War and Nationalism: Evidence from World War I and the Rise of the Nazi Party

with Felix Haaß, Carlo Koos, Sascha Riaz and Thomas Tichelbaecker

R&R, American Political Science Review

Did World War I facilitate the rise of the Nazi party in Weimar Germany? We revisit this question by shifting the focus on the localized effects of war casualties on nationalist attitudes. We argue that mass warfare can promote nationalist attitudes by amplifying in-group preferences. Our empirical analysis leverages a unique individual-level dataset of all 8.6 million German soldiers who died or were wounded during World War I. To causally identify the effect of community level exposure to WW1, we leverage plausibly exogenous variation in the death rate of soldiers across small geographic localities. We find that throughout the interwar period, electoral support for nationalist parties including the NSDAP was about 2 percentage points higher in regions highly affected by the war. Additional analyses drawing on data on NSDAP party entries, WW1 memorials, and Nazi autobiographies indicate that our results reflect a broad, community-level impact of the war driven by war losses and public memory rather than returning veterans. Our findings advance our understanding of the local impact of WW1 on the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and the longer-term legacies of indirect exposure to violence on preferences for nationalist ideologies.


Palm oil investments and social conflict– experimental evidence from rural Liberia

with Lisa Hoffmann and Jann Lay


How do large-scale agricultural investments (LSAIs) influence the risk of social conflict in low-income countries? LSAIs create socio-economic costs and opportunities – for example, in terms of access to employment. The distribution of these gains and losses can reinforce inter-group inequality and produce frustration and aggression. We experimentally investigate these potential effects of LSAIs in Liberia. Our pre-registered analyses rely on a household survey, a village survey and “joy-of-destruction”-experiments with more than 1,800 inhabitants in 73 LSAI-affected and matched control villages near two palm oil investment areas. We use the results of these experiments as a proxy for the propensity of within-village social conflict. Participants each receive an endowment and decide on how much of another participant’s endowment to destroy. We randomly vary the ethnic identity of the interaction partner to test whether we observe more destructive behavior against ethnic outgroups in affected villages. Our results indicate that exposure to LSAIs increases the risk of social conflict. While 36 percent of participants in control villages destroy money of their interaction partners, the share rises to around 52 percent in villages close to the investment sites. However, contrary to our expectations, conflict does not seem to materialize along ethnic lines. Results are more in line with the assumption that socio-demographic as well as structural characteristics matter: Unmarried men seem to be particularly prone to destruction in the JDG. Furthermore, in villages without informal labor sharing arrangements, we observe higher levels of social conflicts.


Right-wing terror, public backlash, and voting preferences for the far right

with Felix Haaß and Julian Voß


Over the last decade, many western countries have experienced a surge in right-wing violence and a growing public support for populist radical right parties (PRRP). Previous research suggests that right-wing political mobilization can inspire right-wing violence. However, we know little on the opposite direction of this relationship: how does right-wing violence influence voting preferences for the far right? In this research note, we implement an ``unexpected event during survey'' design to investigate this question. We draw on data from daily surveys on party preferences to analyze temporal shifts in support for the right-wing populist \textit{Alternative für Deutschland }(AfD) before and after the most intense terrorist attack in recent German history. Our findings indicate that right-wing terrorism can have substantive but short-lived negative effects on public support for PRRP. Results of exploratory analyses are in line with the argument that these effects result from a public backlash against PRRP that alienates potential voters.


Long-Term Sequences of State-Building and Violent Conflict


A large body of research demonstrates that state capacity is an important correlate of intra-state conflict. However, similar levels of present-day state capacity can result from different historical trajectories of state-building. This paper investigates how the spatio-temporal patterns of long-term expansion of state authority and control can influence current levels of violent unrest. In particular, I argue that specific sequences of state-building can increase the present-day risk of violent conflict: geographical obstacles can isolate territories from state-building processes for extended periods, strengthening non-state institutions. The risk of violence increases once the state has accumulated sufficient capabilities to close this state-building gap. The extension of authority into peripheral territories triggers resistance from among local elites that can mobilize their constituencies against the central state. I investigate this argument in a mixed-methods design that exploits exogenous variation in early state-penetration in Nepal. Areas located below the Himalayan foothills were heavily Malaria-infested preventing the state from establishing meaningful presence until the implementation of a malaria eradication program in the 1950s. I make use of this specificity in Regression Discontinuity (RD) estimations and a qualitative process tracing approach. Findings lend support to the primary arguments of the paper.