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Book Reviews | Comparative Politics

by rulers who are unbound by it. Perhaps the distinction is even bona de legislative investigations into judicial
that law and order implies a commitment to a specic ideal corruption since 2011 (p. 244), but we do not know
the maintenance of orderwhereas rule by law may which political actors initiated these changes and why.
encompass any instrumental use of the law by the Even though this is not one of Cheesmans goals, his
sovereign. This distinction does not seem substantial study contributes to the research agenda on authoritarian
enough, but suggests that law and order is simply a guiding constitutionalism that motivates Ginsburg and Simpsers
principle in criminal law, subsumed into a broader rule by volume. In my interpretation, Cheesman offers a comple-
law doctrine. mentary answer to the question of why authoritarian
For me, the books main contribution is the original, leaders would bother to provide rights on paper if they
conceptually and empirically rich discussion of criminal do not intend to respect them in practice. The sovereign
justice in Myanmar. Despite focusing on one country, the cetana principle suggests that one of the roles of rights
book should be of great interest to anyone who studies codication is to differentiate between those citizens on
legal culture and practice in authoritarian settings. As whom the regime magnanimously bestows some of these
a scholar of Soviet and post-Soviet authoritarianism, I rights, some of the time, and the public enemies whose
found insightful discussion of several analogous phenom- rights are swiftly withdrawn or delimited. With the pre-
ena, which I had thought might be typically (post)-Soviet. tense of the existence of rights, the act of abrogating them
Cheesman discusses the exercise of sovereign cetana, the assumes greater meaning and visibility.
ability of the sovereign to qualify, delimit, and withdraw
citizens rights in response to policy imperatives (p. 99) Nations Under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority
and its corollarythe identication of public enemies who to Influence Policy. By Anna Grzymala-Busse. Princeton, NJ:
are perceived as higher in the hierarchy of threats to law University Press, 2015. 440p. $95.00 cloth, $29.95 paper.
and order than other persons (p. 99). These concepts
provide a generalizable framework, through which we Jonathan Fox, Bar Ilan University
could understand why Russias criminal justice system
overreacted to an obscure punk rock bands profanity- Nations Under God examines the extent and nature of the
laced performance by jailing the singers for 23 years. political inuence of churches on national policy. Its
Using Cheesmans conceptual framework, we could see central argument is that rather than inuencing policy
that by insulting Putin and Putinism, the Pussy Riot punk through electoral politics or the use of public pressure,
rockers had transformed themselves into public enemies, churches are most inuential through backroom politics
which is why they were dealt with much more harshly by and institutional access. In fact, churches are most success-
the courts. Cheesmans discussion of presidential pardons ful at inuencing policy when they meet two criteria. The
in Myanmar (pp. 127129) could be used word for word rst is appearing to be above politics: Churches gain their
to understand Putins 2014 pardon of Russias most greatest political advantage when they can appear to be
famous political prisoner, former oil tycoon Mikhail above petty politicsexerting their inuence through the
Khodorkovsky. As Cheesman argues, the pardon perfects secret meetings and back rooms of parliament rather than
the exercise of sovereign cetana by magically restoring through public pressure and partisanship (p. 2). The
something arbitrarily withdrawn, not by correcting the second is that they are considered by politicians and society
wrongs done to the person, but through dogged insistence to have moral authority which, according to Grzymala-
that no wrongs have been committed at allother than by Busse, is best gained through a historical record of
the person pardoned (p. 128). The discussion of the defending the nation. These factors explain signicant
secrecy shrouding politically sensitive trials, the use of variance in success at inuencing policies in countries that
hired thugs alongside regular security forces to intimidate have otherwise similar patterns of religious belief, belong-
protestors extra-legally, the tales of the mechanisms of ing, and attendance.
judicial corruption, and the use of courts for reprisals Institutional access is also the most reliable means for
against complainants and protestors is insightful and inuencing policy. Public advocacy, especially when on
illuminating of many similar post-Soviet practices. behalf of narrow church interests, can undermine
I would have liked to see more discussion of political a churchs moral authority in society. Alliances with
factors and variables, though to be fair, the focus on social political parties can be short lived and these parties can
variables is logical given that the book is part of the have other priorities. Voters, even in religious countries,
Cambridge Studies in Law and Society series. Still, it do not always agree fully with church views and may vote
would have been interesting to see Cheesmans take on based on their economic interests rather than their
the politics of democratization during the last few years as religious views. Thus, if done quietly, the use of in-
political competition seems to be slowly returning to stitutional access and backroom politics can be the most
Myanmar. For example, he asserts that there has been effective and long lasting means to pursue a churchs
a change towards openness to investigative journalism and political agenda.

904 Perspectives on Politics

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This argument is supported by examining three pairs central arguments with little effort to compare and
of states in which churches have had different levels of contrast these arguments with competing and perhaps
inuence, despite the populations of these states being complementary arguments in the larger literature.
religiously similar. In Chapter 3, Grzymala-Busse argues For example, Grzymala-Busses theoretical arguments
that despite similarly religious populations, the Irish are based to a great extent on the interacting interests of
Catholic Church has dominated politics and policy far politicians and church leaders. Perhaps the most prom-
more consistently than its Italian counterpart (p. 62). inent recent discussion of how the interests of politicians
This is because in Ireland the rst governments strong and church leaders interact is Anthony Gills book The
need for the support of a church with great moral authority Political Origins of Religious Liberty, which the book cites
promoted direct institutional access: parliamentary con- but only in passing. The studys arguments overlap to
sultations, policy committees, and personal calls on policy a great extent with Gills arguments and Id have expected
makers. In Italy, the Christian Democratic Party was in more reference to Gills book in the development of these
dire straits after the war and offered a coalition to a church arguments. Yet, Gill has a very different perspective on the
(p. 65) which undermined its moral authority (p. 65). issue and the author misses an opportunity to compare and
Chapter 4 demonstrates that despite similar levels of moral contrast her arguments to his, especially regarding the
authority at the end of the communist era, the the Roman motivations for entering into various types of church-state
Catholic Church has inuenced policy in Poland far more relationships. In addition, Gills more systematic pre-
than it did in Croatia because while in Poland the church sentation of the interests of politicians could have been
relied chiey on institutional access, in Croatia it was combined with Grzymala-Busses more nuanced view of
dragged (more or less willingly) into a public and costly the interests and motives of religious institutions to form
coalition with the ruling party, (p. 145) which under- a more complete theory.
mined its moral authority. In Chapter 5, the book Similarly the book does not address the normative
examines the United States and Canada, which have implications of the studys ndings. How does this theory
similarly religiously diverse populations; however, these of church-state relations in democracies relate to notions of
religious groups have had more success in inuencing the relationship that many argue ought to exist. It
policy in the United States than in Canada. In these cases, seemingly contradicts the arms-length relationship advo-
religious identities melded and interdenominational coa- cated by theorists such as John Rawls and Alfred Stepan. In
litions lled roles similar to that of a majority religion and a related question, what does this real-world relationship
the churches engaged in party politics, but the diffuse say about the role religion plays in democracy on a more
nature of the coalitions protected them from erosion of general level?
their moral authority. The key difference is that in the Another limitation of the study is that is focuses
United States, religious identity fused with national exclusively on Christian majority countries in the West,
identity, while in Canada it did not. including the former Soviet bloc, four of them Catholic
The author uses primarily a classic comparative polit- majority countries. Although the book does briey
ical approach to develop and support her argument, discuss examples from other countries, most of these
which she supplements with extensive descriptive statis- examples are Western countries. While there is certainly
tics drawn from surveys and data from other studies. The reason to believe that the arguments in this book are
books central arguments are developed in incredible applicable to Christian majority countries in Africa and
detail. While the theory section is a bit repetitive, the Latin America, the author missed an opportunity to
author demonstrates a deep and detailed knowledge of include cases from these regions, which may have in-
the six cases included in this study. This level of detail is creased the impact of her argument. Similarly, it is
the books greatest strength and perhaps also contributes to possible that this argument has some weight in explaining
its most signicant limitationthat it does not actively non-Christian majority democracies, but since the issue is
address signicant aspects of the larger literature on never examined, this remains an open question. In fact
religion and politics. To be clear, the author addresses the study is even narrower in that in focuses on Church
the specic literature on the nature of church inuence in inuence on a limited number of issues that are
democracies, contrasting her theory with more classic particularly relevant to Western Christian churches:
theories that argue this inuence is achieved through education, divorce, embryonic research technologies,
public pressure and alliances with political parties. It also and same-sex marriage.
addresses in the conclusion chapter the sociological To be fair, no single book can do everything and
rational thought literature, which argues that religious despite these shortcomings this book presents an original
monopolies lead to less religious populations. In addition, and insightful argument that is essential to understanding
the author shows an awareness of the larger literature on the role of religious institutions in politics. It also sets
politics and religion and does reference it frequently, but a research agenda for testing the hypotheses presented in
this literature is cited mostly in support of the books the study in a wider variety of settings.

September 2016 | Vol. 14/No. 3 905

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