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  • Author: Frank J. Gonzalez
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: In the polarized, post-truth, tribal era of politics that we find ourselves in, a book on conformity—how to understand it and take concrete steps toward diminishing it—should (rightfully) be expected to be of great interest to many. In Conformity: The Power of Social Influences, the prolific Cass R. Sunstein delivers exactly this. This book stands out from Sunstein’s other books in its focus on the broad societal implications of social influence. Sunstein grounds his argument in the principles underlying American democracy, and in doing so, he makes it difficult not to become depressed at how distant our current state of affairs seems from that ideal. However, Sunstein offers optimism in the form of a framework for actionable solutions. Sunstein begins with a model of the two major features of human psychology that he says reinforce conformity: (1) the tendency to believe something is true if others believe it is true (especially “confident” others) and (2) the desire for positive social standing and reputation. In Chapter 1, he explains how conformity is frequently harmful because it encourages individuals to suppress their “private signals” (that is, expressions of what they individually think is right or wrong), which decreases the diversity of ideas in a group and ultimately leads to undesirable outcomes. In Chapter 2, Sunstein advances beyond the framework he has traditionally worked within by considering cascades, or the spread of ideas and practices through conformity pressures, which ultimately give rise to social movements. He acknowledges that cascades are not necessarily “bad”—they are likely what led to the rise of the #MeToo movement—but they were also likely crucial to the propagation of genocide during the Holocaust.
  • Topic: Book Review, Psychology, Political Science, Polarization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Christopher Way
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: In a climate of concern about the future of capitalism and democracy, this book provides a robust defense of both. Capitalism and democracy, Torben Iversen and David Soskice argue, are mutually reinforcing, and the combination has been remarkably successful over the past century. In what will probably be the most discussed part of the book, they anticipate that the symbiotic pair will continue to thrive, overcoming the challenges posed by populism and inequality. Democracy and Prosperity provides a challenge to those who believe that capitalism is increasingly unable to fulfill the needs of broad swaths of society and that democracy is creaking under the strains of populism.
  • Topic: History, Democracy, Capitalism, Book Review
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Crow, James Ron
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: David Crow and James Ron look at how global publics view the relationship between human rights organizations and the U.S. government. They argue that ordinary people across various world regions do not perceive human rights groups as “handmaidens” of U.S. foreign policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Human Rights, Non-Governmental Organization, Public Opinion
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Tom Ginsburg
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: It is hardly a secret that democracy is in trouble around the world, and the phenomenon of backsliding has prompted a small wave of books diagnosing the problem and suggesting solutions. David Runciman’s contribution to this literature is a breezy and readable tour through mechanisms and alternatives. Easily weaving political theory with grounded examples, he has produced a highly accessible analysis focusing more on diagnosis than cure. Runciman’s title is to be distinguished from accounts of how specific democracies are dying or what might be done to save constitutional democracy. Instead, he focuses on the idea that Western democracy is undergoing something of a midlife crisis. Nothing lasts forever, and while democracy has had a pretty good run, it now “looks exhausted in the places it has the deepest roots” (p. 72). Contemplating democracy’s death, the book is organized around a series of mechanisms by which this might come about: coup, environmental catastrophe, technological displacement, and the various alternatives of benevolent and not so benevolent authoritarianism that have been put on offer. His main argument is that while we are attracted to democracy because of its history, the past does not repeat itself, and we are likely to face new challenges not yet contemplated. If democracy dies, the autopsy will be a new one.
  • Topic: Democracy, Book Review, Political Science
  • Political Geography: Global Focus