shedplant.net

Academic Work

Analyse the economics of the dot com model versus the multi-channel mode with focus on a particular industry. Do you think the future will see a thriving dot com sector? (2010) - Download

This essay examines the economics of the online book-selling industry. The essay sees how more traditional businesses in the market have adapted and to judge how successful they have been at developing an online presence in competition with Amazon. It received a Distinction. The marker said:

Overall a very good project ... excellent insights

Can rational choice theory explain participation that puts one's life at stake? (2009) - Download

This essay tries to explain violent or life-threatening resistance with reference to rational choice theory and literature. It is argued that rational choice theory can largely, but not without issues, explain extreme forms of political participation. It received a First. Here are the marker's comments:

The essay is a good balance of good theoretical discussion and good coverage of the literature, with the contrast between the two versions of Rational Choice Theory setting it off nicely. I think you could have pushed some of the implications and arguments a little further but, aside from that, there is not much to complain about.

Liberty Lost? To What Extent Have The United States Of America Become Collectivist To The Detriment Of Individualism? (2009) - Download

My 13 200 word dissertation is the single largest work of my Politics BA. Here is the abstract:

This dissertation charts the changes throughout history in the balance between collectivism and individualism in United States federal government policy. It is argued that collectivism has become more prominent to the detriment of individual liberty, especially since the twentieth century. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between collectivist policies and an inflationary monetary system. The issue of military conscription is also examined. The dissertation concludes that the trend towards collectivism, though alarming and harmful, is neither sustainable nor inevitable.

The first and second markers disagreed on whether the dissertation deserved a First or Upper Second. In the end, they agreed on the latter. Here are the comments of the first marker, who put me on the upper side of the dividing line:

An interesting, thoroughly researched exploration of the question and while I'm not sure about the chronological structure within (it stunts explanation in part) the writer manages well, in my view, to combine breadth of argument with depth. The assessment possesses other merits - it's well informed (there's excellent reference to an array of writers) fluent and very well argued though occasionaly I'd have liked a little more explanatory detail.

The second marker was slightly more critical:

This reminds me of the legendary "Impartial History of the Civil War, from a Southern point of view". It's a vigorous polemic, well structured, clearly organised and well presented. But it tends to use opinion as evidence and often presents [illegible] accounts of particular episodes without showing much recognition of the fact. A major issue is that it [illegible: cross-links?] aligns collectivism-individualism with Federal-State polarities when this is not always the case - most recently e.g. over greenhouse gas emissions where some States have opposed Fed govt's (Bush) laisser-faire position.

While it is possible for a state government to be more collectivist or to trend towards collectivism at a faster rate than the federal government, I think the marker is quite wrong to characterise any aspect of the Bush administration, in this case the Energy Policy Act of 2005, as 'laisser-faire'. It was slightly less interventionist than some environmentalists might have liked, but the matter is only of degree, not of principle.

Fantasy or Foe? Contrasting two different understandings of Al Qaeda (2009) - Download

In this essay, I critique two views of Al-Qaeda as found in Adam Curtis' film The Power of Nightmares and Michael Scheuer's book Imperial Hubris. Al-Qaeda's origins, aims and grievances and strength are all assessed. It received a First. Here are the marker's comments:

This is an engaging essay which takes two texts and perspectives on Al-Qaeda and deconstructs both. It is well written and structured and reflects original thinking and research. It would have been even stronger if the author had 'summed up' his argument as he went along so that the reader could get a sense of which perspective the author favoured and why. As it is, the position of the author becomes a bit lost in the narrative, although at the end it appears that both are valued for at least some of their insights. And yet, Scheuer seems to be more on the mark ... ? Enjoyable read.

Primitive Resistance: An Advanced Concept? (2009) - Download

This essay is a critique of James Scott's theory of infrapolitics and primitive resistance. Scott writes about the not-obvious ways that Malaysian peasants allegedly resist feudal social relations and industrialisation. I criticise the idea as well as the application to the case study. It received a First. Here are the marker's comments:

Incisive, well written, clearly structured and boldly argued, this is an excellent paper. Despite this, I was not entirely persuaded by the main argument, and would like to 'push' the author on a couple of points. Is his critique of the notion of 'primitive resistance' a conceptual one or does it have more to do with Scott's application of this concept to peasantry in Sedaka? In other words, as the author suggests, could the concept not be useful to explore women's efforts to resist power relations in the private and public sphere? Moreover, what are the limits of circumscribing the definition of resistance to only those public acts of protest? What do we miss? These questions aside, great essay!

Compare the United Kingdom and the United States of America - which one of the two is ‘more democratic’ and according to which standards? (2009) - Download

I argue here that neither the UK nor the USA are very democratic (although that is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on one's definition of 'democracy'). I find that the USA is ever so slightly more democratic, but "both countries are afflicted by the cancer of central banking and have 'mixed' economies". It received a First. Here are the marker's comments:

A very strong essay, own line of argument, sophisticated handling of literature. The comparison could have been more effective if the cases had been compared along core criteria one by one instead of having 2 detailed discussions of each case next to each other. The theoretical criteria are convincing, they could have been specified slightly more in terms of measurement right at beginning.

Outline and assess Dryzek's critique of cosmopolitan democracy/multilateralism. (2008) - Download

This essay deconstructs some of the arguments of John Dryzek in his book Deliberative Global Politics. I give sufficient overview of the relevant ideas and arguments so hopefully the essay can be understood without having read the relevant passages in Held or Dryzek. If written today I would not do it just the same. I would be less indulgent towards the European Union and more critical of Held for advocating a transition towards one world government (although he denies this is his intention). Also, I can hardly believe I tried to question that the collapse of the Soviet Union was due to the failure of central planning! Nevertheless, I am pleased with the critical analysis of Dryzek's work. The essay received a First. Here are the marker's comments:

Good knowledge of both theories – impressive. Good distinction between cosmopolitan democracy and multilateralism. Excellent critical engagement with the text. Arguments clearly supported with evidence and examples. Excellent independent engagement with Dryzek's criticisms of cosmopolitanism/multilateralism. Good structure, intro and conclusion. Clearly argued throughout, well substantiated points. This is an excellent essay – well done! Great structure, solid analysis. To improve – some points needed more evidence/development.

Discuss the policy-making authority a President can exercise independently of Congress. (2008) - Download

I briefly outline the unconstitutional excess of power that has concentrated in the hands of the Executive in the United States Federal government, a subject I return to in my dissertation "Liberty Lost". Also, where I conclude "any policy-making authority the President has without Congressional oversight is too much" I should have added the extra word 'unconstitutional'. The essay received an Upper Second.

"Vote your district first." Why was this advice given by Speaker Sam Rayburn to his party colleagues in the House of Representatives? (2008) - Download

I briefly discuss the differences in party discipline comparatively between the United Kingdom House of Commons and the United States House of Representatives. The essay received a First.

Some people would say that U.S. Congressional Elections are not very competitive. Discuss and evaluate the validity of this claim. What possible reforms could be adopted to encourage greater competition? Would this be desirable? (2008) - Download

One of the reasons I like this essay is that I felt brave enough to reference two political cartoons! I discuss the possible reasons and implications for uncompetitive congressional elections to the United States House of Representatives, and the advantage of the incumbent Congressman. The essay received an Upper Second.

Write a 1500 word textual analysis and commentary on Locke's Second Treatise of Government, Chapter V, §39. (2008) - Download

The essay focuses on Locke's justification of private property (without referral to communism or absolutism) in his Second Treatise of Government as a response to Sir Robert Filmer's argument of divine right and patriarchy, which seems quite archaic or absurd to the modern reader. Please note I have changed the text slightly to correct a slight historical inaccuracy. The essay received a First. Here are the marker's comments:

Good work. Clear and aware exegesis [critical explanation of a text], consciousness of the issues, some readings of secondaries and good grip on the challenge of Macpherson. Slightly weak end. Laslett's remark [at the end of the essay] is, of course true, but the reason is not so much that Locke holds a 'balanced' view between these but that they are both quite anachronistic terms.