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Why do governments abuse human rights, and what can be done to deter and reverse abusive practices? This article examines the emerging social science on these two questions. Over the last few decades, scholars have made considerable progress in answering the first one. Abuse stems, centrally, from conflict and institutions. Answers to the second question are more elusive because data are scarce and the relationships between cause and effect are hard to pin down. Lively debates concern the effectiveness of tools such as military intervention, economic policy, international law, and information strategies for protecting human rights. The evidence suggests that despite the explosion of international legal instruments, this strategy has had impact only in special circumstances. Powerful states play central roles in protecting human rights through sanctions, impartial military intervention, and other tools – often applied unilaterally, which suggests that there is an ongoing tension between the legitimacy of broad multilateral legal institutions and narrower strategies that actually work. The best approaches to managing human rights depend on the political organization of the abuser. Where strong centralized organizations are the problem, the best strategies alter the incentives of leaders at the top; where abuse arises from disarray, such as during civil war or fragile democratic transition, the key tasks include reducing agency slack and making organizations stronger and more accountable.

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In societies involved in an intractable conflict, there are strong socio-psychological barriers that contribute to the continuation and intractability of the conflict. Based on a unique field study conducted in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, we offer a new avenue to overcome these barriers by exposing participants to a long-term paradoxical intervention campaign expressing extreme ideas that are congruent with the shared ethos of conflict. Results show that the intervention, although counterintuitive, led participants to express more conciliatory attitudes regarding the conflict, particularly among participants with center and right political orientation. Most importantly, the intervention even influenced participants’ actual voting patterns in the 2013 Israeli general elections: Participants who were exposed to the paradoxical intervention, which took place in proximity to the general elections, reported that they tended to vote more for dovish parties, which advocate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. These effects were long lasting, as the participants in the intervention condition expressed more conciliatory attitudes when they were reassessed 1 year after the intervention. Based on these results, we propose a new layer to the general theory of persuasion based on the concept of paradoxical thinking.

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Existing research on the causes of violent ethnic conflict is characterized by an enduring debate on whether these conflicts are the result of deeply felt grievances or the product of an opportunity structure in which rebellion is an attractive and/or viable option. This article argues that the question of whether incentive- or opportunity-based explanations of conflict have more explanatory power is fundamentally misguided, as conflict is more likely the result of a complex interaction of both. The fact is, however, that there is little generalized knowledge about these interactions. This study aims to fill this gap and applies crisp-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in order to identify constellations of risk factors that are conducive to ethnic conflict. The results demonstrate the explanatory leverage gained by taking causal complexity in the form of risk patterns into account. It takes no more than four different configurations of a total of eight conditions to reliably explain almost two-thirds of all ethnic conflict onsets between 1990 and 2009. Moreover, these four configurations are quasi-sufficient for onset, leading to conflict in 88% of all cases covered. The QCA model generated in this article also fares well in predicting conflicts in-sample and out-of-sample, with the in-sample predictions being more precise than those generated by a simple binary logistic regression.

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Conflict is an inevitable component of social life, and natural selection has exerted strong effects on many organisms to facilitate victory in conflict and to deter conspecifics from imposing harms upon them. Like many species, humans likely possess cognitive systems whose function is to motivate revenge as a means of deterring individuals who have harmed them from harming them again in the future. However, many social relationships often retain value even after conflicts have occurred between interactants, so natural selection has very likely also endowed humans with cognitive systems whose function is to motivate reconciliation with transgressors whom they perceive as valuable and nonthreatening, notwithstanding their harmful prior actions. In a longitudinal study with 337 participants who had recently been harmed by a relationship partner, we found that conciliatory gestures (e.g., apologies, offers of compensation) were associated with increases in victims’ perceptions of their transgressors’ relationship value and reductions in perceptions of their transgressors’ exploitation risk. In addition, conciliatory gestures appeared to accelerate forgiveness and reduce reactive anger via their intermediate effects on relationship value and exploitation risk. These results strongly suggest that conciliatory gestures facilitate forgiveness and reduce anger by modifying victims’ perceptions of their transgressors’ value as relationship partners and the likelihood of recidivism.

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The concept of stigmergy has been used to analyze self-organizing activities in an ever-widening range of domains, from social insects via robotics and social media to human society. Yet, it is still poorly understood, and as such its full power remains underappreciated. The present paper clarifies the issue by defining stigmergy as a mechanism of indirect coordination in which the trace left by an action in a medium stimulates a subsequent action. It then analyses the fundamental components of the definition: action, agent, medium, trace and coordination. Stigmergy enables complex, coordinated activity without any need for planning, control, communication, simultaneous presence, or even mutual awareness. This makes the concept applicable to a very broad variety of cases, from chemical reactions to individual cognition and Internet-supported collaboration in Wikipedia. The paper classifies different varieties of stigmergy according to general aspects (number of agents, scope, persistence, sematectonic vs. marker-based, and quantitative vs. qualitative), while emphasizing the fundamental continuity between these cases. This continuity can be understood from a non-linear, self-organizing dynamic that lets more complex forms of coordination evolve out of simpler ones. The paper concludes with two specifically human applications in cognition and cooperation, suggesting that without stigmergy these phenomena may never have evolved in the first place.

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This article focuses on the role of social marketing, in particular the analysis of the motivations and capabilities of stakeholder groups, in encouraging acceptance of an innovative experimental approach to semiarid shrubland restoration in Chile. Controlled scientific experiments involving herbivory control during El Niño events have proved promising, but have not yet been introduced into ecosystem management approaches. Social marketing, as a lens for focusing on and understanding stakeholders’ motivations, provides a valuable framework in which strategies may be developed for diffusing promising scientific experiments into regional management contexts.

While complex environmental challenges are difficult to understand and even more difficult to manage, we have raised the possibility in this paper that social marketing in general, and Rothschild’s framework in particular, offer practical insights into the trade-offs and policy interventions that might help move a system towards conservation. We acknowledge that social marketing is not a panacea. Nonetheless, it needs to be added to the development literature like other approaches that are better documented, such as participatory management and community-based management. Its contribution, however, is that it reveals the significant differences in motivation that characterize different social groups concerned with or affected by conservation imperatives. As such, social marketing can provide a source of further insight for those dedicated to restoration in complex social contexts.

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… many of the critics and theorists who turned to affect often focused on the circuit from affect to emotion, ending up with subjectively felt states of emotion – a return to the subject as the subject of emotion. I want to turn attention instead to those critics and theorists who, indebted to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Baruch Spinoza and Henri Bergson, conceptualize affect as pre-individual bodily forces augmenting or diminishing a body’s capacity to act and who critically engage those technologies that are making it possible to grasp and to manipulate the imperceptible dynamism of affect. I want to argue that focusing on affect – without following the circuit from affect to subjectively felt emotional states – makes clear how the turn to affect is a harbinger of and a discursive accompaniment to the forging of a new body, what I am calling the biomediated body.

In pointing to the devastating potential of biopolitical racism at the post-biological threshold, it is important to remember, however, that a threshold is indeterminate. It is the limit point beyond which there will have been change irreducible to causes. To elaborate the political economy of the biomediated body is not to determine the political economic as the cause of the biomediated body or its potential. It is rather to offer a back-formed analysis of the conditions of possibility of arriving at this threshold – which will help to move thinking about political economy from a prior back forming analysis and set the stage for strategizing about what is to be done. While the political gain expected by the affective turn – its openness, emergence and creativity – is already the object of capitalist capture, as capital shifts to accumulate in the domain of affect and deploys racism to produce an economy to realize this accumulation, it is important to remember the virtual at the threshold. Beyond it, always a chance for something else, unexpected, new.

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The re-creation of society involves the bottom-up-emergence of social information and the top-down-emergence of individual information. Social self-organisation in a broad sense refers to the re-creation of society, in a narrower sense it takes aspects of participation in the processes of constituting social information into account.

The whole social system encompasses three cycles of self-organisation which result in the emergence of social information on an economic, a political as well as a cultural level. On the one hand, economical information influences the emergence of political and cultural information and political information influences the emergence of cultural information in processes of bottom-up-emergence. On the other hand, cultural information influences the emergence of political and economical information and political information influences the emergence of economical information in processes of top-down-emergence. Nonetheless, economics and economical information form the base of each type of society. They dominate, but never determine the various social processes and the formation and differentiation of social information.

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In this paper, I outline a perspective on knowing in practice which highlights the essential role of human action in knowing how to get things done in complex organizational work. The perspective suggests that knowing is not a static embedded capability or stable disposition of actors, but rather an ongoing social accomplishment, constituted and reconstituted as actors engage the world in practice. In interpreting the findings of an empirical study conducted in a geographically dispersed high-tech organization, I suggest that the competence to do global product development is both collective and distributed, grounded in the everyday practices of organizational members. I conclude by discussing some of the research implications of a perspective on organizational knowing in practice.

I have argued that paying attention to organizational knowing might complement our understanding of organizational effectiveness by highlighting the essential role of situated action in constituting knowing in practice. In particular, we might learn some useful insights about capabilities if we also focus on what people do, and how they do it, rather than focusing primarily on infrastructure, objects, skills, or dispositions. Understanding organizational knowing in practice may get us closer to an understanding of organizational life as “continually contingently reproduced by knowledgeable human agents—that’s what gives it fixity and that’s what also produces change”.

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Much of the research on media use in organizations has tended to focus on the use of one medium in isolation from the other media in the organization. Yet the proliferation of communication technologies, especially Internet-based technologies, combined with work configurations such as hybrids of virtual and co-located work, has made it more likely that organizational members will use multiple media, in various combinations, to communicate. This study of a regional facilities group in a Fortune 500 company explores how the use of both single and multiple media in a hybrid work configuration can facilitate a variety of rich and complex interactions. Focusing on the conversation as the unit of analysis, we found that organizational members used single and multiple media to support individual as well as concurrent interactions. We propose the notion of conversational scaffolding to describe how organizational members engaged with various media alone and in combination to accomplish both individual and concurrent conversations.