The Cold War on Ice: Constructivism and the Politics of Olympic Figure Skating Judging
We examine judge bias in Olympic figure skating as an exploratory analysis of a leading constructivist approach to identity using quantitative methods more closely associated with non-constructivist social science. While constructivism is a major theoretical orientation in international relations, large-n quantitative studies of the approach are uncommon in large measure due to the principal argument of constructivists: that interests should be treated endogenously. If interests and identities are mutually constituted, then it would seem to be impossible to distinguish their effects, creating a problem of observational equivalence. Some constructivist theorists nevertheless suggest that under certain conditions material interests can be thought of as causes of collective identity, meaning that it is in principle possible to isolate the influence of identity. We build on this “bounded” version of constructivism by identifying an arena of international relations in which the observable effect of the identities constituted by interactions among states can be analyzed independent of those states' national security concerns. We study whether collective identities constituted by the international system during the Cold War systematically influenced judge bias in Olympic figure skating, examining whether judges' evaluations of skaters systematically vary according to whether their respective states viewed one another as “friends,” “rivals,” or “enemies.” a b
a Brian R. Sala is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at University of California, Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org). John T. Scott is professor in the Department of Political Science at University of California, Davis (email@example.com). James F. Spriggs II is Professor of Political Science at Washington University at Saint Louis (firstname.lastname@example.org). Previous versions of this paper were given in the Department of Political Science at University of California, Davis, and at the 2004 Western Political Science Association meeting, for which we owe thanks to Kris Kanthak.
b We would like to thank the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Karen Cover at the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado for providing the data for this study. We would also like to acknowledge the generous research funding provided by the University of California, Davis, and the tireless work Dan Brunstetter did in entering the data and consulting his mother on the finer points of figure skating. A number of friends and colleagues offered valuable advice: Dan Brunstetter, James Fowler, Scott Gartner, Bob Huckfeldt, Cindy Kam, Yuch Kono, Zeev Maoz, Jennifer Ramos, Randy Siverson, Jennifer Sterling-Folker, Walt Stone, Mike Thies, and Chris Zorn. Finally, for his immense statistical expertise and especially for inspiring us to publish this paper we owe special thanks to Jeff Gill.