Antagonistic Cooperation: Factional Competition in the Shadow of Elections

The forthcoming article “Antagonistic Cooperation: Factional Competition in the Shadow of Elections” by Giovanna Invernizzi is summarized by the author below. 

Political parties are often internally divided into separate factions. When is factional competition good or bad for a party’s welfare? To tackle this question, I present a model of elections in which intra-party factions can devote resources to campaigning for the party or sabotage competing factions to obtain more power. 

The model shows that inter- and intra-party competition are substitutes: Internal competition increases when the electoral stakes are low – for example, in consensus democracies granting power to losing parties – because the incentives to focus on the fight for internal power increase. This result explains why reforms that changed the system towards a WTA (e.g., Italy and Japan) reduced intra-party fights.  

A similar logic applies to party polarization. As the ideological distance between parties increases, so do the stakes of (losing) the election, motivating factions to campaign for the party. Perhaps less intuitively, factions in the leading party campaign less than those in the trailing party, because platform asymmetry dampens the incentives for factions in the trailing party to campaign due to a lower winning probability. 

Parties develop internal rules to divide electoral spoils among factions. The paper studies how different incentive schemes motivate factions to campaign, and derive optimal rewards. Besides electoral spoils, the paper also shows how parties can encourage factions with policy concessions. 

About the Author: Giovanna Invernizzi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Collegio Carlo Alberto and a Research Associate at Bocconi University. Their research “Antagonistic Cooperation: Factional Competition in the Shadow of Elections” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Sortition as Anti-Corruption: Popular Oversight against Elite Capture

The forthcoming article “Sortition as Anti-Corruption: Popular Oversight against Elite Capture” by Samuel Bagg is summarized by the author below.

Modern democracy depends on the idea that we can achieve self-government by electing our leaders. In an era of proliferating crises and skyrocketing inequality, however, many are beginning to suspect that this representative model is broken, and to wonder if the only way to wrest power away from wealthy donors is to give ordinary people more direct control of political decisions. 

Unfortunately, the track record of direct democracy is underwhelming. As it turns out, resisting elite capture isn’t as simple as ensuring that more people participate more directly in more decisions. In fact, many existing participatory institutions are quite vulnerable to manipulation themselves. Last year in California, for instance, tech companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to pass an initiative denying benefits to millions of their workers. Meanwhile, procedures designed to boost public participation in regulatory rule-making have largely been co-opted by industry for decades. 
All of that said, we shouldn’t just give up hope. Real democratization is harder than it looks, but there are certain forms of direct participation that can help to protect the public interest. This paper outlines one such model—the citizen oversight jury—and argues that it can mitigate capture across a range of state institutions. 
At its core is the idea of random selection for political office, also known as “sortition.” Though it dates back to ancient Athens, sortition has attracted increasing attention in recent years as a way of disrupting certain forms of illicit influence. In short, any nonrandom method for choosing public officials—including election, appointment, and self-selection—will open up certain opportunities for elite manipulation. Only random selection eliminates such opportunities altogether. 
In light of this, many recent advocates of sortition have suggested that we replace many (if not all!) elected officials with randomly selected citizens. Yet sortition carries risks as well as rewards, and replacing elections with lotteries will not yield net improvements in all circumstances. Even if elites cannot influence who is selected to participate in a citizen legislature, for instance, they could still shape outcomes via the information and training participants receive after they are selected. 
When participants must perform complex, wide-ranging tasks that require lots of training, I argue, the risks of post-selection manipulation will outweigh the advantages of selecting them randomly. These dangers will be much less prominent, however, when participants are given simpler tasks that require less training. In such cases, the benefits of sortition are most likely to outweigh the costs. 
Drawing on this insight, I defend a model of citizen oversight juries that would empower randomly selected participants to make binary decisions on narrow questions whose terms are defined in advance—much like the verdicts juries must deliver in criminal trials. Instead of evaluating whether an individual is guilty of a crime, however, oversight jurors would evaluate whether a government decision is the result of capture. If so, that decision would be overturned or sent for further review. Even more importantly, the threat of citizen review would make capture much rarer to begin with. 
Many questions remain about exactly how citizen oversight juries should work, and exactly when they will be most effective. In the paper, however, I hope to have shown that citizen oversight has substantial promise as a tool of deeper democratization. 

About the Author: Samuel Bagg is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of South Carolina. Their research “Sortition as Anti-Corruption: Popular Oversight against Elite Capture” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

The Variable Persuasiveness of Political Rhetoric

The forthcoming article “The Variable Persuasiveness of Political Rhetoric” by Jack Blumenau and Benjamin E. Lauderdale is summarized by the authors below.

Which types of political rhetoric are most persuasive? Political arguments often feature common rhetorical elements, regardless of the specific policy at stake. Politicians can draw on endorsements from relevant authorities; take moral stances; articulate costs and benefits; impugn the motives of opposition actors; make comparisons with historical experiences; and so on. Learning whether some forms of rhetoric are generally more persuasive than others is important for speaking to contemporary normative theories of rhetoric, which suggest that some forms of political argument can threaten deliberative ideals. For instance, if voters consistently respond to arguments that are low in informational content but rich in bombast and élan, we might worry that the quality of deliberation has fallen.  

However, evaluating the relative persuasiveness of particular types of rhetoric is difficult because the arguments that politicians make are highly multidimensional. Arguments might deploy common elements, but they also vary in many other ways that make certain strategies effective in some instances but not in others.  

We propose a survey-experimental approach for measuring the relative persuasiveness of different rhetorical elements that addresses this challenge. In our experiment, we present pairs of arguments to survey respondents and ask them to assess which of the pair is most persuasive. We use 336 individual arguments, each of which uses one of 14 distinct rhetorical elements on each side of 12 policy issues in UK politics. By presenting many implementations of each element, we can draw inferences about the relative effectiveness of different rhetorical strategies averaged across different political issues, thereby minimizing the risk that our conclusions will be confounded by the idiosyncrasies of single implementations.  

This design also recognizes that researchers seldom want to test the effects of particular treatment texts. Rather, they typically want to make broader claims about a latent treatment, of which a treatment text is just one implementation. Because our focus is not on the effects of specific texts, but rather the distribution of such effects across implementations, we use a multilevel-modeling approach which allows us to estimate this distribution using several implementations, each of which would be statistically underpowered if analyzed alone. 

We find that there are modest average differences between different rhetorical element types. One of the strongest rhetorical elements is appeals to authority – arguments that seek support for an issue by reporting the view of an entity with relevant subject area expertise. By contrast, the weakest arguments are those that employ ad hominem attacks and those that rely on metaphor and imagery to win support for a policy stance. When compared to many other common forms of political rhetoric, arguments of these types are do have differentially persuasive effects in the eyes of the UK public, at least on average. 

However, we find that the heterogeneity in the persuasiveness of specific implementations of rhetorical elements is much larger than these average differences. Appeals to authority are more persuasive than other rhetorical styles on average, but some appeals of this sort are still among the weakest arguments we test. Similarly, comparisons to other countries feature in the lists of the most and least persuasive arguments, depending on the specific implementation. This represents an important lesson for the interpretation of existing studies in political communication, many of which are based on experiments relating to single policy issues.  

Ultimately, our goal is to understand which types of arguments induce voters to support or oppose policy proposals on different issues. However, persuasion is different from the self-reported judgements of argument persuasiveness that we elicit in our experiment. We therefore conduct a second, out-of-sample validation experiment and show that respondents’ evaluations of which arguments are more persuasive strongly predict the direction and magnitude of those arguments’ ability to persuade different respondents to change their stated attitudes. The validation demonstrates substantial persuasion effects on average, but we again observe large variation in these treatment effects across issues.  

This central substantive finding of argument persuasiveness heterogeneity suggests why scholarship on persuasion has not clearly decomposed the sources of persuasive appeal into distinct rhetorical elements: it is very difficult to identify rhetorical strategies that are consistently more persuasive than others when considered across multiple policy issues. Our findings imply that the persuasiveness of different argument types is likely to be highly context-dependent, and that analysing the rhetorical structure of arguments allows us to predict persuasiveness only to a limited extent. 

About the Authors: Jack Blumenau is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University College of London and Benjamin E. Lauderdale is a Professor of Political Science and Department Head at the University College of London. Their research “The Variable Persuasiveness of Political Rhetoric” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Parliamentary Constraints and Long-Term Development: Evidence from the Duchy of Württemberg

The forthcoming article “Parliamentary Constraints and Long-Term Development: Evidence from the Duchy of Württemberg” by Jonathan Doucette is summarized by the author below. 

It has long been argued that parliaments which could hold rulers accountable were an important driver of economic development in Europe. However, recent research has challenged this relationship by positing that favorable economic conditions caused parliaments and decided their institutional strength in the first place. Scholars trying to settle this ‘chicken and egg problem’ have focused on identifying the overall (lack of) effect of parliaments. This line of research faces the problem that European parliaments were often organized in very different ways, were not equally powerful, and had very different meeting frequencies. For instance, the differences between the French Estates-General, which never gained much power and stopped meeting early on, and the English/British parliament, which became a permanent political institution of constraint, are so stark that this approach sometimes becomes almost meaningless.  

Instead, we should carefully investigate whether specific parliaments seem to have had consequences for economic growth. I examine the parliament in the Duchy of Württemberg, which placed considerable checks on its dukes in the period from 1495 to 1796. I compare areas just inside of the Duchy with adjacent areas outside of it. Economically similar prior to 1495, areas within the Duchy exhibited additional economic activity following the advent of the strong Württemberg parliamentary. What explains this divergence? My results suggest that several mechanisms determine whether parliaments spur economic activity: First, areas that were directly represented in parliament were more likely to see growth. Second, areas that formed the basis of the local administration saw more growth. Third, parliamentary constraints may attract productive migrants from elsewhere.  

Based on my findings, there are thus several institutional configurations that can potentially limit the economy-enhancing properties of parliaments: Having few or geographically concentrated representatives in parliament may limit the likelihood of broad increases in economic activity; the delivery of public goods is likely to suffer if parliament cannot influence the allocation of new administrative seats; and finally, polities that remain closed off to outsiders cannot attract productive migrants. Future studies might therefore explore i) what kind of parliaments activate (or foreclose) these pathways to economic development, and ii) which of these pathways matter most for growth.

About the Author: Jonathan Doucette is an Assistant Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark. Their research “Parliamentary Constraints and Long-Term Development: Evidence from the Duchy of Württemberg” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Risk Aversion and the Gender Gap in the Vote for Populist Radical Right Parties

The forthcoming article “Risk Aversion and the Gender Gap in the Vote for Populist Radical Right Parties” by Odelia Oshri, Liran Harsgor, Reut Itzkovitch-Malka, and Or Tuttnauer is summarized by the authors below. 

Why do fewer women vote for populist radical right parties compared to men? 

With the growing power of populist radical right parties (PRRPs) in Europe, a seminal question which is often discussed in both media and academia: Who votes for these parties? What characterizes their constituencies, and are they similar across countries? One statistical fact seems to be uniform: Women are significantly less likely to vote for PRRPs compared to men. What explains this gender gap in the support for PRRPs? 

In our recent paper we maintain that, for an individual, voting for a PRRP is fraught with a certain degree of risk. Not only are these parties comparatively unknown entities with limited parliamentary experience at best, but they also challenge the certainties of the existing political order. Consequently, we expect that risk-averse voters will shun them during elections. We establish that women are more risk-averse than men on two relevant dimensions. First, electorally, women tend more than men to avoid voting for parties that have no chance of winning seats in parliament, in case in point, many of the PRRPs; and second, in regard of socially acceptable behavior, women are less prone than men to translate their extreme ideological positions to vote choice.  

That said, we argue that the risk of voting for PRRPs varies depending on the electoral context. When PRRPs’ prospects to (re)enter parliament are high, the decision to vote for these parties is less risky, both electorally and socially: electorally, because in such circumstances, voting for these parties would not be tantamount to wasting one’s vote; socially, because when a PRRP has previously been supported by a large enough portion of the electorate, it can be perceived as a normative political player. 

Leveraging evidence from a large cross-national study as well as from a case study of Germany, we find that the gender gap in voting for PRRPs is higher in risky electoral contexts, i.e., when these parties are marginalized. As populist radical right parties garner sufficient electoral support, voting for them is considered less risky, therefore yielding less gender differences in the vote.  

The focal question of why women are more risk averse than men when it comes to political behavior fell beyond the scope of our study.  It might be, however, that women set great store by voting, perhaps more so than do men – after all, women’s suffrage is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. Our findings open the gate for further exciting theoretical and empirical research on this topic.  

About the Authors: Odelia Oshri is an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Liran Harsgor is an Assistant Professor at the Division of Government and Political Theory, School of Political Science, University of Haifa. Reut Itzkovitch-Malka is an Assistant Professor of Political Science, in the Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication, at the Open University of Israel, and Or Tuttnauer is an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research. Their research “Risk Aversion and the Gender Gap in the Vote for Populist Radical Right Parties” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Commitment Problems in Alliance Formation

The forthcoming article “Commitment Problems in Alliance Formation” by Brett V. Benson and Bradley C. Smith is summarized by the authors below. 

Why do adversaries react to anticipated alliance formation or expansion with aggression in some cases but not others? In some cases, such as the 1990 expansion of NATO that accompanied German unification, adversaries acquiesce to allow for peaceful implementation of a new alliance. In other cases such as the 2008 Russian invasion of NATO aspirant Georgia, adversaries respond to the prospect of a new or expanded alliance with military aggression.  

We provide a formal theory that explains this variation as the result of temporal dynamics. Our argument emphasizes that the benefits of a military alliance may not arrive immediately. Rather, prospective allies must coordinate efforts to fully implement the terms of an alliance before realizing its security benefits. In addition to the process of negotiating, signing, and ratifying an alliance, prospective allies must reconcile disparate military technologies and command structures before realizing the full military benefit of alliance membership. This creates a window of opportunity for adversaries to use military force to achieve their coercive goals or to block the alliance altogether before formation or expansion is complete.  

Our explanation rests on three findings. First, bargaining concessions can serve a pacifying role. Prospective allies may make concessions to compensate an enemy state for the future power shift that occurs once an alliance is implemented. This presents a novel explanation for why alliances rarely provoke preventive war: allies may “buy off” shared enemies prior to the implementation of otherwise provocative alliances.  

Our second finding details the conditions under which these peaceful bargains are possible. If the anticipated power shift is too large and the speed of implementation too fast, then allies may not be able to offer concessions sufficient to secure the target’s acquiescence. Consequently, preventive war results. Following this logic, we find that allies are often better off limiting the scope of an alliance’s military benefits or the speed of its implementation to avoid provoking an enemy. The costs of such limits are justified by the benefit of avoiding war.  

Our third finding is that the conditions favorable for preventive war also render it unlikely to occur. Preventive war is attractive when a large power shift from an alliance is expected to arrive rapidly due to quick implementation of an alliance. If an alliance is expected to be implemented rapidly, the window of opportunity for preventive war often closes before an attack can be carried out. Hence, while preventive war cannot be ruled out altogether, the conditions that make it most attractive also render it unlikely.  

Importantly, our findings extend to defensive alliances. Though they are designed to achieve peace through deterrence, anticipation of a new defensive alliance may provoke an enemy by foreclosing an enemy’s future coercive options. Though defensive alliances deter once they are implemented, anticipation of a new defensive alliance may be provocative. We find that this mechanism was present in a number of important historical cases, including instances of NATO expansion as well as the 1954 Taiwan Straits crisis. Overall, our analysis highlights temporal dynamics as a key and novel factor connecting alliance politics and war.  

About the Authors: Brett V. Benson is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University and Bradley C. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. Their research “Commitment Problems in Alliance Formation” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

State Support for Rebels and Interstate Bargaining

The forthcoming article “State Support for Rebels and Interstate Bargaining” by Xiaoyan Qiu is summarized by the author below.

Since the end of World War II, leaders have frequently supported rebel groups in other countries as a coercive strategy in international disputes. However, the strategic rationale by which rebel groups gain international support is non-obvious. Existing literature primarily conceptualizes such support as a cheaper and safer substitute for expensive and risky direct military confrontation. This suggests that sponsors should support strong rebel groups that share the sponsor’s preferences.  

However, these factors do not capture the fundamental force driving external support. States frequently support weak rebel groups in other countries with clearly unaligned preferences. Many recipient groups are too weak to viably win and are hostile to the sponsoring state’s goals. For example, Iran supported the leftist rebel group Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) during the Cold War when it was a close U.S. ally. At the time of support, the KDP was too weak to win against the Iraqi government and was ideologically divergent from Iran. Its success might also threaten Iran by empowering Kurdish rebellions inside Iran.  

Using a formal model, I explain that the fundamental objective of transnational rebel support is to gain bargaining leverage against a rival state. The bargaining advantage comes from the fact that such support significantly reduces the target’s total available budget to deal with internal and external threats. This subversive effect provides a sufficient incentive for sponsoring the rebels even when favorable conditions suggested by previous studies are absent.    

I explain why weakening rival governments is the core motivation for supporting rebel groups, and other prominent factors from the literature are neither necessary nor sufficient. Consistent with existing theories, states are indeed more likely to support rebel groups that share their ideological or ethnic preferences or are more skilled at combating the target governments. However, supporting groups that lack these characteristics can still satisfy the core motivation of weakening the rival government. Consequently, states are also willing to support groups with whom they share no ideological ties, whose goals they actively oppose, or who are less skilled at combating the target government than their own armies. I illustrate this logic using the example of Iranian support for the KDP. This and many other cases illustrate that the enemy of my enemy is my friend—ideological and ethnic concerns aside. 

Moreover, given the goal of destabilizing rival regimes, potential sponsors prefer to support weaker rebel groups and provide more support to them. While undercutting the sponsor’s own military strength by the same degree, support for weaker groups shrinks the target’s budget by a larger amount, motivating the sponsor to assist weaker groups. Extremely weak groups are hired not to win the war but to exhaust the target. External support delivers the most bang for the buck precisely when the rebels are weak. This novel result explains why states support extremely weak rebel groups incapable of winning.  

Overall, this article shows that absent favorable conditions for proxy warfare suggested by previous studies, external support’s subversive effect alone provides sufficient incentive to aid rebels targeting the sponsor’s international rival. 

About Author: Xiaoyan Qiu is an Assistant Professor at the School of Global and Public Affairs at IE University. Their research “State Support and for Rebels and Interstate Bargaining” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Does Criminalizing Torture Deter Police Torture?

The forthcoming article “Does Criminalizing Torture Deter Police Torture?” by Mark Berlin is summarized by the author below. 

What works to reduce police abuses? In a new article, I find that when it comes to the use of torture by police officers, criminalizing an offense of “torture” in national law can help deter some incidences of abuse. 

To understand why, it’s helpful to first understand the nature of police torture. Public attention on the issue of torture usually focuses on cases, like China, Egypt, or CIA black sites, in which torture is used by governments to combat perceived challenges to their political power or threats to national security. But research suggests that much torture that occurs daily around the world is motivated instead by non-political reasons, targeting individuals who pose little political threat. Think of the police officer who tortures a confession out of an ordinary criminal suspect to close a case and thus advance their career, or the immigration official who abuses a detained migrant for their own personal satisfaction. Unlike politically motivated torture, which is often directed or at least tolerated by political leaders, non-politically motivated torture is made possible by the fact that some state agents, like police officers, enjoy wide discretion and autonomy in their daily work. Even if political leaders prefer that police don’t torture, they are limited in their ability to constantly monitor and control the behavior of individual officers. 

Therefore, policies and interventions to reduce opportunistic abuses need to directly target the decision-making calculus of front-line agents, like police officers. Criminal law can help do that in two main ways. First, criminalizing torture helps close legal loopholes that may otherwise make it difficult to prosecute cases of police torture. While most countries have laws that criminalize ordinary offenses like assault, such laws are often too limited in their definition or scope to cover the full range of conduct that may constitute torture – gaps that a dedicated and well-defined torture statute is meant to close. Second, criminalizing torture can alter how individual officers perceive the moral and social acceptability of torture. Criminalization sends a message that what may have been previously taken-for-granted as acceptable conduct, such as physical coercion in interrogations, is in fact a grave offense of international concern. Whether this alters officers’ own personal views or their beliefs about the willingness of others to condemn their behavior, criminalization can nonetheless increase the perceived stigma of torture and thus raise the anticipated costs for a would-be torturer.   

My findings are based on statistical analyses of an original dataset I collected on the existence and content of torture laws around the world. Importantly, my findings suggest that it’s not merely any form of criminalization that produces a deterrent effect. Only torture laws that meet the standard codified in the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) are associated with reductions in police torture. Why? The definition of torture from the CAT is designed to fill the types of legal gaps I mentioned above, gaps which may normally hinder prosecutions or reinforce permissive views about police abuse.  

Though criminalization is certainly not a cure-all for state abuses, my findings suggest that it can contribute to efforts to reduce human rights violations, especially when it comes to those abuses that tend to arise from the independent initiative of frontline agents.  

About Author: Mark S. Berlin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University. Their research “Does Criminalizing Torture Deter Police Torture?” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Carl Schmitt Reads Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: Archival Perspectives on Convergences and Divergences

The forthcoming article “Carl Schmitt Reads Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: Archival Perspectives on Convergences and Divergences” by Sinja Graf is summarized by the author below. 

Israel’s prosecution of Otto Adolf Eichmann in 1961 was one of the most important and iconic trials of Nazi criminals. Scholarship on Eichmann’s trial can hardly avoid grappling with Hannah Arendt’s now-canonical Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). The book is part of her voluminous oeuvre that is formative of 20th century Western political philosophy. Carl Schmitt remains a highly divisive figures in 20th century Western political thinking, not least because his critique of political liberalism sits very uneasily with his public career under the Nazi dictatorship. Given their respective philosophical stature, it is unsurprising that scholars have analysed similarities and tensions between Arendt and Schmitt’s political philosophies. Such discussions have mostly proceeded without evidence of their reading of one another. The exception is an analysis of archival materials disclosing Arendt’s reading of Schmitt (Jurkevics 2017). However, Schmitt’s engagement with Arendt has remained understudied.  

Nonetheless, unpublished archival documents in the Carl Schmitt Nachlass demonstrate Schmitt’s long-standing interest in Arendt’s life and work and his keen attention to the Eichmann trial. Importantly, Schmitt closely read Eichmann in Jerusalem. The archival materials enable a first-time interpretation of Schmitt’s perspectives on Arendt’s book and his views on Eichmann’s trial. An analysis of Schmitt’s copies of Eichmann, of archival documents and Schmitt and Arendt’s published works focalizes convergences and divergences in their assessments of elemental political and legal questions. His attention to Eichmann is therefore of significance to scholars of politics and law. 

Schmitt’s engagement with Eichmann highlights his and Arendt’s theorizations of the capacity of law to capture mass violence and of the character of political community as a spring of law. Across these issues, Schmitt’s attention to Arendt’s conceptualizations of ‘humanity’ and ‘territory’ is especially salient, which is explained by the fact that they developed rival approaches to these foundational terms. As for ‘humanity, Schmitt closely attended to Arendt’s understanding of ‘crimes against humanity’. The latter she sourced from her conception of ‘humanity’ as the irreducible plurality of individual human beings who create mutually shared, lived-in worlds by acting in concert. Based on her understanding of the Holocaust as a crime against the human status, perpetrated on the body of the Jewish people, Arendt defended the legitimacy of Eichmann’s capital punishment. Schmitt, by contrast, argued that Nazi atrocities exceeded law and legal punishment altogether. He also thought of ‘humanity’ as an empty, abstract universal, political mobilizations of which disavow the political principle of enmity and thus enhance pernicious escalations of violent conflict.  

Schmitt’s engagement with Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann’s case compounds the philosophical significance of the trial, which in itself is an exceedingly important historical event. Furthermore, a close reading of Schmitt’s attention to Arendt’s book invests Eichmann with the coordinates of a unique philosophical landscape that remains inaccessible to analyses of their published works.  

About Author: Sinja Graf is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at London School of Economics and Political Science. Their research “Carl Schmitt Reads Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: Archival Perspectives on Convergences and Divergences” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Reference Points and Democratic Backsliding

The forthcoming articles “Reference Points and Democratic Backsliding” by Edoardo Grillo and Carlo Prato is summarized by the author(s) below. 

The article asks: if citizens value democratic norms, why don’t they electorally punish incumbents who violate them? Using insights from psychology, we formally show that incumbents can use backsliding early in the cycle to manipulate the standards to which their voters will hold them to—their reference points. Challenging democratic norms hurts voters, but also lowers their reference points by making them pessimistic about subsequent violations. Because challenging democratic norms moves the goal post in the incumbent’s direction, democratic backsliding can arise even when the incumbent and most voters intrinsically dislike it. Contrary to existing accounts, our theory suggests that mass polarization should not only increase the frequency of severe violations of democratic norms, but also decrease the frequency of milder violations.  

About the Author(s): Edoardo Grillo is Assistant Professor at Collegio Carlo Alberto and Carlo Prato is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at Columbia University. Their research “Reference Points and Democratic Backsliding” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 


The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.