Julia Lerch is coming to UCI

Wonderful news:  Julia Lerch has just accepted an offer to join UCI as an Assistant Professor of Sociology!

Julia is a new PhD from Stanford who does fascinating work on international education issues.  Her dissertation examines the rise of “emergency education” as an issue in world society.  As education increasingly comes to be seen as an essential human right, efforts to address humanitarian crises (e.g., refugees) increasingly seek to provide children with education, in addition to food/housing/medical treatment, etc.  Julia’s dissertation is a deep multi-method analysis of the origins and spread of this new phenomenon.  The case provides a wonderful opportunity to unpack the evolving cultural understandings of education (and society) in world culture.

Julia’s position come from a cluster hire connected to Professor Carrol Connor in the School of Education focused on educational interventions (broadly defined).  It is hard to think of an intervention more important than providing education to those that are getting none at all, due to humanitarian crises.  Sociology is fortunate to be the beneficiary of this cluster hire.

Julia will make a tremendous addition to our world society group, bringing deep expertise in comparative education, international development, and world society theory.  Julia has been centrally involved in the Stanford comparative textbook project, working on papers with John Meyer, Chiqui Ramirez, Tricia Bromley, and Christine Wotipka.  And, if I remember her CV correctly, Julia has also collaborated with Garnett Russell and Lizzie Buckner.  That’s a pretty good group to be working with…

This is great news for Julia, and great news for UCI sociology!

 

Rethinking War

The big news in our household is that Ann’s newest book is out!

tokensofpowerhironaka

Tokens of Power: Rethinking War, by Ann Hironaka, (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Amazon link.

This is Ann’s biggest book by far in terms of scope and ambition.  It started as an effort to explore how world society shapes international competition and warmaking, but it evolved over time into a full-fledged critique of the dominant understandings of war in military history and international relations.

The book is too big to easily summarize, but I’ll try to provide a taste of it.  The conventional view in military history and classic international relations sees war as a domain of strategic action, in which states compete in order to survive.  Such analyses tend to focus on leaders and their strategies, the concrete resources they fight over, and the evolving technologies that determine the course and conduct of war.

Ann undercuts these seemingly iron-clad determinisms by focusing on the incredible ambiguity and complexity of warmaking.  In fact, the combatants, goals, and strategies are ever-changing, and in most cases leaders are perpetually caught flat-footed.  The history of war is filled with monumental disasters, of powerful countries making epic misjudgments and bankrupting or destroying themselves in pursuit of technologies and resources (“tokens of power”) that often proved worthless in the end.

Theoretically, the book draws together strands of John Meyer’s world society theory with Jim March’s insights about the challenges of learning and rational action in a complex and ambiguous world.  War may be a miasma of infinite complexity, but states are under pressure to prepare for it anyway.  And, where ambiguity dominates, dynamics of social construction fill in the gaps in military plans.  Military theorists construct arbitrary interpretations of prior wars, which diffuse across world society and inform subsequent generations of military planning.

Ultimately, Ann argues that interstate competition tends to devolve toward “one-upmanship”.  While the actual world is complex, the social hierarchy of Great Powers is crystal clear.  The complex goal of obtaining “security” devolves into efforts to climb above others in the status hierarchy, usually to the detriment of all involved.

Scholars in international relations have been moving in this direction to various degrees for some time.  Fearon pointed out that rational states would avoid (costly) wars, so warmaking must reflect systematic error and misperception.  And, IR theorists are more accepting of the idea that war involves tremendous uncertainty, that states follow “bandwagons”, and that states fight over intangible things like “reputation”.  And, constructivists like Wendt suggest that security, itself, is constructed.

Ann uses insights from sociology to link these emerging themes in IR theory, to create a more coherent overall account of the dynamics of warfare over the past few centuries.  Of course, I’m biased, but I think it is an incredibly important book.  Sociologists have largely given up the study of war, but I think this is unfortunate.  Sociological ideas are more relevant than ever as the field of IR itself seeks to move toward constructivist direction.

Ted Lieu is Awesome

OK, just wrapped up winter quarter, including my big undergraduate class on globalization, with 250 students.  The post-quarter decrease in student emails and meetings is a pleasant relief.

I hope to do some blogging again… starting with something rather off-topic.  One of my amazing friends from Stanford is in the news, in a very good way.  The Washington Post did a very nice write-up:

Ted Lieu is out-tweeting Trump, and it’s making him a political star

The article makes Ted sound like a saint… and I have to say, it is really true.  You’ll never come across a better person.  Nicer than nice.  Down to earth.  Smart.  Thoughtful.  More integrity than you can shake a stick at.  He’s like some caricature of the “good guy who went into politics to make the world a better place.”

Ted is truly mild mannered, so it is a bit of a surprise to see his brash tweets about Trump.  But, I think that says a lot about the current political environment.  Even mild mannered people (myself included) are shocked at the events of late.

I’ve never paid much attention to twitter, but this article motivated me to install the twitter app on my phone… so I can get a daily infusion of Ted’s tweets.  Thus far I have not been disappointed.  Go Ted!!!

Matt Pearce Earns His PhD!

More great news:  Matt Pearce successfully defended his dissertation, entitled “Macro – Macro Emergence: The Internet as a Cultural Institution.”  The project draws on world society theory to make sense of the rapid expansion of internet participation.

Over the course of several chapters, Matt builds the argument that the internet isn’t just a set  of wires that serve the growing global economy.  Rather, the internet is rooted in all sorts of social and discursive material, which are now institutionalized in world society:  everything from international standards and engineering documents to new discourses that characterize internet access as a human right.

Matt uses time-series and panel models to explore the growth of the internet over time. Some findings are consistent with the conventional world society literature — for instance, countries with strong ties to international NGOs tend to expand the internet more quickly.  But, Matt also pursues several new directions.

Of particular interest to me, Matt explores the role of universities in the growth of the internet.  It is well known that the internet originally grew out of computer connections between universities & scientific research institutions.  However, Matt shows that universities are hubs that support the spread of the internet to different countries.  The more we study universities, the more it seems like they are foundational to world society.  While universities are grounded within nations, they have transnational connections and orientations, and serve as receptor sites for global ideas and cultural forms.

The dissertation defense went really well.  Matt presented and defended his research with clarity and poise… and very much earned his new title.  Congratulations Dr. Matthew Pearce!

Dr. Natasha Miric, PhD

Another overdue news item:

Natasha Miric successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Letting Nature Take Its Course? An Analysis of Global Institutional Conflict around the Proliferation of National Parks.”  Congratulations Natasha!

The dissertation examines the worldwide growth of national parks.  Natasha coded the newest version of the IUCN dataset, which has high quality data on protected areas around the globe.

The core of the dissertation is a cross-national and longitudinal founding analysis.  Among other things, she observes a classic world society “INGO effect” whereby countries strongly connected to the international community tend to expand parks faster.

The project has a number other novel and interesting findings.  Natasha originally planned to contrast pro-environmental “world society” pressures with economic & neoliberal pressures deriving from foreign  trade, investment, and international development finance, which might plausibly impede pro-environmental activities such as park establishment.  However, countries that received World Bank development assistance actually protect land area more rapidly than countries receiving little or no assistance, ceteris paribus.  Likewise, FDI and trade are often positively associated with parks.  This was quite unexpected… and for a long time I was quite skeptical.  However, the findings are rather robust.  It seems that any form of international connectivity speeds the diffusion of parks.

The project also has many layers… for instance, Natasha digs down into the different levels of park “quality”, which the IUCN tracks.  And, she uses fuzzy set QCA to explore whether some distinctive combinations of factors are necessary to generate lots of parks (or the converse).  Altogether, an impressive project!

Beth Gardner Defends

Beth Gardner earned her PhD at the end of Fall quarter!  Her dissertation is entitled “Speaking for the Public: How the Media Constructed Controversy and Consensus About Abortion from 1972 through 1994.”  Here is the abstract:

“How and when do journalists define the boundaries of acceptable controversy? And how do they do so while appearing to remain objective? To answer these questions, this research analyzes mainstream newspaper coverage of the American abortion debate from 1972 through 1994. Using qualitative content analyses and quantitative regression analyses, I explore how journalists rhetorically position themselves and other actors in news stories. More specifically, I analyze the use of analytic and outraged rhetoric in stories about the abortion controversy. I identify the actors who are ascribed analytic rhetoric or outrage rhetoric, as well as when journalists themselves use such rhetoric. I compare these uses across article characteristics and political contexts, as well as over time.”

“Findings show that to perform their objectivity, journalists adopt one of two roles: either that of neutral observer or that of guardian of consensus. Scholars have studied the first role but not the second. Both of these journalistic performances violate commitments to objectivity by implying certain conflicts and contenders are legitimate and others are beyond the pale of political acceptability. By serving as neutral observers and by serving as guardians of consensus journalists enact their commitment to objectivity not by being impartial but by being partial (to their understanding of shared public values). Ironically, however, when adhering to the norms of the guardianship of consensus, journalists undermine the paradigms of “objective journalism” (i.e., facticity, independence, balance) and a democratic public sphere (i.e., civil, representative or inclusive, and dialogic). In addition to this consequence, these performances also treat different groups of actors as either co-representatives of the public interest or as illegitimate challengers to those interests.”

I learned a bunch from being on the committee.  I came in knowing basically nothing about media and media reporting… but given how important media reports are for many kinds of data (e.g., social movements, etc) it really helps to have some understanding of how the process works, and how different kinds of claims get framed in the news.

Beth mainly worked with Francesca and Ed, but she helped me out in a huge way:  Beth massively (and pretty much single-handedly) improved our cross-national data on voluntary associations… which will be the basis for some terrific papers.  Thanks, and congrats!!!

Matt Pearce’s UCI Merge

The multitalented Matt Pearce has created a fantastic new Stata tool called “UCI Merge”, which facilitates the merging of cross-national datasets.

Check it out:  https://github.com/mpearce/UCIMerge/releases/latest

As many know first-hand, assembling and organizing large cross-national datasets is time-consuming, frustrating, and often error-prone.  Matt’s new tool will help automate the process and save countless hours of tedious work.

As an aside:  One of the reasons the Stanford world society/world polity research group has been so productive over many decades is the cumulation of expertise with cross-national datasets (as well as the sharing of data more generally).  Knowledge about data was passed down through many generations of graduate students.  I personally benefitted tremendously from the generosity of Marc Ventresca.  Marc taught me all about how to organize datasets, and helped me figure out the big datasets that had been previously assembled at Stanford.  (I remember asking “What is this variable called newid3?”)  Anyhow, Matt has continued this important tradition of generosity with his knowledge and expertise.

An excerpt from the README file is below.  This is new, so please report bugs or problems to Matt so they can be fixed.  And, consider buying Matt a beer at ASA…  He has earned it.

# UCIMerge – a framework for harmonizing cross national time series data

## Read Me
UCIMerge is a framework in STATA to standardize the merging of international comparative datasets. This project creates conventions and a library of functions so that it becomes easier and faster to merge time series datasets, incorporate updates, make sure observations are consistent across years, conserve N and encourage reproducible research.

This framework came about from conversations at the [UC Irvine International Comparative Workshop](http://sites.uci.edu/icsw/).

Download the [latest release](https://github.com/mpearce/UCIMerge/releases/latest). Join the [announcement list](http://eepurl.com/btU40r) to receive notifications of updates.

## How to use UCIMerge

The first time you run the scripts, it will take an extremely long to update the datasets from the web. If you would like to jumpstart this, you can use this [starter pack](http://mattpearce.name/files/UCIMergeStarterPack.zip) by drop these files into the /source directory. If you want to force the system to refresh a dataset, just delete that dataset file from /source.

1. Set the UCIMerge folder as the working directory for STATA (‘cd ~/UCIMerge’)

2. Edit the Master.do file with the configuration that you would like.

3. Run ‘do master’ -> your new dataset will be opened and saved within the UCIMerge folder.

UCIMerge requires STATA 13. The .csv files which link countries across datasets can be used independently.

## Currently Supported Datasets

* [Norris 2009](https://sites.google.com/site/pippanorris3/research/data#TOC-Democracy-Time-series-Data-Release-3.0-January-2009)
* [Freedom House 2015](https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2015)
* [Polity IV](http://www.systemicpeace.org/polityproject.html)
* Polity IV Coups
* [World Development Indicators](http://data.worldbank.org)
* [KOF Index of Globalization](http://globalization.kof.ethz.ch)
include lib/lied
* [The Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy (LIED)](http://ps.au.dk/forskning/forskningsprojekter/dedere/datasets/)
* [CIRI Human Rights Dataset](http://www.humanrightsdata.com)
* [Quality of Government Standard dataset](http://qog.pol.gu.se/data/datadownloads/qogstandarddata)
* [Cross National Time Series](http://www.databanksinternational.com)
* [Penn World Table version 8.1](http://www.rug.nl/research/ggdc/data/pwt/pwt-8.1)