Attenuation, Stasis, or Amplification: A Framework for Change in the Causal Effect of Coercive Policies
My dissertation studies how the causal effect of coercive policy tools change over time. In contrast to the existing literature, which typically assumes that the effects of coercive policies remain constant, over time I demonstrate that they vary in response to a variety of contextual factors. I introduce two novel theoretical mechanisms that build upon research in social psychology and complex adaptive systems to predict how the effect of particular policies will vary over time and test their validity using micro-level data and a variety of statistical tools. The central prediction derived from my theory is that cost-imposition policies will tend to attenuate and grow less effective over time as targets adapt to a particular cost-imposition strategy. From a policy perspective, the central takeaway is that power today does not imply power tomorrow even when material capabilities remain constant. Because actors are continuously adapting, policies that are effective at coercing an opponent today are likely to become ineffective or even counterproductive in the future.