Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.

  • Nationhood in the City: Assimilation, Citizenship, and Belonging among College-Educated, Second Generation Turks in Berlin and Dominicans in New York

    Author:
    Utku Sezgin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    John Mollenkopf
    Abstract:

    The main question posed by the study is: "How are university-educated immigrant-origin young people from disadvantaged backgrounds responding to the social and political opportunities provided by their cities and nations?" Through in-depth interviews and secondary research, my project sheds light on how local and national institutions, and the historical context, of host societies shape the outlook of upwardly mobile second generation immigrants on questions of citizenship and national belonging. It focuses on interviewing college-educated individuals from similarly disadvantaged groups in two similar locales: Turks in Berlin and Dominicans in New York. My hypothesis is that New York City and the United States offer an institutional package of opportunities and responses that provides a more favorable context of reception for these individuals; and that this in turn fosters a stronger sense of commitment to and membership in the U.S. polity than is the case in Berlin and Germany. This package includes: the civil rights culture/laws, the relatively liberal and pluralistic citizenship regime, an immigration-oriented national and local political culture and institutional history, and the relatively penetrable and inclusive local and national political system that accommodates immigrants.. The project goes beyond segmented assimilation theory to critique its overly structural and deterministic views of race, immigration, and class. The dissertation also takes issue with the view that citizenship and nation-states have been decoupled in our globalized age, a view that has by now largely superseded traditional notions of citizenship tied to the nation-state. My primary means of data collection have been 61 face-to-face, in-depth, semi-structured interviews in the two contexts. The interviews aimed to identify how respondents' identity construction and citizenship practices operate within the host context.

  • Media and Message in Modern Political Thought: From the Age of Print to the Age of Digital Reproduction

    Author:
    Asaf Shamis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Jack Jacobs
    Abstract:

    The dissertation investigates the relationship between media and message in modern political thought. In the research I situate the ideas of three modern political theorists Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Theodor Herzl in the material conditions prevailing in the printing industry of their times. I investigate in each case how the media culture the thinker was working in influenced his political ideas. My findings indicate that in all three cases the political ideas were shaped and conditioned by the particular position of the author, the prevailing attitude to the printed word, and the existing media technologies. Based on the historical research, in the last part of the study I explore the future of political ideas in the age of digital hypertexts. Overall, the findings of the research lead me to call for a broadening of conventional analysis of political ideas: Political ideas must be seen as part of the highly regulated streams of information that flow between author and reader in any given historical period.

  • THE ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK: TRANSITION FROM URBAN POWERHOUSE TO SUBURBAN INSTITUTION, 1950-2000 A CASE STUDY

    Author:
    Henry Sheinkopf
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    John Mollenkopf
    Abstract:

    From 1850-1950, the New York Archdiocese welcomed newly arriving Irish and Italian Catholics and forged a political block that influenced local, state and national politics with political leverage sufficient to influence the city's commercial sectors. This mobilization transformed the once penniless and discriminated-against Irish, and later Italians, by enabling the Archdiocese of New York, through the power of the vote, to promote its religious interests as its adherents rose to positions of political and economic power. The Archdiocese of New York became the owner of vast real estate, a provider of social and educational services, and an arbiter of morality and power. In essence, the Archdiocese functioned not only as a religious entity but as a political institution, relying on a large population of parishioners as the foundation for its ability to affect local democratic governments. As the latter half of the twentieth century approached, however, the descendants of those whom the Archdiocese had helped left the city for the suburbs. The deindustrialization of the New York economy coincided with growing preferences for the suburban lifestyle, which included single family homes with ample parking, consumer amenities, and good schools. Low cost VA / FHA mortgages, as well as the interstate highway system, encouraged this exodus. Although it is well-documented that, in the decades after World War II, large numbers of white, Catholic, blue-collar workers moved to the suburbs of New York City, research has typically focused on why they left and what impact this newly mobile population had on suburban demographics and culture. Missing from these accounts has been how the political vacuum left by diminished Catholic populations in New York City undermined the political influence of the Archdiocese. In fact, New York City in 1950 was about to enter a period of great political flux. Aside from the flight of Irish and other white Catholics, the Archdiocese would have to contend with a number of radical alterations in the fabric of New York City that would challenge its power. These included: the mass immigration of Puerto Ricans; the end of the waterfront as both a job creator and ethnic enclave; the decline of manufacturing in New York City; the rise of the reform Democratic movement and the decline of Tammany Hall; the rise of public sector labor; and the new politics mobilizing women, minorities, and gays. These unforeseen social and political movements were highly significant agents of change in the American urban landscape and its institutions, including New York's Catholic Church. Faced with all these factors, the Archdiocese of New York could have adopted a number of strategies to either replenish its numbers or find new instruments of political influence in city politics. Indeed, there were many nascent political institutions--public sector labor unions, groupings of new immigrant populations, and civic organizations--that evolved during this period. Evidence suggests that the Archdiocese was aware of the transformative environment around it. But its fall from political grace over the next 50 years is apparent, demonstrated in particular by the Archdiocese's inability to stop the passage of laws that eroded its moral authority, including measures that liberalized divorce and legalized abortion. Given the Archdiocese of New York's prominence and influence for over a century, its failure to rebuild its power base when confronted with change, followed by its subsequent transition from an urban to a suburban powerhouse, raises questions this dissertation will seek to address. Why did the Archdiocese of New York not use its political power to save jobs, protect industries, and keep its flock from leaving? Were the failures caused by Irish domination and the inability of the Archdiocese's hierarchy to adjust to new ethnic realities? Were the factors confronting the Archdiocese simply too much for it to adjust to at that time? Why did this organization, perceived in the city to be powerful and perceived by its flock to be infallible, appear to falter? What in this organization led to its changed role as an urban political power player? In short, did the Archdiocese of New York foster the loss of its own political influence? This dissertation will show the extent to which the Archdiocese was organizationally rigid and impervious to signals in the environment, and how this rigidity was linked to domination by the Irish, who were disinclined to allow other ethnic groups to have leadership or decision-making roles. This dissertation will describe the socioeconomic and political landscape of New York City in the mid-twentieth century, the problems facing the New York Archdiocese, and its reaction to the above issues. Further, this dissertation frames the Archdiocese's shifts in power as it transitioned from a classic urban powerhouse to a more suburban institution. The research illustrates these shifts over the last half century based on an understanding of the changing Catholic population; of a different definition of the "American Catholic"; of the still potent but more nuanced Catholic power in the financial, labor and political arenas; and finally, of a new understanding of the charismatic Catholic. It is hypothesized that the Archdiocese functioned well in a static environment but was incapable of adjusting in times of flux because of its lack of flexibility in maneuvering to accommodate changing realities and its adherence to rigid policies. Citing the reservoirs of information noted above and focusing in particular on urban power research, this dissertation will show that the Archdiocese of New York's rigidity resulted in a decline in its political influence and power within the city. This decline precipitated the Archdiocese's changing focus from the city to the suburbs so that it could survive and begin to exercise power and political influence within its new suburban constituencies.

  • Inventing Burke: Edmund Burke and the Conservative Party, 1790-1918

    Author:
    Hannah Sidney
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Corey Robin
    Abstract:

    This thesis explores the circumstances by which Edmund Burke came to be regarded as the father of Anglo-conservatism. Conventional wisdom assumes Burke was hailed as a Conservative oracle from the moment Reflections on the Revolution in France appeared. In fact, nineteenth century Conservatives considered Burke a “Whig” who had erred on most critical issues: slavery, Crown prerogative, Ireland, empire. In the twentieth century, however, the advent of universal suffrage and the demise of the Liberal party forced Conservatives to develop an identity which might compete with Labour's mass appeal. It also shifted the locus of Conservative ire from liberalism to socialism. Conservatives came to see themselves as protectors of the individual and their opponents as latter-day Jacobins obsessed with a reified State. A key figure is Hugh Cecil, whose Conservatism (1912) was among the first monographs to define Conservative identity in this way and to trace Conservatism's origins to Burke.

  • Rhetoric and the Politics of Necessity

    Author:
    Daniel Skinner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Joan Tronto
    Abstract:

    This dissertation casts the concept of necessity as a rhetorical form that is commonly used to shape what appears politically possible. I argue that engaging necessity as rhetoric helps not only to conceptualize key political concepts, such as freedom, but to mediate some perennial problems in politics. To make this argument, I undertake two basic tasks. First, I catalog a series of different kinds of necessity arguments that appear across the history of Western political thought. To show necessity's centrality to canonical political theory, I examine the work of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx and Arendt. I then apply this analysis to three examples, each of which illuminates a different kind of political problem: Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War illustrates the role necessity plays in producing the appearance of inevitable war; John Marshall's opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland shows necessity as a problem in legal interpretation; finally, contests over the meaning of medical necessity in American health care debates illustrate problems inherent in the relationship between medicine and politics.

  • Biotechnology Regulation in the European Union and France: Un Dialogue des Sourds

    Author:
    Patricia Stapleton
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Christa Altenstetter
    Abstract:

    In the early 1990s, France was at the forefront of agricultural biotechnology innovation and implementation. Yet, by the end of the decade, France had become one of the most vocal opponents among the European Union member states to genetically modified organisms and genetically modified food. France's continued resistance to implementing EU agricultural biotechnology legislation has created a regulatory impasse in this issue area. This study examines the triggering events that led to the reversal in the French position on GMOs, as well as explores the institutional development of the EU and French regulatory frameworks. Using a historical institutionalist approach, this work demonstrates that triggering events in the 1990s led to policy changes and institutional development in the fields of public health and food safety, both at the EU-level and within France. The main argument put forth in this dissertation is that the differences in the institutional evolution of the French regulatory framework for GMOs when compared to the evolution of the EU's regulatory framework has created the regulatory deadlock, which can be characterized as un dialogue des sourds between the EU and France. Furthermore, this impasse will continue to exist as long as the EU disregards the core concerns of anti-GMO sentiment in France.