Interview – Dov H. Levin

Dov H. Levin is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. His main current research project is on the causes, effects, and effectiveness of partisan electoral interventions/foreign election interference, a topic on which he has published multiple scholarly articles. His book on this topic, Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions, was published by Oxford University Press in 2020 and won the Robert Jervis & Paul Schroeder Best Book Award for 2021 from the American Political Science Association.

Where do you see the most exciting debates happening in your field?

There are multiple such debates. However outside of those directly related to my research, I would note two in International Relations. The first is on the effects of leaders on their countries’ foreign policies. For many years the first image (or the individual level of analysis) was neglected or declared unimportant because it was hard to find ways to systematically study leaders. However with the emergence of good databases on leaders’ characteristics this has become more tractable, leading to a renaissance of interesting empirical research on this aspect. The second is on the role of status in country’s foreign policies. References to its potential importance go back to ancient historians, but only in the last 10–15 years have IR scholars begun to systematically explore it and how and when it exactly matters.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

As a result of my research, my view of relations between democracies has significantly darkened over time. Democracies are clearly frequently willing to use various non-violent forms of coercion and other rather unethical methods (in liberal or democratic terms) to get what they want from other democracies. In other words, democracies may be quite unwilling to go to war with each other – but that particular aspect of self-restraint does not seem to extend otherwise to their behaviour towards each other…