We have released our new data portal GROWup. It presents data on ethnic group power relations, ethnic settlement patterns, and civil war collected jointly by the International Conflict Research group and our partners in Essex, Oslo, and Uppsala. The data are presented graphically for the wider public and provided in research-ready format for the academic community.
The president of ETH Zurich appointed Lars-Erik Cederman as Full Professor of International Conflict Research (successor to Kurt R. Spillmann) in spring 2003. Professor Cederman comes from Harvard University and will integrate well into the interdisciplinary environment of ETH, since his objective is to combine insights from the natural and social sciences in his work. The CIS welcomes him as a new member and is looking forward to the intellectual stimulation he will provide both to the center and to the new CIS research program on the new challenges to democracy.
Born in Sweden, Lars-Erik Cederman earned his first degree in engineering physics from Uppsala University in 1988. Having received a DES (“diplôme d’études supérieures”) from the Graduate Institute of International Studies (IUHEI) in Geneva, he moved to Ann Arbor in the US to study with Robert Axelrod at the University of Michigan. In 1994, he graduated with a Ph.D. in political science. His dissertation was subsequently published in 1997 by the Princeton University Press, with the title “Emergent Actors in World Politics,” which received the 1998 Edgar S. Furniss Book Award. A series of appointments in Europe and the US followed. After one year of teaching at IUHEI, he took up a lectureship at the University of Oxford. In 1997, his teaching career continued at the University of California, Los Angeles, followed by a year as a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, and as an Olin Fellow at Harvard University, respectively. Finally, in 2001, he was appointed Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has served until the move to ETH.
His main research interests include international relations theory, nationalism, state formation, and other integration and disintegration processes, as well as historical sociology. In order to explore these topics, he applies a variety of tools, such as statistics and agent-based modeling. The latter method is a particular type of computational technique that allows the analyst to create, analyze, and experiment with artificial worlds populated by agents that interact in non-trivial ways. In these “complex adaptive systems,” computation is used to simulate agents’ cognitive processes and behavior in order to explore emergent macrophenomena, i.e. structural patterns that are not reducible to, or even understandable in terms of properties of the microlevel agents. Such “bottom-up” models typically feature local and dispersed interaction rather than centralized control.
Recent publications in journals such as the American Political Science Review and the Journal of Conflict Resolution include models that show how clusters of cooperation and peace emerge among democracies. These statistical and computational investigations suggest that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant was correct in postulating that such cooperative developments would come to dominate regions of the world, and that they have the potential to spread beyond these areas. At present, Cederman is applying non-equilibrium theory drawn from statistical physics to topics in world politics. His most recent article in the American Political Science Review on “Modeling the Size of Wars” (February 2003) shows that war sizes measured in terms of casualties resemble earthquakes, in that there are many small events and very few large ones. Moreover, the statistical relationship among these events follows a very precise, so-called “power law,” according to which extreme events are more likely than would otherwise be expected according to standard assumptions. Additionally, this pattern offers clues about the underlying process that generates it. As opposed to conventional equilibrium assumptions, it appears that the international system is inherently dynamic and never fully at rest, because strategic tension is constantly building up as the system moves from one equilibrium to another. The only way to overcome such an unstable process is to create Kantian security communities of the type alluded to above.
It is Cederman’s hope that by combining insights from recent advances in the natural and social sciences, progress can be made that has eluded scientists who adopt a more narrow, disciplinary view. For various reasons, the social sciences continue to be strangely isolated from some of the new, exciting advances in physics. Thus, he sees his mission as that of building bridges at ETH between the “two cultures” by revealing that both research communities deal with profoundly complex and historical processes that can be studied using similar computational tools.
Another area that has attracted Cederman’s attention is the European Union’s so-called “democratic deficit.” Seen as an example of a peaceful integration process, European integration nevertheless poses difficult questions as regards its own political legitimacy. While many institutional electoral and constitutional reforms have been proposed to deal with this problem, as is currently the case at the Constitutional Convention, the Union still lacks effective identity-conferring mechanisms, such as a coordinated civic education, a coherent language policy, or a European-level media establishment. To explore the processes of identity formation at the European level, Cederman edited a volume with the title “Constructing Europe’s Identity: The External Dimension” (Lynne Rienner, 2001), as well as articles in International Organization and the European Journal of International Relations. Lars-Erik Cederman has now become the ninth member of CIS, and he is especially looking forward to collaborating in the new CIS research project on “New Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century.”
Content extracted from CIS News, Number 7, June 2003, pages 2,5.
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