Revolutionary revolutions

Social scientists study revolutions, large collective action aiming for change, and contentions, conflict outside the realm of formal political institutions. There are many different types of contentions such as social movements, organized protest over a common goal that is formed over time, social revolutions, insurgencies, civil wars, terrorism, and “everyday forms of resistance”. It is believed through the iron law of oligarchy theory that contentions always lead to a new elite. One of the most important aspects in any revolution is mobilization, the ability to have individuals engage in discourse but compromise and move forward. (1)


In a New York Times article, Beverly Gage discusses what turns an organized political moment into a social movement in today’s world. With the prevalence of social media, mass gatherings are easier to come by, but it is hard to cause them to stick, no matter how much initial potential they have. She states that the modern leader-less, wide sweeping protests struggle to last long term, but the turnover rate may indicate their success. (2)


How do different regime-types affect the type of contentions that occur within the state?


America, as a democracy, has a relatively strong civil society that frequently holds protests and attempts to create new movements often. In weaker democracies or authoritarian regimes that do not allow for strong civil societies, people might have to resort to more aggressive forms of contention such as insurgencies or civil wars in order to promote their message. For an example, India has little freedom of speech or expression or freedom of assembly, and, therefore, they have a poor civil society.

(1) Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, “Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases”, Oxford University Press, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(2) Beverly Gage, “When Does a Moment Turn Into a ‘Movement’?”, New York Times, (May 15, 2018).

Perks of Parliamentary

Clay Risen analyzed the effectiveness of a parliamentary system using the German example in his article “German Lessons”. He considers how some Americans fantasize over the German system because their many parties allow for greater representation and they must work together in coalitions. For years Germany had three major parties: the CDU, the SPD, and the FDP. As people got frustrated with their parties, they left and created new parties. Germany now has six major parties, which is troublesome because when it comes to grand-scale decision making, each party is based on specific personal preferences, and therefore cannot make decisions about such important issues. Risen argues America’s two-party system is better because each party covers a broad spectrum of ideals, making it more efficient in decision making. (1) 


An article published by the Jerusalem Post talks about how in Germany the police attempted to ban an alt-right group from marching on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht. The far-right group blames all the Muslims in Germany for violence inflicted upon Jews. Chancellor Merkel allowed for a great number of Muslim migrants in 2015, which led to the creation of a new political party in Germany; the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party argues that Islam does not coincide with the constitution of Germany. (2)


Is a multiparty, parliamentary system of government less effective at decision making than a two-party, presidential system?


There is no definite answer to this question. A lower number of parties causes each party to be responsible to have a certain stand on a variety of issues. As seen in the U.S., though, this can create a stalemate in Congress as each party does not want or does not know how to cooperate and compromise with the other party. A parliamentary system allows for this cooperation, but the parties comprising the coalition governments might not have a firm stance or be able to make a difference on certain issues.

(1) Clay Risen. “German Lessons” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

(2) Reuters. “Merkel Commemorates Nazi Kristallnacht Against Jews With Synagogue Speech” Jerusalem Post. (November 9, 2018)

Federalism: good or bad?

In this article, Doris Carrion discusses the potential for federalism in Syria, the reaction from the citizens, and argues its overall beneficial value for the country. The PYD, a Kurdish faction in Syria, feeling unrepresented in peace talks, declared a federation over the lands they control in northern Syria. The U.S. and Russia believe federalism in Syria would allow each party to achieve some benefit. Regional powers, though, believe federalism would grant autonomy to minorities, which would have to be mirrored in their own countries. There is also a belief within Syria that federalism would lead to a partition of the state. (1)


BBC published an article regarding Trump’s criticism of the Federal Reserve. Trump believes that the interest rates set by the Federal Reserve are increasing at too fast of a rate, and that the reserve has “gone crazy”. This criticism reflects Trump’s belief of decentralizing the economy as a push towards a more market-led economic system. (2)


Could federalism be successful in a state ridden with small interstate conflict?


In times of conflict, states need strong central governments to keep control in their state. Syria is troubled with conflict within their state due to extremistists and unsatisfied regions. Some foreign powers suggest federalism as a solution to please all states; yet others regard this as a step towards an ununified state of Syria. This is similar to the condition Nigeria was in during its Civil War as one group wanted an autonomous federation. During this time, federalism would not have benefited Nigeria because the goal of the central government was uniformity, which required coming together as a state. Also, during the Civil War in the U.S., the federal government needed to be strong in order to keep control of the North while fighting to win back the South.

(1) James Tyler Dickovick, and Jonathan Eastwood. Current Debates in Comparative Politics. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019.)

(2) “Federal Reserve: Trump Sharpens Attack on Central Bank.” BBC News. (October 24, 2018.)

No Tweets Allowed

Following the Arab Spring, a similar group of outbursts occurred in China. They was carried out by civilians and police. As soon as they started, the protests seemed to die out. The author then goes into detail about the suppression the Chinese government implements against activists and protests, such as these, in their own country. The controlled media began broadcasting the dangers of the Arab Spring riots, warning against similar ones from occurring in China. Seen in the VPN disruption, the Chinese government does not outright stop loopholes or protests, but rather ceases them from working in a way that cannot be traced back to them. It is believed that the government is worried because of the predicted economic troubles ahead. (1)


The New York Times posted an article regarding the people that have been recently punished by the Chinese government for posting on Twitter. Although most social media apps are banned in China, people circumvent the Golden Firewall and post on them as a way of speaking their minds. Those who post on Twitter or other accounts risk serious punishment from the government. Many people claim their tweets get mysteriously deleted. (2)


How do authoritarian regimes maintain control of the media without retaliation from their people?


An authoritarian regime is one which has high autonomy and often  one party consistently rules the government. It is important for an authoritarian regime that the people of the country have faith in the government because the leaders do not listen to the voice of the people often. Similar themes of media regulation can be seen in Russia where there is only one news station, and what is produced on this station is under the control of their leader, Putin.


(1) James Fallows “Arab Spring, Chinese Winter” The Atlantic (2011).

(2) Paul Mozur “Twitter Users in China Face Detention and Threats in New Beijing Crackdown” New York Times (Jan. 10, 2019).

Screw the Court

A few years ago, the New Yorker published an article regarding the social sphere around the election in India. Before the election, the public was immersed in it. The outcome of the election, though, was shocking: the BJP obtained 334 seats while India’s oldest and longest-reigning majority got 44. This election felt dramatic for another reason; the candidate elected Prime Minister has been connected to encouraging riots against Muslims and disregarding civil rights. The author believes Modi changed the election to feel like a referendum on one person. He must now live up to the expectations he set in his campaign. (1)


The New York Times published an article regarding the protests around the Sabarimala Temple, an ancient temple in the Hindu Religion. The Indian Supreme Court recently removed a law passed in 1991 that stated women were banned from praying at the temple. Ever since, women attempting to go have been harassed and attacked. Prime Minister Modi, his party, the BJP, and the INC are in support of the riots. Though Supreme Court rulings are loosely enforced in rural areas, the coalition Communist parties of the area encourage the women visiting. (2)


How has India’s political shift in 2014 influenced the religious strife and cultural resistance to the Supreme court?


Many countries we have studied have experienced a dramatic change in government. Nigeria had its first change in parties in the state’s second democratic election in 2015. Mexico’s government had its first change in parties in 2000. The UK has not experienced a sort of dramatic, democratic consolidation change as these other countries, but it did have a shift in government that accommodated for the people’s want for Brexit. All of these shifts lead to changes within the societies. India’s change in government has led to a conservative religious sphere that ignores the rights of the minority groups. These changes could be troublesome for the new democracy as time goes on.


(1) Samanth Subramanian. “The Stunning Result in India’s Elections”. The New Yorker. (May 16, 2014)

(2) Kai Schultz. “Clashes Blocking Women From Temple in India Bring Over 2,000 Arrests.” The New York Times (October 26, 2018)®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection.