Wednesday , September 22 2021
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How Boris Johnson ‘fixed social care’ – and what could have been fixed better

4 days ago

The UK has announced a new health and social care levy that will see national insurance contributions rise by 1.25% for both employees and employers. Bernard H Casey draws on the experiences of Germany and Japan, where contributions dedicated to paying for care are raised. He also assesses whether a better approach may be possible.
Boris Johnson not only broke his party’s election promises when he announced his solution for dealing with the problem of long-term care – no tax rises – he also made an innovation – hypothecating tax. He increased the National Insurance premium by 1.25% for both employers and employees, and he placed a 1.25% tax on dividends.
Just as important, he complemented his announcement by saying that these charges would be named a new ‘health and social care

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Who gets what? Understanding the new politics of insecurity

5 days ago

The decline of traditional industries, the rise of globalisation, and rapid technological change have created a profound sense of insecurity for many people across Europe and the United States. Drawing on a new book, Frances McCall Rosenbluth and Margaret Weir explain how this insecurity has opened up a new kind of politics.
In both the United States and Europe, the shift away from manufacturing toward a service economy, the new rigours introduced by the open global economy, and the freer movement of people across national boundaries have stripped away the certainties of an earlier era.
Although rates of inequality in the United States have soared far above those in Europe, a troubling sense of insecurity pervades European democracies as well. As confidence erodes in the capacity of

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What the EU’s Media Freedom Act could mean for journalism in Europe

6 days ago

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, provided details on a new Media Freedom Act during her State of the Union speech on 15 September. Damian Tambini assesses the potential of the initiative, writing that it can be viewed as both a power grab and a principled protection of press freedom.
Journalists have been killed in Greece, Malta, the Netherlands and Slovakia in recent years, and there has been a crackdown on independent media in Hungary and Poland. EU countries are sliding down the press freedom league table. As a response to these threats, Thierry Breton outlined plans for a new Media Freedom Act in April. In doing so, he acknowledged that EU competence to legislate in this area is limited, but he also indicated that doing so is essential. Commission

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After Afghanistan, Europe needs to see the world for what it is and make the best of it

7 days ago

EU foreign policy has long been oriented around the promotion of key values such as democracy and respect for human rights. But is this value-driven approach still viable? Hans Kribbe argues that in a world where the United States no longer appears willing to provide global leadership, the EU will have to put pragmatism above its principles.
“America is back” are three words Joe Biden is not likely to use again any time soon. Addressing the nation after the last US plane left Kabul, the president made clear there will be no new military adventures abroad, unless they demonstrably serve US national security interests. The realist Biden seems to reject empty talk. Expect brutal honesty instead. For the triumph of the Taliban, he blames Afghans. European NATO allies, he made clear,

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Tensions over Afghan refugees will lead to ever more transactional EU-Turkey ties

8 days ago

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has raised fears in both the EU and Turkey of a new refugee crisis emerging. Luigi Scazzieri writes that the situation is likely to lead to ever more transactional EU-Turkey ties, with both sides pushed to work together to manage migration, but without a broader improvement in their relations.
The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan has already pushed many Afghans to flee the country. It is likely that more will seek to leave in the coming months, especially if Afghanistan’s economy deteriorates and the Taliban become even more oppressive. Many Afghans will remain in the immediate region, especially in Pakistan and Iran, which are already hosting 1.5 million and 800,000 Afghan refugees respectively. Other Afghans will try to make their

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Riding the populist wave: Europe’s mainstream right in crisis

9 days ago

Mainstream right parties play a crucial role in the politics of all West European countries, yet they receive a fraction of the academic attention dedicated to parties on the left or far right. Drawing on a new book, Tim Bale and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser explain how Europe’s mainstream right has become squeezed by a ‘silent revolution’ through which postmaterialist, liberal and cosmopolitan values have gained prominence, and a ‘silent counter-revolution’ driven by populist and nativist responses to these values.
Europe’s mainstream right parties have never been that sexy. Just think about how many books and articles, academic and otherwise, you’ve come across on Christian democrats, conservatives or liberals compared to the number you’ve read on socialists and social democrats.

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Book Review: Dark Academia: How Universities Die by Peter Fleming

10 days ago

In Dark Academia: How Universities Die, Peter Fleming explores the destructive impact of the bureaucratic and neoliberal structures of academia, which have turned universities into toxic workplaces. The book powerfully evokes despair and despondency at the loss of the intellectual environment promised of academics, writes Chelsea Guo, yet she questions whether the traditional academic institution has ever truly been a sanctuary for everyone. 
Dark Academia: How Universities Die. Peter Fleming. Pluto Press. 2021.
To an aspiring academic, Dark Academia: How Universities Die by Peter Fleming reads like an ‘Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here’ inscription on an ivory doorway to Hell. Despite Fleming’s rather mild tone (except when comparing university management to Adolf Hitler and

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Rumble in the capital: What to expect from the Berlin state election

12 days ago

Alongside Germany’s federal election on 26 September, two state elections will also be held on the same day in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Marco Bitschnau previews the vote in Berlin, where the German Social Democrats now have a lead in the polls following a late surge in support.
It is mid-September and all eyes in Germany are glued to the upcoming federal election. And for good reason, one must say: in contrast to previous years, the 2021 campaign season has been a rollercoaster ride that has seen, in quick succession, the rise of the German Greens and the selection of Annalena Baerbock as the first-ever Green chancellor candidate; a dramatic contest between CDU leader Armin Laschet and his popular CSU counterpart Markus Söder to head the joint CDU/CSU ticket; and, most

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What the pandemic can teach us about political philosophy

13 days ago

Eighteen months after Covid-19 reached Europe, we can begin to reflect on the ethical dimensions of the pandemic. Aveek Bhattacharya and Fay Niker, co-editor of a new book, Political Philosophy in a Pandemic: Routes to a More Just Future, introduce some of its ideas.
Back in April 2020, in the period we now look back on as “the first lockdown”, we gathered together some early reflections from philosophers and political theorists on the ethical dimensions of the developing Covid-19 pandemic. We published these on Justice Everywhere, the blog we help to run. Experts from almost every academic field – epidemiology, statistical modelling, social psychology, economics – were turning the tools of their trades to the growing crisis. What, if anything, did we and our peers have to offer?

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German federal election: Are we witnessing the revival of the SPD?

14 days ago

The German Social Democrats have experienced a rapid rise in support and now hold a lead in the opinion polls ahead of Germany’s federal election on 26 September. Uğur Tekiner explains how the party has managed to successfully build momentum behind their chancellor candidate, Olaf Scholz.
With just a few weeks of campaigning to go until Germany’s federal election, the race between the main German parties is heating up. The federal election will be the first since 1949 in which the incumbent chancellor will not run for office. For much of the past year, opinion polls have put the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) ahead. In April and May, the German Greens rose to take the lead, but the CDU/CSU once again moved into first place over the summer.
Yet despite trailing in the polls for much

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What a new refugee crisis would mean for Turkish politics

15 days ago

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has raised tensions between the EU and Turkey over how refugees from the conflict should be accommodated. Toygar Sinan Baykan assesses what large numbers of Afghan refugees travelling into Turkey may mean for Turkish politics and the country’s relations with the EU.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has become one of the most important host countries of refugees in the world. According to official figures, the country currently hosts almost four million Syrian refugees. The real number may be much higher than this.
Many refugees have ended up working in Turkey’s informal economic sector in grim conditions and for extremely low wages. In addition, as the number of refugees has increased and their stay in Turkey has been extended

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How the Italian radical right has framed immigration during the pandemic

16 days ago

Recent opinion polls suggest that two radical right parties – the League and the Brothers of Italy – could top the vote in the next Italian general election. Giovanni de Ghantuz Cubbe assesses how both parties have framed the issue of immigration during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Italy, the issue of immigration is most often raised by two parties in particular: Matteo Salvini’s League and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party. This is unsurprising as the strong politicisation of immigration – especially since Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 – is frequently tied to the mobilisation strategies of populist radical right parties.
This pattern was evident in the party manifestos published in advance of the last Italian general election in 2018. As shown in Figure 1 below, while 6% of

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Book Review: The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science by Raul P. Lejano and Shondel J. Nero

17 days ago

In The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science, Raul P. Lejano and Shondel J. Nero offer a narrative analysis of climate skepticism, exploring its emergence and transformations as well as its position in the ‘post-truth’ era. This book will help readers to critically understand the social and political construction of public narratives surrounding climate change as well as other contemporary issues, writes Sneha Biswas. 
The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science. Raul P. Lejano and Shondel J. Nero. Oxford University Press. 2021.
Find this book (affiliate link): 
A typical day in our lives involves several narratives. As Jerome Bruner states, ‘Narrative imitates life, life imitates narrative’. Narratives, which are

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For much of the British electorate, Europe is now the issue that determines party allegiance

19 days ago

Are voters motivated by policy preferences or partisan identities? Bryan Schonfeld and Sam Winter-Levy present findings from a study of how British voters responded to the Conservative Party’s sudden change in Brexit policy following the 2016 EU referendum. They find evidence that voters are sufficiently policy motivated to shift their allegiances if they disagree with their party on important issues.
Ever since the 2016 referendum, British voters have been leaving their old parties and joining new ones. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this volatility has been driven largely by their views on one issue: Brexit. In a new study, we find that in the wake of the referendum, 8% of pro-European Conservatives – out of the roughly 40% of Conservative voters that backed remain – abandoned the party,

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Evidence from East Germany: How young people’s education plans are shaped by their environment

20 days ago

The decision to go to university can have a major impact on an individual’s financial future and quality of life. Yet we know relatively little about how these decisions are made and adapted within different contexts. Drawing on a new study of East German students following German reunification, Ghazala Azmat and Katja M. Kaufmann show how the education plans of young people are shaped by their environment.
Whether to go to university or not is an important decision with fundamental long-term implications. Higher educational attainment has consequences for individuals’ later economic success and general well-being and, from a more macro perspective it is the key to understanding the emergence, development and persistence of inequality. Young people make college plans and shape human

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What economic nationalism is and what it is not

21 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to several European governments implementing measures to protect their domestic industries. But are these actions pragmatic responses to the crisis or a form of economic nationalism? Nils Oellerich argues that accusations of economic nationalism are often rooted in a misunderstanding of nationalist ideology that fails to do justice to the different political objectives pursued by left-wing and right-wing political forces.
Whenever governments urge their citizens to ‘buy local’ or proclaim any ostentatious initiative that favours domestic markets, producers, or workers, commentators are quick to characterise these initiatives as a form of ‘economic nationalism’. Often, the presumption is that nationalism is an ideology one must unequivocally oppose – and

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Do EU policymakers pay any attention to academic research?

22 days ago

There is a wealth of academic research published on the European Union, but do EU policymakers actually make use of this research in their work? Drawing on a new study, Francesco Duina finds evidence that staff at the European Commission regularly draw on the work of academics.
The last in-person conference for ‘Europeanists’ organised by the Council for European Studies was in Madrid in June 2019. Attendees from around the world could choose from three days of wonderful panels and presentations. The printed programme was 150 pages long. Seasoned scholars mingled with graduate students and professors in the early stages of their careers. Many papers focused on the EU.
It was exciting and normal at the same time: the field of EU studies has grown immensely over the last 25-30 years,

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What economic complexity theory can tell us about the EU’s pandemic recovery and resilience plans

23 days ago

A little over a year ago, the EU’s political leaders agreed on an unprecedented fiscal package – dubbed ‘Next Generation EU’ – to aid Europe’s recovery from the pandemic. Ricardo Hausmann, Miguel Angel Santos, Corrado Macchiarelli and Renato Giacon write that economic complexity theories can provide a useful tool for evaluating whether the recovery and resilience plans submitted by EU member states to receive this funding are well-designed. Assessing the case of Greece, they argue that investments should be tailored toward export-oriented sectors and aim to help close the country’s product complexity gap with other EU states.
There is increasing evidence that directing investments towards more complex and less ubiquitous products can help countries improve growth prospects, without

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Book Review: Moldova: A History by Rebecca Haynes

24 days ago

In Moldova: A History, Rebecca Haynes offers a new history of Moldovan statehood, exploring how the identity of the Moldovan nation has developed through its historical relations with neighbouring states and empires over many centuries. Providing detailed explanation of the historical and political development of Moldova, this thorough and accessible work is a useful addition to English-language literature on the topic and will be of particular value to those with no prior knowledge of Moldova’s history, writes Nicole Bodishteanu.
Moldova: A History. Rebecca Haynes. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2020.
Find this book (affiliate link): 
Located at the crossroads of Western and Eastern geopolitical interests, with a rich historical and cultural heritage and a long history of its own political

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Understanding the populism of the Five Star Movement – and its continuity with the past

27 days ago

Italy’s Five Star Movement has now been in government for over three years, but the party still defies easy classification. Drawing on a new study, Antonio Benasaglio Berlucchi examines how the party is defined by its electoral base.
The emergence of the Five Star Movement (M5S) as Italy’s largest party in the 2018 Italian general election was seen by many as the de facto end of the country’s ‘Second Republic’ – a period of alternation in power between the centre-left and centre-right coalitions which followed the demise of the once dominant Christian Democracy party and the other parties involved in the early 1990s Tangentopoli corruption scandals.
These scandals were uncovered by a series of judicial investigations, popularly known as mani pulite (clean hands), which ultimately

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What the Conference on the Future of Europe can learn from the failure of the EU constitution

28 days ago

The EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe is now underway, with conclusions expected to be reached by spring 2022. Spyros Blavoukos and Alexandros Kyriakidis assess what lessons the conference can learn from the Convention on the Future of Europe, which was launched in 2001 with the aim of drafting a European constitution.
A Tale of Two Cities, the famous novel by Charles Dickens, emphasises the possibility of human and societal resurrection and transformation. However, transformation does not happen without risk or sacrifice. The reader is left wondering whether large-scale political mobilisation and its just and noble causes justify the – often violent – turmoil they create.
Although written as a critical assessment of the 1789 French Revolution, Dickens’ novel offers a

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‘Pandemic narratives’ are key to understanding the policy responses of European governments to Covid-19

29 days ago

There are some striking differences in how European leaders have explained the Covid-19 pandemic to their respective audiences. Drawing on a new study, Amrita Narlikar and Cecilia Emma Sottilotta show how these narratives reflect the policy responses that governments have pursued since the first wave of infections.
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked human and economic devastation on a global scale. But European governments – even with roughly similar political structures, cultures, and development levels – have reacted very differently to this existential policy challenge, sometimes with life and death consequences. These differences in policy responses need explaining, and a key to understanding them may lie in narratives.
Robert Shiller defines a narrative as ‘a simple story or

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Opportunity or threat? How discourses on digitalisation vary across European countries

August 23, 2021

Digitalisation has profound implications for employment, but are there meaningful differences in how European countries view the process? Drawing on a new study, Matteo Marenco and Timo Seidl show how discourses on digitalisation vary across Europe.
From the precarity of platform work to the rise of robots, digitalisation is fundamentally changing the nature of work. But as social scientists have been quick and correct to point out, digitalisation is not a force of nature that just sweeps over societies. Rather, it is shaped by how policymakers react to it: from how much they invest in digital skills to how they regulate new forms of work.
These reactions have not been the same everywhere. In the case of Uber, for example, responses have ranged from a welcome embrace and

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Book Review: The Daily Lives of Muslims: Islam and Public Confrontation in Contemporary Europe by Nilüfer Göle

August 22, 2021

In The Daily Lives of Muslims: Islam and Public Confrontation in Contemporary Europe, Nilüfer Göle explores the everyday experiences of Muslims in a number of European countries. While commending the wide range of different European societies covered and the examination of European Muslim and Jewish experiences, Jennifer Philippa Eggert found some aspects of the book’s treatment of key figures, terms and theological concepts disappointing. 
The Daily Lives of Muslims: Islam and Public Confrontation in Contemporary Europe. Nilüfer Göle (translated by Jacqueline Lerescu). Zed Books. 2017.
Find this book (affiliate link): 
The 2015 terrorist attack targeting the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo shook France to the core. The perpetrators of the attack claimed to be

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The European Central Bank’s revised monetary policy strategy

August 20, 2021

The European Central Bank announced a new monetary policy strategy in July. Iain Begg writes that while the revised strategy has so far received a muted response, there are likely to be major battles ahead over its implementation.
After extensive consultation, delays caused by the pandemic and hard-fought battles in its Governing Council, the European Central Bank has a new monetary policy strategy, summarised in a July 2021 statement. What should we make of it?
Eighteen years elapsed since the last review of the monetary policy strategy in 2003. In that time, we have had the global financial crisis, the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and, now, the pandemic. As the statement notes, the scope for the ‘ECB and other central banks to achieve their objectives by exclusively relying on

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Why are people with lower levels of education less likely to participate in citizens’ initiatives?

August 19, 2021

Previous research suggests that people with lower levels of education are underrepresented in citizens’ initiatives. Drawing on new research in the Netherlands, Vivian Visser, Willem de Koster and Jeroen van der Waal show that ‘feelings of entitlement’ and a ‘taste for politics’ are crucial for understanding the non-participation of these citizens.
In recent decades, governments across Europe have experimented with increasing opportunities for citizen participation, deliberation and influence, thereby aiming to actively engage citizens in the making and implementation of policy.
An archetypal example is the so called ‘do democracy’ approach in the Netherlands. This intends to stimulate citizens to create a public sphere, not just through deliberation, voting and bargaining, but also

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How gender barriers affect the careers of women in government

August 17, 2021

Debates about gender equality in politics often focus on the number of women elected to parliament or the number of women who hold positions in government. Yet as Corinna Kroeber and Joanna Hüffelmann explain, these debates often overlook the more subtle impact that gender barriers can have on women’s political careers. Drawing on a new study, they show that women in government are often obliged to hold junior roles for longer than their male colleagues before gaining prestigious positions.
Even after ministers have entered government, their career paths can progress very differently. Some are selected right away to the most pivotal and visible positions in cabinet, such as heading the ministries of finance, defence, or foreign affairs. Others remain in less prestigious posts for

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The Taliban’s victory proves the West has failed to learn the lessons of the past

August 16, 2021

The Taliban has taken control of Kabul and declared victory in its attempt to establish control over Afghanistan. Effie G. H. Pedaliu writes that the rapid collapse of the Afghan government is set to trigger a major geostrategic realignment.
As the Taliban seek to reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the ‘Stars and Stripes’ is lowered at the Kabul American Embassy, I cannot but think back to the 1997 SHAFR conference that I attended as a young academic. At the conference, John Cooley, an American journalist, depicted a very dark picture of how the Taliban would remain a threat for the security of the West in the years to come.
Shortened attention spans, poor strategic thinking, bad policy decisions and the legacy of Trumpist ‘America First’ foreign policy are

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Book Review: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton

August 15, 2021

In Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, Anne Case and Angus Deaton document the rising death rates from suicide, drug overdoses and alcoholic liver disease in the US, exploring what these ‘deaths of despair’ reveal about capitalism and the healthcare system. Making a compelling case for exploring these deaths of despair and their implications, this stimulating and thought-provoking book belongs on the reading list of all of us who are facing difficulties and uncertainties in our everyday lives, writes Wannaphong Durongkaveroj.
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Princeton University Press. 2020.
Find this book (affiliate link): 
In Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, economist Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus

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West European politics is undergoing a ‘worldview evolution’ structured by authoritarianism

August 13, 2021

Populist radical right parties are often assumed to draw a greater share of their support from older voters. Drawing on a new book, Erik R. Tillman explains that this assumption may be incorrect. He argues that West European politics is undergoing a ‘worldview evolution’ in which orientations toward the structure of society increasingly shape party support. In this new context, younger voters who score highly on measures of authoritarianism appear more likely to back the populist radical right than older voters with the same attitudes.
The first two decades of the 21st century have seen changing patterns of party support, with growing support for populist radical right parties attracting the most attention. In many West European parliaments, these parties are now among the three

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