Blog Archives

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

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

Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable

Malaysia is a country that I know well, and whose political system I have studied closely for fifteen years. It is also a country whose political liberalization I have long awaited. Malaysia has a multiparty parliamentary system of government, but

Posted in Malaysia, Politics

Berman on Fascism

Sheri Berman has written an excellent essay at Vox on fascism, populism, and president-elect Trump. Read the whole thing here, but here are the main points. As a student of fascism and National Socialism, particularly in the 1930s, I side

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics

Comparative Politics and the Trump Administration

Last week I wrote a silly post about international relations theory and the Trump administration. The purpose of that post was to poke some fun at the dozens of paradigms employed to make sense of the field of international relations,

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics, Teaching

International Relations Theory and the Trump Administration

Yesterday afternoon, a student asked me in office hours what International Relations Theory has to say about the new Trump administration. There has been some discussion of realism and Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, and some musings about the Trump administration’s

Posted in Politics, Research
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