When he signed up for Assistant Professor Sebastian Rosato's "On War" class as a sophomore, political science major Andrew Bertoli probably had no idea that just two years later, he would be developing his own theory on how global powers have viewed armed conflict.
The 2009 graduate, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, received funding from the Department of Political Science to conduct several research projects during his Notre Dame career. "My largest project was my senior thesis," Bertoli says, "in which I critically analyzed several prominent theories of war and laid out my own theory called 'strategic constructivism.'"
The theory builds on the social constructivist approach to international relations, which, according to Bertoli, focuses on how states' expectations of one another affect their behavior.
"If they think that war is a natural feature of interstate politics, they will build strong armies and jump at any opportunity to steal territory and resources from each other," he says. "On the other hand, if they perceive war as an impossibility or abomination, they will resolve their problems peacefully since that, to them, is what normal states do."
He uses "strategic" constructivism to explain the various military strategies employed by the great powers of history, separating them into two main groups: military expansionists and economic imperialists. The former, he argues, use war as a tool in order to expand their power; the latter try to avoid war and gain economic dominance over their rivals.
"[Department Chair] Michael Desch advised me throughout this project and really helped me develop and refine my arguments," Bertoli says. In addition, he credits Rosato with sparking his interest in studying political science at the graduate level.
Bertoli aspires to join the faculty of a top-tier university once he earns his Ph.D., although he is also intrigued by the idea of moving to China to write about the American perception of the Chinese rise to power for a magazine there. His more immediate plans figure to make that a possibility.
"In graduate school, I plan to study East Asian politics," Bertoli says. "As an undergraduate, I focused on international security, but I may switch to political economy given the recent global economic crisis. I think that our understanding of the world economy is going to change in a lot of ways over the next few decades, and I may want to get in on that."
Next Stop: Ph.D.
Like Bertoli, the following students graduated with a political science major in May 2009 and have since entered doctoral programs at top universities.
- Emilee Booth, Princeton University (political science)
- Jennifer Cassidy, Brown University (political science)
- Alice Ciciora, University of Virginia (political science)
- Daniel Krcmaric, Duke University (political science)
- Gabrielle Miller, University of Virginia (Spanish literature)