PhD Job Candidates

Puneet Bhasin (defended August 2018)
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Dissertation Title: Sustaining Financializations: Politics and Profits in the Financial Transformation of Economies 
Abstract: Financialization of economies implies a transformation in capitalism such that traditional sources for accumulating capital and deriving income—that is, industrial production and trade—are increasingly displaced by heightened activity in financial securities and markets. In contrast to theories that presume economic convergence across nation-states in a globalized world marked by free trade and capital flows, I find significant divergence in the extent to which industrially advanced economies have financialized. Considering 1980 to 2005 as the epoch of contemporary financializations across four major economies, namely, the American, British, German, and French economies, I leverage institutional investors—specifically, mutual and pension funds—as a site to excavate the political economy of modern globalized finance using statistical and comparative-historical methods. I find that economies with weak labor market institutions, such as for protecting employment, are likely to sustain higher levels of financialization. This, as my research reveals, is because weakening labor market institutions result in changing the structure of capital markets to one that is characterized by diffused shareholdings. Such capital markets are conducive for realizing high financial returns from large fund-managed investment portfolios. Portfolio investments, as exemplified by mutual and pension funds, are a key tenet of modern financial risk management. My analysis, in effect, delineates an unexplored inverse structural relationship between strength of labor market institutions and financial returns that are the very kernel of financial accumulation implied by the concept of financialization. Furthermore, by tracing an inverse effect that labor market institutions have on portfolio returns, I argue that high financial returns come at the cost of labor solidarity and not from sophisticated financial risk management alone. As such, this work makes a case for expanding the realm of financial analyses beyond financial markets. Importantly, at a time of rising income and wealth inequality in the United States, it emphasizes strengthening labor market institutions to structurally restrain disproportionate pecuniary gains from accruing to owners and managers of large financial assets, in the upper echelons of the income distribution. In these financialized times, this work contributes to scholarship on the political economy of global finance, labor politics, corporate governance, and economic inequality. 

Daniel Carrigg
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Job Market Title: The Politics of Community Health Centers: Policy Feedback wit Elite and Geographic Effects
Abstract: Community health centers are a relatively small and understudied part of overall federal health spending in the United States. Nevertheless, they provide primary care for over 27 million Americans. This paper examines on the politics community health centers make through the lens of policy feedback theory. Specific focus is placed on geography and elite-level feedback effects, along with their interactions. Evidence suggests that over time, health centers have been resistant to multiple rollback attempts. Nevertheless, support for health centers has been inconsistent both in terms of partisanship and ideology, largely because as a policy they are capable of reacting to multiple political objectives. I conclude that the geographic distribution of funds could have significant effect on partisanship and ideology in elite-level policy feedback effects. 

Matthew Hodgetts PhD'18
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Job Market Title: In This Together: An Ethos of Sustainability for a Greener Globe
Abstract: Increasingly, political theorists working on the environment have been attentive to the misalignment between our social ethos and the demands of addressing climate change. One means of addressing climate change is to confront this misalignment with a shift in ethos to one that emphasizes sustainability. This project provides an original contribution to this emerging discourse by developing an account of a novel alternative to the dominant neoliberal ethos that emphasizes growth and consumption. It argues that a change in ethos to one of 'in-it-togetherness' is not only morally desirable, but that it would provide both direct and indirect pragmatic benefits, ultimately encouraging green citizenship. To do so, the paper first develops an account of the ethos, providing an account of the factual, international, and intergenerational ways in which we are 'together' on climate change. It then addresses the moral desirability of the non-hierarchical and cooperative social relations and the additional direct and indirect pragmatic benefits that would result from sufficient uptake of the ethos, before concluding by tying the ethos into the discourse on green citizenship. 

William Kring
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Job Market Title: Contesting the IMF?: Regional Battles for Global Liquidity
Abstract: Regional financial arrangements (RFAs) have existed for decades. Yet the proliferation of RFAs in the wake of the 2007-8 financial crisis and their increasing share of the global financial safety net raises important questions about the RFAs themselves, as well as their influence on the traditional role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). My dissertation develops an integrative theoretical approach to answer the project's central research question: to what extent do RFAs challenge the role of the IMF as an international lender of last resort? I develop an analytical framework that juxtaposes the institutional design of the RFAs with the public framing of the institutions to identify the variation across this class of institutions. Then, my dissertation identifies the conditions under which RFAs challenge the IMF, as well as the conditions under which the RFAs could cause the pocketed displacement of the IMF. This framework is then deployed to conduct three, in-depth case studies of the Latin American Reserve Fund (FLAR), the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM), and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and to test the extent to which the RFAs have displaced the role of the IMF. 

Rachel Meade
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Job Market Title: Mobilization through Antagonism: Populist Identity Formation in Trump's American and Kirchner's Argentina
Abstract: Why are people in countries across the world lining up to support populist political movements and leaders? What does the outburst of populism mean for democratic societies? Scholars typically try to answer these questions by studying the traits of populist supporters or the speech of populist leaders. I argue that these methods leave out a crucial aspect of populist support—the collective process by which people come to identify as a populist "people". This paper draws on eight months of observation with populist and other political groups and over 150 interviews in the U.S. and Argentina, conducted between 2016 and 2018. In order to shed light on the role of the collective community in populist support, I analyze conversations in two populist groups—a Tea Party-aligned, Trump-supporting group in Michigan and an informal women's social group supporting left-wing populist Christina Kirchner in Buenos Aires. I found that members came to identify as members of an oppressed populist "people" through reference to known representatives of abstract populist enemies, such as local members of the political opposition. Additionally, their sharing of experiences of facing political discrimination as members of a populist group and their venting about political outsiders further served to cement their populist identities. Overall, I argue that populist narratives are effective because they provoke outrage against elites and other groups, in turn spurring on both increased participation and increased enmity between citizens. In this way, populism reveals the contradictory impulses inherent in democracy itself. 


Sean Monahan
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Job Market Title: The Right to Work and the American Left
Abstract: After decades of marginality, the idea of a federal jobs guarantee has recently returned to the center of American political debate. Although the discourse around the "right to work" today is generally synonymous with anti-union legislation, the jobs guarantee involves a competing concept with quite a long history in the United States: the right to a job. To better understand this concept, I turn to the debates out of which it emerged in the radical social movements of the nineteenth century. This paper examines language of the "right to labor" as it was introduced by Fourierist socialists and its relationship with the neighboring idea of a "right to the soil" of the older tradition of agrarian radicalism going back to Thomas Paine. It then explores the ways in which two very different forms of labor politics — the "plain and simple unionism" of the American Federation of Labor and the Marxist communism of the First International — both came to see the achievement of a federal jobs guarantee as a central political aim in the decades following the Civil War. The version of the right to work developed by the socialist and labor movements of the nineteenth century was later incorporated into the social liberalism of the New Deal and is beginning to make a comeback today — by examining the debates surrounding its emergence we can better understand the concept's intricacies today. 

Noga Rotem
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Job Market Title: World-Craving: Rahel Varnhagen, Daniel Paul Schreber, and the Politics of Paranoia
Abstract: How should we think about Q anon and other paranoid conspiracies that we hear about in the media these days? This talk develops an account of paranoia as a distinctively political and not just pathological affect. I do this by reading Hannah Arendt's biography of Rahel Varnhagen (1957), alongside Sigmund Freud's case history of paranoia—"The Schreber Case" (1911), two books about 19th century personalities caught up in the gender and ethnic politics of their times. Drawing on an affinity between the fantasies Varnhagen and Schreber documented in their memoirs, I note that when we read Arendt's text with Freud's, we can see that Arendt treats her subject's persecution fantasies not only as a "verdict against the world," but also as a desire for a world. I begin with Seyla Benhabib's and Eric Santner's readings of these two texts. While indebted to both, I situate my own reading of paranoia between Benhabib's too optimistic dismissal of paranoia, and Santner's too tragic reading of paranoia as the subject's disaster. The result is a conclusion that gives new life to Varnhagen, and to paranoia as a political affect. 

Timothy Turnbull
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Job Market Title: Coercion and Coalitions: The Sources of US Sanctions
Abstract: This talk will examine the international and domestic determinants of US-imposed economic sanctions. Traditionally, the literature on economic sanctions has focused on such things as their economic or political consequences, or their overall effectiveness. Consequently, there exists remarkably little work on the sources of sanctions. To address this imbalance, I ask two questions. First, why does the United States use economic sanctions against some states and not others, and at certain times and not others? Second, what determines the types of sanctions used against a certain target? To answer these questions, I first develop a theory of sanctions imposition, arguing that both the decision to impose sanctions, and the types of sanctions chosen in a given instance, are a function of systemic pressures affecting the interests of both the state and variable coalitions of societal actors. Following this, I develop and test hypotheses concerning the imposition of four different types of economic sanctions. First, I use multinomial logistic regression on a country-year data set of US sanctions from 1960-2000 in order to examine those factors that make the imposition of certain types of sanctions more or less likely. Following this, I conduct four case studies of US sanctions in order to the mechanisms I propose as crucial in translating systemic pressures into sanctions outcomes: import sanctions against Japan, export and financial sanctions against India and Pakistan, an embargo against Nicaragua, and a case of failed sanctions against China. 

Aaron Weinstein
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Job Market Title: A Theology of Consensus: Occupy Wall Street's Civil Religion of hte Nones
Abstract: Over the last thirty years religious and political polarization has not only created the Religious Right, but a Spiritual-But-Not-Religious Left. These changes have had a profound and under-appreciated influence upon civil religious life in the United States. My job talk builds upon my dissertation on civil religion and publication in American Political Thought. It lays out the case for distinguishing between two forms of civil religion: the traditional, pro-status quo (drawing on Puritan thought) and critical, anti-establishment variant (which draws upon the Quaker tradition). After detailing historical and theoretical reasons behind such a distinction, I posit that the contemporary expression of the anti-establishment civil religion exists in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Far from purely secular, OWS epitomizes the Quaker civil religion: its ideals of radical democracy and individuality, as well as practices like the Quaker's own consensus-based decision making through the People's Mic. Ultimately, I argue that as American religiosity changes, so too does its expression through the nation's civil religion. 

Liza Williams
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Job Market Title: Ethico-Political Practices of Immigrant Inclusion
Abstract: This project theorizes how democratic values and ethico-political practices can include immigrants into forms of membership and aid formal incorporation. My view moves beyond the universal logic of human rights to explain why democracy implies inclusion rather than exclusion of noncitizens. I draw on the concept of hospitality in the history of political thought to revision what responsibilities are owed to immigrants seeking entry and fair terms of integration. I argue that resistance is part of hospitality, identifying how democratic public space, discretionary leadership and individual practices of welcoming can be vital to transforming moral ideals of membership. 

Cadence Willse
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Job Market Title: Battling Budget Cuts: Interest Group Mobilization and Inequality in Public Education  Abstract: The dissertation project explores the changing role of civic advocacy in American politics, focusing on the following research questions: how have group mobilization strategies changed over time? And what is the impact of interest group advocacy on public school finance? Employing a mixed-methods empirical strategy, the dissertation leverages archival research, social media data on advocacy and issue mobilization, and a unique national, longitudinal dataset of private and public spending in public education. The overarching goal of the project is threefold: first, I examine archival materials on the progressive politics of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA). The organization once served as a key voice in the progressive fight for juvenile justice reform, mother's pensions, and for adequate funding for compulsory education. Second, I examine the political scope of the contemporary PTA and other parent teacher groups, emphasizing the organization's singular focus on local school issues and fundraising efforts. Third, I quantify the distributional consequences of this shift towards fundraising: I find that parent teacher groups are not evenly distributed throughout the U.S., and this differential distribution of civic capacity and social capital augments existing structural inequalities in the United States. Private fundraising and public spending are positively correlated, suggesting that scholarship underestimates existing inequality in public school finance.