Be back soon!

Thank you for visiting our class site! We will resume blogging as a class in 2018. It is hard to imagine what trends we will observe in 2018, but we will certainly analyze them here. Be well.


To what extent does the case of Boko Haram confirm Fearon and Laitin’s argument? Please explain. (Cayla B)

Nigeria contains two major ethnic groups: Christians, who are located in the south and Muslims, who are located in the north. Over the years, tension within these groups have had a large impact on the economic, political and social aspects of Nigeria. Boko Haram is an Islamist Extremist group based in Northern Nigeria. The group’s name literally translated to “People committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad (O’Neill, 774). It originally began as a peaceful group. However, as time has went on, frustrations with the government and the economy, have sparked animosity. This anger has primarily been projected upon the Christian community. Boko Haram has increased its fight against the state, by staging attacks against government-run organizations such as schools and police headquarters. Boko members have destroyed “an estimated 1,100 schools this year”(Jazeera). As well as performed “scores of attacks on schools and universities in an insurgency that has killed at least 17,000 people since 2009” (Jazeera).

In “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War”, James Fearon and David Laitin discuss different causes that seem to spark Civil War. They do not believe that “Ethnic and Religious Composition” have a large effect on whether or not there will be a Civil War. Fearon and Laitin consider other elements of a country’s composition as having a stronger influence on Civil War. Some of these aspects include: economic growth and an administratively competent government. Fearon and Laitin argue that “government and non-government organizations should develop programs that improve legal accountability within developing world militaries and police, and make aid to governments (Fearon, 88).”

Fearon and Laitin’s argument includes several possible explanations for the breakout of Civil War. They argue that there are multiple reasons for Civil War and some of the main reasons include a country’s economic and political situation. Boko Haram’s actions, which they claim to base off of their religious beliefs, affect economic, political and social facets of Nigeria.  Although Boko Haram identifies as a religious group, they make a much larger external impact. Therefore, Boko Haram does confirm the case of Fearon and Laitin’s argument that there are many aspects within a country that are responsible for contributing to a Civil War outbreak.


Fearon, James & David Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” American Political Science Review 97(1): 75-90.


Jazeera, Al. 2015. “Boko Haram destroyed more than 1,000 schools this year, UN says”


O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.


Personalized Power in Russia, By: Zack Bradley

Personal Power plays a large role in Russian politics, and may have recently played a role in the death of Russian politician, Boris Nomstov. Some believe that the Russian constitution promotes personal power in its politics. The interpretation of the constitution has monopolized the presidential position in government, and therefore does not allow for a plurality system. Without checks and balances it seems valid to agree that this is most definitely hindering democracy in Russia.

When analyzing Vladimir Putin in specific specialists agree that the media is altered in favor of the United Russia party, which makes it extremely difficult for opposing leaders to shift the balance of power. Allowing most of the governmental power to be in the hands of the president makes it especially difficult for apposing parties to offer candidates with the same attractiveness to the public eye. These reasons lead me to believe that that a consolidation of power into one individual leads to the demise of democratic principals, in regards to the inability for fair opposition. If opposing candidates hold a large disadvantage due to the rise in personalized power of the president, then it doesn’t seem that Russia runs free and fair election, henceforth hindering the democratic outlook of their nation.

In the recent news a scandal has broken out that may have a connection to the rise in personal power and the abuse of that power with President Putin. On February 27th 2015 Vladimir Putin’s Political rival Boris Nemstov was shot and killed on the side sidewalk in Moscow Russia. While alive, Nemstov was very verbal about his animosity towards President Putin. From the Yeltsin days Nemstov remained in the political spotlight and for this reason, many believe that Putin was the one behind the murder. We can see Personalized power playing an obvious role in this situation when, after the homicide Putin assumed absolute control over the investigation. It doesn’t seem morally right for Putin, to undergo the investigation of Nemstov’s death especially with allegations that he himself was the reason behind it.

Is the personalized power instilled in Putin what may have lead him to murdering his own Rival? Does a lack of checks and balances make the Russian President feel that he is above the law? If the allegations are correct then it seems that these point are valid. With the checks and balances of a democratic regime the leader is constantly regulated and checked on, but without restrictions what limits their power? If the Russian Constitution promotes personalized power, and that personalized power is used to suppress opposing parties ability to shift the power of government, then doesn’t it seem that the election actually are not free and fair? Overall, I believe that Personalized power in Russia is being utilized to limit opposing parties ability to a fair election, which in return is detrimental to democracy in Russia.