On April 13, 2022 I gave a virtual guest talk on “QCA in International Security” at the Social Science Research Lab, Department of Social Sciences of the United States Military Academy at West Point. In recent years, QCA has seen an increasing number of empirical applications on security-related topics, and IR research at large. In my talk, I gave a concise introduction to the method and its application in the field, outlined the structure of my QCA textbook, and provided an illustration of how QCA has been used to analyze coalition defection in the Iraq War. Thanks to Jordan Becker, Director of the Social Science Research Lab, and his colleagues for the invitation and the fruitful discussion after the talk!
Tag: international relations
Contemporary Security Policy published our open access article “The Unintended Consequences of UN Sanctions: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis” (with Katharina L. Meissner, Centre for European Integration Research, University of Vienna). The article examines the flip-side to sanctions, namely their unintended consequences. Empirically, we draw on data from the Targeted Sanctions Consortium to conduct a set-theoretic analysis. We complement the QCA part with case illustrations on Haiti and North Korea.
Abstract: Sanctions are widely used foreign policy tools in reaction to crises in world politics. Accordingly, literature on sanction eﬀectiveness—their intended consequences—is abundant. Yet, fewer studies address the unintended consequences of restrictive measures. This is remarkable given that negative externalities are well documented. Our article explores this phenomenon by asking under which conditions sanctions yield negative externalities. We develop a theoretical conceptualization and explanatory framework for studying the unintended consequences of UN sanctions. Empirically, we draw on data from the rich, but scarcely used Targeted Sanctions Consortium and apply qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to examine negative externalities of UN sanctions, complemented by illustrations from the cases Haiti and North Korea. The results document the existence of multiple pathways toward unintended consequences, highlighting the negative impact of comprehensive and long-lasting sanctions, as well as the ability of autocratic targets with economic means to persist unscathed from sanctions.
QCA in International Relations: A Review of Strengths, Pitfalls, and Empirical Applications
International Studies Review published our open access article “QCA in International Relations: A Review of Strengths, Pitfalls, and Empirical Applications” (with Tobias Ide, Murdoch University, Perth). This is the first comprehensive review of QCA applications in International Relations (IR), covering empirical studies published between 1987 and 2020. The article discusses strengths and limitations of QCA and develops concise recommendations on how to improve QCA research in IR.
Abstract: Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) is a rapidly emerging method in the ﬁeld of International Relations (IR). This raises questions about the strengths and pitfalls of QCA in IR research, established good practices, how IR performs against those standards, and which areas require further attention. After a general introduction to the method, we address these questions based on a review of all empirical QCA studies published in IR journals between 1987 and 2020. Results show that QCA has been employed on a wide range of issue areas and is most common in the study of peace and conﬂict, global environmental politics, foreign policy, and compliance with international regulations. The utilization of QCA offers IR scholars four distinct advantages: the identiﬁcation of complex causal patterns, the distinction between necessary and sufﬁcient conditions, a middle ground between quantitative and qualitative approaches, and the reinforcement of the strengths of other methods. We ﬁnd that albeit a few exceptions, IR researchers conduct high-quality QCA research when compared against established standards. However, the ﬁeld should urgently pay more attention to three issues: the potential of using QCA in combination with other methods, increasing the robustness of QCA results, and strengthening research transparency in QCA applications. Throughout the article, we formulate strategies for improved QCA research in IR.
47th ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops at UCL Mons, Belgium
From 8-12 April 2019, UCL Mons hosted the 47th ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops. I took part in the workshop “Formal and Informal Intergovernmental Organisations in Time: Explaining Transformations in Global Governance”, chaired by Eugénia Heldt (TU Munich) and Duncan Snidal (University of Oxford). The three-day workshop featured 22 research papers from 27 contributors from the USA, Australia, and all across Europe. Our research team presented first empirical results from the ongoing DFG project “International Bureaucracies as ‘Runaway Agents’? How Organizational Structure Affects Agency Slack” (2018-2021, grant volume 488.000 €), based on a paper co-authored with Eugénia Heldt, Omar Ramon Serrano Oswald, and Anna Novoselova (all from the Bavarian School of Public Policy, TU Munich). Details on the DFG research project can be found here. For Information on the ECPR Joint Sessions in Mons see this link.
German Research Foundation (DFG) Funds Multi-Method Research Project on Organizational Structure and Agency Slack
New DFG Project “International Bureaucracies as ‘Runaway Agents’? How Organizational Structure Affects Agency Slack”, Principal Investigator: Eugénia da Conceição-Heldt (TU Munich), 2018-2021
Project Summary: “Over the past decades states have delegated extensive decision-making authority to the administrative bodies of international organizations. These international bureaucracies are setting agendas, participate in decision-making processes, implement policy programs, represent states in international organizations, create new regulatory agencies, and even settle disputes among states. Their gradual process of empowerment has been accompanied by an increase in oversight mechanisms, as member states, in some cases, considered that international bureaucracies had undertaken actions contrary to their intentions and overstepped their mandates (agency slack). Accordingly, international bureaucracies are sometimes portrayed as “runaway agents” that escaped the control of their principals (member states). This prompts a key question for research on international bureaucracies in global governance: under what conditions do secretariats of international organizations engage in agency slack – deviating from their mandate and acting in a way unintended by their principals?
To address this question, this project takes a Multi-Method Research approach that is suited to test and further develop principal-agent theory. We employ fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis and fuzzy-set ideal type analysis for a systematic cross-case comparison and, subsequently, process-tracing for an in-depth study of selected international bureaucracies, each of which are analyzed for specific policies. We test our theoretical expectations on 27 international bureaucracies, where we gather data on four organizational characteristics: fragmentation, staffing rules, buffering, and permeability. The chosen approach will allow us to investigate necessary and sufficient conditions for the occurrence of agency slack, to identify underlying causal mechanisms, and to assess the plausibility of alternative explanations. The insights gained from the project will enable us to map different patterns of agency slack and explain under which organizational structures international bureaucracies act against their principals’ preferences. Showing how organizational structure matters by comparing different international bureaucracies will enrich principal-agent theory and help us bridge the gap between theoretical considerations and empirical work in the field.” [More Information] [DFG Gepris]