A podcast showcasing cutting-edge research in comparative politics.
Manipulating Personnel for Power, with Mai Hassan
Our guest today is Dr. Mai Hassan, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Mai is the author of a recent book, Regime Threats and State Solutions, about how leaders manipulate the bureaucracy to maintain their hold on power.
Imagine a political system in which the president has the power to hire, fire, and shuffle bureaucrats in the most important state agencies. How would the leader strategically choose to wield this authority? Perhaps she would decide to pack the state with her own supporters -- for example, with members of her ethnic group -- to ensure loyalty and to maximize the chances that presidential edicts will be faithfully carried out.
However, holding power often means striking bargains with rival elites. Usually the best way to do that is to give those rival elites a foothold in the state and to hand out jobs to their supporters. A leader who packs the state has fewer spoils to share.
Mai’s book delves into this core dilemma of power-maintenance: how can leaders keep their friends close and their enemies closer? When do executives opt to share power, and when do they choose to hoard it by staffing the state with loyalists?
In today’s episode, we talk with Mai about her theory of bureaucratic control. It’s an argument in which leaders don’t merely choose bureaucrats based on their loyalties; they also manipulate civil servants’ loyalties and attachments, by strategically placing them and shuffling them across regions of the country.
We also talk about how Mai tests her argument by using a vast original dataset on decades of Kenyan administrative appointments, spanning both the country’s autocratic and democratic periods. And Mai tells us how she stumbled onto the puzzle of bureaucratic manipulation while digging through archival data for an altogether different project.
You can find references to all the academic works we discuss on the episode page on our website.
Voter Suppression Goes Global, with Elizabeth Iams Wellman
This is a conversation about the politics of voting from abroad: in particular, about how governments manipulate emigrants’ access to the ballot in order to protect their own hold on power. For the most part, elections are events that happen inside a...
Surviving the Syrian Civil War, with Justin Schon
In this episode of Scope Conditions, we talk about how civilians seek to survive civil war. Our guest is Dr. Justin Schon, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Virginia’s Democratic Statecraft Lab. In his new book, Surviving the War in Syria,...
Redistribution as Fairness, with Charlotte Cavaillé
We are talking today about the politics of redistribution in an age of rising inequality. Our guest is Dr. Charlotte Cavaillé, an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School. We discuss with Charlotte her book...
Strategic Indifference as Refugee Policy in the Global South, with Kelsey Norman
In this episode, we ask: when a state doesn’t enforce the rules, is it because they don’t have the capacity to do so, or because they’ve chosen not to? Put differently, when is indifference a deliberate policy strategy?We talk with Dr. Kelsey Norman...
The Gravitational Pull of Europe's Far Right, with Tarik Abou-Chadi
In this episode, we talk with Dr. Tarik Abou-Chadi, an Assistant Professor of political science at the University of Zürich, about how far-right parties have reshaped politics in advanced democracies. Consider the dilemma faced by mainstream political...
Fascinating and educational!
A great educational resource that makes cutting-edge and timely political science research more accessible to a broader audience. I look forward to using some of these episodes in my teaching.
Best social science podcast out there!
Scope Conditions is an amazingly entertaining and informative podcast. Yang-Yang and Alan strike the perfect balance of presenting content that is accessible while also being true to the research. All my political science friends love this podcast, but I’ve also shared it with family and friends who found it to be the clearest representation they’ve ever seen of the questions researchers ask and the methods they use to answer them. Scope Conditions rocks!!