The Ties that Bind: Elite Networks and Stability in Iraq and Syria


CISAC Central Conference Room
Encina Hall, 2nd Floor
616 Serra St
Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Why and how do elite arrangements vary across authoritarian regimes? Why do some arrangements persist, while others are dissolved through coup d’état, failed coup attempts, and extensive purges? Existing political science explanations of authoritarian stability broadly emphasize three factors: individual members’ attributes, material payoffs, and formal institutions. Yet historians and country experts emphasize the centrality of social and informal ties between actors. I argue that, to understand the variation in the source and extent of coalitional breakdown, scholars must situate the holders of political and military office in their organizational and social context. Authoritarian coalitions differ in systematic ways in their members’ patterns of organizational and social relationships; these different relational configurations have distinct implications for coalitional trajectories. This paper employs original archival and interview evidence to trace the emergence and evolution of authoritarian networks in Iraq and Syria. It demonstrates that the extent of overlap between organizational and social networks explains the type of elite breakdown (and its breadth) over time. 

About the Speaker: Julia Choucair-Vizoso is a joint predoctoral fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) for 2014-2015. She is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Yale University.

Choucair-Vizoso studies coalitional politics and elite networks in nondemocratic settings. Her dissertation examines how elites organize to enforce authoritarian rule, and how and why these organizational structures evolve. Drawing on network theory and analysis, her study examines ruling coalitions in Iraq and Syria.

Her research has been supported by fellowships from the United States Institute of Peace and Yale University’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. She holds a B.S. in International Politics and an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, and was an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


This event is sponsored by the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy.