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Examining the Effect of Security Environment on U.S. Unilateral Military Intervention in Civil Conflicts

Description: This study focuses on how perceived security environment affect U.S. unilateral, military intervention in civil conflicts, using the concept of Bayesian learning to illustrate how threat perceptions are formed, how they change, and how they affect the U.S. decision to intervene militarily in civil conflicts. I assess the validity of two primary hypotheses: (1) the U.S. is more likely to intervene in civil conflicts with connections to a threatening actor or ideology; and (2) the U.S. is more likely to intervene in civil conflicts for humanitarian motives in a less threatening security context. To test these hypotheses, I compare U.S. military intervention in three temporal contexts reflecting more threatening security contexts (Cold War and post-9/11) and less threatening security contexts (1992-2001). Results of logit regression analysis reveal that a conflict’s connection to a threatening actor or ideology is the most statistically and substantively significant determinant of U.S. military intervention in civil conflicts, both in more and less threatening security contexts. They also indicate that humanitarian motives are not a statistically significant determinant of U.S. military intervention in civil conflicts, even in a more benign security environment. These findings imply that U.S. unilateral military intervention is reserved for more direct national security threats, even those that are less grave, and that the perception of the U.S. as “global cop” may be misleading, at least in terms of unilateral military intervention.
Date: August 2011
Creator: Aubone, Amber

Ecological Sustainability and Peace: The Effect of Ecological Sustainability on Interstate and Intrastate Environmental Conflict

Description: This study examines the relationship between ecological sustainability and violent conflict at both the interstate and intrastate level. In particular, this study explores the effect of ecological sustainability of a society on the initiation and the occurrence of violent conflict. By developing a theory, which is named "Eco-peace," this study hypothesizes that the more ecologically sustainable the socioeconomic system of societies, the less likely the society is to initiate interstate conflict. Regarding intrastate conflict, it is hypothesized that the more ecologically sustainable the mode of development pursued by the Third World society is, the more likely that society is to experience intrastate conflicts. To test the hypotheses, this study conducts cross-national time-series analyses for 97-127 countries. Negative binomial and Poisson models are used for interstate conflict during 1960-2001, and logit and rare event logit models are used for intrastate conflict during 1960-1999. Militarized interstate dispute dataset and Uppsala Armed Conflict Program dataset are employed for interstate and intrastate conflict. For ecological sustainability, Ecological sustainability factor index and Environmental sustainability index are used. Through the analyses, this study found the supports for the theoretical argument that the ecologically unsustainable modes of development cause the initiation of interstate conflict and the incidence of intra-state conflict in the Third World.
Date: August 2010
Creator: Yoon, Jong-Han

Not All Truth Commissions Are Alike: Understanding Their Limitations and Impact

Description: This dissertation project develops a theoretical understanding of how truth commissions achieve legitimacy and thus contribute to peace and stability in the aftermath of major traumatic events (e.g. civil war, mass killings, regime changes). I identify three components of truth commission legitimacy---authority, fairness, and transparency---that facilitate beneficial outcomes for societies emerging from a period of severe human rights repression or civil war. I theorize and test how institutions with these legitimacy characteristics contribute to an increase in respect for human rights and decrease political violence in transitioning societies, thus contributing to peace and stability. In order to test the hypothesized relationships, I create a truth commission characteristic dataset that provides greater detail than existing datasets. This project is a contribution to our understanding of the relationships between human rights, institutions, conflict, and international law. It provides one explanation for the inconsistent findings of extant work concerning the impact of transitional justice, generally and truth commissions, specifically. I provide evidence that there are identifiable "best practices" that truth commissions should consider adopting. This information can assist states, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations alike in making difficult decisions regarding the transitional justice process, which is expensive and time consuming further necessitating an understanding of what practices are most crucial for achieving peace and stability.
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Date: December 2014
Creator: Nichols, Angela D.

Why Be Friends? Amicus Curiae Briefs in State Courts of Last Resort

Description: While there has been a substantial body of research on interest group activity in U.S. federal courts, there has been comparatively little analysis of interest group engagement with state courts. Given that state courts adjudicate the vast majority of cases in the American legal system and very few cases are appealed to the Supreme Court, understanding why organized interests participate in these courts is of great importance. The present study analyzes interest group involvement as amicus curiae in all state courts of last resort from 1995-1999 to examine what factors motivate organized interests to turn to the courts. The results indicate that interest groups are primarily motivated by their policy goals in deciding which cases to file amicus briefs in, but that they are limited in their ability to file by institutional constraints unique to state courts of last resort. This research provides insight into interest group behavior, state courts and the role organized interests play in influencing legal outcomes in the American states.
Date: December 2014
Creator: Perkins, Jared D.

Clenching the Fists of Dissent: Political Unrest, Repression, and the Evolution to Civil War

Description: Previous scholarship has long concentrated on the behaviors of belligerents during regime-dissident interactions. While much of the progress in the literature concentrated on the micro-level processes of this relationship, little research has focused on providing a theoretical reasoning on why belligerents choose to act in a particular manner. This project attempts to open the black box of decision making for regimes and dissidents during regime-dissident interactions in order to provide a theoretical justification for the behaviors of the belligerents involved. Moreover, this project argues that there is a relationship between the lower level events of political violence and civil war as the events at earlier stages of the conflict influence the possible outcome of civil conflict. Regimes and dissidents alike are strategic actors who conduct themselves in a manner to ensure their survival while concurrently attempting to succeed at achieving their respective goals. Although all authoritarian regimes are similar in their differences to democracies, there are significant differences between the regimes, which influence the decision making of the regime leader to ensure the survival of the political institution. In addition to influencing the decision calculus of the regimes, the behavior of the regimes impacts the probability of civil war at later stages of the interaction. Conversely, dissidents also perform as strategic actors in an attempt to gain their preferred concessions and outcomes. Although their comprehension of the coercive capacity of a regime is limited, their knowledge of the repressive capacity of the regime provides them with the understanding of their future fate if they escalate to violence against the regime. This project is conducted using two theories on regime and dissident actions and responses, two large-N empirical analyses of regime and dissident behaviors during nonviolent and violent dissident campaigns from 1945-2006, and two historical case studies of Egypt and Syria ...
Date: August 2016
Creator: Backstrom, Jeremy R

Run, Women, Run! Female Candidates and Term Limits: A State-Level Analysis

Description: This dissertation seeks to explain the puzzle in the state politics literature which expects females to benefit from the enactment of term limits, but initial research finds the number of female in office decreases after the implementation of term limits. Examining this puzzle involves three separate stand-alone chapters which explore female candidate emergence (1), success rates (2), and women-friendly state legislative districts (3). The goal of the dissertation is to reconcile the puzzle while adding insight into how female candidates behave at the state-level. Overall, I find that term limits increases female descriptive representation by increasing the likelihood a female candidate will run and win an election.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Pettey, Samantha

Scripture for America: Scriptural Interpretation in John Locke's Paraphrase

Description: Is John Locke a philosopher or theologian? When considering Locke's religious thought, scholars seldom point to his Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul. This is puzzling since the Paraphrase is his most extensive treatment of Christian theology. Since this is the final work of his life, did Locke undergo a deathbed conversion? The scholarship that has considered the Paraphrase often finds Locke contradicting himself on various theological doctrines. In this dissertation, I find that Locke not only remains consistent with his other writings, but provides his subtlest interpretation of Scripture. He is intentionally subtle in order to persuade a Protestant audience to modern liberalism. This is intended to make Protestantism, and specifically Calvinism, the vehicle for modern liberalism. This is seen clearly in Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Though Weber concludes that Protestant support for capitalism in the late 19th Century is due to its theological foundation, I find that Weber is actually examining Lockean Protestantism. Locke's success in transforming Protestantism is also useful today in showing how a modern liberal can converse with someone who actively opposes, and may even wish to harm, modern liberalism. The dissertation analyzes four important Protestant doctrines: Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, the church and family, and Christian political life.
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Date: August 2016
Creator: Kearns, Kevin M

New Rules to an Old Game: Electoral Reforms and Post-Civil War Stability

Description: One of the most common features found within peace agreements are provisions that call for post-civil war elections. Unfortunately, recent research on post-civil war stability has consistently demonstrated that the initial elections held after civil wars significantly increases the risk for renewed fighting. While this research does highlight a danger posed by post-war elections, it focuses only on one element associated with post-civil war democracy. I argue that by implementing electoral reforms that are called for in peace agreements, post-war countries reduce the risk of renewed civil war. Implementing these peace agreement provisions increases the durability of post-war peace in two ways. First, by implementing costly electoral reforms called for in the peace agreement, the government signals a credible commitment to the peace process which reduces security dilemmas faced by opposition groups. Second, electoral reforms generate new avenues for political participation for disaffected citizens, which reduces the ability of hardliners to mobilize future armed opposition. I examine how implementing post-war electoral reforms impact the risk of renewed conflict from 1989 through 2010. Using duration models, I demonstrate that implementing these electoral reforms substantially reduces the risk of renewed conflict.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Keels, Eric

The Strength of a Witness: Empowerment and Resiliency in the Aftermath of Atrocity

Description: Victims and witnesses that testify before an international criminal tribunal such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) willingly subject themselves to scrutiny and bare their wounds before the world. Does this experience cause these vulnerable individuals undue psychological harm, re-traumatization, or worse? Existing literature indicates this may be the case, however using a new dataset I find the opposite to be true. Witnesses at the ICTY report feeling more positive than negative after their experiences on the stand. As the first systematic study on witness mental wellbeing, these findings contradict expectations found in previous research.
Date: December 2016
Creator: McKay, Melissa

A History of Overcoming: Nietzsche on the Moral Antecedents and Successors of Modern Liberalism

Description: This work aims to understand human moral psychology under modern liberalism by analyzing the mature work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I seek to understand and evaluate Nietzsche's claim that liberalism, rather than being an overturning of slave morality, is an extension of the slave morality present in both Judaism and Christianity. To ground Nietzsche's critique of liberalism theoretically, I begin by analyzing his "master" and "slave" concepts. With these concepts clarified, I then apply them to Nietzsche's history by following his path from Judaism to liberalism and beyond--to his "last man" and Übermensch. I find that Nietzsche views history as a series of overcomings wherein a given mode of power maintenance runs counter to the means by which power was initially attained. Liberalism, as the precursor and herald of the "last man," threatens the end of overcoming and therefore compromises the future of human valuation and meaning.
Date: December 2016
Creator: Gill, Rodney W

Friends of the State Courts: Organized Interests and State Courts of Last Resort

Description: Why do interest groups participate in state courts of last resort by filing amicus curiae briefs? Are they influential when they do? This dissertation examines these questions using an original survey of organized interests that routinely participate in state supreme courts, as well as data on all amicus curiae briefs and majority opinions in over 14,000 cases decided in all fifty-two state supreme courts for a four year period. I argue that interest groups turn to state judiciaries to achieve the dual goals of influencing policy and organizational maintenance, as amicus briefs can help organized interests achieve both outcomes. Furthermore, I contend that amicus briefs are influential in shaping judicial policy-making through the provision of legally persuasive arguments. The results suggest that interest groups do file amicus briefs to both lobby for their preferred policies and to support their organization's long-term viability. Additionally, the results indicate that organized interests also participate in counteractive lobbying in state courts of last resort by filing amicus briefs to ensure their side is represented and to dull the effect of oppositional amici. The findings also demonstrate support for the influence of amicus briefs on judicial policy-making on state high courts, as amicus briefs can influence the ideological direction of the court's majority opinions. Overall, this research extends our understanding of interest group lobbing in the judiciary and in state policy venues, and provides insight into judicial politics and policy-making on state courts of last resort.
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Date: December 2016
Creator: Perkins, Jared David

Thucydides’ Sparta: Law, Piety, and the Regime

Description: My dissertation investigates Thucydides’ presentation of Sparta. By viewing the war through Sparta, one is confronted with debates on the moral dimensions of war. Sparta decries the imperialism of Athens as unjust and while the Athenians imply that such claims are merely Spartan ‘hypocrisy’ and therefore that Sparta does not truly take justice seriously, my study contends that the Spartan concern with justice and piety is genuine. While the Athenians present a sophisticated and enlightened view of what they believe guides all political actions (a view most scholars treat as Thucydides’ own) my study argues that Sparta raises problems for key arguments of the ‘Athenian thesis.’ Through a closer study of Thucydides’ Sparta, including his neglected Book 5, I locate details of both Sparta’s prosecution of the war and their regime that must be considered before agreeing with the apparent sobriety and clear-sightedness of the Athenians, thus leading the reader into the heart of Thucydides’ view of morality in both foreign affairs and domestic politics. A portion of this research is currently being prepared as an article-length study on the broad and important issue of hypocrisy in foreign affairs among states.
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Date: August 2014
Creator: Hadley, Travis Stuart

Plebiscites

Description: This study investigates factors that can influence leaders to use plebiscites to settle territorial claims. A quick survey of the plebiscite literature shows that the method has been extensively mentioned in the legal, historical, and philosophical fields (mostly through case studies) but less so in political science. This thesis is the first attempt, to my knowledge, to quantitatively investigate the different factors that can influence a leader to use a plebiscite. Using the latest version of the ICOW dataset, I test political and economic theories to try to explain the variation in the decision outcome. This study includes the following variables: identity ties, economic strength, an interaction between identity ties and economic strength, internal constraints (regime type and violent interaction), and external constraints (membership to international organizations). The results suggest that identity ties offer the strongest explanation as to why leaders settle a territorial claim with a plebiscite. Plebiscites have been rarely used to settle territorial claims, but when used they tend to settle cases permanently. This thesis serves as an attempt to revive a method that while difficult to agree upon, can be successful in resolving territorial claims permanently, and more importantly peacefully.
Date: May 2015
Creator: Fonseca Acosta, Rosa

Friendship, Politics, and the Good in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Description: In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Books VIII and IX provide A philosophic examination of friendship. While these Books initially appear to be non sequiturs in the inquiry, a closer examination of the questions raised by the preceding Books and consideration of the discussion of friendship's position between two accounts of pleasure in Books VII and X indicate friendship's central role in the Ethics. In friendship, Aristotle finds a uniquely human capacity that helps readers understand the good is distinct from pleasure by leading them to think seriously about what they can hold in common with their friends throughout their lives without changing who they are. What emerges from Aristotle's account of friendship is a nuanced portrait of human nature that recognizes the authoritative place of the intellect in human beings and how its ability to think about an end and hold its thinking in relation to that end depends upon whether it orders or is ordered by pleasures and pains. Aristotle lays the groundwork for this conclusion throughout the Ethics by gradually disclosing pleasures and pains are not caused solely by things we feel through the senses, but by reasoned arguments and ideas as well. Through this insight, we can begin to understand how Aristotle's Ethics is a work of political philosophy; to fully appreciate the significance of his approach, however, we must contrast his work with that of Thomas Hobbes, his harshest Modern critic. Unlike Aristotle, Hobbes is nearly silent on friendship in his political philosophy, and examining his political works especially Leviathan reveals the absence of friendship is part of his deliberate attempt to advance a politics founded on the moral teaching that pleasure is the good. Aristotle's political philosophy, by way of contrast, aims to preserve the good, and through friendship, he not only disentangles the good from ...
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Date: May 2015
Creator: Pascarella, John Antonio

Hobbes’s Deceiving God: the Correspondence Between Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes

Description: In presenting their correspondence, I highlight the means in which Hobbes is able to divorce nature and politics in his philosophy. This is done by bringing to light Hobbes’s agreement with Descartes’s deceiving God argument. First, I demonstrate Hobbes’s hidden agreement with it by analyzing his objection to Descartes’s first Meditation. Second, I show that Hobbes and Descartes both retreat into consciousness in order to deal with the possibility of deception on the behalf of God. Third, I trace Hobbes’s rational justification for entertaining that very possibility. Fourth, I bring forward Hobbes’s certain principle, that God is incomprehensible. Fifth, I demonstrate Hobbes’s rationalization for rendering nature incomprehensible in turn. From this key insight, the differences between the two philosophers stand out more. Whereas Descartes rids himself of the possibility of a deceiving God, Hobbes does not. Sixth, I show that Descartes needs to rid himself of that possibility in order to have a basis for science, Hobbes’s science is such that he does not need to rid himself of that possibility. My investigation ends by considering both Hobbes’s and Descartes’s stance on nature, in relation to politics. I find that Hobbes’s principle is much more practical that Descartes’s principle. Hobbes’s principle is shown to be much more instructive and sustainable for human life. In conclusion, this analysis of the origins, principles, and orientation of the two philosopher’s thought brings forward the overarching question, whether the recovery of value and meaning is to be brought about in nature, or in civilization.
Date: August 2015
Creator: Gorescu, Gabriela

The Political Philosophy of Rabelais’s Pantagruel: Reconciling Thought and Action

Description: Political thinkers of the Renaissance, foremost among them Niccolò Machiavelli and Desiderius Erasmus, authored works commonly referred to as “mirrors of princes.” These writings described how princes should rule, and also often recommended a certain arrangement or relationship between the intellectual class and the political powers. François Rabelais’s five books of Pantagruel also depict and recommend a new relationship between these elements of society. For Rabelais, the tenets of a philosophy that he calls Pantagruelism set the terms between philosophers and rulers. Pantagruelism, defined in Rabelais’s Quart Livre as “gaiety of spirit confected in contempt for fortuitous things,” suggest a measured attitude toward politics. Rabelais’s prince, Pantagruel, accordingly rejects the tendencies of ancient thinkers such as Diogenes the Cynic who viewed politics as futile. Yet Pantagruel also rejects the anti-theoretical disposition of modern thinkers such as Machiavelli who placed too much confidence in politics. I demonstrate how Rabelais warns against the philosophers’ entrance into public service, and how he simultaneously promotes a less selfish philosophy than that of Diogenes. I argue that Pantagruel’s correction of his friend Panurge through the consultations of experts regarding the latter’s marriage problem shows that fortune will always trouble human life and politics. I also argue that Pantagruel’s rule over the kingdom of Utopia exemplifies a Socratic form of rule—reluctant rule—which relies on a trust that necessity (embodied in the Tiers Livre in the Pantagruelion plant) and not fortune (embodied in the Tiers Livre in Panurge’s future wife) governs the world, including the political world.
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Date: August 2015
Creator: Haglund, Timothy

Foreign Sponsorship and the Development of Rebel Parties

Description: This dissertation examines the emergence, survival, performance, and national impact of rebel parties following negotiated settlements. Building on a growing literature examining the environmental and organizational factors affecting insurgent-to-party transformations, this dissertation asks why some insurgent organizations thrive as political parties in post-conflict environments and others fail to make such a transformation. I propose that foreign actors play a pivotal role in the formation of what I call “protégé parties,” which are better equipped to make the transformation into political parties than other rebel groups. Further, different kinds of sponsors have varying effects on transformation. Empirical analysis supports these propositions, finding that protégé parties with authoritarian sponsorship are better equipped to develop than those backed by democracies or no one.
Date: December 2015
Creator: Marshall, Michael C.

The Counterinsurgency Dilemma: The Causes and Consequences of State Repression of Human Rights in Civil Wars

Description: In this project a theory of adaptive differential insurgency growth by the mechanism of repression driven contagion is put forth to explain variation in the membership and spatial expansion of insurgencies from 1981 to 1999. As an alternative to the dominant structural approaches in the civil war literature, Part 1 of the study proposes an interactive model of insurgency growth based on Most and Starr's opportunity and willingness framework. The findings suggest that state capacity, via its impact on state repressive behavior, plays an important gatekeeping function in selecting which minor insurgencies can grow into civil war, but contributes little to insurgency growth directly. In Part 2 of the study, I directly examine variation in insurgency membership and geographical expansion as a function of repression driven contagion. I find that repression increases the overall magnitude of insurgency activity within states, while at the same time reducing the density of insurgency activity in any one place. Despite an abundance of low intensity armed struggles against a highly diverse group of regimes around the world, I find an extremely strong and robust regularity: where repression is low - insurgencies don't grow.
Date: May 2010
Creator: Quinn, Jason Michael

Montesquieu, Diversity, and the American Constitutional Debate

Description: It has become something of a cliché for contemporary scholars to assert that Madison turned Montesquieu on his head and thereafter give little thought to the Frenchman’s theory that republics must remain limited in territorial size. Madison did indeed present a formidable challenge to Montesquieu’s theory, but I will demonstrate in this dissertation that the authors of the Federalist Papers arrived at the extended sphere by following a theoretical pathway already cemented by the French philosopher. I will also show that Madison’s “practical sphere” ultimately concedes to Montesquieu that excessive territorial size and high levels of heterogeneity will overwhelm the citizens of a republic and enable the few to oppress the many. The importance of this dissertation is its finding that the principal mechanism devised by the Federalists for dealing with factions—the enlargement of the sphere—was crafted specifically for the purpose of moderating interests, classes, and sects within an otherwise relatively homogeneous nation. Consequently, the diverse republic that is America today may be exposed to the existential threat anticipated by Montesquieu’s theory of size—the plutocratic oppression of society by an elite class that employs the strategy of divide et impera.
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Date: December 2015
Creator: Drummond, Nicholas W.

Understanding News Media Consumption and Political Attitudes and Behavior in Latin America

Description: News media consumption is vital to understanding democracy in Latin America. Democracy in the region lacks consolidation that may be encouraged by the ability of news media to shape individuals' political attitudes and behaviors. Yet, we know very little about how citizens of Latin American countries consume news media or how that consumption affects attitudes and behavior. This study offers a region-wide examination of the factors that shape news media consumption and the effects of that consumption on individuals in the region. To explore this topic, I examine survey data from the 2008 Latin American Public Opinion Project in 18 Latin American countries. I argue that news media promote democratic attitudes and political behavior by increasing the symbolic value of democracy and by supplementing those symbols with information that further encourages democratic attitudes and political participation. Additionally, political behavior is not temporally proximate to political behaviors such as voting. This necessitates a mediated path for news media consumption to influence participation through political interest, civil society participation and democratic attitudes. My findings illustrate that each news medium type (TV, radio, newspaper) must be considered separately from each other type. I find that news media consumption has little effect on attitudes. The effect of news media consumption on behavior is best understood as mediated paths through political interest and civil society participation. An additional analysis examines the state of internet use in the region. In total, this project offers a broad understanding of how news media consumption affects individual-level democracy in Latin America.
Date: May 2011
Creator: Salzman, Ryan

The Enemy of My Enemy: International Alliances Against Transnational Terrorist Organizations

Description: A dearth of pre-existing research in the field prompted this thesis on whether traditional econometric analyses of war deterrent alliances are applicable to modern alliances for counter terror purposes. Apparent foundational and contextual differences between the two types of alliances and the costs and benefits member nations derive from each lead the author to theorize that factors contributing to the formation of each alliance are fundamentally similar. Multiple types of statistical models are used to measure variables from the Correlates of War and Polity datasets combined with custom variables in a new dataset concerning major transnational terrorist attacks and the resultant alliances in testing the effect of traditionally contributing formation factors on alliances against terrorism. The results indicate that some contributing factors are similar, extant analysis tools have utility and that further investigation is justified.
Date: December 2010
Creator: Berthume, Joshua Guy

Schoolyard Politics: Ethics and Language at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Description: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been both contentious and successful. By examining the ICTY from a Levinasian ethical standpoint, we might be able to understand how the court uses language to enforce ethical and moral standards upon post-war societies. Using linguistic methods of analysis combined with traditional data about the ICTY, I empirically examine the court using ordinary least squares (OLS) in order to show the impact that language has upon the court's decision making process. I hypothesize that the court is an ethical entity, and therefore we should not see any evidence of bias against Serbs and that language will provide a robust view of the court as an ethical mechanism.
Date: December 2010
Creator: Hatcher, Robert

Europeanization and the Rise of Extremist Parties

Description: The research question addressed by this study is: what is the relationship between Europeanization and the rise of extremist parties? In particular I examine the impact of Europeanization on the rise of extreme right parties in Europe from 1984 to 2006. Europeanization in this paper is defined as a process whereby the transformation of governance at the European level and European integration as a whole has caused distinctive changes in domestic politics. This process of Europeanization is one part of a structure of opportunities for extremist parties (which also include social, economic, and electoral factors). Although this study finds that Europeanization does not have a statistically significant effect it is still an important factor when examining domestic political phenomenon in Europe.
Date: December 2011
Creator: Dague, Jennifer Lee

Beggars, Brides, and Bards: The Political Philosophy of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

Description: To do justice to Shakespeare’s comprehensive moral and political thought this paper seeks to discover what we can learn from the political philosophy of his largely neglected comedy, Taming of the Shrew. Not only does this endeavor provide a valuable forgotten link within the critical analyses of the theorists, but it also corrects the various misinterpretations of the play among contemporary critics. I argue that the play surveys various key themes that are rooted in classical political philosophy – such as education, the problems of anger, and the dynamic between nature and convention – and takes into consideration how they apply to modern man. Shakespeare borrows Plato’s idea that eroticism is central to education and explicitly references Ovid’s love books to reexamine our conceptions about one’s formation of character, the proper standards for judging the ideal mate, and the effects of these issues on the stability of the community. I also submit an innovative explanation of the relation between the induction and the main plot. Taken together they exhibit a critique of the role of the poet and his art in modern civil society.
Date: August 2011
Creator: Murphy, Stephanie Miranda