British exceptionalism 2: the unique nature of the aristocracy

(Newark, DE) In 2010, I wrote a post entitled “British exceptionalism: how the UK is different from Europe.” It still draws traffic these days, probably because people want to understand Brexit and the roots of anti-“European” sentiment in a country that most Americans consider a part of Europe. My theme was the dramatically different level of economic development in Britain vs. continental Europe ca. 1930. I doubt that such differences explain Brexit, but I remain interested in ways that the UK has diverged from its continental neighbors.

Here’s another way. William D. Rubenstien observes, “In 1789…, it is generally estimated that there were about 250,000 members of the French nobility, but only about 300 members of the British aristocracy!” In France and (I believe) in every continental country, the aristocracy was a substantial caste, delimited by naming conventions and granted hereditary privileges under the law. The French nobility voted away their own privileges during the heady night of August 4, 1789, but until then, they had been exempt from regular taxes while permitted to tax peasants, allowed to wear swords and hunt, guaranteed a separate justice system, and in many other ways, set apart. These privileges applied to whole extended families and were by no means limited to the individuals who held the aristocratic fiefs and titles, from baron up to duke.

In contrast, since the Middle Ages, the English (and then the British) aristocracy consisted of the “peers” who held specific titles, of which there were only a few hundred. These titles were possessions that could be granted, inherited, or confiscated, although not sold. One person held each title at a time (or one couple, if you consider married peers to share in a title). Peers had very limited privileges, such as the right to sit in the House of Lords and be tried there. The rest of their extended families were not aristocrats.

Britain also had (and to some extent still has) a gentry, composed of ladies and gentlemen. Traditionally, they were defined as people who made their living from rents on land, clerical or military offices, or professional fees for lawyering or doctoring–not from labor or “trade.” As economic power shifted to merchants and manufacturers, they increasingly entered the gentry–no longer having to buy land or professionally educate their sons to count as gentlemen.

More like a class than a caste, the gentry has been defined by its social role and power. That makes the borders fuzzy. It creates some opportunities for mobility, and also a stronger ideological assumption that upward mobility (as opposed to equality) is the hallmark of a just society. I’d speculate that this is one reason “neoliberalism” has more of a hold in the UK (especially England) than it does on the Continent.

See also: British exceptionalism: how the UK is different from Europe; two approaches to social capital: Bourdieu vs. the American literaturewhen social advantage persists for millenniasorting out human welfare, equity and mobility; and why some forms of advantage are more stubborn than others.

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James Madison in favor of majority rule

The James Madison who contributed to the Federalist Papers is famous for a system of checks and balances meant to limit the power of the majority, because the many might turn against the few and the common good. This was before the United States came into being and before Madison had experience in electoral politics and national office. By 1834, the federal system had operated for 45 years and Madison had held several offices in it, including president. After that experience, he shifted in a majoritarian direction, at least according to this unsent letter. (H/t Ian Shapiro, Politics Against Domination, p. 62).

Madison first says (we don’t know to whom),

You justly take alarm at the new doctrine that a majority Govt. is of all Govts. the most oppressive. The doctrine strikes at the root of Republicanism, and if pursued into its consequences, must terminate in absolute monarchy, with a standing military force; such alone being impartial between its subjects, and alone capable of overpowering majorities as well as minorities.

Madison reviews the arguments that majority rule will become more dangerous as a jurisdiction grows in extent and as it encompasses greater economic diversity, because then huge factions will be able to dominate small and scattered minorities. He counters that differences of interest and identify emerge at all scales, “even in corporations [that] have the greatest apparent simplicity & identity of pursuits & interests.”

Acceding to the majority is generally a better choice than trying to dominate them; and the problem is least serious at a continental scale. The states, for example, are more likely to suffer from conflicts between majorities and minorities than the federal government is, and things were worse in the states before they came under federal sovereignty:

whatever may have been the just complaints of unequal laws, and sectional partialities, under the Majority Govt. of the U. S. it may be confidently observed that the abuses have been less frequent and less palpable than those which disfigured the administrations of the State Govts. whilst all the effective powers of sovereignty were separately exercised by them …

Madison’s argument in favor of majoritarianism is not that doing what the majority wants is automatically wisest and most just, but that it beats the alternatives:

Those who denounce majority Govts altogether because they may have an interest in abusing their power, denounce at the same time all Republican Govt. and must maintain that minority Govts. would feel less of the bias of interest, or the seductions of power.

He concludes with these theses:

[1] no Government of human device, & human administration can be perfect; [2] that which is the least imperfect is therefore the best Govt. [3] the abuses of all other Govts. have led to the preference of Republican Govt. is the best of all governments because the least imperfect. [4] the vital principle of Repub: Govt. is the lex majoris partis, the will of the majority; [5] if the will of a majority can not be trusted where there are diversified conflicting interests, it can be trusted no where because such interests exist every where ..

Madison wouldn’t call himself a “democrat,” because for him (in this letter and elsewhere) democracy means direct rule by the citizens “assembled in mass.” But he would–and did–call himself a “republican,” and for him the “vital principle” of republicanism is majority-rule.

See also: do we live in a republic or a democracy?; a Democratic Republican Federalist.

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to what extent do you already know the story of your life?

If people were asked this question on a survey, I think the variations in responses would be significant and useful to know:

In general, people would give lower scores as they got older, but not always. The YouthBuild program (which we evaluated) serves disadvantaged adolescents and young adults. Before entering this 9-month program, participants predict that they will live to an average age of 40. Many believe that they already know the outlines of their lives. But upon completing the program, they think they will live to the age of 72: a 32-year increase (Hahn et al 2004). They now foresee decades of life that present unpredictable possibilities.

I agree with Kieran Setiya that “midlife” is best understood not as a span of years–say, ages 35-60–but as a subjective attitude to time that can occur at any age. Inspired by his book but departing a bit, I would measure midlife as a low score on the question shown above. By that definition, adolescents entering YouthBuild are already in midlife and even suffering from midlife crises. But for someone else, that state might never arise, or it might occur for the first time at age 90.

Is it good or bad to score high on this measure? That may depend on how well your life is going. If you expect to continue back-breaking labor for the rest of your life, still shackled to an uncaring partner, and suffering the regular deaths of loved-ones, you certainly would prefer not to be able to predict the rest of your life based on your story so far. But if you have retired in good health to a lovely seaside community, you may want nothing more than to run out the clock without seeing any unexpected changes to yourself or the people you care about. Priam had every reason to think that his life was a happy story until, as a very old man, he had to witness his hero son Hector being dragged dead around his besieged city.

I suspect we also vary in our subjective stances to change. For some people–almost regardless of their objective circumstances–predictability is comforting. But it is horrifying for others.

James Joyce published “The Dead” when he was 32. He had a long, dramatic, and hugely influential life ahead of him and surely couldn’t imagine that he’d become the Zurich-based author of Finnegans Wake by 1941. His protagonist, Gabriel, is also a “young man.” But I think “The Dead” is all about realizing that you know the whole course of your life. This is possible if you are a somewhat average bourgeois Dubliner, like Gabriel, or a budding international literary sensation, like James Joyce. Either way, to think you know your whole life-course is akin to being dead: you might as well just fast-forward to the end. That is the sense in which midlife is a depressing state rather than a comforting one.

I would predict that answers to this question would vary by age (but not in a lockstep correlation), by social circumstance (people with more opportunities will be less likely to think that they know their own futures) and by temperament.

Certain meditative experiences are intended to lower one’s score. For example, momento mori–meditating on death–is meant to remind you that you already know the important part of your story, how it ends. That is supposed to focus you on being pious. But Buddhism often reminds us that life is unpredictable, basically unstable, and that not being able to know the future should drive your attention to current experience. I vote for the latter although I am not very good at it.

Source: Hahn, A., Leavitt, T. D., Horvat, E. M., & Davis, J. E. (2004). Life after YouthBuild: 900 YouthBuild graduates react on their lives, dreams, and experiences. Somerville, MA: YouthBuild USA. See also Kieran Setiya on midlife: reviving philosophy as a way of life; nostalgia for now; rebirth without metaphysics.

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apply for the 2019 Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive interdisciplinary seminar that brings together faculty, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from many countries and diverse fields of study. In 2019 it will take place from the evening of June 20 until June 28 at Tufts University in Medford, MA, and Boston.

The Summer Institute was founded and co-taught from 2009 to 2018 by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Tisch College, and/or Karol So?tan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. The 11th annual Summer Institute will be taught by Peter Levine alongside several Tufts colleagues. Each year, it features guest seminars by distinguished scholars and practitioners from various institutions and engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • How can people work together to improve the world?
  • How can people reason together about what is right to do?
  • What practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship?
  • How should empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy relate?

A provisional draft of the 2019 syllabus is shown below. You can read more about the motivation for the Institute in the Civic Studies Framing Statement by Harry Boyte, University of Minnesota; Stephen Elkin, University of Maryland; Peter Levine, Tufts; Jane Mansbridge, Harvard; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; Karol So?tan, University of Maryland; and Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania.

The seminar follows a three-day public conference, Frontiers of Democracy, which takes place in downtown Boston on June 20-22. Participants in the Summer Institute are expected to participate in the conference (free of charge) and then the Institute on June 23-28. This year, the Summer Institute also follows the American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER), which will take place on June 17-22, with ICER participants also taking part in the Frontiers conference.

Practicalities and How to Apply

Daily sessions take place on the Tufts campus in Medford, Massachusetts. Tuition for the Institute is free, but participants are responsible for their own housing and transportation. One option is a Tufts University dormitory room, which can be rented for $69/night (single room) or $85/night (double room). Credit is not automatically offered, but special arrangements for graduate credit may be possible.

The application consists of a resume, a cover letter about your interests, and an electronic copy of your graduate transcript (if applicable). The application deadline is March 31, 2019. You can sign up here to receive occasional emails about the Summer Institute, including a notification when we begin accepting applications.

For more information contact Peter Levine, Tisch College’s Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, at

European Institute

The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14th to July 27th 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Tetyana Kloubert at by March 31, 2019, for best consideration.


2019 Summer Institute Syllabus

Subject to change

June 20 (evening) to June 22 (lunchtime): Frontiers of Democracy Conference

June 23 (afternoon): Informal gathering to get to know each other; some sharing of our backgrounds and goals

June 24

I. Inspirations for civic work

9 a.m.-Noon: A “feeling of personal responsibility for the world”

II. Problems of Collective Action: Forming and Maintaining Functional Groups at Various Scales

1:00-2:00 p.m.: A simulated Tragedy of the Commons; reflections on game theory as a method of modeling interactions

2:00-5:00 p.m.: The work of Elinor Ostrom and colleagues

June 25

9:00 a.m.-Noon:  The role of social capital

1:00-3:00 p.m.: Collective action problems at scale

  • James Madison, The Federalist #10
  • Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy, pp. 3-35, pp. 163-82, 290-8
  • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Chapters 1, 4 and Postscript, pp. 11-2154-70397-411.
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed,Introduction (pp. 1-8), Chapter 3 “Authoritarian High Modernism”

3:30-5:00 p.m.: Public Work

  • Harry C. Boyte, Reinventing Citizenship as Public Work: Citizen-Centered Democracy and the Empowerment Gap

June 26

III. Problems of Discourse: Discussing and Reasoning about Contested Value Issues

9:00-10:00 a.m.: Deliberation

  • The Harvard Pluralism Project’s case entitled A Call to Prayer. What should the people of Hamtramck, MI do?

10:00 a.m.-Noon, 1:00-2:00 p.m.: The Frankfurt School, Habermas, deliberative democracy

  • Lasse Thomassen, Habermas: A guide for the perplexed. A&C Black, 2010, pp. 63-96, 111-130.
  • Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New German Critique, 3 (1974), pp. 49-55
  • Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action (selection) 

2:00-5:00 p.m.: Critiques

  • Danielle E. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown, v. Board of Education, pp. TBA
  • Jean L. Cohen, “American Civil Society Talk,” in Robert K. Fullinwider, ed., Civil Society, Democracy, and Civic Renewal, pp. 55-85
  • Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics, pp. 1-22
  • Lynn Sanders, “Against Deliberation”

June 27

IV. Problems of Exclusion

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Boundaries, good and bad

  • The Book of Nehemiah
  • John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, pp. 3-32
  • Dec 4: Audre Lorde, “ The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” and Steve Biko, “Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity”

11:00 a.m.-Noon and 1:00-3:00 p.m.: Gandhi

2:00-4-00 p.m.: Martin Luther King

June 28

V. Solutions?

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Community organizing

  • Mark R. Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy, pp. 4-70
  • Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, 1946 (1969 edition), pp. 76-81; 85-88; 92-100, 132-5, 155-158.
  • Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking, pp. 115-138

Noon-2:00 p.m.: Social movements and nonviolent campaigns

  • Charles Tilly, Social Movements, 1768-2004
  • Habermas, “New Social Movements,” Telos, September 21, vol. 1981, no. 49 (1981)
  • Marshall Ganz, “Why David Sometimes Wins: Strategic Capacity in Social Movements,” in Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper, Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) pp.177-98.
  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, chapters 1 and 2 

2:00-3:00 p.m. Closing reflections

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an agenda for the dignity of work

Sen. Sherrod Brown’s theme of the “dignity of work” is powerful and important, for these four reasons:

1. A basic cause of unacceptable inequality is the worsening position of workers versus the owners of capital. That shows up in statistics on the share of income …

… and also in less tangible ways, such as a growing cultural and spatial distance between workers and investors and the rising deference or obsequiousness to the rich

2. Work, in the broadest sense—making things of value—is one basis of a good life for human beings. It is spoiled when work is alienated (split between decision-makers who don’t actually do anything and laborers who make no decisions) or replaced entirely by automation and AI. The availability of good work is probably shrinking and is certainly threatened by the next wave of automation.

3. The dignity of work can be a unifying theme. Yes, who has dignified work depends on gender, race, class, and age, so addressing this issue requires attention to inequality and difference. But people in very different social positions share a sense that dignified work is threatened.

4. Workers who are organized (in unions or the functional equivalents of unions) gain countervailing political power along with dignity. I’m of the school that it doesn’t matter much which policies Democratic candidates endorse, because their policy options are highly constrained once they’re in office. It matters how power is distributed. Strengthening workers’ organizations addresses the third level of power (“Who decides policies?”) rather than the first or second levels of power (What do particular people get? and “What policies are in place?”).

[For related arguments, see Harry C. Boyte, “The Shutdown Taught Us About the Dignity of Work: An Unanticipated Civics Lesson, Courtesy of President Trump” (The Nation, Jan 29) and Albert Dzur, “Teaching Citizenship” (The Boston Review, Jan. 30).]

Sen. Brown has a plan entitled “Working Too Hard for Too Little: A Plan for Restoring the Value of Work in America.” I think it’s an important contribution, but it’s mostly about raising pay per hour and improving the bargaining position of unions. We could add to his agenda, recognizing that some people just aren’t going to be unionized, that AI threatens employment for all, and that work faces crises of quality as well as pay and hours.

I can only offer vague thoughts because I am insufficiently informed, but I would consider:

  1. Federal support for associations of workers who would have a very hard time unionizing. Domestic workers are the prime case, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance is the leading example. When organized, domestic workers can advocate for favorable government policies, but they can also provide education, training, insurance, and other services for their members and speak to a range of audiences. In practice, they use their voice to advocate for their patients and clients as well as for themselves, and they demonstrate a concern for the quality of work as well as pay. I am not sure what federal policies would help them most, but possibly they should be eligible for grants for their service functions to subsidize their organizing efforts.
  2. A new look at accountability policies in a wide range of fields, from teaching and policing to medicine, to ensure that the drive to measure inputs and outcomes doesn’t ruin the quality of professional work. Often these accountability measures are driven by federal policy.
  3. A new look at the federal civil service, with an eye to making the jobs that are directly controlled by the national government as rewarding and substantive as possible.
  4. Funding for R&D that uses new technology to enhance and expand work (not to replace work).
  5. Federal programs modeled on the EPA’s now-defunct Community Action for a Renewed Environment CARE) that support a range of stakeholders who work on common problems. Typically, some of the stakeholders are paid to work full-time on these problems; others use some of their paid time to help out; and others are volunteers. For instance, in an environmental project, some participants may be government regulators, some may be local business people, and some may be unpaid activists. It’s important to see and name them all as working.
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insights from the k-12 civic education System Map

For CivXNow, we recently created a System Map of k-12 civics. Perhaps the greatest value of the map is that we didn’t decide what was on it or how things fit together. More than 7,500 people co-created it by answering survey questions. We didn’t ask them what strategy they favored but whether they thought that various specific factors influenced other specific factors, and we built a network from the results. More about the method and its rationale is here.

In this post, I would like to derive some substantive results from the map.

First, look at what is connected to two different possible outcomes of civic education: youth knowledge (on the left) and youth civic engagement (on the right). Almost the whole map has direct connections to knowledge; very little is connected to youth engagement. Of the causes of youth engagement, one is knowledge–which sends us back to the diagram on the left. Another cause is “schools are [generally] effective institutions,” which may seem beyond the power of the civic education community.

Overall, it appears that we have created much more of a “system” for generating youth knowledge than for empowering youth to act. To the extent that people are working on the latter goal, their efforts are not nearly as visible to our 7,500 respondents.

Second, compare two factors that have to do with the content and pedagogy of civics. On the left is whether civics addresses complex and current issues and controversies. On the right is whether teachers are able to present civics without bias and withstand a polarized political environment outside the classroom

Either goal may be very important. You might reasonably consider either (or both) to be your main concern. But the one on the left is highly leveraged, affecting many other outcomes. The one on the right has virtually no leverage at all. Our community doubts that if civics avoided problems of bias, then anything else would improve.

Third, take a look at funding. This was linked to more other factors than any other node on the map. I assume that is because it is relatively easy to envision that having more money would change a whole range of outcomes. We all know that money has value. (That’s why they call it “money.”)

The Role of Funding

But how would we get more money? This map rightly portrays funding as a “midstream” issue. Yes, money would help, but other factors–notably, including civics in accountability systems and making civic engagement more of a public priority–are what would yield more funding. The map suggests that even if money is an important means, it is likely not the best target for advocacy.

Now take a look at how people connected “Teachers are Well Prepared to Teach Civics” to other nodes. This is the factor that captures pre-service education, professional development, etc. Respondents did see it as a driver of more engaging pedagogy and of more current issue-discussions. But the ultimate outcome they expected was better knowledge, not more civic engagement.

How People View Professional Development

This could mean that most teacher education and PD presents student knowledge as the explicit goal, and engaging pedagogy as a means. Should it be otherwise?

Finally, let’s zoom in for greater detail. This is a screenshot from the version of the map that displays 75 components clustered into larger factors. I have highlighted the components that may reflect a concern with history and classic texts (often coded as conservative) and those that reflect a desire for students to take action (sometimes seen as progressive).

Components Involving Action Civics and Historical Texts

The point I would like to emphasize is that these goals are not in conflict. They light up different parts of the map. It’s possible to work on both goals at once.

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The American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) at Tisch College this summer

June 17-22, 2019

Background and Purpose

Scholars in many disciplines are grappling with how to produce rigorous scholarship that addresses significant social challenges in collaboration with communities, organizations, and agencies. They strive to learn from non-academics, to benefit from the research capacity of all kinds of groups and institutions, and to give back to communities rather than extract value from them. Although political scientists offer models of excellence in civically engaged research, relevant methods and strategies are not yet widely taught in the discipline’s graduate programs or sufficiently valued in the profession as a whole. 

Therefore, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Council has authorized an annual APSA Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) to begin in summer 2019. ICER is intended for advanced graduate students in political science and political scientists at any stage of their careers who wish to shift to using civically engaged research. It is not meant for scholars who are already experienced in that approach.

Content of the Institute 

The Institute will address topics such as: 

  • Expertise: what do political scientists contribute? What are the limitations of scholarly expertise? What expertise do others have?
  • The needs of scholars as compared to community groups or political actors. Tensions and ways of addressing them.
  • The ethics of collaboration: sharing of credit, funds and overhead, IRB issues, sharing results, dealing with disagreements.
  • Communicating results: to partners, communities, the press, directly to the broad public. Dealing with controversy.
  • How to define and honor values of like neutrality, objectivity, and rigor.
  • Career issues:  publication and credit, tenure and promotion, fundraising.
  • Mapping the different and varied ways that political scientists engage.

We will explore these issues by discussing relevant readings, by analyzing specific examples of civically engaged political science research, and by considering the research plans and ideas of the participants in the Institute.

The Institute will take place on the campus of Tufts University, in the Boston area, from June 17-22, 2019. Approximately twenty participants will meet each day from June 17-20 for intensive discussions. Participants are expected to attend the Frontiers of Democracy conference with approximately 120 other scholars and practitioners from the evening of June 20 until noon on June 22 in downtown Boston.

How to Apply

Thanks to support from the APSA, participation in the Institute and the conference is free, and scholarships are available to defray costs of travel, food, and housing in dormitories on the Tufts campus. Applicants are expected to seek financial support from their home institution, but admission to the Institute for Civically Engaged Research will not be affected by financial need.

To apply, please complete this form. It will ask for 1) your name, your institution, and program of study or current employment; 2) your reasons for interest in the Institute; 3) your background in political science research and in civically engaged research; 4) your areas of special research interest; and 5) your demographics. You are also asked to upload your CV and your unofficial academic transcript if you are a current graduate student or earned a PhD within the last five years.


Confirmed speakers and visitors include: Valeria Sinclair Chapman (Purdue), Archon Fung (Harvard), Taeku Lee (Berkeley), Robert Lieberman (Johns Hopkins), Jamila Michener (Cornell), Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (Cal State-Long Beach), Pearl Robinson (Tufts), and Rogers Smith (University of Pennsylvania). 

Also involved with the Institute are: Amanda Grigg (APSA) and Hahrie Han (University of California Santa Barbara)

The organizer and Principal Investigator on the project is Peter Levine (Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life and Department of Political Science). 

Related Opportunities 

  • The 11th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies will take place at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life from June 23-28, 2019, following ICER. It is highly interdisciplinary and focused on a set of readings about how people work together to improve the world, how people reason together about what is right to do, and what practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship. Applications are due on March 30, 2019.
  • The Center on Democracy and Organizing (CDO) is seeking applications from advanced Ph.D. students and early career researchers and organizers for participation in an interdisciplinary institute focused on the study of democracy and organizing. This institute will be held from July 31 to August 2 at the University of California, Berkeley. Political scientists are encouraged to apply. The organizers of the APSA/Tufts Institute and the CDO institute will ensure that the content does not overlap substantially. 
  • The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14-27, 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Kloubert at by March 15, 2019, for best consideration
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships at Tisch College:
  1. Tufts University will award a Post-Doctoral Fellowship to a scholar with expertise in American political behavior and survey data analysis for the 2019-20 academic year. The Fellowship is partly funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and will be awarded to a scholar with a Ph.D. in Political Science or a related discipline with research interests that intersect with the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Applicants should have completed the requirements for their Ph.D. by the time of appointment, which is planned for August 1, 2019. The post-doc will be located at Tufts University in the Department of Political Science and in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. More information and application materials are here.
  2. Tisch College will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH, and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area. The Tisch College Civic Science initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders engage the national dialogue about science issues. Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field. The Fellow will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested. More information and application materials are here.

Both Postdoctoral Fellows will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College.

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Brag, Cave and Crow: a contribution to game theory

Game theory models interactions by presenting the “players” as people (or organizations) who face choices, and the outcome as the result of how they each choose. In conflictual circumstances, the players can choose between the option that their opponent would prefer (cooperate) or the one that their opponent would not prefer (defect). In certain unpleasant circumstances, such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, every player is better off defecting even though that outcome is worst for all.

Donald Trump has faced a set of conflictual games as president, with North Korea, Mexico and Canada, China, and Chuck & Nancy (among others) on the opposite side of the table. He has frequently applied the novel strategy of Brag, Cave, and Crow (Trump, DJ et al. 2019). It works like this: First declare very loudly that you will defect and the other side will be forced to cooperate, then cooperate, and then declare very loudly that the other side was the one that cooperated.

This is not as dumb as it sounds.

First, assume that you can convince yourself that you did win. Payers seek to achieve their own preferences or maximize their own satisfaction. If you talk yourself into the idea that you won even though someone might see you as having folded, your subjective feelings are fine. That’s a win. Meanwhile, the conflict is gone and does you no more damage.

Second, if you are Donald Trump, you are always more interested in another game, a popularity contest. You are appealing to an audience of consumers or voters. Insofar as you can persuade them that you won even though you folded, you do win what you wanted most. And in a world of echo chambers and partisan heuristics, often this is exactly what happens. For instance, settle for the substance of NAFTA with minor tweaks, but rename it with an acronym that has “US … A” in it, and you can Brag, Cave, and Crow (BCC) for the win.

In the immediate circumstances, it’s good that BCC pays off for Donald Trump. It’s much better that he should brag about having solved the North Korean nuclear standoff than convince himself that he must actually force North Korea to denuclearize. Likewise, if he can claim he built a wall on the southern border when he didn’t, that will save us all some money, preserve the Constitution, offend Mexico less than a physical wall would, and leave nature and landowners alone.

At this juncture, Trump’s choice is either to Crow or to go back to the Brag stage. In other words, he can declare that he won or else threaten to win in the future with a veto or a declaration of emergency. I don’t think he can both Brag and Crow at the same moment about the same thing, although the echo chamber may be hermetic enough to allow that to work to some degree.

Alas, the incentive to BCC is yet another blow to responsible and accountable governance and public deliberation.

See also game theory and the shutdown; the emperor’s new wall; and why learn game theory?

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a public university as civic anchor

I’ve been at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, subjecting a substantial group of faculty to not one, but two, keynote talks during their professional development conference just before their semester starts.

In the first talk, I drew a link between the decline of everyday civic life and the poor state of American politics. As I noted, this is a nonpartisan framing and one that somewhat bypasses highly contested issues, such as race and class. In other contexts, I endorse more partisan and divisive diagnoses. In fact, the last time I was in Wisconsin, it was to talk to an #Indivisible group, and that meeting found its way into a Washington Post story about “turn[ing] Wisconsin back to blue.” But I also believe in the framing I gave today, and it has two major advantages for a public university. It is relatively neutral about the kinds of issues about which students and other citizens disagree, and it assigns a significant role to the university itself, as a community anchor that can support the everyday civic work of deliberation, collaboration, and forming civic relationships.

Here is the Prezi for that talk:

The second talk was about the intellectual work we need in classrooms and research programs. Just as citizens must ask “What should we do?”, so scholars should study and teach that question. But it tends to slip between the tessellation of our academic disciplines, which focus more on how and why things happen, what opinions we should form, what governments should do, or what constitutes justice. What we should actually do is constantly sidestepped.

Remedying that problem is the impetus behind Civic Studies, a small but international movement with a space in the Tufts curriculum as a major. UW Green Bay already offers a remarkable array of interdisciplinary degree programs. But those might take some inspiration and insights from the content of Civic Studies.

Here is the Prezi for that one:

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Tisch College Postdoc in Civic Science

Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019-May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area.

The Tisch College Civic Science Initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders—can engage the national dialogue by:

  • Redefining the role of higher education in promoting science for the public good, by teaching skills that can transform science-based information into actionable civic knowledge
  • Redefining the role of the scientist in society by training scientists to implement a participatory approach that fosters an understanding of science as relevant and accessible
  • Redefining the national conversation on divisive and complex scientific issues to create a more inclusive exchange of ideas through dialogue that connects evidence-based science to our values, beliefs, and choices.
  • Developing courses and pedagogies designed to build civic capacities on complex and controversial science-based issues of societal consequence.
  • Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College from June 20-28, 2019. He or she will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested.

A scholar with a Ph.D. in any relevant discipline who is not yet tenured.

Application Instructions
Applications should include:

(1) a cover letter which includes a description of your research goals during the fellowship year and the courses you would like to offer;

(2) your CV;

(3) one writing sample;

(4) three letters of recommendation which should be uploaded by your recommenders to Interfolio directly; and

(5) teaching course evaluations, if available.

February 1, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled

Questions about the position should be addressed to Tisch College Academic Dean at

Non-Discrimination Statement

Our institution does not discriminate against job candidates on the basis of actual or perceived gender, gender identity, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or religion.

Tufts University, founded in 1852, prioritizes quality teaching, highly competitive basic and applied research and a commitment to active citizenship locally, regionally and globally. Tufts University also prides itself on creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Current and prospective employees of the university are expected to have and continuously develop skill in, and disposition for, positively engaging with a diverse population of faculty, staff, and students. Tufts University is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employer. We are committed to increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff and fostering their success when hired. Members of underrepresented groups are welcome and strongly encouraged to apply. If you are an applicant with a disability who is unable to use our online tools to search and apply for jobs, please contact us by calling Johny Laine in the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) at 617.627.3298 or at Applicants can learn more about requesting reasonable accommodations at

See also: Cooperative Congressional Election Study and Tisch College of Civic Life: Postdoctoral Fellowship

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