Political Science Professor co-authors important comparative study of American State Constitutions
Dr. George Conner (PLS)
and Christopher W. Hammons (Associate Professor of Political Science at Houston Baptist University) recently published a comparative study of American state constitutions which offers insightful overviews of the general and specific problems that have confronted America’s constitution writers since the founding. Each chapter reflects the constitutional history and theory of a single state, encompassing each document’s structure, content, and evolution. Requiring more than five years of research and writing, this volume is grounded in the model presented by constitutional scholar Donald S. Lutz in The Origins of American Constitutionalism
so that even when a state has a relatively stable constitutional history, Lutz’s framework can be used to measure the evolving meaning of the document. With contributors drawn from state governments as well as academia, this is the first work to offer a framework by which state constitutions can be analyzed in relation to one another and to the federal Constitution.
The volume begins with chapters on the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Border, and Southern states. While regional similarities within and between the New England and Mid-Atlantic states are noteworthy, the colonial aspect of their history laid the foundation for national constitution-making. And while North and South moved in distinct directions, the Border states wrestled with conflicting constitutional traditions in the same way that they wrestled with their place in the Union.
Southern states that seceded are shown to have had a common set of problems in their constitutions, and the post–Civil War South emerged from that conflict with a constitutionalism that was defined for it by the war’s victors. These chapters reveal that constitutional self-definition, while not evident in all of the former Confederate states, has redeveloped in the South in the intervening 140 years.
Sections devoted to the Midwest, the Plains, the Mountain West, the Southwest, and the West reflect the special circumstances of states that arose from American expansion. Chapters describe how states of the Midwest, united by common roots in the Northwest Ordinance, wrote constitutions that were defined by that act’s parameters while reflecting the unique cultural and political realities of each state. Meanwhile, the Plains states developed a constitutionalism that was historically rooted in progressivism and populism, sometimes in the clash between these two ideologies.
Perhaps more than any other region, the Mountain West was defined by the physical landscape, and these chapters relate how those states were able to define their individual constitutional identities in spite of geography rather than because of it.
This valuable publication demonstrates the diversity of our governmental arrangements and provides a virtual introduction to the political culture of each of the fifty states.
Missouri State Political Scientist Publishes Ground-breaking Study on the Landless Workers Movement in Modern Brazil
Gabriel Ondetti (PLS) recently published a major monograph entitled Land, Protest, and Politics: The Landless Movement and the Struggle for Agrarian Reform in Brazil (Penn State University Press, 2008). His focus on the Brazilian Landless workers movement is unique. Brazil is a country of extreme inequalities, one of the most important of which is the acute concentration of rural land ownership. In recent decades, however, poor landless workers have mounted a major challenge to this state of affairs.
Ondetti, in his book, shows how a broad grassroots social movement led by the Movement of Landless Workers (MST) has mobilized hundreds of thousands of families to pressure authorities for land reform through mass protest. This book explores the evolution of the landless movement from its birth during the twilight years of Brazil’s military dictatorship through the first government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-present).
Ondetti also uses this case study of the Brazilian landless movement to test a number of major theoretical perspectives on social movements and he engages in a critical dialogue with both contemporary political opportunity theory and Mancur Olson’s classic economic theory of collective action.
Anthony Pereira, professor of School of Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, commented in a review that “Gabriel Ondetti has written an important book. For those interested in Brazil’s landless movement, this new and persuasive explanation of the rise of the movement combines a focus on the political opportunity structure with subjective and cultural factors left out of much mainstream analysis… Ondetti’s book combines, in a rare fashion, in-depth research at the grassroots level, a rigorous theoretical argument, substantial use of macro-level data, and a comparative Latin American focus. It is the best work on this topic currently available.”
Political Science Professor publishes detailed historical and political narrative of U.S. intervention in Somalia
Dr. Kenneth Rutherford (PLS) recently published a candid, detailed historical and political narrative of U.S. Intervention in Somalia entitled Humanitarianism Under Fire: The U.S. and U.N. Intervention in Somalia, (Kumerian Press, 2008). The international humanitarian intervention in Somalia was one of the most challenging operations ever conducted by US and UN military forces.
Until Somalia, the UN had never run a Chapter VII exercise with large numbers of troops operating under a fighting mandate. It became a deadly test of the UN’s ability carry out a peace operation using force against an adversary determined to sabotage the intervention.
Rutherford’s study argues that this remarkably complicated intervention was one of the first cases of multilateral action in the post-Cold War era. Rutherford presents new information gleaned from interviews and intensive research in five countries. His evidence shows how Somalia became a turning point in the relationship between the UN and US and how policy and strategy decisions in military operations continue to refer back to this singular event, even today.