As I mentioned in my hiatus post, I’ve taken the past few months to delve into my undergraduate thesis. Initially, I intended to center my thesis research on the role of “leverage” in mass atrocity-related policy interventions. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, this topic stems from a pervasive research gap in the theoretical and empirical literature on atrocity prevention, which likely over-emphasizes the role of policy technologies in atrocity-related interventions. Scholars and policy specialists discuss third-party incentives in the context of particular types of interventions, rather than the actors that comprise them. This is both theoretically and practically problematic: the former, because it diminishes the political context for atrocity interventions, and the latter, because adversarial contexts mitigate the potential dividends of third-party interventions.
In the course of my preliminary research, I’ve jumped into a robust literature on power that indicates that, in contrast to my initial expectations, leverage may not be the best framework with which to understand the political context for third-party interventions in mass atrocity events. Leverage is a largely material concept and, as diverse studies on soft power and norm diffusion, suggest, material initiatives comprise a fraction of policymakers’ tools of statecraft. Nye offers a broader typology, the “three faces of power,” which highlights the diffuse and direct mechanisms that drive state and non-state actors in the international system. The best analysis I found, however, was Barnett and Duvall’s “taxonomy” of power in international relations. The authors develop their taxonomy around two dichotomous variables. In its impact on international actors, power can be either direct or diffuse, while its implementation operates through social processes, or by constructing them. In my thesis, I refer to this as a “relational power” dynamic, because of the social character of power politics between actors in the international system. This concept is a well-tread subject in multi-disciplinary theories of power: it pops up in the relevant literature on international relations, diplomatic negotiation, and community organizing.
I’m currently digging through my research design, but I thought it would be useful to use the blog as a platform to crowd-source feedback from the digital peacebuilding and conflict resolution community. Here’s the research design: I’d love your comments on design, format, clarity, case selection, and theory. What am I missing?