23 Aug 2014

Dynamics and Stages

– “Evaluating Conflict Dynamics: A Novel Empirical Approach to Stage Conceptions,” forthcoming at the Journal of Conflict Resolution (with Benjamin T. Jones)
– “Conflict Dynamics,” 2016. Chapter in Springer’s Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance (with Benjamin T. Jones)
– “Surviving Phases: Introducing Multistate Survival Models,” 2016, Political Analysis (with Benjamin T. Jones)

“Evaluating Conflict Dynamics” & “Conflict Dynamics”

I build off the notion of disputed issues as context in a coauthored project with Benjamin Jones. We conceive of disputes over issues as a process, progressing through different stages (e.g., militarized conflict, no action). We treat these stages as context. Our interest is in investigating situations in which “history matters”—i.e., where events in a process’ immediate and distant past affect its present outcome. Interest in “processes” has become increasingly pronounced in international conflict research in recent years, particularly how these processes unfold across time (“dynamics”).

In our Springer chapter, we advance a larger conceptual point about “dynamics.” We argue that current usage of the word “dynamics” by conflict scholars can have several meanings. Crucially, these different meanings have fundamentally distinct implications for accurate empirical testing. We propose a single conceptual framework for understanding “dynamics,” in order to unify the different usages in the conflict literature.

In our JCR article, we focus on one particular conception of dynamics: a “stage” conception, and apply it to the study of territorial disputes. We propose a novel econometric application, the first of its kind, to assess quantitatively claims regarding stage conceptualizations of dynamics: survival modeling. Specifically, we use multi-state models to capture processes that unfold over a series of sequential, and possibly recurrent, stages. Multi-state models model this complex process as a whole, and also allow for testing hypotheses regarding individual covariates effects at each individual stage within the larger process. We use Huth and Allee’s (2002) territorial dispute data to demonstrate the importance of conceptualizing conflict as a dynamic process, as well as empirically modeling it as such.

“Surviving Phases”

Benjamin Jones and I also build from our claim that multi-state survival models can give us analytic purchase over the notion of conflict dynamics. More generally, many political processes consist of a series of theoretically meaningful transitions across discrete phases. While regime-switching models allow us to empirically assess hypotheses about transitions between phases in some contexts, there have been relatively few attempts to extend such models to the study of durations. Yet, political scientists are often theoretically interested in studying not just transitions between phases, but also the duration that subjects spend within phases.

In our PA article, we formally introduce the multi-state survival model to political scientists. Multi-state models are capable of modeling precisely this type of situation. The model is appealing because of its ability to model multiple forms of causal complexity that unfold over time. In particular, we highlight three attractive features of the multi-state model: its stratification of baseline hazards, its transition-specific covariate effects, and its ability to estimate overall transition probabilities. We provide two applications to illustrate the model’s features.