Doctoral Dissertation Research: Legitimizing the State or a Grievance?


Timothy Frye
Marshall D Shulman Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy
Jacob Kopas
PhD Student


This project investigates what happens when individuals gain legal rights. The work seeks to determine whether these individuals exhibit increased trust of the state and therefore increase their political participation, or, alternatively, find that these individuals disengage from the state. This study seeks to understand whether the formal recognition of a right -- in particular, a formal property right to land -- affects an individual's incentives to engage in politics. The PI conducts a cross-national analysis of three rural land-titling programs. These titling policies offer a unique opportunity to study how an often marginalized group, small-holding farmers, react when the state formally grants them a legal property right. This study is poised to make a meaningful contribution to the fields of political science and legal studies. These areas have long recognized the potential of legal rights to legitimize the state or spark political mobilization, but have not explored the relationship between the formal recognition of rights and the corresponding influence on political attitudes and behavior. This project will also evaluate the effectiveness of proposed land ownership formalization efforts, helping to distinguish meaningful extensions of rights from ineffective ones. Additionally, the study can also provide evidence on whether the recognition of victims' rights can promote reconstruction and build trust toward state institutions in the aftermath of armed conflict.