Blog Archives

U.S. Politics in the Age of the Babbling Equilibrium

Ever since Sean Spicer’s press conference in which he insisted, against all evidence, that President Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest in history, the Trump administration has faced a problem of credibility. Every time the administration issues a message that

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics

An Interpretive Ethnography of Interpretive Ethnography

While reading Lisa Wedeen‘s “Reflections on Ethnographic Work in Political Science” I was struck by this description of ethnography due to my grad school friend Tim Pachirat*: Ethnography as a method is particularly unruly, particularly undisciplined, particularly celebratory of improvisation,

Posted in Research, Teaching

This Is the Best Time Ever to Study Political Science

Here are ten questions that might be interesting to Americans these days. 1. Is the Trump administration’s immigration executive order constitutional? 2. Is the United States a democracy? How do we know? 3. How does presidential leadership style affect U.S.

Posted in Current Affairs, Research, Teaching

Democracy is not Government by Democrats, and Authoritarianism is not Government by Authoritarians

In a post from October 2015, “Democratic Disappointments, Authoritarian Reformists, and Political Equilibria,” I mused about a seemingly ironic feature of contemporary Malaysian politics. The former dictator Mahathir Mohamad, a staunch defender of ruling party hegemony who happily jailed opponents

Posted in Current Affairs, Malaysia, Politics, Research

Weak and Incompetent Leaders act like Strong Leaders

An essay by Yonatan Zunger entitled “Trial Balloon for a Coup?” is making the rounds. Such essays are frightening to many. And yet they must be read critically. I am equally taken by the argument that everything that Zunger identifies

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics

The Unpopular Populist

Vladimir Putin: 86.8%. Rodrigo Duterte: 83%. Viktor Orbán: 80%. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: 68.6%. Gay Marriage (US): 57%. Abortion legal (US): 56%. Democratic Party: 52%. Free Trade is a good thing (US): 51%. Donald Trump: 45%.

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics

Dictators use the Media Differently than Narcissists and Bullies

On Saturday, Sean Spicer held a press conference in which he lied about the size of President Trump’s inauguration audience and then refused to take questions. To many, this was just more evidence of the new administration’s authoritarian ambitions (see

Posted in Current Affairs, Indonesia, Malaysia, Politics

Personal Rule and Political Institutions

Daron Acemoglu has a strong essay in Foreign Policy on democratic institutions and the incoming administration. It make the case that American political institutions may not suffice to contain a leader who wishes to challenge them. It is a powerful piece given that one

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics

Comparative Methods: New Syllabus

This spring I am teaching Cornell’s Comparative Methods course. The near-final syllabus is here (PDF). (To those Cornell PhD students reading this: hi! I’ll see you next Wednesday.) Compared to the previous time that I taught this course, I am

Posted in Teaching

U.S.-Indonesian Relations at a Crossroads

The U.S. and Indonesia have enjoyed good bilateral relations since the late 1960s, when the rise of Soeharto saw the elimination of the world’s largest communist party in a non-communist country. Relations have been grown warmer since the fall of

Posted in Current Affairs, Indonesia, Islam, Politics
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