Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Political Science

First Advisor

Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin

Second Advisor

Thies, Cameron G.

First Committee Member

Boehmke, Frederick J.

Second Committee Member

Dion, Douglas

Third Committee Member

Ingram, Beth


Hierarchical or asymmetrical power relationships among states have long been a focus of scholarly attention (e.g., asymmetrical alliances, trade dependencies). While the "power to hurt" is one expression of power, an alternative approach is to gain and exercise authority, or "rightful rule." One of the major impediments to the study of social concepts such as authority or legitimacy, however, is in their informal or intangible nature. This dissertation uses game theoretic and latent variable approaches to capture informal, social authority relationships, or social hierarchies, among international states and explores the effects of these hierarchies on security and economic behavior.

I posit that states adopt one of two social roles--that of a dominant or a subordinate. Each subordinate chooses a degree of autonomy that it is willing to cede to the dominant in exchange for a corresponding degree of protection. Ranging from complete autonomy to complete control, these dyadic bargains make up a social international hierarchy. This hierarchy affects the relationships between each subordinate and the dominant, as well as the relationships among subordinates.

In the security realm, the probability of conflict initiation is inversely related to the degree of subordination. When conflict does occur, dominants are more likely to intervene when the target is located at a higher position in the dominant's social hierarchy than the aggressor state. Economically, the probability that a state enacts illiberal policies is inversely related to its degree of subordination. Moreover, more subordinated states face a lower risk of economic sanction than states located lower in the hierarchy, even for similar illiberal actions. Empirical analysis of states within the US hierarchy (1950-2000) and UK hierarchy (1870-1913) using strategic probit models supports these theoretical predictions.


Censored Strategic Probit, Economic Sanctions, International Conflict, Quantal Response Equalibria, Social Hierarchy, Strategic Interaction


xi, 235 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 201-235).


Copyright 2013 Mark David Nieman