Ongoing research and working papers. For a list of all publications, see HERE.

In addition to the papers below, I am currently working on two long-term projects: a manuscript about the failed 1991 coup against Gorbachev, and a book examining how the international system shapes the legacies of state creation.  

Autocratic Diffusion and Great Power PoliticsWorking Paper. Presented at the workshop “Global Populisms and International Diffusion”, Stanford University, March 2019.

The rise and fall of great powers has frequently shaped cascades of autocratic diffusion. What can these past episodes help us see about the contemporary spread of autocracy? Historically, great power transitions have produced autocratic diffusion in two ways. First, the rise of autocratic great powers leads to waves of autocracy driven by conquest but also by self-interest and even admiration, as in the fascist wave of the 1930s or the post-1945 Communist wave. Second, the rise of democratic great powers leads to waves of democratization, but these waves inevitably over-extend and collapse, leading to waves of failed consolidation and rollback. While both democratic rollback and authoritarian cascades look like autocratic diffusion, they stem from very different causes. A key question is whether modern democratic decline is a post-1991 correction – that is, the delayed but inevitable rollback of the post-Soviet wave – or the beginning of a truly new wave of autocracy. I conclude with a speculative postscript about the one-party state as an emerging organizational (rather than ideological) rival to democracy.

Great Powers and Norm Cascades in Global PoliticsWorking paper. Presented at ISQ 2019.

How does the rise and fall of great powers shape the evolution of global norms? I argue that international practices and expectation surrounding sovereignty and democracy promotion are often shaped not by bottom-up activism or moral beliefs, but by direct and indirect effects of hegemonic shifts. 

With Ryan Griffiths and Kyungwon Suh. Waves of Secession in International PoliticsWorking paper.

Studies of secession typically focus on local factors that galvanize breakaway movements – domestic grievances, ethnic divides, or the geographic concentration of resources. But the forces behind independence are also linked to broader changes in the international system. Both World Wars and the Soviet collapse, for instance, led to globe-spanning waves of secession driven by abrupt changes in the global environment. We examine links between secessionist movements and changes in the international system, showing how external forces often play a key role in shaping waves of secession. Using an original dataset of secessionist movements since 1816, we demonstrate that secessionist efforts in times of hegemonic transformations have fundamentally different features than secessionist movements in periods of global stability. 


Legacies of Blood and Law: The Global Politics of State Formation 

Over the past century, the number of states exploded from less than fifty in 1900 to nearly 200 today. This expansion unfolded in a wide variety of ways. Some states were born through legacies of blood – violent revolutions, painful secessions, and fierce struggles for independence. Others achieved statehood through legacies of law – international treaties, peaceful mergers, or negotiated colonial separations. 


This project examines two questions. First, how does the international system shape the circumstances of state creation (that is, the specific way a country enters the international system)? Second, how do these creation legacies influence a country's long-term economic development, prospects for democracy, and propensity for conflict? 

This project is supported by an Insight Grant (2018-23) from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Three Days in August: The Coup that Ended the USSR

In August of 1991 a group of eight men executed a coup of the Soviet government. The “Gang of Eight”, as they came to be called, detained Gorbachev at his summer villa, took control of radio and television stations, and declared a national state of emergency.

This book draws on previously-untranslated sources to tell the story of the coup in all its complexity and drama. Using archives, memoirs, government documents, contemporary newspaper accounts, and interviews with surviving participants, the book situates the coup in the context of late Soviet history and examines what its failure tells us about coups more broadly.