On this page, you can read a (relatively) short description of my current book manuscript. If you’d like more information on this project, please send me an email.

International hierarchy is pervasive. Yet until recently, political science has almost entirely neglected the question of how large states establish institutions to structure domestic political outcomes elsewhere. Of those scholars who have addressed this question, many have focused on the interstate implications of hierarchy at the expense of domestic politics within smaller states. My book fills this lacuna through a two-pronged research attack: first, I discuss how political settlements between great powers structure the specific forms that hierarchy takes. Second, using the settlement that emerged at the end of World War II — and with the aid of three theoretical models — I deduce three sets of hypotheses about hierarchy construction, maintenance, and collapse during the post-war era.

Unlike extant work, my book recognizes the complex linkages between the domestic politics of weaker states, which I refer to as “subordinate states,” and the ability of great powers — or “dominant states” — to construct hierarchy. This recognition allows me to reconcile formal, imperial modes of hierarchy with more recent manifestations that rely on less explicit mechanisms of control. My argument therefore nests particular instances of hierarchical behavior within a larger framework that incorporates the international political settlements structuring this behavior. I use historical variation in political settlements to derive hypotheses about hierarchical behavior, and then verify these hypotheses using data on a particularly salient case of hierarchy: the United States in the post-World War II era.

The book is divided into two sections. The first explores the logic of hierarchical institutions, and its contingent relationship to great power politics. I argue that hierarchical institutions emerge in part as negotiated settlements between great powers. In order to understand how hierarchy operates, I engage a wide-ranging historical literature on empire, describing the rules that great powers have agreed to throughout history in order to regulate hierarchical competition amongst themselves. I show that the specific mechanisms of hierarchical operation are a function of these great power agreements, and derive hypotheses about post-1945 hierarchy from the peace settlement imposed by the United States and Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

The second section of the book takes a closer look at the U.S.-led hierarchy constructed after the end of the second world war. In the three chapters contained in this section, I develop three sets of theoretical and empirical models that respectively illuminate patterns of hierarchy construction, maintenance, and collapse. The first of these, in Chapter 4, asks how the United States has constructed hierarchy, and finds that it is able to do so by conditioning the provision of resources like foreign aid on the identity of leadership within other states. I show that the ability of the United States to “purchase” regime change in this way depends on the presence of relatively autocratic institutions within subordinate states. This result explains why, despite its normative inclinations, the United States often allies itself with undemocratic states. [In Presence and Promise: Strategic Aid and Foreign-Induced Regime Change, an article manuscript based on this chapter, I show that the promise of foreign aid greatly increases the probability of leadership turnover. This paper was awarded the Stuart A. Bremer award for the best graduate student paper at the 2014 meeting of the Peace Science Society.]

Next, I present a model of hierarchy maintenance. I show first that dominant states are able to deter domestic challenges to hierarchical orders by threatening coercion should a challenge succeed; and second, that the provision of resources by a dominant state in fact increases domestic stability within subordinate states.

Finally, I turn to the case of hierarchical collapse, demonstrating that the disappearance of hierarchy can generate incentives for repression and conflict within subordinate states. I show that the end of hierarchy creates a domestic commitment problem for formerly-aided regimes: they must choose between repressing their opponents while they still have external support or facing these opponents later outside the shadow of power. Paradoxically, I demonstrate that preventive repression is most likely when the domestic opponents of hierarchical allies are weakest, and that repression is likely to be unsuccessful in states with looser hierarchical ties.