Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • MORAL INSCRIPTIONS: POLITICS AND THE RHETORIC OF RESPONSIBILITY

    Author:
    Steven Pludwin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Alyson Cole
    Abstract:

    This dissertation advances two interrelated claims. First, I examine the concept of responsibility and show how it operates as a rhetorical form that mediates a large segment of political life. Framing responsibility as a distinctly political problem, I argue that it functions to produce, discipline and govern subjects as well as legislate forms of identity, difference and community. Second, I argue that the definitional space of responsibility is not sacred, but contested. It is within this contested space that political battles regarding how we ought to understand the world and what it means to live in common with others plays out. Focusing on the ways in which responsibility is used to impose order allows me to understand how a politics of responsibility impacts discussions as far ranging as political violence, economic crisis and environmental policy.

  • The Caring Precariat: Home Health Care Work in New York City

    Author:
    Diana Polson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    John Mollenkopf
    Abstract:

    Home health care sits at the nexus of several recent coinciding processes--the fraying of the welfare state, privatization and the externalization of social reproductive costs onto individual families. This dissertation examines the ways in which government funding and public policies structure service delivery and working conditions in the home health care industry in the nation's most populous city--New York City. This study augments in-depth interviews of policy elites, government bureaucrats, employers, advocates and unions with analysis of a new data set collected from hard-to-reach low-wage workers to explore the role of the federal, state and city government in creating and regulating contract arrangements that determine wages and working conditions of a low-wage workforce situated between the formal and informal economy. Several themes emerge from this research. First, by examining the relationship between the formal, regulated, publicly-funded home health care system and the informal, gray market privately-funded home care system in NYC, I found that the state relies on the informal care economy (and therefore workers working outside of the regulated, formal system) to fill in the care gap created by piecemeal public coverage. Shifts in government regulation, funding and constellations of third party government move the boundaries between formal and informal jobs--in this case, growing informal work and putting more financial burdens on families. Second, this dissertation explores how a union, namely SEIU 1199, that had previously been unable to raise wages significantly for home health aides, was able to win, remarkably, a living wage by creating and then taking advantage of opportunities to revamp the home health care industry during a period when the State was looking to cut Medicaid. Third, the State, with the help of 1199, facilitated a reorganization of the home health care industry, which led to its consolidation and the growth of Managed Care (which many fear will lead to a decrease in hours of care for patients and less work for aides).

  • Engaging Bad Governments: Resource Groups and Patterns of Engagement in Bangladesh

    Author:
    Nayma Qayum
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Vincent Boudreau
    Abstract:

    Bangladesh's governments have pursued an aid-based neoliberal development agenda since the 1980s, which has allowed new resources and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to permeate rural society. These NGOs operate programs through resource groups, small groups of impoverished women who gather at the village or ward levels. This dissertation argues that resource groups have built new citizen-state relationships and enabled new forms of engagement between citizens and their governments. These new transactional relationships are governed simultaneously by informal institutions of accountability and informal institutions of exchange; the former allow actors to reinforce formal rules when badly-performing institutions deviate from them, and the latter permit actors to navigate weak formal institutions through illegal exchanges. Findings illustrate that transactional relationships are replacing patronage relationships with a combination of transaction-driven and programmatic linkages, and allowing poor women to engage with formal institutions in multiple ways - in partisan politics, local government, and informal avenues - that coexist with ongoing urban resistance politics.

  • State Structure and Economic Development: The Political Economy of Thailand and the Philippines

    Author:
    Antoinette Raquiza
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Susan Woodward
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the factors that account for different economic performance among late developing countries that are vulnerable to external shocks, crony capitalism, and political instability. The dissertation undertakes an historical, comparative analysis of industrializing Thailand and relatively low-performing Philippines, and argues that differences in economic performance are due to variations in the institutional configuration of state power, defined along two dimensions: the embeddedness of governing elites in state institutions, and the relationship between the political leadership and economic technocracy in the development policy process. The dissertation adopts the concept of bureaucratic polity, used in Thailand studies, to refer to the series of coalitions between military rulers and senior technocrats that controlled state power for most of that country's modern history. Thai political rulers and technocrat economic managers were deeply embedded, respectively, in the military and civilian bureaucracies; economic technocrats had relative autonomy from the political rulers. For the Philippines, this study introduces the concept of proprietary polity, a form of elite rule in which personalistic politicians gain power because of their personal wealth, connections, and political skills. Philippine political leaders belonged to weak political parties and recruited technocrats from the private sector. Hence, the development bureaucracy was strongly subordinate to political leaders. These distinct institutional settings produced different economic growth patterns. Thailand's more stable bureaucratic polity proved conducive to long-term capital accumulation, necessary for the rise of a robust industrial sector. Because political contestation proved much more disruptive under the Philippines's proprietary polity, investment flowed more into the commercial sectors, where economic activities promised fast turnovers. Four causal mechanisms link the institutional setting to economic outcomes: (1) political contestation, 2) presence of policy continuity, 3) choice of policy design and tools, and, 4) the consolidation of different policy constituencies.

  • Becoming Transnational Citizens: The Liberian Diaspora's Civic Engagement in the United States and in Homeland Peacebuilding

    Author:
    Janet Reilly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Susan Woodward
    Abstract:

    This study examines the relationship between civic participation in homeland peacebuilding and immigrants' political incorporation and integration in their local communities in the United States. It explores the impact of state (U.S. and Liberia) policies and local context on individuals' civic participation locally and in transnational activities. The study demonstrates the mechanisms through which state policies and local context influence Liberians' political participation in the United States and their transnational citizenship, defined as full legal membership and civic participation. The relationship between civic engagement in the United States and in transnational activities is not an adversarial one. Engagement with the diaspora correlates positively with integration in the United States and vice versa. In fact, those Liberians who participate most actively in their local communities in the United States are also the ones who engage most frequently in transnational activities. The ability of Liberians to participate fully in their local and transnational communities, however, is affected by U.S. immigration and reception policies that have promoted integration for refugees and asylees but, at the same time, trapped many Liberians with TPS/DED in a legal limbo. The study highlights the social nature of political involvement and the importance of context in promoting Liberians' political belonging in the United States and as transnational citizens.

  • Cooperating for fairness: The role of electoral institutions in generating more egalitarian legislation in the sub-Saharan African region

    Author:
    Karin Riedl
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Susan Woodward
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the impact of electoral systems on legislation that should produce more socially egalitarian societies in the sub-Saharan African region. Based on a data analysis of 47 sub-Saharan African countries, this dissertation establishes that proportional representation (PR) electoral systems are significantly more likely than plurality or absolute majority electoral systems to generate legislation that establishes and protects equal rights and opportunities for vulnerable societal groups, including women, gays, and people most likely to be infected with HIV. The analysis also shows that plurality and absolute majority systems are more likely to generate legislation that threatens the equal rights and opportunities of vulnerable groups. The dissertation provides causal explanations for the correlation between PR electoral systems and legislation that protects vulnerable groups. An in-depth examination of four countries in the sub-Saharan African region - Benin, Kenya, Namibia, and Uganda - illustrates that proportional representation electoral systems produce incentives for political parties to adopt issues that are of interest to pockets of the electorate and that do not necessarily enjoy the support of the majority of voters. The dissertation shows that the comparatively weaker relationships between individual Members of Parliament (MPs) and their largely conservative constituents allow political parties in PR electoral systems to be better equipped than their counterparts to ensure relatively stronger party discipline. As a result of this, political parties are more capable of efficiently pursuing such legislation within political parties and through more effective inter-party cooperation within committees.

  • Civilization of the Living Dead: Canonical Monstrosity, the Romero Zombie, and the Political Subject

    Author:
    Nicholas Robbins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Corey Robin
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes the canonical monsters of Western political theory, including Plato's wolf-man, Hobbes's Leviathan and Tocqueville's mechanical mass. It argues that monster theorists - including horror film director George A. Romero, creator of the zombie and its apocalyptic narrative - utilize the horror genre in order to reveal the hidden dysfunctions and unrealized potentials of self and society. The canon features several prison-like heuristics - including Plato's cave, Hobbes's sate of nature, Tocqueville's prison, and Romero's zombie apocalypse - that bring to light the mass enslavement, intellectual dysfunction, appetitive tyranny, and cannibalism of the political subject. Theorists consistently depict cannibal machines - such as Marx's factory and Arendt's concentration camp - that devour unconscious automaton masses. This raises the question: is civilization, as it has been constituted, worth the living death and cannibal consumption that it entails? Monster theorists use the monster not only to reveal our deepest dysfunctions, but also to inspire us to transcend, through various forms of collective rationality, the appetitive tyranny that imprisons humanity.

  • LIGHTS ON, LIGHTS OUT: THE ELUSIVE PROMISE OF PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY AND ELECTRICITY PROVISION FOR THE RURAL POOR UNDER DECENTRALIZATION IN GHANA: 1992-2008

    Author:
    Naaborle Sackeyfio
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Irving Markovitz
    Abstract:

    Electricity is a ubiquitous element of modern life. While it is elusive for many in the developing world by all accounts Ghana has achieved a successful rate of electrification and outpaced many states in sub-Saharan Africa. As a country widely admired for its democratic governance, economic growth and relative stability, the benefits of ample sources of hydropower and other forms of electric energy have not accrued to the rural poor as the target population of decentralized electrification programs. Previously dismal electricity access prior to the early 1990s led to the pursuit of electrification initiatives to power the country more efficiently and equitably. Under a mantle of decentralized institutions-thought to produce optimal outcomes for public service delivery of goods like electricity and water, access for the rural poor has improved. Yet questions of how political decentralization and market oriented power sector reforms have structured electricity access for the rural poor remain under explored. Since the completion of this study, a 55% access rate substantially increased to 66%. This dissertation argues that though Ghana has made remarkable progress in electricity provision, the merits of decentralized electrification initiatives have yielded differential benefits for the rural poor who comprise a significant bulk of the country's population. I maintain that under a decentralized institutional framework, thought to be inherently ideal for societies in transition, successful service delivery of electricity reflects uneven outcomes for the rural poor evident in the political capture of local institutions charged with utility provision. This dissertation is significant because it focuses on electricity access as an inconspicuous but critical socio-economic component for large numbers of people in the developing African world. Virtually taken for granted in advanced, industrial and post industrial world, the quest for equitable, and affordable access in developing, emerging economies like Ghana in many ways represents a microcosm of the public-private battleground to reconstitute the state's role in the economy, through a neo-liberal agenda of electric power reforms.

  • Free Spaces, Collective Identity and Political Consciousness: Student Activism and Repression on West Java, 1920-1979

    Author:
    Stephanie Sapiie
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Irving Markovitz
    Abstract:

    Whereas previous studies of the Indonesian student movement have been limited to studies of single episodes of activism of student protests, this work focuses on the narratives, and repertoires that, together with crucial external events of political and economic realignments created both pressures and opportunities that produced contentious identities of Indonesian student activism. This study reveals the development of a particular type of contentious student activism was driven by private frustrations, grievances and intellectual concerns, and that led to particular forms of collective action that became institutionalized in two ways: 1) as a repertoire relied on by students; and 2) more generally, as a culturally acceptable mode of expressing opposition. However, the development of student's political consciousness did not reflect only political grievances and frustrations. Student activism was the result of many different resources and opportunities. To be successful, student movements required both the physical and conceptual space in which they could construct political opposition. This dissertation challenges the assumption that free spaces must always be local, free and participated in by groups from below. Free spaces may be as important for highly-visible privileged groups as they are for an invisible subaltern. This may force activists to seek free spaces in places far from local settings supported by transnational actors and social networks. This study finds this phenomenon in fields as different as the anti-European anti-colonial student movements of the 1920s to the post Indonesian independence movements of the 1950s down to the present. By focusing on the claims and contentious identities of the study movement and of the student movements, this study reorients the study of Indonesian student activism from analysis of protest to the analysis of the specific spaces created through their reliance on the powerful narratives that shaped each decade of student activism.

  • After Labourism: The Neoliberal Turn by Labor Parties and the Response by Trade Unions

    Author:
    Jason Schulman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Susan Woodward
    Abstract:

    Explanations for the embrace of pro-market policies by social democratic parties over the last thirty years have pointed to various factors, most commonly the globalization of production and finance, the shrinking of the blue-collar working class, and the rise of so-called postmaterialist politics. The dominant theme in the literature is the transformation of these parties under the pressure of the global capitalist economy, which forces social democratic governments to implement benefit cuts, deregulate markets, and commercialize and privatize the public sector. Such accounts are insufficient because they do not take three important factors into account. The first factor is the change in the class composition of the leadership and individual membership of social democratic parties, even in labor parties with trade union affiliations (New Zealand, Britain, Australia). These parties are increasingly dominated by the salariat--a stratum of intermediate executives and technicians, professionals and engineers, all of whom enjoy a high degree of economic security, job autonomy, and education. The second factor is the diminishing of the influence of the unions within the very parties that are supposed to be their political representatives. The third factor is the lack of a strategy by the unions to ensure that the party leadership must listen to them and take their interests into account when formulating policies. This may be due to a longstanding lack of interest by the unions in engaging in politics (New Zealand) or a passivity by the unions which resulted from many years of anti-union Conservative rule (Britain). In the case of Australia under Labor Party governance (1983-1996) the unions were sufficiently united, disciplined and strategically minded to ensure that a Labor Party government would integrate them into the making of policy. The evidence suggests that the centralized organization of union federations makes the union movement appear as a credible force to labor party leaderships, and that to be able to moderate how quickly and how drastically labor party governments can enact neoliberal policies the unions must be politically active within their historic parties and offer a coherent economic program years before the parties take office.