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Mark Gibney, Linda Cornett, Peter Haschke, Reed M. Wood, and Daniel Arnon

Although every violation of international human rights law standards is both deplorable and illegal, one of the major advances in the social sciences has been the development of measures of comparative state practice. The oldest of these is the Political Terror Scale (PTS), which provides an ordinal measure of physical integrity violations carried out by governments or those associated with the state. Providing data from the mid-1970s to the present, the PTS scores the human rights practices of more than 190 countries on a scale of 1–5, with 1 representing “best practices” and 5 indicating gross and systematic violations. There are two different sources for these scores: U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Amnesty International Annual Report. Although human rights have traditionally been associated only with the state, individuals can also be denied human rights protection by non-state actors. To measure this, the Societal Violence Scale (SVS) has been created to analyze three sources of physical integrity violations: the individual; corporate or criminal gang activity; and armed groups. As globalization proceeds apace, states have an increased influence on human rights protection in other countries. Unfortunately, human rights data, such as the PTS, analyze only the domestic practices of states. In an effort to better understand the full extent of a state’s human rights performance, the Extraterritorial Obligations (ETO) Report is currently being constructed. The ETO Report will provide an important analysis of state human rights performance when acting outside its own territorial borders.

Article

Wouter van Atteveldt, Kasper Welbers, and Mariken van der Velden

Analyzing political text can answer many pressing questions in political science, from understanding political ideology to mapping the effects of censorship in authoritarian states. This makes the study of political text and speech an important part of the political science methodological toolbox. The confluence of increasing availability of large digital text collections, plentiful computational power, and methodological innovations has led to many researchers adopting techniques of automatic text analysis for coding and analyzing textual data. In what is sometimes termed the “text as data” approach, texts are converted to a numerical representation, and various techniques such as dictionary analysis, automatic scaling, topic modeling, and machine learning are used to find patterns in and test hypotheses on these data. These methods all make certain assumptions and need to be validated to assess their fitness for any particular task and domain.

Article

Latin American transnational social movements (TSMs) are key actors in debates about the future of global governance. Since the 1990s, they have played an important role in creating new organizational fora to bring together civil society actors from around the globe. In spite of this relevance, the literature on social movements from the region focuses primarily—and often exclusively—on the domestic arena. Nevertheless, there is an increasingly influential body of scholarship from the region, which has contributed to relevant theoretical debates on how actors overcome collective action problems in constructing transnational social movements and how they articulate mobilization efforts at the local, national and international scales. The use of new digital technologies has further blurred the distinction among scales of activism. It has become harder to tell where interpretative frames originate, to trace diffusion paths across national borders, and to determine the boundaries of movements. At the same time, there are important gaps in the literature, chief among them the study of right-wing transnational networks.

Article

The currently extensive land appropriation across Africa signals the most radical shift in the distribution and tenure status of land since colonial times. The first alarms about “land grabs” by foreigners were raised by advocacy groups around 2007–2008. The search for land, always watered land, by foreign agents is driven by concerns about rising food and oil prices, and most of the acquired land is put under food crops, biofuels, and flex crops. The promises of profits from the exceedingly low price of land across Africa, as well as the rising demand for the mentioned crops, have also attracted speculation by private equity funds. With more detailed research on the processes and effects of this shift in rights to (and use of) land, the focus on a “new scramble” by foreign agents has extended to the multiple processes involved in the increasing demand for Africa’s land, internally and externally. The increase in acquisition of land by international agents, not only for cultivation but for minerals, oil, timber, and so forth, exacerbates the accelerating demand for land within African countries by nationals such as salaried, middle-class people and politicians acquiring land for cultivation and for an investment fast increasing in value. The millions of small-scale users of largely “customary” land struggle to derive a livelihood from their smallholdings and access to dwindling and increasingly enclosed common land, including grazing and watering areas. These linkages among local, national, and global dynamics of land acquisition reveal mounting socioeconomic and political inequality across Africa. In addition, research on the land rush reveals competing visions for African agriculture, invoking the debate of large- versus small-scale agricultural futures, a long-standing question of agrarian studies now being asked within much changed political-economic, social, and environmental conditions. Both macro-data and field studies show that most of the foreign acquired land is used for large-scale plantations, some of which include contract farming and outgrower schemes. Although, for a variety of reasons, some large land deals fold, the most recent Land Matrix data show most do move into production. Research on these large-scale projects has shown, however, that most fail to attain the projected aims of providing benefits to the countries and people from which they acquired the land. Most appropriated land was already in productive use by local users rather than “under-utilized” or “waste land” as described in many documents by investors and donors such as the World Bank; there were fewer benefits in the form of employment, higher and sustained income, and lower risk for most laborers, contract farmers, and outgrowers; far less infrastructure (schools, clinics, roads, etc.) built, as promised, for local populations; and output that is either exported or that proves unsuitable for the locales, with lower production value at lower efficiency compared with the land uses before the large-scale projects were put in place. These negative findings have to be set alongside the facts that the investors acquire the land at either extremely low cost (usually lease rather than sale) or even free, and receive tax, import/export and other “incentives.” The failure to benefit the millions of small- to medium-scale users of land, despite the rhetoric of land investors, major donors such as the finance arms of the World Bank Group, and governments facilitating the deals, has emerged as a key problem in light of deepening poverty, and a dearth of sufficient employment to absorb the young population, let alone people “exiting” from the land. Numerous experts conclude that a continued rapid alienation of land, especially to large-scale investors, will exacerbate localized land scarcity, restrict the potential of smallholder-led development, and put unrealistic pressure on the non-farm economy to absorb Africa’s rapidly rising labor force.