“Growing up in Russia during times of dramatic and painful changes, I have always been curious about the nature of seemingly spontaneous self-organizations of society, economic life and politics,” reports Andrei Zhirnov. A doctoral student in Binghamton University’s Political Science Department, Zhirnov focuses on “the organizational dynamics of party systems.”
“I am trying to understand why, when and how elites create and maintain political organizations and what explains the durability of party systems that result from those decisions,” Zhirnov says.
“I want to know what makes some societies and some economies more stable and more prosperous than others, what breeds nationalism in some countries and not the others,” he says. “As an undergraduate student, I studied South Asian politics and it struck me that most of the economic and political recipes derived from the experience of the Western countries were not that good at explaining the world I studied and the world I lived in. This led me to comparative politics – a discipline that tries to explore those processes systematically.”
The beginnings of Zhirnov’s relationship with Binghamton can be traced to the University’s partnership with the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, where he participated in the dual-diploma MA program in political science. He decided to come directly to Binghamton for his doctoral work because, he says, “the political science program at Binghamton University is known for its strong quantitative school and knowledge of quantitative methods – and more importantly, the ability to properly apply them – all skills that are very useful in doing metaphysics-free research.”
Aside from the reputation and methodology that drew him to Binghamton, Zhirnov stresses that the community within the department itself has had the biggest impact on his education and experience at Binghamton. “I can’t emphasize the feeling of community enough,” he says. “The professional communication and traditions such as departmental workshops – where students and faculty discuss their own work in progress – as well as talks given by guest speakers, help students develop psychologically and methodologically in their research and ability to make substantial contributions.”
Zhirnov adds that the “unique intellectual atmosphere, facilities and opportunities to collaborate and meet other scholars from around the U.S. and the world” at Binghamton have exceeded his expectations and immeasurably enriched his professional development.
Zhirnov hopes his research will contribute to studies in institutional design, which examine patterns to determine how “electoral rules, laws regulating political activities, rules of the policy process and other institutions affect political behavior and public policy.”
“This knowledge, if properly applied, can facilitate the formation of stable, effective and more humane political systems, which is especially important in conflict-torn areas of the world and divided societies,” he says. “Just knowing how the party system in a given country works and how it may work in the future is important for doing business in any country.”
Last Updated: 6/13/12