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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: Robert Jervis
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: Robert Jervis speculates about the likely foreign policy that a Democratic administration will follow if its candidate wins in November. He argues that President Donald Trump will have left a difficult legacy and his successor will have to simultaneously rebuild trust and instructions while also utilizing the leverage that Trump has generated.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Elections, Political Science, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Adam Pratt
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: It would be easy to read David Heidler and Jeanne Heidler’s study of the improbable rise of Andrew Jackson to the nation’s highest political office and equate it with the even more improbable rise of the current occupant of the Oval Office. Indeed, the text is littered with quotations that make it nearly impossible not to draw parallels to contemporary politics. As early as 1822, for example, the influential editor of the Richmond Enquirer, Thomas Ritchie, admitted that a Jackson presidency had not been taken “by anyone, seriously,” until the Tennessee legislature nominated Jackson (p. 131). Such a myopic reading would be a mistake, though, for the Heidlers have written a book that transcends our current political situation and speaks more directly to the power of communicating myths about political candidates by a committed group of supporters whose machinations can propel their favorites to the highest levels of success in American electoral politics.
  • Topic: Politics, Book Review, Political Science, Andrew Jackson
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • 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: Dawn Langan Teele
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: David A. Bateman’s new book explores nearly all of the crucial questions concerning democracy and inclusion that we are grappling with today, from the very broad—how do the ways in which we think about the origins of our nation inform the welcoming or hostile attitudes we assume in relation to immigrants and outsiders?—to the very narrow—do requirements that voters present physical documents verifying their identity reduce the electoral participation of minority groups? In answering these questions, Bateman offers a detailed portrait of the political machinations that result in electoral reforms, describing elites’ efforts to blur lines between expediency and morality and the circumstances that led conservative parties (the same that today seek to abolish laws that give special status to protected classes of people) to work hard to establish and maintain legal provisions that awarded different rights to different groups. Fundamentally, Bateman explains why steps toward inclusive democratic institutions are often accompanied by steps back, which leave us uncertain of our accomplishments and anxious about our future. Remarkably, though, Disenfranchising Democracy considers these familiar dynamics and dilemmas not in the contemporary world but in the rather distant past, drawing on a wealth of archival sources to analyze the timing of electoral reforms, the emergence and ossification of party- based patterns of support for franchise reform, and the political ideas of would-be reformers and resisters in three of the world’s first semidemocratic countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
  • Topic: History, Elections, Democracy, Book Review, Political Science
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, France, North America, United States of America
  • 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: Chris Baylor
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: As we learned in high school civics, the Founders failed to anticipate political parties when they designed a Constitution premised on a separation of powers into three separate branches. Policymaking power was delegated primarily to the legislative branch, not the executive branch. But Gary C. Jacobson’s new book, Presidents and Parties in the Public Mind, shows how legislators mostly rise and fall with a president of their own party, affecting their ability to legislate and win elections. With little or no change to the president’s formal powers, a government informally organized around parties has become a government informally organized around the president.
  • Topic: Book Review, Political Science, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Meena Bose
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: Robert Caro’s monumental study of Robert Moses (The Power Broker) and multivolume (four books completed and a fifth in progress) work on Lyndon B. Johnson comprise years of intensive data collection about each individual’s formative years, strategic advancement in public leadership and political power, and mastery of policymaking. To develop these unique and authoritative biographies, Caro undertakes a daunting research agenda that includes comprehensive scrutiny of the public archival record, interviews with numerous people who knew or worked with Moses or LBJ, and immersion in the physical setting that molded each individual. In Working, Caro takes readers into his world of analyzing how these two leaders acquired and used political power, providing an inside look at the diligent, indefatigable search for truth underlying these unparalleled biographies. The advice that has guided Caro throughout his writing career, first as a journalist and then in his books, comes from an editor who memorably said, “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddamned page” (p. 11). Caro heeded this advice when he began working on the Moses book, which he decided to write after learning that Moses, as commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks, had succeeded in getting state approval for a study to construct a new bridge, despite multiple traffic and pollution concerns. As Caro writes, Moses “had enough power to turn around a whole state government in one day” (p. 13).
  • Topic: History , Book Review, Political Science, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Alexander B. Downes
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: The rapid-fire overthrow of the theocratic Taliban regime in Afghanistan (2001) and Saddam Hussein’s Baathist dictatorship in Iraq (2003) by the United States—and the disastrous aftermaths of those and other recent interventions (such as the ouster of Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011)— has sparked popular and scholarly interest in the causes and consequences of foreign-imposed regime change (FIRC). One of the enduring puzzles about FIRCs is that, as highlighted in Melissa Willard-Foster’s terrific book Toppling Foreign Governments, three-quarters of them are carried out by great powers against minor powers in situations of extreme power asymmetry. “Though this asymmetry of power makes an imposed change feasible,” writes Willard-Foster, a political scientist at the University of Vermont, “it should also make that change unnecessary” because “militarily weak leaders who are bereft of allies should back down when confronted by stronger states” (pp. 2–3). The 133 regime changes in Willard-Foster’s study, however, testify that the weak regularly defy the strong—and pay the price for it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Regime Change, Political Science
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, United States of America
  • Author: Joseph M. Parent
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: How did it come to this? Time was when the lunatic fringe was on the fringe. Politicians, scientists, and network anchors told us things, and we believed them. Democracy usually worked as advertised. Now, the lunatics are running the asylum, possibly into the ground. Conspiracy theories are breeding and seething like a zombie apocalypse, scaling the battlements of civilization with their countless corpses and bottomless hunger for brains. “Conspiracism has reached such a point of prominence today that we must ask whether it is about to destroy democracy and civil society,” (p. 12) warns Thomas Konda. Konda’s central question is this: “Americans see hoaxes and plots everywhere…. why?” (p. 1). Yet the book is really about “how” questions. The focus of the work is “conspiracism—a mental framework, a belief system, a worldview that leads people to look for conspiracies, to anticipate them, to link them into a grander overarching conspiracy” (p. 2). Konda’s explanation is that modern conspiracism dates back to the French Revolution; it developed in fits and starts during the nineteenth century, mostly in the United States, “gained a permanent foothold in the public consciousness first as an anti-Semitic conspiracy, then as a global-Communist-new world order conspiracy” (p. 12), and went mainstream following the election of Barack Obama, especially after the 2016 presidential election. That is how it came to this.
  • Topic: Book Review, Political Science, Conspiracy Theory
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America