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Research

Book Manuscript

Patrons, Proxies, and International Competition: Political Survival, the Surrender of Sovereignty, and Informal Hierarchy

My book manuscript explains why some political actors willingly surrender sovereignty to great powers and others choose to resist, often violently. I argue that political competition and conflict at a domestic level drive actors to surrender sovereignty. Where domestic political groups are competing over rents, they are more likely to surrender sovereignty. In this situation, losing political power results in loss of economic power as well. In other words, rent-seeking makes political survival more valuable, while political contestation threatens the actors’ hold on political power. Consequently, actors become willing to exchange some sovereignty for resources from a great power in order to preserve their political and economic position. This question has implications for how we understand the development of order at the international level and the conflict between great and small powers.

The theory is tested using cases from two different eras. The first set of cases addresses informal empire in 19th century China, the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. The second set of cases addresses Russia’s attempts to establish hierarchy in the former Soviet Union. The dissertation exploits data at the cross-national, national, subnational level and individual level. I use a cross-national data set containing observations from all former Soviet Republics since independence, case studies of national level politics in Georgia and Ukraine, and case studies of regional level variation in Georgia, and survey data from Georgia and Ukraine. These case studies draw on extensive fieldwork in Georgia and Ukraine and  make use of elite interviews, primary and secondary sources.

Working Papers

Political Survival and the Surrender of Sovereignty: Evidence from Post-Soviet Georgia

This paper explains when actors in a subordinate state are prepared to surrender sovereignty to outside powers and support the establishment of international hierarchy. This question has implications for how we understand the development of international order and authority, as well potential conflict within and between states. Domestic actors support surrendering sovereignty when they are competing over rent-seeking with other domestic groups. Rent-seeking ties political competition to economic competition, such that losing political power results in the loss of significant economic benefits. Groups competing over rent-seeking opportunities are willing to exchange some sovereignty for resources from a great power to preserve their political and economic position. Where there is no rent-seeking or there is little political competition, domestic actors are inclined to resist outside influence. This theory is tested using statistical analysis of survey data and subnational case studies from Georgia.

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