How do ‘people power’ movements succeed when modest proportions of the population participate? Here we propose that the effects of social movements increase as they gain momentum. We approximate a simple law drawn from physics: momentum equals mass times velocity (p = mv). We propose that the momentum of dissent is a product of participation (mass) and the number of protest events in a week (velocity). We test this simple physical proposition against panel data on the potential effects of movement momentum on irregular leader exit in African countries between 1990 and 2014, using a variety of estimation techniques. Our findings show that social movements potentially compensate for relatively modest popular support by concentrating their activities in time, thus increasing their disruptive capacity. Notably, these findings also provide a straightforward way for dissidents to easily quantify their coercive potential by assessing their participation rates and increased concentration of their activities over time.
What are the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) on human rights in the next three decades? Precise answers to this question are made difficult by the rapid rate of innovation in AI research and by the effects of human practices on the adaption of new technologies. Precise answers are also challenged by imprecise usages of the term “AI.” There are several types of research that all fall under this general term. We begin by clarifying what we mean by AI. Most of our attention is then focused on the implications of artificial general intelligence (AGI), which entail that an algorithm or group of algorithms will achieve something like superintelligence. While acknowledging that the feasibility of superintelligence is contested, we consider the moral and ethical implications of such a potential development. What do machines owe humans and what do humans owe superintelligent machines?
New article in Foreign Affairs from Carr Center's Zoe Marks and Erica Chenoweth, with Jide Okeke.
A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.
The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.
The primary purpose of this Article is to examine the roles of constitutional courts in contemporary democracies. It aims to demonstrate that such courts perform, in addition to the countermajoritarian role traditionally recognized in constitutional theory, two other roles: representative and, occasionally, enlightened. In the construction of the argument, the Article analyzes the phenomena of the judicialization of politics and judicial activism, as well as the issue of the difficult demarcation of the border between law and politics in the complex and plural societies of today. Although it presents several examples of the constitutional experience of the United States, the Article’s conclusions are generalizable, looking at the roles of constitutional courts from the perspective of a global constitutionalism whose categories have become common practice in the democracies of the world.
Following the attacks of 9/11, the United States adopted a policy of torturing suspected terrorists and reinterpreted its legal obligations so that it could argue that this policy was lawful. This article investigates the impact of these actions by the United States on the global norm against torture. After conceptualizing how the United States contested the norm against torture, the article explores how US actions impacted the norm across four dimensions of robustness: concordance with the norm, third-party reactions to norm violations, compliance, and implementation. This analysis reveals a heterogeneous impact of US contestation: while US policies did not impact global human rights trends, it did shape the behavior of states that aided and abetted US torture policies, especially those lacking strong domestic legal structures. The article sheds light on the circumstances under which powerful states can shape the robustness of global norms.
Previous research by Goldstone et al. (2010) generated a highly accurate predictive model of state-level political instability. Notably, this model identifies political institutions – and partial democracy with factionalism, specifically – as the most compelling factors explaining when and where instability events are likely to occur. This article reassesses the model’s explanatory power and makes three related points: (1) the model’s predictive power varies substantially over time; (2) its predictive power peaked in the period used for out-of-sample validation (1995–2004) in the original study and (3) the model performs relatively poorly in the more recent period. The authors find that this decline is not simply due to the Arab Uprisings, instability events that occurred in autocracies. Similar issues are found with attempts to predict nonviolent uprisings (Chenoweth and Ulfelder 2017) and armed conflict onset and continuation (Hegre et al. 2013). These results inform two conclusions: (1) the drivers of instability are not constant over time and (2) care must be exercised in interpreting prediction exercises as evidence in favor or dispositive of theoretical mechanisms.
Scholarship on civil war is overwhelmingly preoccupied with armed activity. Data collection efforts on actors in civil wars tend to reflect this emphasis, with most studies focusing on the identities, attributes, and violent behavior of armed actors. Yet various actors also use nonviolent methods to shape the intensity and variation of violence as well as the duration of peace in the aftermath. Existing datasets on mobilization by non-state actors – such as the Armed Conflict Events and Location (ACLED), Integrated Conflict Early Warning System (ICEWS), and Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) – tend to include data on manifest contentious acts, such as protests, strikes, and demonstrations, and exclude activities like organizing, planning, training, negotiations, communications, and capacity-building that may be critical to the actors’ ultimate success. To provide a more comprehensive and reliable view of the landscape of possible nonviolent behaviors involved in civil wars, we present the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset, which identifies 3,662 nonviolent actions during civil wars in Africa between 1990 and 2012, across 124 conflict-years in 17 countries. In this article, we describe the data collection process, discuss the information contained therein, and offer descriptive statistics and discuss spatial patterns. The framework we develop provides a powerful tool for future researchers to use to categorize various types of nonviolent action, and the data we collect provide important evidence that such efforts are worthwhile.
In the years following the attacks of 9/11, the CIA adopted a program involving the capture, extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists in the war on terror. As the details of this program have become public, a heated debate has ensued, focusing narrowly on whether or not this program “worked” by disrupting terror plots and saving American lives. By embracing such a narrow view of the program’s efficacy, this debate has failed to take into account the broader consequences of the CIA program. We move beyond current debates by evaluating the impact of the CIA program on the human rights practices of other states. We show that collaboration in the CIA program is associated with a worsening in the human rights practices of authoritarian countries. This finding illustrates how states learn from and influence one another through covert security cooperation and the importance of democratic institutions in mitigating the adverse consequences of the CIA program. This finding also underscores why a broad perspective is critical when assessing the consequences of counterterrorism policies.
Children on the move are having their #Us Too moment. Over the past months, momentous developments point to a more intense engagement with the needs and rights of refugee and other migration-affected children than has previously been evident. As with #Me too, many of the most central claims – the pervasive presence of abuse, the scale of the problem, the striking power imbalances that have perpetuated the problem’s relative invisibility – are not new or surprising per se. It is the avalanche of evidence, the mobilization of affected constituencies, and the sobering realization of the extent and consequences of previous denial that are disquieting.