Lehre im SoSe 2017 in Göttingen

Ab dem 1.4.2017 bin ich Professor für das politische System der BRD in Göttingen, und biete vier Lehrveranstaltungen an:

Ich gebe hier an dieser Stelle Bescheid, sobald die Kurse im StudIP angelegt sind. Wenn Sie vorher schon etwas über die Veranstaltungen wissen wollen, schreiben Sie mir einfach eine Mail.

Teaching International Organizations as Bureaucracies

I have a new blog post for the ivory tower blog. In a nutshell: One of my favourite topics when teaching international organizations is the Weberian view of international organizations as bureaucracies articulated by Martha Finnemore and Michael Barnett. The UNHCR field manuals provide a very nice real-world illustration of this perspective and are very helpful to illustrate the argument that definitions and categories are extremely powerful.

The Medici Marriage Network in Florence

In my course on policy networks, I today discussed and re-analyzed the famous article „Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici“ by Padgett and Ansell. We tried to find network visualizations that test (or illustrate) the claims made in the article, e.g.

„The Medici party was an extraordinarily centralized, and simple „star“ or „spoke“ network system.“ (p.1278)

One central claim is that

„The Medici did not marry those with whom they lived.“ (p.1281)

My students suggested that it would be nice to test this claim using actual geographical data. And thanks to the geographic mapping feature of visone, it worked out really well. I used wikipedia and http://www.mapcoordinates.net/ to find the coordinates of the headquarters of the main Florentine families (it was quite easy, if a family is called Strozzi, it is likely that there still is a „Palazzo Strozzi“), and merged these coordinate data to the visone network data.

Then I used mapping – coordinates – geographic, and here it is:


In the background is a map of Florence. The Medici and their supporters are green, their opponents purple, and those families with split loyalties are green. There is surely room for improvement, but we can see how the Medici (living „up north“) have their marriage ties spread out through the city, but not to those living close by (the Pucci, Ginori and Bischeri, for example).

Clever, clever Lorenzo de Medici…


Parsimonious theories

Being the father of a three-year old offers me numerous new examples to illustrate key concepts in social science. Today: What is a parsimonious social theory? Imagine you find a broken beer bottle on the street. What happened?

a) A pirate hacked the bottle to pieces with his big pirate sword.

b) A dinosaur destroyed the bottle.

c) Someone dropped the bottle and it broke.

I guess, Occam´s razor suggests option c), but try to explain Occam´s razor to a three-year old.