BRETT CARTER

Brett Carter - 2015
  • Biography [CV]





    Brett Carter is an Assistant Professor at the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California and co-PI of the Lab on Non-Democratic Politics. He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University in 2014, where he was a Graduate Fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. He was previously a fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, as well as the Hoover Institution.

    Brett's research focuses on autocratic politics in the Information Age. He is currently working on three book projects: one on autocatic survival in post-Cold War Africa, one on autocratic propaganda, and one that exploits the Foreign Agents Registration Act to explore the role of autocratic money in American Politics.

    His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, United States Institute of Peace, Social Science Research Council, Guggenheim Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, the Center for International Studies at the University of Southern California, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.

    Brett is a regular contributor to African Arguments and Africa is a Country, and has been been interviewed by France24, RFI, and Voice of America, among others. He tweets about Central African affairs, autocratic politics, and more at @brett_l_carter. He can be reached via email at blcarter@usc.edu.

  • Autocracy 2.0:
    Subverting Democracy in Modern Africa [PDF]


    The Third Wave of Democracy reached Africa in January 1989. Five years later, with the Cold War over and food prices soaring, Africa's autocrats bowed to popular demands for reform. Some fell, others survived. But virtually all were subjected to nominally democratic institutions: term limits, parliaments, and regular multiparty elections. African politics in the decades since has been a contest between autocrats and these institutions. In some countries, democratic institutions won. Elections grew more competitive, losers respected the will of voters, and equitable economic growth produced a middle class. But elsewhere -- places like Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon -- elections remain a sham, and ruling families grow wealthy while their citizens remain the world's poorest. There are, increasingly, two Africas: one democratic, the other autocratic.

    Africa's autocrats have little choice but to govern with nominally democratic institutions. Since the end of the Cold War, Western creditors have required these institutions in exchange for economic aid, investment, and debt relief. In so doing, they pose new challenges to the continent's autocrats, which the opening chapters of my book manuscript identify. Most obviously, Africa's modern autocrats lack the single party regimes that sustained their predecessors. More, the regular elections occasioned by nominally democratic institutions create "focal moments" for popular protest, when citizens are engaged, discontent is palpable, and opposition leaders coalesce frustration into mass protest. Autocrats confront these new challenges with new constraints. As Western creditors grow more willing to sanction human rights violations, Western aid dependence increasingly constrains recourse to repression among Africa's autocrats. Life as an autocrat has thus grown more perilous. Since 1989, autocrats forced to govern with nominally democratic institutions have been 80% more likely to lose power each year than their counterparts. Between 1986 and 2000, the number of autocracies in Africa fell from 45 to 30.

    Yet Africa's autocrats are learning to survive, and the rate of democratization has slowed to a trickle. To understand this resilience, my book manuscript -- entitled "Autocracy 2.0: Subverting Democracy in Modern Africa" -- explores how Africa's autocrats employ non-institutional strategies to survive.

    For an annotated table of contents, please consult the link above.

    Autocratic Propaganda in a Globalized World [PDF]

    The battle for citizens' minds has long preoccupied the world's autocrats. Joseph Goebbels, architect of Nazi Germany's propaganda apparatus, believed that "propaganda becomes ineffective the moment we are aware of it." This conviction permeated his work. Since broadcasting exclusively positive news would "fairly compel the German public to listen to foreign and enemy broadcasts," Goebbels instructed state media to report information that damaged the government. When crafting propaganda, Goebbels again insisted on truth: "otherwise the enemy or the facts might expose falsehoods." He routinely employed "black propaganda." If responding to enemy allegations in the state press might lend them credibility, Goebbels organized "word of mouth propaganda" campaigns waged by "faithful citizens, which were successful as long as the citizens targeted by these campaigns were unaware of them."

    If Goebbels is correct, then the modern world should be particularly inhospitable for autocratic propaganda. Two decades ago, less than 1% of the world’s population enjoyed internet access; today, roughly 40% does. Each passing second registers more than 50,000 Google searches and 2.5m emails. The challenges that the Information Age poses to the world’s autocrats are compounded by Western governments, who pressure autocrats to permit independent media. As a result, citizens around the world are cognizant of democratic norms and their governments’ failures to abide them. Even in Africa, where internet access remains limited, citizens Google their democratic aspirations – with words like "democracy," "human rights," and "constitution" – more than anywhere else in the world. How do autocrats employ propaganda in the Information Age?

    For an annotated table of contents, please consult the link above.

    Autocrats and their Lobbyists:
    The Politics of Foreign Influence [PDF]

    Governments around the world invest billions of dollars each year to shape American policy. Under contract to foreign governments – and, accordingly, acting on their behalf – Washington lobbyists meet with American lawmakers, fund their congressional campaigns, draft the legislative bills they sponsor, pressure the executive branch and agencies, disseminate media kits to leading newspapers, and build policy alliances among stakeholders.

    Which of the word’s governments invest most heavily in Washington lobbyists? Why? When? What do they get in return? Drawing on fieldwork in Central Africa and East Asia, our central argument is that Washington lobbying is a critical tool for the world’s worst governments to advance their domestic political interests. Moreover, we suspect that lobbying works: that the world’s autocrats routinely purchase a measure of international immunity from domestic human rights violations.

    To explore its hypotheses more systematically, this book draws on an original dataset of all lobbying activities ever undertaken by foreign governments in the United States since 1945. The database exploits the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires all agents who represent foreign principals to file detailed activity reports every six months. These activity reports, referred to as Supplemental Statements, are then made available on a website, which FARA requires the US Department of Justice to maintain. These Supplemental Statements include wealth of information: every penny foreign governments transfer to Washington lobbyists, every contact that Washington lobbyists undertake with American government officials and media outlets on the foreign government’s behalf, every campaign contribution Washington lobbyists make while under contract, and much more. Once completed, this dataset will offer the first complete, fully searchable history of foreign lobbying in the United States. We intend to maintain the dataset in real time, long after the book is completed.

    For an annotated table of contents, please consult the link above.
  • In Print

    Carter, Brett L. “Why the Democratic Recession Will Be Brief: The View from Africa.“ Journal of Democracy 27:3 (2016), 36-50. PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. “Repression and Foreign Aid in Autocracies: Exploiting Debt Relief Negotiations in Post-Cold War Africa.“ AidData Working Paper 29. PDF.

    Circulating

    Carter, Brett L. and Erin Baggott Carter. “Propaganda and Protest: Evidence from Post-Cold War Africa.“ PDF. Revise & resubmit.

    Carter, Brett L. and Erin Baggott Carter. “Cultivating the Appearance of Neutrality: Autocratic Propaganda in Africa and Asia.“ PDF. Online Appendix.

    Carter, Brett L., Erin Baggott Carter, and James D. Fearon. “Foreign Coverage in The New York Times: Evolution and Explanation.“

    Carter, Brett L. “Elections, Protests, and Focal Moments: Day-Level Evidence from Post-Cold War Africa.“ PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. “Foreign Aid, Beliefs, and Protest: Evidence from Post-Cold War Africa.“ PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. and Mai O. Hassan. “Constructing Internal Security Apparatuses in Autocracies: Evidence from Congo and Kenya."

    Carter, Brett L. and Robert H. Bates. “Public Policy, Price Shocks, and Conflict: Price Shocks and Civil War in Developing Countries.” Weatherhead Center Working Paper Series. PDF.

    Working

    Carter, Brett L. and Erin Baggott Carter. “Autocrats and Their Lobbyists: The Politics of Foreign Influence.“

    Carter, Brett L. and Erin Baggott Carter. Propaganda and Protest: Evidence from China's Provincial Newspapers.“

    Carter, Brett L. “Social Institutions and the Politics of Stigma: Theory and Evidence from Congo.“

    Carter, Brett L. “Guarding the Guardians: A Theory of Parallel Governments in Autocracies.“

  • Policy and General Interest

    Carter, Brett L. 2017. “Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s embarrassing attempt to ingratiate himself to Donald Trump.” Africa is a Country. PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. 2016. “Republic of Congo government blames non-existent militia for attack, wages war on citizens.” African Arguments. PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. 2016. “President Sassou Nguesso prepares for final stage of his constitutional coup: elections in the Republic of Congo.” African Arguments. PDF.

    Clark, John F. and Brett L. Carter. 2015. “Peacemaking or Pacification for the Pool: The Restoration of State Authority in a Rebellious Region of Congo-Brazzaville.” Journal of African Policy Studies.

    Carter, Brett L. 2014. “Political Survival and the Modern African Prince.” Centerpiece: Newsletter of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University 28(2). PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. 2012. ``The Political Economy of Market Integration in the Republic of Congo." The World Bank.

    Reference Contributions

    Carter, Brett L. 2016. ``The Economy of the Republic of Congo." In Africa South of the Sahara, 2014, ed. Iain Frame. London: Routledge.

    Carter, Brett L. 2016. “The Republic of Congo.” In Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy, and Society South of the Sahara in 2015, ed. Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber, and Klaas van Walraven. Leiden: Brill.

    Carter, Brett L. 2015. “The Republic of Congo.” In Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy, and Society South of the Sahara in 2014, ed. Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber, and Klaas van Walraven. Leiden: Brill.

    Carter, Brett L. 2014. “The Republic of Congo.” In Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy, and Society South of the Sahara in 2013, ed. Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber, and Klaas van Walraven. Leiden: Brill. PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. 2013. “The Republic of Congo.” In Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy, and Society South of the Sahara in 2012, ed. Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber, and Klaas van Walraven. Leiden: Brill. PDF.

    Carter, Brett L. and John F. Clark. 2013. “Congo, Republic of (Congo Brazzaville).” In Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies, ed. Thomas Spear. New York: Oxford University Press. PDF.

    Legal Testimony

    I routinely provide legal testimony for asylum seekers in American and British courts. I have worked with private law firms, nonprofit organizations, and university legal clinics. For more see the Fahamu Refugee Programme (here).
  • Teaching

    Spring 2017: The Political Economy of Africa

    Syllabus

    Living standards around the world have increased, in many cases exponentially, throughout the previous century. Yet Sub-Saharan Africa remains, by a considerable margin, the poorest region on Earth. This course asks three questions: Why is Africa poor? When did it become so? And will it remain so for the foreseeable future? The course draws on a range of social science disciplines -- anthropology, economics, history, political science, and sociology -- to offer tentative answers.

    Spring 2017: The Political Economy of Autocracy

    Syllabus

    Despite the global expansion of democracy since the 1990s, the most common form of political organization remains some variety of autocracy. This undergraduate seminar surveys major topics in the political economy of autocracy. It focuses, in particular, on a central question: How do autocratic governments retain power while denying basic political rights to a broad segment of the population? In so doing, the course probes the social and economic origins of autocracy, its implications for economic and international policy, the effects of natural resources thereon, the prevalence of elections and legislatures, and other topics. The course draws from a range of disciplines: primarily political science, economics, and history, but others too.

    Fall 2018: Managing Global Problems

    Syllabus

    The modern world has ushered in a period of economic prosperity that is unprecedented in human history. It has also brought new challenges. This course surveys those challenges. We explore the emergence of modern economic growth, the rise and recession of global democracy, the secular decline in political violence, the consequences of international law, the dynamics of political struggle in the Information Age, and the implications of climate change for global security.

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