SWP 49

“Playing on Relations”: Practices of Local-Level Citizenship and Inter-Ethnic Estrangement in a Southern Thai Village

Doug Olthof


Since its formal incorporation into the Thai nation state in the early 20th century, the Malay-Muslim majority region of southernmost Thailand has chafed under the rule of a culturally and linguistically alien Thai state. Beginning at the turn of the 21st century, Thailand’s program of administrative decentralization may have offered a salve to this condition by empowering locally elected representatives to address the needs and solve the problems of the people. This article argues, however, that decentralized government in Thailand suffers from a number of shortcomings that limit the efficacy of “bringing the state closer to the people.” Among these shortcomings is a tendency to produce dominant chief executives (“mayors”) capable of directing the flow of power and resources through informal networks that readily bypass formal representative institutions and participatory mechanisms. In the context of ethnically diverse villages and administrative subdistricts (Tambon), the ability to participate in such informal networks can be conditioned by ethnic or religious identity. This can result in the politicization of ethnic identity following dynamics that are independent of those typically highlighted in relation to the Malay-Muslim majority south and the Thai polity in general.

SWP 48

Socialization and Violence: A Framework Essay 

Jeffrey T. Checkel


This article sets the stage – substantively, theoretically and methodologically – for a proposed journal special issue. Its analytic focus is socialization, or the process through which actors adopt the norms and rules of a given community. I argue that it is key to understanding violence in civil war (rebel groups and society), national militaries, post-conflict societies, and urban gangs.

Socialization has a long history in the social sciences, but has been little used to study groups and organizations in conflict settings. This article and the project it introduces thus rethink core features of socialization, drawing upon insights from several disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, political science, and organization-institutional theory. We explore the link between socialization and violence in a number of cases – para-military patrols in Guatemala, inter-communal relations in the Bosnian civil war, gangs in post-conflict Nicaragua, rebel groups in Sierra Leone and Columbia, and the Israeli military, among others.

I begin by reviewing the key literatures to which we speak – socialization and civil conflicts. The next section – the article’s substantive core – adapts theories of socialization to the study of violence. Here, I also survey the methods contributors utilize to capture and identify socialization as a discrete phenomenon in the various empirical contributions. I conclude by highlighting several cutting-edge challenges for students of the socialization/violence nexus and introduce the nine essays that comprise the remainder of the special issue.

SWP 47

Politicians, Narcos, Missing Students, and Mexico’s Crisis 

Alexander Dawson


Taking the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in rural Guerrero State as its point of departure, this paper explores the interlinking experiences of government corruption, narco-trafficking, and elite privilege as they have played out through the larger social crisis that followed the disappearances. I argue that the fissures within Mexican responses to Ayotzinapa reveal a great deal about the ways that racial and class privilege continue to characterize civil-society movements in Mexico. Broad, civil-society coalitions to combat political corruption, impunity and violence have been difficult to sustain here, a problem that has been particularly striking given the spectacular nature of the recent waves of violence in Mexico. This paper argues that it is the entrenched nature of middle-class and elite dependence on class and racial privilege that ultimately makes those alliances unthinkable.

SWP 46

Judicial Reform under Authoritarianism: The Role of Regime–Judiciary Relations during Periods of Political Competition 

Jeffrey Adam Sachs


According to the so-called Insurance Theory of judicial empowerment, incumbent elites create independent and empowered courts in order to protect themselves and their policies after leaving office. In many authoritarian regimes, however, elites have very poor relations with their judiciaries, and therefore will have little reason to expect fair treatment from the courts in the event of their overthrow. Drawing on case studies from Sudan, Egypt, Mexico, and Argentina, this article shows that when regime–judiciary relations are poor, the logic of the Insurance Theory is reversed and increased political competition leads to less judicial independence instead of more. It then presents a revised version of the Insurance Theory better suited to authoritarian cases.

SWP 45

Seizing the Diplomatic Initiative to Control Cyber Conflict

Paul Meyer


Cyberspace is a unique human-made environment on which global society is increasingly dependent for its well-being. At the same time, states and non-state actors are engaged in detrimental cyber activity that can threaten to transform this special environment into just another battleground. Diplomatic efforts to develop international “norms of responsible state behavior” have not kept pace with growing military cyber security capabilities. A Sino–Russian initiative for an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security” has problematic aspects and could prove divisive if brought before the UN General Assembly for adoption. A series of reports by UN Group of Governmental Experts have generated some important general conclusions and positive recommendations for confidence building measures, but they remain only proposals. There is a need for more Western leadership in ensuring that expert recommendations are transformed into state commitments if the peaceful nature of cyberspace is to be preserved.

Note: The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2015. See http://tandfonline.com, DOI 10.1080/0163660X.2015.1064709.

SWP 44

Privilege in Dispute: Economic and Political Change and Caste Relations in Tamil Nadu Early in the 21st Century

John Harriss


This paper examines recent developments in caste relations in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in the context of economic and political change in India's most highly urbanised major state. Though Tamil Nadu has a reputation for being socially progressive, and has a history of rule by political parties that emerged from a movement that was forcefully secular and supposedly 'anti-caste', it also has a long history of the exclusion of Dalits. Recent events show considerable tension and contestation over caste privilege, with defensive reactions by dominant castes to the increasing assertiveness of Dalits.

SWP 43

International Criminal Justice and Regime Change: The Stunted Transition

Izabela Steflja


This paper interrogates the link between international criminal justice and democratization. In particular the paper examines the effect of International Criminal Tribunals (ICTs) on domestic politics and regime change in the countries to which these tribunals pertain. The transitology and democratization literature rarely speak to the liberal institutionalist literature on international justice yet these literatures are concerned with the same goal of political transition and significant insights can be gained from exploring the theoretical links. This paper focuses on the local perception of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and the local perception of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Rwanda. The empirical findings are based on fifteen consecutive months of research, followed by two additional trips to each country. My data suggest that ICTs interact with domestic perceptions and domestic politics in counterintuitive ways to produce unintended outcomes, including harming local attempts to advance human rights and democratization and empowering ultranationalist and authoritarian anti-reform forces.

SWP 42

Food Security, Inequality and the Neoliberal Diet in Emerging Economies

Gerardo Otero, Gabriela Pechlaner, Giselle Liberman and Efe Can Gürcan


How have growing food-import dependency and intra-state inequalities impacted class diets under the neoliberal food regime? This study shows a deepening inequality between low-to-middle-income working classes, whose diet has become increasingly compromised nutritionally, and higher-income classes, who have gained increased access to healthful or “luxury” foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. We develop an index that measures the risk of exposure to what we call the “neoliberal diet” for low-to-middle-income working classes. Using this index, we compare the US and Canada with a group of countries including the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) plus South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey. We conclude that food security for most people in these so-called emerging nations can hardly be achieved under the “comparative advantage” logic of the neoliberal food regime and its nutritionally compromised diet. A more promising, and democratic, alternative is a food-sovereignty program of agrarian reforms to promote peasant production and social empowerment, as well as rural–urban alliances.

SWP 41

What Are the Prospects for a Social Democratic Alliance in India Today?

John Harriss


This is a draft chapter for a book comparing experiences of social democracy in India and Scandinavia. The further informalisation of the Indian economy that is occurring, while it may lead to the renewal of union activity in some sites, and to the sharpening of protests against inequality, has shifted the focus of trade union activity from demands made upon capital and workplace rights to demands made upon the state for (minimal) social welfare guarantees. Social and environmental movements championed by the middle classes have had success defending the social and economic rights of the poor and dispossessed against capital projects, but without overcoming fragmentation across interests and issues. More recently, broader protest politics have targeted corruption and the established party system, but not the country’s liberal economic policies – and participation of the working poor and marginalized groups has been low. A possible exception is the electoral success in 2015 of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, which promised the deepening of democracy in the pursuit of social justice. It has potential to occupy the social democratic space in Indian politics that has been largely vacated by the mainstream left. Whether the AAP can realise this transformative potential will probably depend upon its ability to sustain the alliance between an important fraction of the ‘mass middle class’ and the mass of the working poor.

SWP 40

Is the Rule of Law an Antidote for Religious Tension? The Promise and Peril of Judicializing Religious Freedom

Tamir Moustafa, Matthew Nelson, Ben Schonthal, and Shylashri Shankar


Does the ‘rule of law’ act as a force of moderation and, in matters of religion, serve as a key tool for mollifying or resolving disputes? Drawing on experiences from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, and Pakistan, we provide an alternative account of the link between legal processes and religious tensions, one that considers closely the roles played by constitutional law and legal procedure in perpetuating, deepening, or sustaining conflict. These case studies highlight four mechanisms that facilitate polarization: the procedural requirements and choreography of litigation (Sri Lanka), the language and decisions of courts (India), mobilization activities around litigation (Malaysia), and violent protest against legal defense of rights (Pakistan). In offering these re-evaluations and alternative narrations of polarization we seek to introduce a new spirit of creativity, modesty and humility among scholars about the ameliorative powers of law.
NOTE: The final version of this paper was published in American Behavioral Scientist, doi: 10.1177/0002764215613380 (2015). Click here to access.

SWP 39

Comparative Notes on Indian Experiences of Social Democracy: Kerala and West Bengal

John Harriss and Olle Törnquist


This is a draft chapter for a book that compares, in historical perspective, the conditions for democracy, economic development and well-being in India and Scandinavia. Within India, we compare the states of Kerala and West Bengal. Though Kerala has been described as the ‘Scandinavia of India’ for its public actions in favour of citizen rights, land reform, welfare policies and most recently decentralisation, the Left there has not been successful in also fostering interest representation beyond the dominance of parties or building a growth coalition so as to combine economic growth and social justice. The Left has failed to reconcile – through practice, policy or social institutions – the interests of dynamic business, precarious middle classes and underprivileged labour. Kerala’s development has been dominated since the 1990s by the dynamics of globalization, economic liberalism and labour migration, and the full potential of high education levels has remained untapped. Achievements with regard to social justice are more the outcome of broad mobilisations in society than of leftist policies. In West Bengal, after initial improvements in rights and well-being brought by agrarian reform, the Left’s continued reliance on patronage networks and more recently, policies that favoured big companies and external investment, led to stagnation and electoral defeat.