Tag: religion and politics

How praising Trump as a religious freedom champion will undermine Uighur advocacy

The US Congress recently introduced bills that would call on the Trump Administration to press China over its treatment of the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group.  This would seem to be a good fit, as Trump has been critical of China throughout his time in office. And religious freedom–under which this would initiative would fall–seems to be the one area of human rights his Administration cares about. But any US pressure on China will be undermined by the similarity between some of China’s Uighur policies and the Trump Administration’s Muslim travel ban. This relates to a broader point I’ve been trying to raise (unsuccessfully) with international religious freedom advocates who praise Trump: he may implement a few policies in line with your initiatives, but the overall tenor of this Administration will undermine the cause.

The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that has been horribly repressed by the Chinese government. China had initially placed strict controls on Xinjiang–the region in which most Uighurs live–for alleged counterterrorism reasons. This expanded into broader restrictions on Uighur’s way of life, targeting their faith. China has tried to force Uighurs to act contrary to their faith, even requiring Uighur shopowners to sell alcohol. This recently escalated into the detention of Uighurs in concentration camps in which they will be “re-educated.”

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Is Syria Infecting the Middle East?

800px-Azaz_Syria_during_the_Syrian_Civil_War_Missing_front_of_HouseThis is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter received his PhD from Georgetown University in May 2013, and was a Fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia during 2012-2013. His research focuses on religion and foreign policy; he has also written on terrorism and religious conflict.

A recent article in The New York Times illustrates much of what, in my opinion, is concerning about US debate over the crisis in Syria. The piece makes the bold claim that the conflict in Syria is not only affecting the region, it is infecting it with sectarian tensions. The authors use dramatic language, like “a contagious sectarian conflict,” “shaking the foundations of countries cobbled together,” and “simmering” ethnic tensions in the region.

The authors committed a bit of a taste faux pas by combining public health, architectural and cooking metaphors in one relatively short article. But if readers can get beyond these overwrought images, they might notice another thing: there’s not much evidence to back up their broad claims. Continue reading


What Political Science Says About Papal Elections

Given the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of this month, the first bishop of Rome to do so since the middle of the last millennium, the college of cardinals will soon convene to elect his successor.

Political scientists Forrest Maltzman, Melissa Schwartzberg, and Lee Sigelman researched how Pope John Paul II changed the papal constitution to force an outcome. As they wrote after Benedict’s selection in 2005,

Officially, Ratzinger’s selection was attributed to the will of God … The more immediate source of this outcome, however, was a factor about which political scientists can justifiably claim considerable expertise: the rules under which the election was held. Indeed, Pope John Paul II was certainly aware that these rules would shape the outcome of the election: otherwise there would have been no need for him to modify them.

As Maltzman, Schwartzberg, and Sigelman discuss, the papal constitution was reshaped in part because of the influence of consultant (and Nobel Prize winner) Kenneth J. Arrow, who helped shaped the Pontifical Academy’s voting rules to guarantee that the conclave could not be deadlocked.

Update: It turns out that since Benedict’s elevation, he has returned the papal elections to the traditional two-thirds margin. This could well result in a longer papal conclave than the last one (which was fast). For the Church, this could be a little bit of a problem, as a lengthy conclave during the Lenten season could leave the hierarchy without a Pope during Easter. Presumably, of course, Benedict’s move away from the Ken Arrow voting rules was also strategic; perhaps he feels confident that “his” man will be elected under a two-thirds rule. That could mean that the next pope is simply a younger, healthier, equally conservative Benedict supporter. (Thanks to Kevin Collins.)

Second Update: Josep Colomer and Iain McLean, “Electing Popes: Approval Balloting and Qualified-Majority Rule”, Journal of Interdisciplinary History (1998). A useful history of papal elections:

This article demonstrates that successive reforms in the rules for electing popes during the Middle Ages can be explained as a series of rational responses to political problems faced by the Church and by successive electors. Although the particular forms that these developments took could not have been predicted in advance, because they depended on certain contingencies (such as the unusual utility function of Celestine V), the process as a whole is illuminated from the perspective of social choice theory.

(Thanks to Kevin Collins.)

Update 3 Not peer reviewed but this undergrad research paper by Adam Brickley got the year of Benedict’s removal as pope right and has a neat-looking scorecard of potential papal successors. (Astonishingly, Brickley might have gotten Sarah Palin named VP candidate.

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Support the Establishment of a New ISA Section: Religion and IR

Ron Hassner has long discussed forming an ISA section on Religion and IR. After attending the last ISA, talking to more people with work that touches on the subject, and seeing the continuing increase in papers that address religion and world politics, Ron is moving forward. If (and only if) you are an ISA member, please take a moment to sign the petition. We need a hundred qualified signatures.


And the winner of Televangelist or Presidential Candidate Is….

Babbler! Who guessed C.

A is Joel Osteen, purveyor of the prosperity gospel — God wants you to make money. He seems like a nice enough chap, not mean-spirited, but as a former Catholic, I still have a good deal of alms for the poor in me. I don’t like conspicuous consumption; it seems sinful. But it is a perfect mix for social conservatives who don’t want to be taxed!

B is Billy Graham from the 1970s. Everyone knows Billy Graham.

C is Rick Perry. He said all faiths were welcome, then starts in on the “living Christ” with references to the crucifixion. Seems likely to be a deal-breaker for a lot of folks. But it looks like he is running for President. A Texan with cowboy boots who prays for guidance on major public policy issues and does not speak well in public (watch the rally). Haven’t we already done that? Jesus, again?! What’s next? Tammie Fae replaces Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?

(By the way, since when do evangelicals fast? I thought that was a thing for us Catholics, or at least the non-lapsed ones. Don’t they hate us Catholics? I mean, the Pope has been trying to get a Catholic elected President for years so he can control the US from the Vatican.)

D is, as Patrick T. Jackson (I know he likes to use his middle name, but this makes him sound like Samuel L. Jackson, which makes me happy) notes, Robert Schuller, creator of the first real mega-church. It is in Orange County, has gone bankrupt, and is locked in a brutal fight between members of the family and board members who tried to oust Schuller. My mom used to listen to him before going to mass because Catholicism is so uninspiring. Apparently his closing prayer, offered after every sermon, was optioned by Civilization IV. I really have no idea what that is, but I will trust my nerd readers. NEEEERRRRRDS!


It’s Time to Play: Presidential Candidate or Televangelist??!!

Can you identify which of these prayers was offered by Texas Governor Rick Perry in his prayer rally in Texas today? Yes, the Rick Perry who might run for President. The politician who, if he did run, it would be his nomination to lose. And which are those of prominent televangelists? Bet you can’t! Please respond below in the comments section with your guess, and I’ll report the results soon. No cheating! Wouldn’t it be fun to have a preacher for a President? Hurray!

Your choices:

A) Lord God, I would ask that not one person leave here without knowing your son Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Draw them by your spirit. Let them feel your love and presence as they have never felt it before.

B) In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love. In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.

C) We know a loving god. We know the greatest darkness comes just before the morning. We know there is hope for those who trust in him who fills our hearts with joy and gives us life. This god who knows our imperfections. He didn’t leave us to live a life in our sins, but paid the price for them. He who knew no sin. He gave his life in ransom for many.

D) May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine upon you and be gracious onto you. And may god give you peace. In your going out and your coming in, in your lying down and your rising up, in your labor and in your leisure. Until that day before you come before Jesus.


My Summer with Religious Rights

I’ve been on the road most of the summer (8 of the past 10 weeks) so the blogging has been quite light. I spent twelve days in Israel and then a bit more than three weeks doing research in Europe followed by my first real vacation in more than a decade — a three week car trip with my kids out to visit family and friends in the upper Midwest.

One of the more intriguing elements that linked all three trips was the presence of conservative, religious politics everywhere I went. I talked to Jewish settlers on the West Bank, I spent time with several young (and newly self-identified) conservative Muslims from Sarajevo and Paris, and I spent three weeks with conservative, Christian evangelicals in North Dakota, central Minnesota, and western Michigan.

Despite the differences in religion and world experiences, I am struck by the similarity of these groups to each other. Here are a few observations:

1. Perhaps the most obvious observation is that religious identity is the most salient identity held by individuals in each of these communities and, while I’ve interacted with each of these communities for years, the beliefs are more highly political and exclusivist than I’ve experienced in the past. Each community feels besieged and perceives there are coordinated attacks by “others” to de-legitimize their beliefs and their culture.

They each see existential threats everywhere they look, but the central threat is really coming from liberalism. Secularlism, human rights, globalization and open markets, free trade, labor and capital mobility, migration (legal or not), etc… are all seen as posing fundamental threats to their (perceived) way of life.

2. It is not the zeal or energy that is striking or new, rather it is the casualness and ease with which so many members of these communities express their intolerance, xenophobia, and even outright racism. There isn’t even a pretense of politeness or basic civility, let alone any curiosity of the other. I had a lengthy conversation with several young Bosnian Muslims who repeatedly invoked Allah to convey collective guilt not just on the Serbs but on all the “filthy” and “genocidal” Serbs, Christians, and Jews. I heard references to Palestinians as collectively “lazy” and “bred to be terrorists.” In North Dakota, I heard repeated racial epithets (the n-word) directed at President Obama and several references to his “godless Islamic cult.” In some instances, complete strangers approached my conversations with various groups to add additional diatribes against the “other.” I was really astounded by the ease with which such raw, emotional, and racist language was expressed.

3. Each community is adamantly anti-authority and says it “just wants to be left alone” from the influence of the state. Settlers in the West Bank settlement of Offra showed us settlement homes that were demolished by the Israeli government as part of the peace process several years back. The settlers have left the ruins untouched as a monument of their struggle against the Israeli government and the peace process. The Sarajevo Muslims railed against the the Bosnian central government for its efforts to integrate communities, to develop tax codes and regulatory infrastructures in Bosnia. And, the evangelical Tea Partiers in the upper Midwest blasted America’s “socialist” federal government.

And yet, despite all of their protests, all three groups are wholly dependent on the state for their basic existence — the settlers could not live in the West Bank without the Israeli government providing electricity, water, transportation and communication infrastrasture — let alone security. The Bosnian Muslims would not have a unified community or protection without a viable central government. And, the rural tea partiers — the farmers and ranchers — could not exist without a federal government that keeps them afloat with extensive agricultural subsidies and direct assistance to maintain rural electricity, communication, and transportation — the Dakotas rank in the top five of per capita federal dollars to states. The cognitive dissonance is palpable….

4. Many hold militant and apocalyptic views. Many of the folks I talked to believe the world is in serious trouble — politically and economically. The settlers in Offra told my group that there will be civil war if the Israeli government tries to demolish more houses or dismantle settlements. The Bosnian Muslims — most who were too young to fight in the Bosnian War in the 1990s — warned that they were ready to finish the job that their fathers and brothers were unable to finish against the infidels. And, in the upper Midwest, the gun culture includes far more emphasis on automatic and semi-automatic weapons designed to protect “God and Country” from “Obama’s socialism” than the emphasis on hunting with shotguns and hunting rifles I grew up with.

It is not surprising that such views seem to be rising — especially in a time of global recession. But, it would be a mistake to conclude that these views are simply a function of economics. We’ve seen fairly consistent trends in the rise of religious fundamentalism across the globe for the better part of the past twenty years. Liberalism has become more deeply embedded in global institutions and practices in the past several decades, but it also has triggered widespread reactions. Still, with global liberal economic models performing poorly, we’re likely to see more anxiety and the rise of more populist demagogues seeking to exploit that anxiety.



If you are trying to follow the news about Haiti, I recommend reading Mark Leon Goldberg’s UN Dispatch. If you are looking to donate to the relief effort, then check out The Daily Beast’s rundown of NGOs operating effectively in Haiti.

Goldberg and I agree that Reverend Pat Robertson is a fool. Media Matters transcribed his January 13 comments about the Haitian tragedy:

PAT ROBERTSON: And, you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.” True story. And so, the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.”

And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.

I’ve previously blogged about Robertson’s idiocy, but this latest comment is truly abhorrent given the circumstances. Haitian leaders are estimating between 100,000 and 500,000 dead, but nobody really knows right now.


The sources of Uganda’s anti-gay bias

The NY Times ran a story this morning on how three American evangelical Christians influenced the gay death penalty bill now pending in Uganda.

While the emphasis in the story is on the influence of the American evangelical Christians, there is a line in the NYTimes article that deserves more attention:

Many Africans view homosexuality as an immoral Western import, and the continent is full of harsh homophobic laws. In northern Nigeria, gay men can face death by stoning. (my emphasis)

Likewise, Andrew Sullivan picks up the story and blasts the Americans. But he too has a line that is added without comment:

…in Africa, the public consensus is so anti-gay already that the consequences of this demonization are felt much more immediately and brutally.

This begs the question: Where do all these laws and the anti-gay public consensus in Africa come from?

In his 2002 book titled The Next Christendom: the coming of global Christianity, Philip Jenkins from Penn State University noted that nearly one third of the planet (just over 2 billion people) are Christians with the most rapid growth in past several decades coming in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. He notes that by 2025, both Africa and Latin America likely will have more Christians than Europe and all three continents will far outpace North America.

Because of the degree of poverty in the global south, for the past several decades many American commentators have simply assumed that the religion of the developing world would move toward a more fervent liberation theology with a focus on global redistribution of wealth.

Yet, Jenkins finds a different trend:

At present, the most immediately apparent difference between the older and new churches is that South Christians are far more conservative in terms of both beliefs and moral teaching. The denominations that are triumphing all across the global South are stalwartly traditional or even reactionary by the standards of the economically advanced nations. The churches that have made most dramatic progress in the global South have been either Roman Catholic, of a traditionalist and fideistic kind, or radical Protestant sects, evangelical or Pentecostal….

…These newer churches preach deep personal faith and communal orthodoxy, mysticism and Puritanism, all founded on clear scriptural authority. They preach messages that, to a Westerner, appear simplistically charismatic, visionary, and apocalyptic…..On present evidence, a Southernized Christian future should be distinctly conservative.

While we may be able to trace the specific influence of this pending legislation to the visit of three American evangelical Christians, the broader trend of anti-gay bias throughout the continent is almost certainly rooted in the rise of more traditionalist, conservative theology. And, if Jenkins’ demographic projections are correct, the rise of this traditionalist theology throughout the global South will have much broader socio-political effects throughout the world in the years to come….


Losing my religion (or Jimmy Carter follows me)

In an article in The Age, Jimmy Carter recently renounced his membership in the Southern Baptist Church, arguing that “women and girls have been discriminated against for too long using a twisted interpretation of the word of God.” Particularly, Carter objected to statements by the Southern Baptist Convention “claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.” Carter links this sort of belief to justificatory logic for slavery, violence, forced prostitution, and the failure to make and enforce rape laws.

In a 1995 op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal too old and obscure to be located online, I renounced my membership in the Southern Baptist Church, arguing that the misogyny and heterosexism of Southern Baptist doctrine was something no God could want.

Carter’s article fluctuates between brilliant feminism and over-rhetorical politicking, but includes some important food for thought. The “lowlights” include his declaration of his membership in a group called the Elders and an unsophisticated understanding of gender hierarchy which seems to blame it almost entirely on men’s manipulation. While criticizing the Southern Baptist Church, Carter generalizes about the world’s religions – and, while his recognition of the link between patriarchy and religion is important, it would be nice if Carter recognized that all religions were not “created equal,” and have different (and different level) gender hierarchy problems. The highlights of Carter’s announcement/article, however, are surprisingly insightful.

For example, Carter argues that these religious beliefs “help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.” Inherent in this and other statements in Carter’s argument is clear understanding that gender hierarchy is structural, and that structural gender hierarchy negatively impacts women’s lives on a daily basis all around the world. The second important recognition that Carter makes is nearer to the end of the article, where he points out that “it is not just women and girls who suffer [from gender hierarchy]. It damages all of us.” This is a realization that gets way too little play in the policy world – that gender hierarchy hurts the people “on top” as well as the people “on bottom” of that hierarchy. I applaud Carter for being able to see this, and concluding that “it is time we had the courage to challenge these views.”

Still, the egocentric part of me was tempted to reread Carter’s statement next to mine, and recall what I was thinking when I renounced my membership in the Southern Baptist Church. My column talked about many of the issues that Carter’s does, but also talked about the “Disney boycott” (where the Southern Baptist Convention objected to Disney’s decision to recognize and insure employees’ domestic partners) and other heterosexist policies. It also, while renouncing my membership in the Southern Baptist Church, urged the Convention to rethink its position and volunteered to enter into a dialogue to think about these problems more seriously. Reading both my column from years ago and Carter’s now, though, my major complaint is this: really? you think you can just quit patriarchal institutions? I think that Carter’s heart is in the right place, but I also think that we can’t disassociate ourselves with patriarchal society – we have to work with, and within, it. And maybe, for someone who otherwise agrees with the Southern Baptist Church like Carter claims to, that means dealing with it within that patriarchal society.


The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe

Princeton University Press officially released The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires, and International Change last week, but copies have yet to arrive at online retailers.

However, you can preorder the book from Amazon right now, at a significant 27% discount, which brings the price down from $29.95 to 22.01 [update at 21h10m: currently 33% off at $20.21; gotta love that algorithm]. Plus, if you order through the Duck, you will automatically contribute to my daughter’s birthday fund!

Why should you purchase a copy? I can offer a veritable plethora of reasons. It has a very pretty cover, comes complete with artfully crafted original maps by Andrew Rolfson, and will change the way you think about international relations. Also, every copy sold makes it more likely that I’ll receive tenure.

Okay, I lied about the last two. But if you want to see what the blurbs say, read on….

“With this book, Daniel Nexon brings an assertive and iconoclastic voice to an already vibrant conversation among international relations theorists about how the modern international system took shape in early modern Europe. His stress on the combustible power of religious ideas and his innovative model of power and authority amount to a sophisticated and creative explanation of the international politics of this period and indeed of any period–including, he arrestingly argues, our own.”–Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame

“Daniel Nexon has woven a magisterial account of the impact of the Reformation on international politics. Using network theory and institutionalist analysis, he deftly crafts a composite theory that is relevant not only to the understanding of international change but also to the study of composite polities, empires, and nation-states. His study, furthermore, suggests how religion and institutional change can braid together to produce fundamental challenges to the existing international order. In so doing, he not only provides insights into the past but illuminates contemporary processes as well.”–Hendrik Spruyt, Northwestern University

“In its depth of theoretical insight and subtlety of reasoning, few recent books in international relations and history rival what Daniel Nexon has accomplished in this impressive piece of scholarship. The book’s fresh conceptualization opens new vistas on the past experiences, present conditions, and future trajectories of international relations. No theoretically inclined student can afford bypassing Nexon’s challenging ideas.”–Peter J. Katzenstein, Cornell University

“This is an extremely impressive book. Nexon not only illuminates a crucial and controversial moment in the history of international relations, but he does so in the context of making a vital theoretical and methodological contribution to the field. This is a very important study, and a superb piece of work.”–Richard Little, University of Bristol

“This book makes a significant contribution not only to international relations theory, but also to comparative politics. Nexon develops an innovative and productive way of viewing changing patterns of international relations, and he helps us to transcend the often-artificial divide between domestic and international politics. He also successfully transcends the debate between materialists and idealists. This book should be of interest to a broad audience.”–Mlada Bukovansky, Smith College

And you know that people asked to write endorsements never, never, ever exaggerate the quality of the product.

So what are you waiting for? Go justify my advance and increase the size of my daughter’s bloated playmobil collection.


A less technical version

For those of you who may have found my discussion of the argument befuddling, I give you a less technical version below the fold.

My argument begins with the most banal of claims: we cannot understand the political impact of the Protestant Reformations without reference to the institutional structures and dynamics of early modern European states. How, my readers might ask, could it be otherwise? Some of the most influential international-relations literature on international change in early modern Europe, I answer, pays very little attention to patterns of resistance and rule. Scholars too often content themselves with taking a “before” and “after” picture and then explaining the changes in-between primarily through an assessment of the content of new religious beliefs and identities. This kind of analysis provides us with a great many insights, but it spends too much time in the realm of the spirit—of ideas, doctrines, and what constructivists call constitutive norms—and not enough in the profane world of political disputes over taxation and governance.

Princes, magnates, urban leaders, and ordinary people in early modern Europe pursued wealth, power, security, and status through the medium of existing authority relations and well-rehearsed forms of political contention. Their political struggles, within the confines of existing political communities, almost invariably involved disputes over the extent of local rights and privileges, the scope and distribution of taxation, and the relative power of different social classes. Such conflicts often included what we would now call an “international” dimension. Princes, magnates, and even urban leaders sometimes negotiated, conspired, or allied with outside powers. Rulers exploited internal conflicts to advance their power-political interests and make good their territorial claims.

Early modern European states were neither radically decentralized “feudal” entities nor modern nation-states. Many historians now use the term “composite state” to describe the heterogeneous political communities that dominated the early modern European landscape. Whether confederative or imperial, ruled by hereditary or elected princes, or operating as autonomous republics, most early modern European states were composed of numerous subordinate political communities linked to central authorities through distinctive contracts specifying rights and obligations. These subordinate political communities often had their own social organizations, identities, languages, and institutions. Local actors jealously guarded whatever autonomy they enjoyed. Subjects expected rulers to uphold their contractual relationships: to guarantee what they perceived as “customary” rights and immunities in matters of taxation and local control.

By the end of the fifteenth century, dynastic norms and practices almost completely dominated European high politics. Rulers and would-be rulers competed to extend not only their own honor, prestige, and territory, but also that of their dynastic line. They did so through principles—marriage, conquest, inheritance, and succession—that, as Vivek Sharma argues, “were the primary organizing principles of European government for over six centuries.” As Richard Mackenney notes, for “those who governed, the interests of the family were all important” and that, in consequence, “the survival or extinction of the dynasty was the difference between peace and war, and the accidents of inheritance shaped the power blocs of Europe as a whole.”

Dynastic rulers enjoyed important advantages over other political leaders, including superior access to the means of warfare and greater political legitimacy in the context of political expansion and consolidation. Such advantages meant that the most significant pathway of state formation in the late medieval and early modern periods was dynastic and agglomerative. In Wayne te Brake’s words, “most Europeans lived within composite states that had been cobbled together from preexisting political units by a variety of aggressive ‘princes’ employing a standard repertoire of techniques including marriage, dynastic inheritance, and direct conquest.”

Charles of Habsburg’s expansive monarchy presents the most spectacular case of dynastic agglomeration. Between 1515 and 1519, Charles acquired—as a result of contingencies of dynastic marriage, death, insanity, and political maneuvering—a realm including present-day Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, parts of what is now Italy, Germany, and Austria, as well as Spain’s New World possessions. He became King of the Romans and, later, Emperor, which placed him in charge of the unwieldy Holy Roman Empire. His wealth, territories, and his status as Emperor, “raised the spectre of a Habsburg universal monarchy in Europe, fuelled by the bullion of the Indies and the trade of Seville.”

Martin Luther began his public call for reformation of the Catholic Church in 1517. Historians and social scientists continue to debate why, and to what extent, Luther’s actions sparked an explosion of heterodox challenges to the institutional structure and theological principles of the Catholic Church. But his influence, and that of other religious leaders and movements, led to over a century and a half of tumult across Latin Christendom. The Reformations did so, as I have suggested, because of the ways they intersected with the underlying dynamics of early modern European politics.

Early modern European composite states suffered from chronic instabilities. They were, as we have seen, agglomerations of different peoples and territories divided by distinctive interests and identities. They enjoyed comparatively weak coercive and extractive capacity and relied largely on indirect rule through magnates, urban oligarchs, and other elites who often pursued their own interests and agendas. Endemic dynastic conflicts, for their part, outstripped the extractive capacities of early modern states, engendering resistance and rebellion among their subjects. Dynastic composite states, moreover, experienced recurrent succession crises. Dynastic succession only functioned smoothly if a ruler lived long enough to produce a competent male heir old enough to assume the reins of power. In an era of high infant mortality and minimally effective medical care, disputed successions occurred with great frequency.

Many of these sources of instability, however, also conferred specific benefits to dynastic rulers. First, the composite quality of early modern states created strong firewalls against the spread of resistance and rebellion. Because subjects in different holdings had different identities and interests, and because they were ruled via distinctive contractual relations, they had little motivation or capacity to coordinate their resistance against the centralizing impulses of their rulers.

Second, the underlying bargains of composite states reflected and exacerbated the stratification of early modern European society along divisions of class and status. Composite states distributed rights and privileges among urban centers, aristocrats, and rural society in such a way that for one group to gain an advantage meant a diminishment in the position of another. Rulers exploited these fault lines through strategies of extending differential privileges, such as granting exemptions to nobles to secure their loyalty during periods of urban unrest.

Subjects riven by class and regional differences could not easily join together to oppose their rulers. Dynastic agglomerations, therefore, usually only suffered widespread internal conflict under three conditions: when exogenous shocks, such as famines, led to generalized unrest, when rulers severely overreached in their demands and thus provoked simultaneous uprisings, or when a succession crisis drew in contending elites from across the dynastic agglomeration in the high stakes struggle over who would control the center.

Early modern struggles over central and local control, taxation, and the distribution of rights and privileges were often contentious; they usually ended in blood and tears. But only under specific circumstances did they spiral out of control and risk collapsing central authority. The spread of heterodox religious movements intersected with sources of chronic instability in early modern Europe and made them more dangerous. At the most basic level, once a dispute over tax collection took on religious dimensions, the stakes became even higher: the ultimate fate of one’s immortal soul. The interjection of religious disputes into routine political disagreements rendered them much more difficult to resolve.

The spread of heterodox religious movements also created new social ties centering around common religious identities and grievances. These ties often crossed regional, class, and even state boundaries. In doing so, they created the potential for the most dangerous kinds of resistance to rulers—insurrections that were well-funded, militarily capable, and highly motivated, and that mobilized diverse peoples and interests against their rulers.

Religious disagreements were neither necessary nor sufficient to produce such rebellions. Religious conflict played, at best, an indirect part in the Catalan (1640-1652) and Portuguese (1640-1668) revolts against the Habsburgs or the French Fronde (1648-1653). All of the major “wars of religion,” in fact, involved disputes over some combination of taxation, local autonomy, succession, factional control of the court. Religious movements, particularly if they had limited class or regional appeal, might actually hinder individuals and groups from forming effective alliances against their ruler’s demands. The Dutch Revolt (1572-1609), the Schmalkaldic Wars (1546-1547), the French Wars of Religion (1562-1629), and other religious-political conflicts in early modern Europe all display aspects of this complex relationship, in which the spread of reformation interacted with the structure and dynamics of resistance and rule to produce both a variety of different specific outcomes and an overall crisis in the European political order.

What then, were the ultimate implications of the Protestant Reformations on international change in early modern Europe? Not, I argue, the emergence of a sovereign-territorial state system in 1648. The Reformations stretched early modern states to their limits. They nearly collapsed the French composite state and produced an independent Dutch polity locked in conflict with their erstwhile Habsburg overlords. The Reformations directly undermined the Habsburg bid for hegemony and weakened the dynastic agglomerative path of state formation. It expanded the conditions of possibility for the future construction of national, sovereign states by linking religious differences to territory. As J.H. Elliott writes of Castile and England: “as strong core states of composite monarchies,” both, “sharpened their own distinctive identities during the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century, developing an acute, and aggressive, sense of their unique place in God’s providential design.”

As many international-relations theorists note, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries marked the rise of new theories of sovereignty, of notions of “reason of state,” and of the balance of power. The Reformations contributed to these developments. Most of the important theories of sovereignty developed in the period were reactions to the turmoil produced by religious conflict. Conflicts between dynastic and religious interests forced statesmen and scholars to justify their policies through doctrines of “necessity” and other conceptual innovations that held, in essence, that long-term religious goals should be made subservient, in the short-term, to security and power. We cannot fully appreciate such conceptual changes in the absence of an understanding the practical political consequences of the Reformations.

State institutions, if not the specific contours of dynastic agglomerations, weathered the storm of the Reformations. This fact suggests that we need to be extremely careful about overplaying the broad impact of religious contention on the emergence of the modern state. Shifts in the nature of warfare and economic relations ultimately contributed more to the emergence of a Europe composed of sovereign-territorial and national-states than did the introduction of new religious ideas. But recognizing the more subtle impact of the Reformations on European state formation should not blind us to their importance in the study of international relations and international change.


Answers for Brad DeLong

Brad reads my announcement of manuscript delivery, and raises a few important questions:

1. Do you really want to write “Franche-Compté” rather than “Franche-Comté”?

2. Do you really want to leave blurb-readers (and us!) hanging as to what your theory of state formation and the Wars of the Reformation actually is?

3. Jan de Vries and I, after class last Wednesday, were discussing why it was that transoceanic trade seems to have done something to strengthen the forces of tolerance, economic liberty, and representative government in the United Provinces and the United Kingdom, and to have done a great deal to strengthen the forces of religious intolerance and autocracy in Spain. Jan mentioned that he had somewhere at some point in the past seen a map of the travels of Charles of Ghent, and I would dearly love to be able to track it down…

Answers, of a sort, after the fold

1. Of course not. I hope that remains the most embarrassing error in the materials, but I expect additional misspellings, factual problems, and other sundry mistakes remain to be discovered.

2. That’s a fair point, and probably good immediate evidence for why Princeton University Press will rewrite the blurb. For semi-immediate gratification, here’s a (pre-copyedited) synopsis of the argument that I’ve cribbed together from the book’s introductory chapter:

This book addresses, first and foremost, this oversight: I provide an explanation for why the Protestant Reformations produced a crisis of sufficient magnitude to alter the European balance of power, both within and among even its most powerful political communities. I argue that the key to understanding this impact lies in the analysis of the dynamics of resistance and rule in the composite political communities that dominated the European landscape. Many of the most important political ramifications of the Protestant Reformations did not stem from any sui generis features of religious contention; they resulted from the intersection of heterogeneous religious movements with ongoing patterns of collective mobilization.

Religious contention, given particular formal properties and specific ideational content, triggered up to five processes extremely dangerous to the stability of early modern rule:

• It overcame the institutional barriers that tended to localize resistance against the rulers of composite states, thereby making widespread mobilization against dynastic rulers more likely.

• It undermined the ability of rulers to signal discrete identities to their heterogeneous subjects, thereby eroding their ability to legitimate their policies on a range of issues, from religion to taxation.

• It provided opportunities for intermediaries to enhance their own autonomy vis-à-vis dynastic rulers; religious contention complicated the tradeoffs inherent in the systems of indirect rule found in composite polities.

• It exacerbated cross pressures on rulers—by injecting religious differentiation into the equation, by increasing the likelihood of significant resistance to central demands, and by creating often intense tradeoffs between political and religious objectives.

• It expanded already existing channels, as well as generating new vectors, for the “internationalization” of “domestic” disputes and the “domestication” of inter-state conflicts.

Given the right circumstances—a transnational, cross-class network surrounding religious beliefs and identities—the spread of the Protestant Reformations therefore activated many of the existing vulnerabilities in early modern European rule. Not every instance of religious contention, of course, triggered all of these dynamics. Variation in institutional forms, the choices made by agents, and other contextual factors also influenced how these mechanisms and processes played out in particular times and places. And non-religious contention sometimes triggered similar processes. On balance, however, the injection of religious identities and interests into ongoing patterns of resistance and rule made cascading political crises more likely than they might otherwise have been.

This explanation contributes to this book’s secondary task: to assess the status of the early modern period as a case of international change. Was the early modern period, as Philpott suggests, a “revolution in sovereignty” or otherwise, as traditionally understood in international-relations theory, a key moment in the emergence of the modern state system? My answer involves two claims. On the one hand, the Protestant Reformations shaped the development of the sovereign-territorial order, but in far more modest ways than many international-relations scholars assume. On the other hand, a better analytic approach to the concepts of “continuity and change” in world politics allows us to see what kind of a case of change the Reformations Era represents: one of the rapid emergence of new actors—transnational religious movements—altering the structural opportunities and constraints of power-political competition.

The third, and final, goal of this book is to specify precisely such an analytic framework for the study of international continuity and change. I develop an approach to this problem, called “relational institutionalism,” in the second chapter. It combines key aspects of sociological-relational analysis with historical-institutionalist sensibilities. This framework provides the theoretical infrastructure for my explanation of the book’s primary puzzle, as we all as for how we should understand early modern Europe as an instance of international change. But I also intend it to serve as a novel way of approaching inquiry into continuity and transformation in world politics. Relational institutionalism, I argue, incorporates insights from the major prevailing approaches to the study of international relations; it also provides a way of reconciling some of their apparently very different claims about the fundamental dynamics that drive international relations.

3. I largely avoid the debates over state formation and “regime type,” but I expect that the standard answers apply: differences in institutions, economic and fiscal strategies, and key related choices, explain much of the divergent impact of overseas trade. Jan de Vries, in fact, is far more qualified to provide answers that I am.

A. The Spanish Habsburgs adopted policies very early on that placed a disproportionate tax burden on the productive areas of Castile’s economy while creating significant exemptions for its aristocracy; their bargain, set decisively in motion after the Comuneros revolt, weakened the ability of the Cortes to effectively represent urban interests while, over time, shifting political-economic power increasingly away from them. This wasn’t sufficient to render them irrelevant, but they lost the degree of influence that the “third estate” achieved in England and the Dutch Republic.

B. One would, of course, want to add a great deal about the development of early capitalism in the Low Countries, the conditions that made such developments possible, and the ways in which both England and the Dutch pursued overseas wealth via merchant capitalists intent on penetrating Spanish Habsburg monopolies in the Americas and East Asia.

C. The Spanish Habsburgs, moreover, resolved their “pluralism” problems by effectively excluding Protestants, suppressing (and then expelling the bulk of) the Moriscos, and so forth. Britain, and the Dutch in particular, ultimately accommodated–even if, by contemporary standard, in a fairly limited way–to the existence of large religious groups in their territories that did not accept the doctrines and rituals of their state churches. Significant Catholic and non-conforming populations persisted in both polities throughout this period, even, with sometimes violent results, within their state-sanctioned churches. So both developed vibrant trading classes under conditions of religious heterogeneity, while Castile developed neither.

Finally, Deborah Boucoyannis’ dissertation, “Land, Courts and Parliaments: The Hidden Sinews of Power in the Emergence of Constitutionalism”, provides a novel approach to some of these questions.

Re: Charles of Habsburg’s travels. The important point is, as Brad suggests, that he maintained a mobile court. Philip II ended this practice, with consequences that form a part of my account of the dynamics of resistance and rule in the Spanish Monarchy.


Kosovo declares independence

The BBC:

Kosovo’s parliament has unanimously endorsed a declaration of independence from Serbia, in an historic session.

The declaration, read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said Kosovo would be a democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities.

The US and a number of EU countries are expected to recognise Kosovo on Monday.

Serbia’s PM denounced the US for helping create a “false state”. Serbia’s ally, Russia, called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting.

Correspondents say the potential for trouble between Kosovo’s Serbs and ethnic Albanians is enormous.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica blamed the US which he said was “ready to violate the international order for its own military interests”.

“Today, this policy of force thinks that it has triumphed by establishing a false state,” Mr Kostunica said.

“Kosovo is Serbia,” Mr Kostunica said, repeating a well-known nationalist Serb saying.

The Washington Post:

Kosovo’s parliament declared the disputed territory a nation on Sunday, mounting a historic bid to become an “independent and democratic state” backed by the U.S. and European allies but bitterly contested by Serbia and Russia.

Serbia immediately denounced the declaration as illegal, and Russia also rejected it, demanding an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

President Bush said the U.S. would work to prevent violence after the declaration and the European Union appealed for calm, mindful of the risk that the declaration could plunge the turbulent Balkans back into instability.

“Kosovo is a republic _ an independent, democratic and sovereign state,” Kosovo’s parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi said as the chamber burst into applause. Across the capital, Pristina, revelers danced in the streets, fired guns into the air and waved red and black Albanian flags in jubilation at the birth of the world’s newest country.

Sunday’s declaration was carefully orchestrated with the U.S. and key European powers, and Kosovo was counting on swift international recognition that could come as early as Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, Belgium.

Doug Muir thinks independence is the “least bad” outcome. The Serbian Church disagrees, calling for a “state of war.” For once, the Georgians agree with the Russians.

And, in fact:

The breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are planning to ask Russia and the UN to recognise their independence following the declaration of independence by Kosovo, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

“In the near future, Abkhazia will appeal to the Russian parliament and the UN security council with a request to recognise its independence,” self-declared Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh was quoted as saying by Interfax.

“South Ossetia will in the near future appeal to the Commonwealth of Independent States and the UN with a request to recognise our independence,” South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity was quoted as saying by the news agency, referring to a grouping of ex-Soviet states that includes Russia.

Both leaders said the moves were prompted by Kosovo’s decision to declare independence today.

Who will recognize Kosovo?

Diplomats said about 20 EU nations — led by Britain, France, Germany and Italy — are keen to recognize Kosovo’s break from Serbia. However, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Romania are vehemently against it. Slovakia, too, has voiced doubts but could move toward recognizing Kosovo’s statehood, diplomats said.

And over what timeframe?

Not very many advocates of national self-determination actually get states.I expect we’ll be studying this case, and dealing with its effects, for a while.

Chirol has pictures of the celebrations in Germany.

Sofia Echo has a decent backgrounder.



What if a Caliphate had a Seat at the UN?

So this past week I traveled to New York to conduct interviews with representatives of the Holy’s See’s Permanent Obverver Mission to the United Nations as part of my project into norm contestation among global civil society actors during multilateral treaty negotiations.

I found the papal diplomats to be informed, open-minded, friendly and intellectually engaged about human rights and human security. But they didn’t at all like the idea that I was interviewing them as part of a project on “non-state” influences on UN treaty-making.

They imagined I’d be interviewing other governments as well, when in fact they’re on a list otherwise filled by NGOs I’ll be talking to, since the focus of my project is on “global civil society.” (Though one source wittily pointed out that the NGO reps are the least civil actors out there, because they’re not trained as diplomats.)

It’s true the Holy See has the ostensible status of a state for the purposes of multilateral treaty negotiations. It sits on deliberations over UN treaty, declaration and resolution language, and though it doesn’t vote on these documents the Pope chooses whether or not to sign them. Plus the fact that the culture at the UN strives for consensus means any individual actor has a fair amount of influence as a veto player, so the Holy See is in a great position to stick it out until other delegates are worn down and tired of arguing to get language into treaties that reflects its principled positions.

My project isn’t about the Holy See’s status, but these dialogues with my informants got me thinking about the issue. There’s been a lot of criticism over whether the church should have this power relative to other non-state actors – other NGOs have the right to be in the building, and lobby delegates constantly in the hallways, but no other non-state actor has the right to actually sit at the table and negotiate with governments. One of the articles I read as I prepped for this trip suggested that either the Holy See should lose this status or, to be fair, other religions should be represented as well.

Interesting idea, eh? Suppose Saudi Arabia, for example, were to enter into a treaty with the city of Mecca similar to Italy’s treaty with what is now the Vatican City State, and Sunni Islam were to re-establish a caliphate centered in Mecca but territorially distinct from any Muslim majority state, with transnational moral authority over all Sunni Muslims, and then it sent diplomats throughout international society on the model of the Catholic church. Shia Islam could create a parallel Imamte perhaps centered on Tehran.

Would a dynamic like this make for a moderating political Islam, capable of integrating into international society and institutions as the Catholic Church has done, separate from the politics of Islamic governments, though sometimes allied with them; and able to represent Islamic perspectives on issues like the laws of war, family policy, human rights, etc, from outside the politics of the nation-state system? Would it constitute a space from within which the silent moderate Islamic majority could exercise a greater influence on political Islam? Or, would such an institution be vulnerable to capture by extremists and bode ill for a pluralistic international society?



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