops but has engaged in talks with Kashmiri separatist groups in the All Party Hurriyat Conference.[2] These talks have recently led to the Indian Government and All Party Hurriyat Conference to agreeing to a “mechanism” for future talks.[3]

Regardless of the source of these changes (developing middle-class demands, desire to be seen as a responsible power, or the fatigue of the decades of conflict) these are all positive developments for Kashmir.

II. Pessimism

Yet, none of these developments have led to substantial agreements or force reduction along the Line of Control. The most that can be said of all discussions is that they are paving the road to real progress. Yet, is this progress meaningful?

India has refused Musharraf’s call for direct talks between the two countries to solve the Kashmir issue. Instead the Congress party has developed a working relationship with the All Party Hurriyat Conference—an Indian selected group of Kashmiri separatist leaders. Any agreements that come out of these talks will not reflect the viewpoints of all Kashmiri separatist groups and perhaps not Pakistan. Can progress really be made without an all inclusive discussion?

Here we see the main theme of this paper: diplomatic melioration between the two countries has not resulted in a diplomatic transformation. Pakistan still views the Kashmir issue as the first and paramount conflict with India. India does not share this viewpoint; instead pushing for resolution on other issues, and seeking peace in Kashmir through India-Kashmir talks. While a diplomatic transformation may be in the future, there are no clear signs this is the case (and not just dragging on the part of both parties). This leave open the possibility that Kashmir will gain be a nuclear flash-point.

Yet, on the most fundamental question—is there a current legitimacy and sanctity professed by both Pakistan and India of the Kashmiri territorial status-quo?—the answer is yes, however tenuous.

CTR and Trust: Progress but still a Long and Perilous Road Ahead

In addition to the Kashmir issue, numerous scholars have pointed to Comprehensive Threat Reduction Measures and Trust Building Measures (which tie into dialogue with Kashmir) as essential for stability on the subcontinent. Recent developments show clear strides made on the part of both parties, individually and bilaterally, to instill needed trust and safeguards that in the Cold War context proved so valuable to nuclear non-use.



One of the most difficult problems of the international system is the ability of states to the intentions of other states. Have India and Pakistan taken steps to increase their discussions both non-nuclear and nuclear issues to avoid maculation?

On the non-nuclear front, there have been impressive non-governmental interactions between India and Pakistan. As Manju Parikh points to groups like the India-Pakistan Friendship Society, Neemrana Initiative and the India-Pakistan Initiative For Peace as policy oriented groups that seek elite interaction between the countries. India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy and The People's Asia Forum bring face-to-face dialogues, not to mention sporting events between the two countries. Such groups permit dialogue among the two nations both on a personal and policy level, leading to greater understanding and perhaps permitting both sides not to misread the intentions of the other—a common problem during the early phases of the Cold War.


Both nations have also held meetings on the exact issue at hand: the use and deployment of nuclear weapons on the subcontinent. As reported by Reuters last week, India and Pakistan expect to finalize a nuclear safety pact in July.[4] The talks have formalized the ‘hotline’ between military directors for each country and both sides have pledges to improve ‘hotline’ communications between the foreign secretaries of each nation.

While details of the future deal are few, the near completion after two years of work shows a commitment on both the sides of India and Pakistan to reach accommodation. And within this time, both nations have maintained a clear sign of restrain and threat reduction: the abstention of nuclear testing on the subcontinent since 1998.


Now the easy charge open for pessimists to make is to argue both these unofficial relations and nuclear dialogues have not ‘done enough’. But it is clear that considerable amounts of “reassurance”[5] have been developed and maintained since 1998.

And for the purposes of this paper, nuclear pessimism cannot be ‘proven’ by simply arguing that India and Pakistan must do more. To prove the case of pessimism in regards to CTR, one must show that the strategic mind-sets of India and Pakistan, despite current dialogues, are still on a dangerous trajectory.

1) Pakistan still maintains security by keeping their nuclear capabilities opaque. Such a policy shows a profound difference between Cold War deterrence and Subcontinent deterrence: the former was between relatively nuclear and conventional equals, whereas the latter is not. Pakistan is both conventionally and nuclearly weaker than India, especially looking into the future. As such, it will remain in Pakistan’s interest to hide its capabilities—keeping the risk of nuclear miscalculation and motivational confusion alive and well on the subcontinent.

2) India’s nuclear posture is entering a transitional period. As Rajesh M. Basrur points out some Indian leaders hold the following benchmarks for Indian ‘minimal deterrence’: a) greater ability to counter China, b) need for nuclear triad, and c) greater command and control.[6] The final goal is one that would no doubt ease nuclear tensions on the continent. But the first two, would be provocative moves to Pakistan.

Both these conditions show that recent bilateral improvements loose sight of complicating multilateral nuclear dimensions. First, there rests the recent Indian-US deal that (if passed without added restrictions) would grant India greater ability to produce nuclear weapons without any corresponding restrictions. Secondly, the deal represents the coming of India as a ‘great power’, and as such leads one to conclude that India will make its nuclear arsenal equal to that of China: seeing that it was China’s entry into the NPT that kept India from joining the NPT in the first place. And within this is the ongoing review of the American nuclear posture: with both the development of tactical nuclear weapons, the redesign of nuclear warheads, and continued development of SDI—which grants both greater first strike capabilities and defense from nuclear reprisals.

All the aforementioned activities suggest, at the least, India will continue to develop and strengthen its nuclear arsenal, if not starting deploying it. Such an action would not be the result of Pakistan, but rather a response to China. But regardless of the motivation, such a development would lead to a clear Pakistani result: greater nuclear secrecy and paranoia of a successful Indian first-strike on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The world system is no longer bi-polar, and the multipolar dynamics of the nuclear dilemma on the subcontinent suggest that one not only look at bilateral CTR measures, but the interlinking nuclear dynamics of the United States, China, India and Pakistan. And when one looks at this marco-view, optimism seems anything but sure.

Kargil Crisis: Proof of Optimism

Misplaced Optimism

Perhaps the strongest case for deterrence optimism comes from experience: not only did the Cold War not see a nuclear strike during its transitional phase, India and Pakistan did not resort to nuclear conflict in the Kargil Crisis of 1999.

Even with a festering Kashmir, jihadi elements in Pakistan, clear Pakistani incursion, both parties avoided using nuclear weapons. Peter Lavoy points to the Kargil crisis ability to show Pakistan that nuclear blackmail would not work, and has resulted in Musharraf’s current playing down of nuclear weapons as political tools.

Yet, one must remember the most important aspect of the Kargil Crisis: the resultant overthrow of Pakistan's democratic government and return to military rule. This event highlights the tumultuous political scene in Pakistan. As such one finds a common thread between the works of Haqqani, Lavoy and Chari stands as the instability of the Pakistani regime. Haqqani goes as far to call Pakistan a “rentier state”. Chari makes the implicit assumption that Pakistan may continue to play for gains, as it did in Kargil—perhaps owing to strong deference to military commands or on the grounds of maintaining national unity. And Lavoy still documents the contradictory positions exiled Pakistani secular leaders on the nuclear issue. Such fear of Pakistani-regime stability is not just to talk of outside analysts: a CIA and NIC (National Intelligence Council) report predicted a Yugoslavian fate for Pakistan by the year 2015.[7]

What good is the ‘proof’ of Kargil if 1) the seeds for crisis remain and 2) any crisis may bring about a vastly different regime in Pakistan?


Whether or not Pakistan will continue exploit the ‘stability-instability paradigm’ and India’s responses to this are secondary to whether Pakistan would pursue such a course of action.

The paper should that the recent developments in Kashmir show an averred commitment to a territorial status-quo by both powers. But this commitment, while definitely alleviating the risk of nuclear brinksmanship, has not resulted in a clear resolution of the crisis. While there has been melioration, there has not been a fundamental transformation of the Indian and Pakistani approaches to Kashmir.

This would not be critically important if it wasn’t for the unequal military positioning of India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan conflicts not only reside in Kashmir, but in their own sense of security. While this paper does not claim that India would desire to nuclear decapitate Pakistan, its nuclear responses to China may be enough to have Pakistan feel this threat. Recent melioration through a coming nuclear safety pact confuses a bi-polar nuclear issue with a multi-polar one: one that misses the recent changes in the US-Indian relationship and the dynamics of Sino-Indian relations. As such, recent improvements will likely not bring transformative elements: having IAEA inspections of nuclear arsenals, sharing nuclear information, or arms-control measures.

And coupled into this discussion is the weak integrity of the Pakistani state—the most critical aspect of this paper’s argument. The existence of exiled secular leaders, a military regime installed after a coup, and jihidist elements show the weak nature of Pakistani civil society. Viewing the Kargil crisis as an important step in the overthrow of democratic governance in Pakistan makes any argument for deterrence optimism ring hallow. From its weak internal coherrence, Pakistan is prone to irrational decisions in regards to the ‘stability-instability paradox’, which may lead to irrational reactions from India. As such, it seems any true stability can only come with Pakistani regime transformation: to one that controls its boarders, enjoys robust popular support, and conducts transparent foreign and domestic policy. While the Cold War eventually saw the overthrow of the Soviet regime, its internal coherence throughout the US-USSR ‘transitional nuclear’ moment was much stronger. Until this can be said of Pakistan, deterrence optimists will not be able to link these two cases together or use the Kargil crisis as a ‘proof’ of optimism.

[1]Kashmir ready with its own film after 39 years.” Associated Press Saturday, May 06, 2006




[5] Reassurance here has been defined as “the abandonment of dangerous policies with respect to Kashmir, the pursuit of reconciliation, and the negotiation, along with proper implementation, of nuclear risk-reduction measures.” Krepon, Michael. Limited War, Escalation Control, and the Nuclear Option in South Asia.

[6] .Basrur, 59-61


Works Cited

Kashmir ready with its own film after 39 years. Associated Press Saturday, May 06, 2006.

“President of Pakistan Reaffirms Commitment to Fight Terrorism,” Remarks by the President and President Musharraf of Pakistan in Press Availability Waldorf Astoria
New York, New York. November 11, 2001.

“Report paints gloomy future for Pakistan,” Washington Times- United Press International. February 14, 2005.

Jeena, Kushal. Analysis: India tackles Kashmir dispute.” World Press Herald. Published May 5, 2006.

Parikh, Manju. “India-Pakistan Rapprochement: A Cautious Optimism?” April 18, 2006.

Pakistan, India expect nuclear safety pact in July.” Reuters. Wednesday, April 26, 2006.

Works Cited

Rajesh M. Basrur, “India’s Escalation Resistant Nuclear Posture,” in Krepon, et. al, Escalation Control and the Nuclear Option in South Asia pp. 56-75;

Peter R. Lavoy, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine,” in Dossani and Rowen, Prospects for Peace in South Asia, pp. 280-301

Michael Krepon, “Limited War, Escalation Control and the Nuclear Option in South Asia,” in Krepon et. al., Escalation Control and the Nuclear Option in South Asia, pp. 148-167.

Michael Krepon, “The Stability-Instability Paradox, Misperception, and Escalation Control in South Asia,” in Dossani and Rowen, Prospects for Peace in South Asia, pp. 261-280; P.R.

Chari, “Nuclear Restraint, Risk Reduction, and the Security-Insecurity Paradox in South Asia.” The Stability-Instability Paradox: Nuclear Weapons and Brinksmanship in South Asia (2001).

Gagne, Chris. “Nuclear Risk Reduction: Building on Common Ground,” in Michael Krepon and Chris Gagne, eds., The Stability-Instability Paradox: Nuclear Weapons and Brinksmanship in South Asia (2001).

Haqqani, Huisan. Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005

Friday, June 23, 2006

We the People...say what???: Anti-Federalists and the "American" Identity

One has often heard political leaders of all stripes evoke the qualities of our national government: liberty, representation, and federalism. All these ingredients baked together, leave us constitutional republicanism: the more descriptive, long-hand for American democracy. While we may see the various chefs of each political party try to sweeten the cream (at best), or burn our rich tradition (at worst), these tenets have remained shared and fixed within the culinary delight of our nation's government.
But what of a time when the rules of the game, the basic branches of our government didn't exist? Or better yet, what of the time in our history when our current practices, now enshrined within the slowly tattering but eternally majestic paper of our Constitution, came to be?
This article focuses on the conflict between those proponents of the Constitution and those American patriots that fought, futilely, against its ratification. It then asks, what was this different form of republicanism that these failed founding fathers fought so nobly for?

Moving Back: The Legacy of the American Revolution
Paine's World Project
Temporizing a national army, throwing a dash of national fervor, and of course, receiving some aid from France, American patriots blasted colonial rule out of thirteen colonies. But what were they fighting for? Independence, naturally. But what sort of independence?
Some may say that the American Revolution was a natural occurrence: what way could a distant, foreign nation control a new, thriving wilderness? But history follows interests: with British policy getting more brazen, more colonial leaders (once enamored Anglophiles) moved into an independence camp riddled with commoners, idealogues, and, worst yet, radicals.
The desire of merchants for freedom from taxation did not exactly match with the dream of some for a radically free and different type of nation. One based on personal liberty, not state authority.
So, aside from material interests, what was this radical image of the new America?
Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, clearly articulated America's Revolutionary ideology. One must bear in mind that it was in large part his pamphlet and the debates it aroused that brought a shift in colonial policy: from tortured ambivalence to a clear resolve for independence.
But what did Paine actually call for? His book can be easily summed up: 1) bash the divine mandate (kings and anything like them), 2) prove that America is now ready for independence, and 3) state the bright future that awaits this newly independent American nation on the world stage.
The first part seems easy in retrospect, but at that time went against centuries of the history of mankind. There was no hegemonic republic within the world of the 1770s; all the 'great' nations of the world were either partial or complete monarchies. Rule for centuries (at least within the 'great' European nations) based itself on 'divine right': kings were divinely chosen vessels for authority, and protected the interests of the masses. Furthermore, the then-archetype of the modern world was Britain: a mixed government that fused the tradition of royalty with the common voice of parliament. How could one go against the nation that touched each and every pond of the globe and held the mightiest army in the world? Might must equal right.
Paine's blasphemous manifesto considered kings a perversion of Christianity and discussed their inherent legitimacy gap: how does one retain any greatness of a particular ruler by automatically giving his heirs control, whether or not that son had the ability to walk in a straight line let alone run a state. While such thoughts were in no way new, Paine's pamphlet gave brought them to life within the public sphere to an extent never before witnessed in America.
The second point was a bit harder: Paine provides a few fantastical facts and figures that 'prove' the success of revolution. But empirical arguments were not what mattered to Paine; rather, he appealed to the heart to get the mind into gear. And this ties directly to his final argument: the providential path of Republicanism.
Paine considered America the birth place of a new, modern world. This world would not be dominated by lords, armed with slender swords, muskets and hereditary coats of arms. Instead 'the people' would be sovereign: with all individuals given the right to have a voice in the affairs of state. Such a system was the only way to survive in the new, 'modern' era of world history. America would prove not only that democratic practices could work, but that they were the future. Paine felt that all those who stood in the way would one day fall. Kings could no longer be the law. Law, constructed by free men seeking justice, would become the one and only true royalty of the New World.

Paine's Revolutionary Sketch of America
So how was America supposed to espouse these values? Paine's had a pretty clear 'suggestion' of a constitutional framework:

National Assembly
-annually elected; scope only domestic
-weak executive that presides meetings
-states to be divided into districts; district will elect representatives for their state, with a state minimum of 30 representatives
- President selected by lot, with an alternating system that guarantees a representative from each state being selected from the representatives
-all resolutions must have a 3/5 majority

Constitutional Charter
-made by representatives from the state governments and some national representatives
-sets number and manner of national representatives
-secures national freedoms (religion, property, etc.)
-committee that forms it is immediately dissolved upon completion

State Governments
-everything else

How did we get from this ideal-type republic to our current Constitution?

The "Triumph" of the Traditional Republic: The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union

So maybe the Articles of Confederation and Perceptual Union did not live up to their name-sake, but its importance is clear: this document stands as America's first national plan of government. Exactly what type of national government did America have during those years after the Revolution but before the Constitution came to be?
The Articles of Confederation show a clear attempt to create a 'traditional republic'. What does 'traditional' mean? First that it be small. Few at the time thought that a single, national republic would function over a large area like America. These two selections from Brutus, the pseudonym for a New York Anti-Federalist represent this position well:

...that a free government cannot succeed over a country of such immense extent, containing such a number of inhabitants, and these encreasing in such rapid progression as that of the whole United States. Among the many illustrious authorities which might be produced to this point, I shall content myself with quoting only two...
History furnishes no example of a free republic, any thing like the extent of the Untied States. The Grecian republics were of small extent; so also was that of the Romans. Both of these, it is true, in process of time, extended their conquests over large territories of country; and the consequence was, that their government were changed from that of free governments to those of the most tyrannical that ever existed in the world.

As evinced by these passages and Paine's constitutional sketch, a republic depended on small constituencies. If the people were truly to be sovereign, each individual must be close to his or her representative.
The Articles of Confederation thus formalized thirteen separate republican states, serving only to provide a national forum to settle interstate dispute. The powers of the national government, as one would expect, were severely limited. With no power to tax or pass any national policy without a unanimous vote, there were many practical problems with this union. Yet, it did deliver on an ideal: within the new American nation, the government closest to the people would have the most control. Relinquishing this state authority to a national government was, to many, tantamount to handing power to a king. Why? Many American leaders felt that revolutionary movements were capricious, and that to maintain such a radical republican government individual citizens must constantly and actively rule-- not be drowned out within a large population. Therefore, any arrangements that could open a door for reactionary forces must be slammed shut. The result is a weak federal state.

The Federalist Response: Philadelphia's Surprise Legacy
So on February 21st, 1787 the Philadelphia Convention commenced, under orders to revise the Articles of Confederation. Behind the secrecy of locked doors, the Convention brought to the nation an entirely new system of government-- a rather liberal reading of its instructions as laid down by the Continental Congress.
The end result is well known: three branches of government, seamless and interlocking checks on authority, an executive branch with separate terms from the legislative branch, and a independent judiciary system.
At its genesis, this document was simultaneously radical and reactionary. For those that saw this as a new path to republicanism, it offered a never-before-articulated formula for successful popular sovereignty. For those that saw its slant toward centralization, it represented the worst possible result: the return of oppression, camouflaged in the language of false democracy, onto a nation that held the divine duty to begin a new chapter in world history.
Behind this major shift from the Articles to the Constitution was the idea that Republics could only perform successfully under larger territories than smaller. This logic went against an entire history of tiny republics: whether it be the ancient city-states of Greece, the quasi-states of Italy, or the strange national experience of Switzerland.
James Madison provided the best-crafted defense in his oft-studied Federalist #10. In Madison's world view, truth was not a convergence of interests but instead a separate substance: one that could be defined through reason. For politicians to arrive at 'just' laws, politicians must be as isolated as possible from particular or abstract interests of the time. He demanded that this republic not make a new class of slaves by replacing a royal tyranny with that of a particularist majority. In his view, to be free from the intoxicating voice of particular interests was the only path towards survival for the Republic.
This republican isolation was achieved by fracturing the voice of the people: through distanced election cycles, unelected branches, and split authorities.
It was thought that 'just' laws could be made only by politicians who had achieved freedom from particular interests. And the easiest way to do this was to expand the number of interests pushing upon each representative. Thus we arrive at our nation's strange republican formula: diluting representation to preserving it.

The Battle of Republics: Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist
As with all political struggles, there was lofty and incendiary rhetoric. And for the Anti-Federalists, they made clear to use it:

O great God, avert that dreadful catastrophe. Let not the day be permitted to dawn, which shall discover to the world that America remains no longer a free nation! O let not this last sacred asylum of persecuted liberty cease to afford a resting place for that fair goddess! Shine in upon us, and illumine all our counsels! Suffer thy bright ministers of grace to come down and direct us; and hovering for awhile on the wings of affection, breathe into our souls true sentiments of wisdom, that in this awful, this important one we may be conducted safely through the maze of error, that a firm basis of national happiness may be established, and flourish in undiminished glory through all succeeding ages!

Anti-Federalists attacked from many angles. Some evoked the language of political theory to disprove the republican formula Madison championed. Some spoke to class interests, stroking the fears of lower middle class voters that they would be locked out of the 'elite' club of national government. Others blasted the Constitution as a repudiation of the Revolution. Evoking the spirit of Paine, one prominent Anti-Federalist speaks of Switzerland:

Let us now contrast this scene with one, where the people personally exercise the powers of government. The three small democratic Cantons of Uri, Schuitz, and Underwald, broke the chains of their former servitude and laid the foundation of the Swiss confederacy, they effected the revolution, and in conjunction with the other democratic Cantons and their democratic allies the Grisons, have supported the grand fabric of Helvetic liberty to this day. Every Swiss farmer is by birth a legislator, and he becomes a voluntary soldier to defend his power and his property; their fathers have been so before them for near 500 years, without revolution, and almost without commotion. They have been the secure spectators of the constant and universal destruction of the human species, which the usurpations of the few have ever created, and must I fear forever perpetuate:-- Whilst all Europe were butchering each other for the love of God, and defending the usurpations of the clergy, under the masque of religion, the malignant evil crept into this sacred asylum of liberty; (but where the government resides in the body of the people, they can never be corrupted by the artifice of the wealth of the few) they soon banished the daemon of discord, and Protestant and Papist sate down under the peaceful shade of the same tree, whilst in ever surround State and kingdom, the son was dragging the father, and brothers, their brothers, to the scaffold, under the sanction of those distinctions: Thus these happy Helvetians have in peace and security beheld all the rest of Europe become a common slaughterhouse...
A free Swiss pays no taxes, on the contrary he receives taxes; every male of 16 years, shares near ten shillings sterling annually, which the rich and powerful surrounding monarchies pay for the friendship of these manly farmers. Whenever their society becomes too large, as government belongs to the citizens and the citizens are the property of no government, they divide amicably, and each separate part pursues the simple form, recommended by their ancestors and become venerable, by the glorious and happy experience of ages of prosperity...

This passage paints the extreme vision of the Anti-Federalist camp. The state of a true republic was meant to be small and powerless. Individual republics were meant to fully empower individuals, while protecting them as well by allowing them to create wealth. Armies were not maintained; in fact, in a world of 'true' republics war would cease to exist.
Note that this Anti-Federalist is not defending the Articles of Confederation: in fact, he calls for a new constitutional and world order that stands as far apart from both the 'norms' represented by the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. He desires small states, states that could be constantly divided, and re-divided depending on the will of the people. There is no talk here of the inherent and legitimate power of the state governments within the Union, which many Anti-Federalists based their arguments against the Constitution upon (and latter succession). Instead, the Constitution must be banished because it takes away forever the hope that idyllic republics, without war and without poor, may shine upon the Earth and teach man by example how consummate harmony can be brought into this world.
Opposing this view were the voices of the more traditional nation-state supporters. Federalists, while creating a new science of politics, were building off the growing tradition of the nation-state. The state had to be large, armed with authorities that could tax the people and raise an army for defense or conquest. People were to look up to their government, not to be a constant participant in it.
Paine's world-view was dying out. The Revolution unleashed a powerfully ideological age, but the realities of the time and time itself were conspiring against the radically new world he so passionately used to throw off his nation's British shackles.
America did not form a series of interlocking republics, maintaining the individualistic ideal. Instead it became, over a long period of time, a fused nation, thanks to a Constitution that gave us clear national leaders who could evoke the national identity to move the masses. America transformed into a more practical hegemon, fighting for freedom in a more traditional fashion: with force and ideology, not just the latter. Have these righteous forces achieved 'good' in the world? Most assuredly. Have they created harm? Naturally. But both these questions point to a more profound query: how truly revolutionary was the end result of the American independence?

The Anti-Federalist Legacy
This article has argued that the Republicanism of America was not a given, but rather a concept that evoked as much passion and debate as the very War of Independence that gave the concept birth.
Furthermore, this article suggests an alternative conception of America: as nation of radical republics, free from any national scope. Had the Antifederalists won, its clear that state governments would have survived and Republican utopia would not exist: but perhaps we would be analogous to today's Europe: smaller states, freeing trading and at peace. But behind the two realities of the Anti-Federalist and Federalist fight were extremes, extremes that have served to define our national character.
The Federalist extreme was Britain: a great centralized state, with armies and power that could shake the world with her might. On the opposite end stood the radical Anti-Federalists who demanded a state truly derived from the people, one without the pains of warfare, class conflict, and religious strife that seemed so inherent to the nation-states of Europe. Both these images were ideals: none really explaining what America would become, but both ideals are what we start from when discussing our national identity.
It's intriguing to imagine an Anti-Federalist America: a Continent of Switzerlands. Small, peace-loving republics bounded by the shared pursuit for individual self-expression. Imagine our country without a standing army and truly direct representation. But one must also imagine a country without a national authority to force states to fall into line, whether over the mundane matter of highway construction or over the profound issue of slavery.
That this new world never came to be permits one to romanticize it, forgetting all the imperfections that might have blighted it beyond repair. But the passions of this new world have stirred within our nation. From the first moment the Constitution breathed life, the Anti-Federalists grabbed and tamed it, stapling onto it a Bill of Rights. So ingrained are these rights that it's hard to believe that they were actually alterations to the Constitution: altercations that many opposed.
And the Antifederalist voice did not die even after the Bill of Rights: with each step towards the expansion of public sovereignty, (whether it is through direct Senate elections or the quasi-direct selection of the President or the emancipation of the slaves) the tenets of Anti-Federalism have remained strong in the American experience. In seems appropriate to note that Lincoln's immortal worlds that "a house divided cannot stand" were borrowed from Paine's Common Sense; a man who returned to America considered a lunatic radical, eventually dying alone, poor, and forgotten.
Perhaps the radical Anti-Federalist view was one made by and limited to the Divine terrain. But it seems that the divine guidance, which so many Anti-Federalists feared was lost in the mundane words of the Constitution, has managed to descend periodically to our mortal and imperfect shores.
These too often forgotten patriots, however imperfect, demand of us various and virtuous acts. They caution us in both their arguments to always be skeptical of our role within the state, this national asylum of liberty. They force us to fully face-up to our utopian visions we have of our nation and critically assess them, not merely to cheer when they are used as campaign fodder. And finally, they instill within us a sacred moral: that in whatever happy asylum we find ourselves, it is sometimes the vanquished lunatics that hold the key to salvation.

Works Cited
Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. Edited by Isaac Kramnick. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 1976.
Storing, Herbert J. The Anti-Federalist. Selections by Murray Dry. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Polls and 2006 Senate Races: Conneticut, Pennsylvania, Washington and Virginia

The 2006 elections are coming, and the anticipation is palpable among the political columns of major newspapers and the cyberspace clatter of the blogosphere. And all important within elections are polls: those marvelous devices that (when functioning properly) sap individual enthusiasm, but also bring monumental tales of underdog victory—(a la Truman's '48 victory).

But polls are mischeavous devils: telling us the obvious and missing the important. One of the most vexing questions I have come across is the relation between favorable ratings and actual polls on votes—and most importantly the degree to which favorable ratings shore up actual polling numbers.

To try to understand this critical but nebulous relation, let's overview four elections that reflect three ideal-types: incumbent-victory, clear contest, and incumbent-loss. All the numbers I will be using, unless specified otherwise, will be from Rassmussen Reports.

Connecticut: Jo'mentum is alive and well in the Constitution State

Joe Lieberman, Democratic Senator from Connecticut, fits easily within the incumbent-victory column. While ruffling the feathers of his own party (refer to my last post for more), it seems clear that Lieberman will win this contest: whether will a clear majority if under the Democratic banner, or a very strong plurality under as an Independent against his Republican and Democratic opponents, Schlesinger and Lamont respectively.

Lieberman is just living up to his state's motto: "He who transplanted shall sustain."

While his own party might dump him, his personal favorability guarantees him (avoiding Murphy's Law) victory in November. Rassmussen reports:

Lieberman is viewed favorably by 67%, unfavorably by 29%. Lamont is viewed favorably by 41%, unfavorably by 37%. Schlesinger, the former mayor of Derby who officially entered the race in mid-April, is viewed favorably by 31%, unfavorably by 36%. He's still an unknown to 33%.

A near 70% favorability rating seems to help Lieberman: only deviating from current polls on the race when one interests another Democratic into the field. Whether it's 38% or 15%, it seems clear that Lieberman is on his way to victory. And while some may say a Lamont poll-boast could be expected after a primary victory, the extensive press coverage dampens the chances of post-nomination Lamont surge. And Schlesinger: the woods he now resides are deep and dark, with little hope of light shining down.

Flying in the Crosshairs in Pennsylvania: Santorum’s Attempt at Term #3

Rassmussen Reports calls Santorum the 'Most Vulnerable Incumbent', a far cry from the presidential aspirations Santorum enjoyed after winning reelection in 2000. Rassmussen reports:

Senator Santorum is viewed favorably by 42% of likely voters, unfavorably by 47%. About a quarter, 26%, view Santorum Very Unfavorably.
Casey is viewed favorably by 59%, unfavorably by 28%, with 13% undecided.

And the polls on a match-up between Casey and Santorum? Santorum has consistently lost: ranging from single digitals to over twenty points. Here one finds the reverse situation of Leibermen: higher unfavorability is crippling his campaign.

Now many have considered this political veteran able to mount a come-back: he did surprisingly well in 2000. Yet his political exposure, thanks to his strong Iraq war support, his loud calls for abortion restrictions and gay-marriage ban, and his book being construed by some as anti-feminist have turned the tide. While one can get elected with high unfavorable rating, when they are higher than your favorable you know you're in trouble.

And today might have been the final blow for Santorum: at a press conference to day he claimed that WMD had been found in Iraq. For a praise-worthy spin on this action, check this out.

Unfortunately, the story is bogus: so bogus, in fact, that Fox News has called Santorum out. Now where was this reporting before the Iraqi War, I do not know—better late than never, I guess?

It seems no matter how hard Santurom pushes he's still going to be pushed off. Fortunately he hails from the state of the Ruffed Grouse, a close family relative of his new occupation: roast goose.

The Tough Cases: Are Allen-Town Virginia and Cantwellian Washington Changing Course?

Democratic Senator Cantwell is facing a rough re-election bid from Republican McGavick. Rassussmen reports:

Cantwell is viewed favorably by 53% of likely votes, unfavorably by 42%. However, just 25% view Cantwell Very Favorably while 20% view her Very Unfavorably.

McGavick is viewed favorably by 46%, unfavorably by 35%. The Republican is less well known than the incumbent he is challenging and fewer voters have firm opinions of him—just 16% say they have a Very Favorable opinion of McGavick while 12% hold a Very Unfavorable opinion.

What is interesting about this race is Cantwell's slide: watching a 15-point lead evaporate to a 4 point lead. Suddenly the favorable ratings aren't much good for: both her favorables and unfavorables are in line with her opponent: if on different scales. Yet, this translates into a 4 point lead.

Why? Her support for the Iraq War.

Here what becomes the problem is extreme disaffection of the Left: 8% of Democrats would vote for someone else in a Cantwell-McGavick match-up. This seems to be the crucial reason for slide, for Cantwell. This article shows the disaffection in Washington of Cantwell's support for the Iraq War.

Thus one finds that Cantwell still on the road to victory: with most left-leaning voters most likely preferring Cantwell over a Republican. She also has more funds, and ample space to pin McGavik.

George Allen is facing a Republican-turned-Democrat, James Webb. Holding higher favorability and lack of intra-party feuding, he’s consistently failed to significantly break 50% in the polls. Suddenly favorability ratings get us a strange result: with a virtual no name, turn-coat Democrat running against Allen, his lead stands around 5-10 points. How can this be?

Part of it may just be a blip, but I feel there is a significant difference between Allen's perceived image in Virginia and the actual. While some make-up Allen as a political jedi-master, the truth is a bit father off. Yes, he sailed to victory for Governor and then won a US Senate seat. But both these achievements reflected weak opponents: particularly Chuck Robb, a politician that seemed to want to be anything but one.

But more importantly, most national coverage forgets to point out that Allen was the starting point for Republican fiscal policies that pushed Virginia to near ruin—ushering in two Democratic governors in a strongly conservative state. Allen's first victory came before Mark Warner's victory as governor, which gave Virginians four years of efficient and straight-talking governance. This seemed to mean something: as Democrat Tim Kaine won the governship in a clearly ‘red’ state against the Republican Attorney General (supported by Allen and Bush) Kilgore.

Allen's allure comes from the Beltway: in Virginia he is a powerhouse but not as untouchable as imagined. [If you want an interesting story on what united George Allen and George Soros check out this article on 527s out]

Allen fails to achieve over 50% support owing to moderates holding a long-memory and his repeated status as the Republican Great White Hope for the presidency in ‘08. This second aspect is nicely displayed by The American Spectator putting Allen on their Cover with the emboldened words: The Conservative President? Yet does America really want a President who holds firm with Bush foreign policy, fence sits on immigration, and spends his time trying to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages?

Maybe: Allen does have that ‘aw shucks’ look like Bush. But unlike 2000, 2008 will not be to the public a place-holder election: merely picking someone to keep prosperity at home and captain our policies aboard. This election will be about men and women who are capable of solving hard problems at a time when American are looking out at a world feels neither safe nor predictable as it was once felt to be.

But the American Spectator does size-up Webb well: he’s not the dream candidate. But they should remember that while Webb might not be perfect, at least he hasn’t told audiences that the Senate is to slow for him.

Allen will probably win his Senate seat, but in doing so it will show his party that he is not the person to be its standard-bearer in two years time.

So what does this tell us about polls?

Favorability ratings are notorious fickle: descriptive only of poll numbers they have gathered. What this over-view really seems to show is only the elusive distance between perception and reality.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Losing Lieberman: Assessing Current Events

It all started last week. Markos Moulitsas spoke to Washington Post reporter Chris Cilliza and boasted the following prognostication: Lieberman will loose his party primary to Lamont. His proof resides within a recent poll that showing Lamont gaining considerably among both registered Democrats and likely voters.

The first question is the most obvious: Why are Connecticut democracy retreating from their mainstay since 1988? Answer from most pundits: Too conservative.

Is Joe turning red? Two internet sources help one cut through Lieberman's voting record. The first is from a very good Brookings Institute paper (, discussing the perceptions of the then-2000 VP candidates. Strangely enough, one finds Lieberman fitting right next to Al Gore ideologically. As the graph to the left points out: Lieberman, while no Teddy Kennedy, seems firmly within the Democratic camp.

The other source is wikipedia, which offers brief descriptions of the most serious charges against him: support for the Iraq War, involvement within the Terri Schiavo case, and support for Bush's Social Security Reform Bill.

These issues show Lieberman as he 'truly' is: a God-imposing, war-touting, welfare cutting wolf out to hoodwink the progressive public. The result: an active campaign by bloggers (Moulitas) and progressive groups (Americans for Democracy Now headed by Jim Dean) ganging up on Joe and trying to push him out of soon-to-be majority Democratic party.

Yet, one finds more wrong with the opponents of Lieberman than the man himself. On the war, Moulitsas assails Lieberman while welcoming Kerry: a Senator famous for his vote in favor of 'authorization' but against 'appropriation' for the Iraq War. While some wings of the party may forgive Kerry with his recent turn around, the public repudiated this line of logic in '04. Lieberman was not the cause of authorization: that triumph goes to Democratic party leaders and most of the party establishment-- Gephardt and Daschle at the head of the charge. As the archives of CNN show (, Dashcle was more concerned with the wording of the act than with either the rationale for an Iraqi conflict or the erosion of balances within the federal system. At least Lieberman comes out consistent: continuously supporting the war and the path to success than switching sides along with public opinion.

Regardless of one's position of Bush's Social Security Reform Bill, any future bill (which will come up during the next administration) will require moderates like Lieberman to pass. Social Security reform and general entitlement reform will have to occur someday: demanding innovative solutions and strong political capital. Without middle voices that can coax bipartisan support, the politics of inaction will continue.

On the Terri Schiavo case Lieberman did show himself out of step not only with most Democrats but most Americans. This was a strategic blunder, but one dwarfed Senate Majority Leader Fist's turnaround position and video tape diagnosis on the floor of the Senate. Lieberman's social 'conscious' is essential to Democratic success: the ability to speak the moral language to voters. On a more pressing moral issue of the day-- abortion-- Lieberman still stands as a stalwart defender of a woman's right to choose (, while comfortable with and using the language of faith. Its ironic that Lieberman is bashed while Bob Casey is priased as the necessary tool to take down Rick Santorum. Could not Lieberman be used within a resurgent Democratic party as an established voice of moderation? Clinton, the ultimate political moderate, upon his entry into the White House opened a brief window where progressive items such as National Healthcare and National Service (Americorps) could be seen as tangible policy achievements-- not to mention protecting a woman's right to choose, environmental protections and consumer protection policies.

The progressive Jim Dean-Moulitsas outlash against Lieberman is unjustified and dangerous. Instead of showing reports of constructive Democratic actions, these small progressive groups threaten to unleash a subjectively driven purge and proliferate the image of the Democratic Party as a conflicted, directionless party. Few have yet investigated the potenial dangers of the new and nebulous blog-osphere powercenter within the Democratic Party. But even more to the point, this battle is a worthless one: the same poll that highlights Lieberman's growing weakness gives him still a 10-point led in his primary among likely voters, not to mention a clear victory as an Indepedent should he choose to run outside the Party. Not only does he have popular support, he holds the support of his fellow colleauge and DSCC chair Chuck Schumer. (

Even FDR failed to purge his own party of truly pernicious Democratic roadblocks to progressive legislation in his second term. Can Moulitsas and Dean really expect a productive outcome that bucks today's reality and past history?

Democracts must stop the infighting. In an excellent op-ed by David Boder (, Lieberman himself states it best:

"I know I'm taking a position [in favor of the Iraq War] that is not popular within the party, but that is a challenge for the party -- whether it will accept diversity of opinion or is on a kind of crusade or jihad of its own to have everybody toe the line. No successful political party has ever done that."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Unpacking Tocqueville: A Voice of Honorable Caution

Tocqueville critically assesses the democratic republic of America, revealing both its unique virtues and inherent conflicts. One of these conflicts within America’s politics revolves around the concept of honor. Tocqueville finds that a democratic society erodes this concept, thereby eroding the integrity of the common will that America vests its political authority within. This paper first asks, what does honor mean to Tocqueville? Second, how does he view this concept’s effect on American society? What emerges from this discussion is a dual-pronged notion of honor that, for Tocqueville, plays a critical role in sustaining the ability of the public will to remain truly sovereign; but at the same time, is promised to degrade within America’s democratic society. This paper will argue that Tocqueville’s logic behind his concept of honor neither confirms or denies Publius's hopes for a successful American state. Rather he sounds a voice of caution to all established and emerging democratic societies. This paper will offer its own solution to this threat: the creation of a new honor system, that of partisan honor.

Tocqueville holds that honor is that which directs society to levy blame or heap praise (Tocqueville 590). They are social categories readily apparent and universally applied that give people a grid to proper or improper behavior. This is not to be confused with the notions of 'good’ or ‘bad’ behavior, but rather behavior which society condones or expels. Tocqueville argues that within a feudalistic society, these categories give shape to the opinions of the mass; thus giving us the form of acceptable behavior in the public realm, which then allows us to fill these categories with details, passions, and direction. This stands separate from virtue, which Tocqueville considers a purely individual question best summed up by: “how do I act well?” Instead, honor asks, “How does society-at-large regard the public activities?” And this categorizing concept of honor is dual: operating both within society and, at the same time, composing a national honor. Implicit within this definition is that the needs of honor are separate from the common needs of society-- but are often blurred by the public. And why is it that people profess particular desires instead of substantive desires? Tocqueville justifies this divide by the one true divine inequality: the inescapable difference of intellect between humans (513).

Honor stands divorced from “common” interests (599). Instead honor seeks to give direction aid the public will, a direction towards substantive or true interests. Who constructs this social grid map in America? As Tocqueville points out, America does not have the same social divisions as Europe, where the feudal basis of honor arises. Yet, it seems the promulgators of honor come from an analogous section of society: those learned members that can discern the nation’s substantive interests. Tocqueville points out that any government that places its sovereign within the public will risks loosing the distinction between the policy of “blame or praise” (meaning in line with the true interest of the nation). Democracy does this by leveling the social distinctions that gave birth to honor, blurring the ability of the public will to have grasp clear direction (598).

Tocqueville also views honor as playing a role on the nation-state level. Instead of speaking to relations within the state, Tocqueville speaks of national honor: the identity and international policies a nation-state as a whole espouses (598). This dimension of honor seems related to Tocqueville’s expertise in foreign relations, evinced by his role as French foreign secretary (xxi). Again these interests may be at odds with the common interests. Using a contemporary example, what natural allegiance does a bank teller have to his nation’s policy of taxing for the maintenance of a standing army, air-force and navy? Only with honor, can a national identity and national policies be supported that may not meet the immediate, or abstract, interests of society. Thus, for Tocqueville, honor serves a dual purpose: internally, it allows the nation to adjudicate between competing priorities, while simultaneously constructing a national honor that permits the nation to pursue international policies critical to its continued existence.

These pernicious effects seemed shared by many of America’s Founding Fathers. Tocqueville’s guardians of societal honor seem identical with the “natural aristocracy” that Jefferson hopes will arise from the mechanisms of the Constitution. By both dividing authority and relying on indirect selection of national politicians on all three branches of American government Constitutional proponents hoped to distance power from the people, allowing particular or abstract interests to be filtered out of the national government. The large size of the republic, indirect selection of the President, senators, and the federal judiciary were meant to instill independence in national leaders; thus, these leaders were structurally conditioned to advocate the policies of “praise,” or those according to the public will.

So does Tocqueville confirm or deny the hopes for republican governance as laid out by the Federalist papers? Simply put, he does neither. Tocqueville speaks of the qualities of an ideal type democratic state: and indeed, this state would destroy honor. Yet, at the same time, Tocqueville does not claim a socially or economically equal America. In fact, Tocqueville would loathe such an occurrence:

When all the prerogatives of birth and fortune are destroyed, when all professions are open to all, and when one can reach the summit of each of them by oneself, an immense and easy course seems to open before the ambition of men, and they willingly fancy that they have been called to great destinies. But that is an erroneous view corrected by experience every day. The same equality that permits each citizen to conceive vast hopes rends all citizens individually weak. It limits their strength in all regards at the same time that it permits their desires to expand. (513)

While Tocqueville applauds the new path staked out by America, favorably reviewing America’s policies on land inheritance and dispelling of the stigma of bankruptcy, he perceives that any ability to completely level the social and economic playing field would be ruinous for the nation. Why? Such a leveling would lead to a leveling in the national priorities of the nation: leading the country to elect abstract interests that the public immediately desires over substantive interests that the public will needs. America is not a completely equal place in Tocqueville’s mind, but instead achieves a more just, relative equality that promises stability that the old way of monarchism can no longer provide.

The necessary placement of the public will as the sovereign power of the state is also dangerous. A democratic society erodes the notion of honor by having its members all blurring into a shared and nebulous social class with ill-defined direction. Equality thus makes identity impossible; thereby destroying the ability of society to move forward. Instead it will reach a static equality that will be ruinous to general good (617). This fear is neither extinguished nor promised by the tenants of the Constitution. He thus takes a position that diverges from either of these staunch conclusions: neither completely extolling the republic nor condemning it. Instead, Tocqueville offers an objective analysis of the risks inherent in governing by the general will that no system, even one of the genius of the Constitution, can fully eliminate.

Tocqueville does not offer democratic aristocrats to fill the need for preserving honor within a democratic society. Indeed he fears the closest entity America possesses to an aristocracy (532). So it seems that Tocqueville would advocate the continuation of the earlier Federalist solution: a Constitution that promotes honorable interests through indirect election and separation of powers. Yet it is clear that Tocqueville doubts the ability of such devices to work in perpetuity (168). Both perhaps the solution rests in an entity that both Publius and Tocqueville miss: the development of national parties. Publius and Tocqueville view political parties as dangerous; risking to violate the very rights a democratic republic is supposed to protect. Yet, national parties have become the partisan aristocrats of our time. Both parties share a common goal and protocol, maintain close links and construct national norms. Furthermore by going to the people for periodic elections, national parties force competing notions of national honor both through domestic and international policies. While parties may fall prey to particular interests, their large size forces national priorities to emerge within their platforms. Additionally, the stability of our two party system and the shared views of both parties allow considerable insulation from abstract desires that threaten to derail substantive policies. Yet such a notion forces one to endorse a pluralist notion of interest: where the merging of multiple interests leads to an acceptable general interest. For Tocqueville as well as Publius, the general will was separate from particular interests and had to remain as such. This is not a fault of their logic, but rather their inability to fully embrace a modernist view of interest. Such a fault in no way limits the importance of either Democracy in America or the Federalist Papers. This discussion merely seeks to answer why Tocqueville’s fear of degraded honor has, as of yet, not destroyed the American republic.

Tocqueville thus emerges as a nuanced and objective observer of American politics. Tocqueville does not extol America’s social leveling or argue that it was the only current of American history. While extolling the virtues of American democratic society, he was keen enough to point to the same fears of democracy apparent in the letters of Publius. Yet he recalibrated these fears and added depth to the dilemmas of the public will as sovereign power. His discussion of honor did not confirm or deny the hopes of Publius; instead, Tocqueville sounds as a voice of caution. And one finds that American political society responded to this voice of caution, by looking outside the Constitution to reconstruct national political parties. And it is these parties that today constitute our nation’s partisan aristocracy.

Works Cited

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (University of Chicago Press, 2002), translated by Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop.

Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovitch, 1955), Chapter 1,

Rogers M. Smith, “Beyond Tocqueville, Myrdal, and Hartz: The Multiple Traditions in America.” American Political Science Review, vol. 87, No.3 (September 1993): 549-566.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"I know you, you know me": Investigating the Collective Action Theories of Mancur Olson and Sidney Tarrow

How do individuals come together around common interests? This question lies at the heart of Sidney Tarrow’s Power in Movement and Mancur Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action. Olson presents a parsimonious and generalizable theory of collective action centered on economic principles, arriving at a rather pessimistic view on the likelihood of successful group action: with efforts toward collective action riddled by the problem of free-riders. Tarrow takes issue with Olson’s viewpoint, focusing on a seeming deviation from Olsonian logic: the rare, but profound instances of extreme collective action witnessed in social movements throughout history. In account for this deviation, Tarrow constructs a collective action framework that redefines the boundaries of Olsonian logic. This paper will present the general contours of Olsonian group logic. Next, the authors’ differing conceptions of individual interest will be discussed, followed by Tarrow’s responses to Olsonian collective action barriers: focusing on social movements’ white-fire model, master frame construction, and use of inherited organizational structure.

Olsonian logic rests on parsimonious assumptions of human behavior. Individuals are viewed as rational actors with desires for various goods. Some of these goods are public goods: goods, that once achieved, are enjoyed by all members of a group—like clean water or air. Olson finds an individual disincentive to work toward these collective goods. Why? Individual actors can free-ride, looking to others to bring about the public good for them. Such individual rationality leads to a collective irrationality: with individual free-riding frustrating attempts at delivering public goods. To avoid this free-rider problem, Olson argues that groups can make selective incentives: giving carrots and sticks to insure they carry their weight. From required dues for debating societies to the power of registered party members to have a voice in party nominations, collective carrots and sticks run rampant within society. These selective incentives keep groups disciplined, allowing them to successfully implement policies-- whether it’s holding a college debate on the nature of collective goods or choosing the new leader of the British Conservative party. Incentives thus tend to make groups hierarchical, demanding considerable organizational resources to develop and—more importantly-- maintain group solidarity. Keeping people together in an Olsonian world is marked by an adversarial relationship: organizational leaders carefully exercising coercion to keep their members’ natural tendency towards inaction at bay.

Tarrow, in applying this logic to social movements, finds a puzzle: if collective action is such a time-consuming, deliberate and difficult process, why have bursts of collective action in the mode of social movements emerged? From French revolution to the 1960s hipster movements, individuals have periodically heard the collective call-to-arms summed up so eloquently by "Come together, right now, over me." Thus Olson's conception of individual interest or collective action barriers need to be re-worked. Tarrow attempts this task, promoting a dynamic and evolving model of collective action.

Tarrow complicates Olson's presentation of the individual actor. Accepting that most individuals follow simple cost-benefits analysis, Tarrow stresses the social factors of human existence. Humans are not just reservoirs of basic needs, but beings that construct and prioritize these needs. As such, Tarrow argues that people join movements “from the desire of advantage, to group solidarity, to principled commitment to a cause, to the desire to be part of a group (Tarrow 15).” Thus it is not free-riding that stymies social movements, but the need to coordinate such a diverse group of motivations (15).

Movements emerge with political openings that shift interest structures. These political openings can either be short or long-term. Offering an example of short-term opening, Tarrow points to Louis XVI’s tax reform, showing its unintended effect of splitting elite consensus (74). This immediate shift broke traditional support for the king, making space for other interests to be heard. Once repressed groups can promulgate their message and find other interested parties during times of interest transformation. And not all opportunities must be short-term, long term developments, such as changing class structure, can also offer openings for group mobilization (75).

But how do these newly liberated interests organize and articulate themselves within society? Olson presents a daunting challenge: demanding highly organized and durable groups to craft effective policy. Social movements tend to break-out fast, quickly moving from small pockets of dedicated leaders to massive demonstrations of diverse populations. Tarrow explains this deviant trajectory by focusing on the white-fire approach of groups involved in social movements. At heart these groups are articulations of Olsonian groups: core social leaders in a continuous struggle with status-quo force. Yet, when political opportunities open, they may find quick success. A group can then shift a particular cause to a “modular” message: one that speaks to a variety of individuals and a variety of causes. During critical moments that allow new interests societal center stage, malleable messages serve to quickly mobilize large groups (131).

Armed with space to communicate their cause and followers, another question must be answered: how do social movement leaders manage and mould their organization? Tarrow argues that social movements bypass Olsonian needs for organizational infrastructure by exploiting available organizational conduits. Tarrow thus injects an intriguing wrinkle to Olsonian logic: groups with 'weak' collective good aspirations can morph during critical historical moments (146). Tarrow offers the fostering of Islamic fundamentalism through religious institutions and the Catholic Church’s role in aiding the 1851 French insurrection as examples of successfully used inherited networks (146-47).

While social movements can cause dramatic social change, they still lack durability: tending to flash furiously and then petering out. Depending on undisciplined, outside sources for their energetic bursts, social movements tend to weaken as time goes on-- failing prey the Olsonian tendency towards inaction. Yet, these short-lasting bursts of collective fury can make lasting change (99): bringing social rights to opposed minorities or ridding nations of dynastic leaders. While demands may not be met completely, social movements mobilize large numbers of people and can bring about state reform or transformation within both open and closed societies.

Tarrow’s analysis of social movements rests on a historical narrative that delineates the evolving role of protest within the modern era. Looking to the past, Tarrow finds that social movements have learned from experience: modifying their tool-set over time to new conditions. His chief examples stand as the petition and the barricade. Using political openings, social movements capitalize on media-outlets and effective protest tools to maximize their short burst. As such, Tarrow suggests that social movements are not accidental deviations of collective action: instead they follow an alternative logic of collective action. What started as small communal acts of property destruction or effigy have grown and matured into national petitions, barricades, and rallies: simultaneously bringing more people together and increasing the volume of reformist voices.

Tarrow’s model, while debunking Olsonian barriers to collective action, still maintains some stands of Olsonian thought: the quick unraveling of social movements demonstrates an Olsonian tale of collective action instability. Yet, Tarrow demonstrates how these movements form in the first place: using political openings to catapult small movements into large ones, organizing their mobilized base through the use of pre-established institutions. This model of social action has grown matured over time; social movements have exploited advances in communication and learned from past experiences in order to maximize the possibility for group action and its capacity to encourage societal change. Tarrow thus offers a complimentary logic to Olson’s theory of collective action. Olson provides a theoretical outlook that presumes stable and known interest preferences for individual actors. Tarrow investigates periods of unstable interest structures, showing how powerful social movements throughout history have defied the theoretical barriers of Olsonian collective logic.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Making Theory and Sense out of "Making Democracy Work": Analyzing Cultural Variables in the Development of the Italian Nation-State

Robert Putnam, author of Making Democracies Work, places political culture as the critical variable for democratic success, studying the Italian decentralization of governmental authority during the 1970s. His finding: cultural differences between North and South Italy, forged during the 12th century, hold the key for their contrasting levels of latter institutional success. While not eliminating political culture as an important variable in institutional success, this paper challenges Putnam’s causal story and, thereby, his conclusions on the nature of institutions. Putnam’s historical narrative suffers from several gaps: neglecting the differing development pathways of northern and southern Italy, the significance of Italian fascism, and post-WWII party structures. Such considerations will suggest that the divide within Italian civic culture rests not within the Italy of the 12th century, but within latter critical junctures. Instead of a slow moving institutional conception, this paper will show Italian cultural orientations as the result of a dynamic history of political decision-making.

Putnam offers the following hypothesis: the existence of putative republics within twelfth century northern Italy stand out as the key to understanding modern Italy (Putnam 136). Putnam bases this claim on a straightforward assumption of human behavior: when power is vertically orientated, a power holder has no need to seek cooperation. But if one deals among political equals, as in a republic, dominance is not possible: cooperation based on trust thus takes its place. Northern Italy’s republican legacy altered the types of autocratic rule it faced during the seventeenth century: all of Italy stood dominated, but the North retained a somewhat civically-minded autocratic structure, with moneys going to hospitals, roads, and local bureaucratic salaries (134). The absence of putative republics in the South, however, fostered a predatory state, with rulers keeping subjects divided and weak (135). Thus while the North found itself entering the era of mass mobilization by incorporating the wealthy and poor into strong communities, fostering trust, the South was left to the Mafia form of “privatized Leviathan (146-47).” These discordant trajectories have resulted in the differing effects of Italian decentralization in the 1970s: low civic-minded regions having less efficient governments, and higher civic minded regions faring better. Hence, it is a lasting difference within civic culture—not socio-economic status—that has determined the trajectory of regional governments in the late twentieth century.

Putnam, though, never explains the root of his causal chain: what permitted northern Italy to develop republics in the first place (180)? Civic culture is thus a norm without a discernable basis. This absence leaves open the charge that Putnam’s theory merely cherry-picks Italian history for conditions that resemble its present condition. Furthermore, what differentiates the 12th century Italian historical moment from other historical episodes in Italian history? Putnam does not offer a clear benchmark from which to identify critical normative moments. As such, his normative theory holds little generalizablity. Pushing aside this presentist charge and lack of theoretical generalizability, Putnam’s historical narrative holds another substantial weakness: its inability to deal with certain key episodes within Italian history.

Putnam fails to fully consider the unique party structure that came to rule post-WWII Italy: the hegemonic Christian Democratic Party (DC). The DC controlled Italian politics in varying degrees from post-WWII until the end of the Cold War. This uninterrupted one-party rule garners a mere footnote within Putnam’s text (233). Why is this omission significant? DC hegemonic politicking fostered the mafia within southern Italy. The success of this strategy gave the DC power, but at a cost: the tolerance of corruption within southern Italy that undercut any attempt at true regional equality. Thus a political decision, made within a social framework distinct to Italy, led to the fostering of a clientalistic within south regions. American gangs within Chicago were eventually broken by strong national mobilization that blasted through local corruption; in the Italian case, the national government, itself, stood indebted to extra-legal organizations. The DC also found their rule aided by outside actors, receiving significant American support in order to beat back the Red Menace. And before the rise of the DC, there stands the ‘ultra-civical’ development of Italian fascism. If the North embodies a strong culture of trust and civic virtue, how did Italy become fascism’s vanguard?

Aside from these omissions, Putnam blurs the economic differences between northern and southern regions of Italy. He tells of Italy that [s]ome places are better governed than others, even when the governments involved have identical structures and equivalent legal and financial resources (82).” This statement makes clear a theoretical burden Putnam must overcome: showing that economic development is not, itself, the critical variable in the different regional trajectories of Italy. While Italy works to equalize economic relations between its differing provinces, one cannot claim that southern Italy and northern Italy are anywhere near an “equivalent” plane of socio-economic development. Italy boasts the world’s 5th largest economy. But slicing out the northern region, Italy would stand as the principal pauper of the European Union. Furthermore, attempts to manufacture this ‘equivalence’ have been mired in inefficiency and made dull owing to the nationally (not regional) implemented plans: while Italy and the EU financed a combined aid package of $50 billion dollars to Southern Italy, most of it was misallocated to areas already developed within southern Italy (Nadeau). Political realities foster norms, not the other way around. Decades of corrupt rule inherited from various institutional legacies have served to divide Italy: making the South victim to continuous rent-seeking behavior. And this behavior has been codified within the institutional environment by the state apparatus. Southerners are less civic because the state treats them as prey, emerging as a predator to the body-politic, not its protector.

Rent-seeking does not occur because of a lack of civic-mindedness, but rather owing to the dilemma of collective action. Whereas one could point to a long history of different cultural orientations, one could view the Italian divide as a distinctly 20th century phenomenon: the active development of the Mafia by the national government after WWII. But how did Italy inherit this regional characteristic? Perhaps the key lies within Napoleon’s land-reform measures of the northern Italian states, which provided room for the future development of an Italian middle class (Rempel). This class structure thus promoted vertical lines of association. But the South remained agrarian, dominated by horizontally orientated landlord-farmer relationships.

But even this view would blind one to the choices and strategies that hold as much, if not more, explanatory power for describing the different natures of Italy’s regional governments. Thelen’s conception of evolutionary institutions could be used to explain the development of the mafia. The mafia modified itself into a vote-machine; getting votes for the DC and receiving, in return, government positions and protection for delivering votes to a consistently dominant party. Thus political decisions, shaped by past legacies, created and reinforced a norm.

While one can exploit weaknesses within Putnam’s work, his focus of theoretical inquiry should not be disregarded. Culture is a dominant force in how all people live, with clear implications on political choices; but it cannot be as static as Putnam suggests. While culture can explain particular forms of institutions or their rules, one must keep in mind that culture is passed down in generational increments (Barnes 119). Times of great historical change (war, economic depression, and economic shifts) bring with them generational normative shifts, as current cultural norms prove useless in different historical contexts. And while culture may color institutional choices, cultural norms have varying strength over time: demanding a study that shows the variable effect norms have had within political outcomes.

Cultural concerns may be powerful, but Putnam’s study of Italian civic culture proves neither its separateness from other factors or its causal primacy. The roots of Putnam’s civic culture norm seem to lie within economic power relations, mirroring interest structures. Thus a state may forge political institutions (or permit other actors to do so), using its monopoly of force, which then can change the interests of state-actors; and thereby altering national norms. Alternatively, the state can choose (or be forced) to operate within the norms it has inherited. While there may be an overall cultural context that the state operates within, Putnam fails to explain the origin of normative variable and fails to offer a benchmark by which to differentiate when states change norms or reinforce them. Thus Putnam’s causal mechanism falls short: unable to explain Italian history or prove its primacy over other explanations. Making Democracy Work convincingly details the existence of a contrasting Italian civic culture, but offers little insight to its role within the black box of state development.

Works Cited

<>Barnes, Samuel H. “Electoral Behavior and Comparative Politics.” Comparative Politics:
Rationality, Culture, and Structure
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

<>Nadeau, Barbie. “Poor, Poorer, Poorest.” Newsweek International. Date Last Accessed: October 30, 2005.

Putnam, Robert D. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy.
<>Chichester: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Rempel, Gerhard. “The Napoleonic Revolution.” Lecture Notes: . West New England College. Date Last Accessed: October 31, 2005.