Friday , August 23 2019
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B. T.

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Articles by B. T.

Do populist-leaning citizens support direct democracy?

1 day ago

Populist parties across Europe often support direct democracy, for example through frequent referendums. Do their voters support these initiatives too and why? Tina Freyburg, Robert Huber and Steffen Mohrenberg distinguish between citizens who support direct democracy as a way of giving power to ‘the people’ and those, known as stealth democrats, who do so out of scepticism that politicians can be effective. They find that both sets of attitudes independently are associated with support for direct democracy, and argue that the distinction is crucial to furthering the debate about populism in Europe.
What do ‘the people’ really want? Questions concerning citizens’ ‘true’ preferences and their involvement in the political process are omnipresent in current political debates in Europe and

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Is populism about more than discontent?

2 days ago

The success of populist parties is often viewed as an act of protest against ‘the establishment’. Drawing on new research, Bram Geurkink, Andrej Zaslove, Roderick Sluiter and Kristof Jacobs illustrate that this may not always be the case. Voters for populist parties are not just protest voters: when they have the opportunity, they vote for an alternative.
Populist parties are ever more popular: over the last two decades they have more than tripled their vote share in Europe. This has been illustrated by the rapid rise of parties such as the Lega in Italy, La France insoumise in France or the Forum voor Democratie in the Netherlands. Beyond elections, populism was also visible in the Brexit referendum and the French Yellow Vests upheaval.
It is tempting to view this rise in populism simply

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Brexit and parliamentary legitimation: Beyond constitutional minutiae

3 days ago

David Judge writes that, while much of the discussion around Brexit and Parliament is about procedure and conventions, it should also be about the bigger picture: what does Brexit tell us about the fundamental principles of the UK’s parliamentary state and representative democracy?
Politicians and the punditocracy have become consumed with the minutiae of parliamentary procedure and constitutional conventions – of the use of standing orders, the provisions of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act in relation to a no-confidence vote and its consequences, and the potential spill-over embroilment of the judiciary and the monarchy – as the ‘do or die’ Brexit strategy of Boris Johnson’s government appears to replicate the on-board conditions of a nose-diving plane. Assuming, however, that whatever

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New evidence shows gender equality builds life satisfaction

4 days ago

Are societies with high levels of gender equality more likely to be happier? Drawing on new research, Andre P. Audette explains that greater gender equality in a country is associated with an increase in life satisfaction. Importantly, this pattern is not only seen among women, but holds true for men as well.
Over the past several decades, countries around the world have made significant progress in advancing women’s social, economic, and political rights. The United Nations has even made gender equality one of its Sustainable Development Goals for the next decade, recognising that women’s rights are important not merely for equality’s sake, but that they are also fundamental for achieving other goals like eliminating poverty, promoting health, and generating economic growth. Our research

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Book Review: …and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year by Michael Hudson

5 days ago

In …and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year, Michael Hudson offers a historical account of the role that debt played in ancient societies. In focusing on how such societies dealt with the proliferation of debts that cannot be paid, this book sheds informative light on the significance of debt today, writes Alfredo Hernandez Sanchez, and is unlikely to leave the reader’s outlook on history, religion or economics unchallenged – or even unchanged – upon turning the last page.
…and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year. Michael Hudson. ISLET. 2018.  
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The Rosetta stone is famous for providing insight into the Ancient Egyptian language. It

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Boris Johnson’s real agenda: The ‘Singapore scenario’

7 days ago

While much attention has focused on when or if Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will succeed in taking the UK out of the EU, the longer-term agenda of a Johnson-led Conservative administration has been pushed into the background. This is unfortunate. Johnson’s dream, should his premiership survive, is of a post-Brexit Britain akin to a European ‘Singapore of the West’, writes Charles Woolfson. He cautions, however, that this ‘Singapore scenario’ leaves a lot to be desired.
In Johnson’s eyes and those of fellow ardent free-marketeers, a ‘Singapore scenario’ would be achieved by an ultra-business-friendly environment with low or zero corporation tax, low wages, weak trade unions, vestigial welfare provisions and a significant temporary migrant ‘non-citizen’ workforce (around 30

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When parliaments’ second chambers are reformed and the implications for democracy

8 days ago

In recent years there have been several attempts by Western European governments to reform second chambers, though the majority of proposals have failed to pass. Michelangelo Vercesi assesses the conditions when such reforms are proposed, and finds that they are often instigated during times of democratic strain when the governing party wishes to reduce the number of veto players. However, the reforms tend to fail when there is no broad consensus for the proposals, which has implications for considering when a democracy is able to instigate reforms.
When do political elites decide to reform national parliaments? Why do they reform? Is reform success likely? National parliaments are central – if not the central – institutions of representative democracies. To answer these three questions we

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Which courts are driving legal integration in Europe?

9 days ago

It has long been believed that judges at the lower echelons of the judiciary are the drivers of legal integration in Europe. Yet, drawing on a new study, Arthur Dyevre and Monika Glavina show that this is not what the data says. Analysing the entirety of preliminary references submitted by domestic courts from 1961 to 2017, they demonstrate that although first instance courts did pioneer the preliminary ruling procedure in the early years of European legal integration, they have been overtaken by peak courts, which now dominate the formal interlocutory procedure. In fact, a relatively small club of apex courts account for the lion’s share of references submitted to the European Court of Justice.
The narrative of judicial empowerment has been a popular explanation of the referral behaviour

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Popular populists: Do anti-establishment voters stick with populist parties after they enter the mainstream?

10 days ago

Self-proclaimed populist challengers to the ‘establishment’ have taken hold in many European countries, but what lies behind the success of these parties? Werner Krause and Aiko Wagner show the reasons for voting for populist parties vary systematically with the degree of establishment of these parties. If citizens distrust national parliaments and believe the political mainstream is not responsive to their interests, then they may be more likely to support new populist parties. But established populist parties do not benefit from these attitudes.
Populist parties present themselves as regulating forces in the face of supposedly alienated modes of political decision- and policy-making. A central reason for the rise of these parties – so a corresponding widespread argument goes – is a

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How the beliefs of European leaders changed throughout the Eurozone crisis

11 days ago

The management of the Eurozone crisis reflected the beliefs held by Europe’s political leaders. Drawing on a new study, Marij Swinkels assesses how these beliefs shifted throughout the crisis. Spanish, Italian and French leaders moved away from their Keynesian core beliefs and adopted a more ‘ordoliberal’ orientation as the crisis progressed, while Dutch, UK, and Irish leaders held more ordoliberal beliefs in earlier stages of the crisis and later shifted toward Keynesian approaches.
I grew up being fed the idea that a university degree would ‘set you up for life’. Yet, when I graduated, the Eurozone crisis was deep into its fourth year, recession was at a high point and finding a job was difficult. Many of my fellow graduates faced difficulties finding their first job, finding a house,

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Book Review: The Politics of Land edited by Tim Bartley

12 days ago

In The Politics of Land, editor Tim Bartley brings together contributors to highlight the significance of the neglected issue of land to political sociology. This is a highly informative volume that explores a range of issues related to the land-politics nexus beyond the top-down understanding of its role in capitalist accumulation with much potential for future sociological research, writes Alexander Dobeson. 
The Politics of Land. Tim Bartley (ed.). Emerald. 2019.
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This important volume, edited by Tim Bartley, highlights the significance of the neglected issue of land – an empirical field usually ‘outsourced’ to rural sociology departments at agricultural universities and the bread-and-butter subject of human geographers – to political sociology. Evidence that the study

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How interest groups inform policymakers about what the public wants

14 days ago

Interest groups provide policymakers with policy relevant information such as technical expertise and legal information. However, an important question is whether interest groups also inform policymakers about what the public wants, given that they are often seen as transmission belts of public preferences. Drawing on a new study, Linda Flöthe presents a detailed analysis of whether and when interest groups provide information about public preferences. She shows that while citizens groups do so more frequently than business groups, they both make more use of political information when they enjoy broad public support. Interestingly, interest groups also make more use of information about public preferences when they want to protect the status quo.
Interest groups play an important role in

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Is democracy going digital? Why the Twitter debate on Catalonia’s independence matters

15 days ago

Looking at the case of the Catalonia independence debate, Joan Balcells and Albert Padró-Solanet find that the popular perception of social media as creating polarised echo-chambers of extreme political opinions is far from the full picture. They find evidence that Twitter can foster engaged, substantive conversations across partisan lines. This picture demonstrates how social media has the capacity to genuinely improve democratic discussions, and open up arenas of public debate.
Obama’s 2008 primaries and presidential campaign inaugurated a new era of political communication where politicians, communication practitioners and academics ultimately acknowledged the key role of social media. As if it were a kind of Pandora’s box – from a democratic perspective – the first elements that

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How informal groupings of like-minded states are coming to dominate EU foreign policy governance

16 days ago

When the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009, many observers anticipated the newly established High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, together with the European External Action Service, might facilitate greater unity and coherence in EU foreign policy. Drawing on evidence from the EU’s role in the Middle East Peace Process, Federica Bicchi and Lisbeth Aggestam illustrate that the reality has been far more complex. EU foreign policy governance is now increasingly driven by cooperation among informal groups of like-minded governments and cross-loading among member states outside of the EU’s formal structures.
Ten years after the Lisbon Treaty, we can safely conclude that the EU foreign policy system did not turn out as expected. The creation of the European External

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Post-Brexit trade policy must serve British society, not just free trade

17 days ago

Brexit provides an opportunity to agree new Economic Partnership Agreements with the world’s largest economies such as the US, China, and India. These cannot make up for the trade it will lose through leaving the Single Market, according to Swati Dhingra and Josh De Lyon. Nevertheless, the UK has an opportunity to forge a new generation of trade deals that could help spread the benefits of free trade and address widespread unhappiness with recent waves of globalisation.
The UK is one of the most open economies in the world – and international trade and investment are the biggest areas of economic policy that the UK will need to decide on as it prepares to exit the EU. Greater integration with the EU can limit the economic costs of Brexit, and does not need to prevent the UK from pursuing

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The symbolism of the new Greek government

18 days ago

New Democracy, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, won the Greek legislative elections on 7 July. Zoe Lefkofridi and Sevasti Chatzopoulou write that although it is still too early to judge the new Greek government, there are already some clear indications of the trajectory it is likely to take in the coming years.
On 7 July, Greeks went to the polls for the sixth time in a decade. In 2009, Greece had switched from a conservative (New Democracy / ND) to a social democratic (PASOK) government, which collapsed under the sovereign debt crisis. After technocratic and care-taker cabinets, Greece went back to conservative (ND) hands in 2012, but in 2015 it experimented with SYRIZA, a radical left party new to power. Having promised to end austerity, SYRIZA ended up pursuing harsh economic policies

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Book Review: Unwanted Neighbours: The Mughals, the Portuguese and their Frontier Zones by Jorge Flores

19 days ago

In Unwanted Neighbours: The Mughals, the Portuguese and their Frontier Zones, Jorge Flores explores the ways in which the Portuguese Estado da India—situated on the coastal peripheries of the Mughal empire—dealt with their Timurid neighbours from c. 1570 to c. 1640. Unwanted Neighbours is a book that is extremely rich in thematic concerns, empirical details and includes a varied cast of characters. It also provides ways to consider the empire’s rise as seen through the eyes of contemporaries situated outside it, paving the way for similar approaches to interrogating the hegemonic nature of other imperial structures, writes Aparna Kapadia.
This review was originally published on the South Asia @ LSE blog. 
Unwanted Neighbours: The Mughals, the Portuguese and their Frontier Zones. Jorge

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Five transport policies that could build thriving cities

21 days ago

One of the key roles of transport planners in large cities is to ensure that high levels of mobility are maintained while traffic congestion is kept to a minimum. Sarah Colenbrander and Catarina Heeckt write that accessibility within cities hasn’t become better despite urban planners’ best efforts. Creative solutions are needed to create better interconnected and concentrated cities.
Over the past fifty years, transport planners have tended to focus on reducing congestion to improve people’s mobility within cities. But increasing road capacity, vehicle speeds and parking spaces have not solved urban traffic. Building more roads and parking just attracts more cars and locks cities into expensive, unsustainable sprawl.
Today, transport planners are recognising that they need to work more

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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s uphill battle as Germany’s new defence minister

22 days ago

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who remains the favourite to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor, became the new German Defence Minister on 17 July. Marcus Walsh-Führing examines what her appointment means for the CDU and Merkel’s political legacy.
Ever since Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) took over as chair of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party has had to deal with numerous scandals and challenges, with several members at odds with their new leader. This has undermined the party’s position with the German electorate and raised the possibility of the CDU losing power in the next federal elections, due in 2021.
From day one, CDU members questioned her competency. Political strategists challenged Merkel’s endorsement of AKK by suggesting Jens Spahn, Federal Minister

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Most trade in services happens between cities rather than countries

23 days ago

Services, as opposed to goods, may provide the opportunity for trade diversification that the world is seeking. Saul Estrin and Daniel Shapiro write that facilitating trade in services, particularly knowledge-intensive ones, will require developing strong global cities as trade hubs.
Many countries have begun to think about trade diversification. After all, one of the reasons for Brexit was to allow the UK to trade more freely with the world other than the EU. This is partly because policy makers are raising concerns regarding the risks, largely political, arising from overly concentrating trade and investment on a small number of trading partners. We argue that trade in services may offer better opportunities for trade diversification than traditional trade in goods. However, we posit

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Grand corruption and the authoritarian turn

24 days ago

If incoming governments in liberal democracies wish to use public contracts to benefit those loyal to them, they face institutional constraints. To implement corrupt procurement strategies they would need to sabotage these checks and balances. By comparing procurement data from Hungary and the UK, Liz Dávid-Barrett and Mihály Fazekas identify the relative effect of such anti-democratic institutional changes, as seen in Hungary, on government patronage.
Is liberalism really dead? In his recent interview with the FT, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that it is, and he seems to have a growing fan club of authoritarian leaders around the world ready to declare their allegiance to the illiberal cause. Hungary’s Orbán, Turkey’s Erdogan, and US President Trump are perhaps the most

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The waking giant goes back to sleep: European integration in the Greek elections

25 days ago

The prospect of Greece leaving the eurozone once dominated the country’s political agenda. Yet as Susannah Verney writes, in the 2019 Greek elections, relations with the EU were simply not an issue. She argues this quick change in the political climate demonstrates that unlike in the UK, Greek citizens were not motivated by a desire to reject the principle of participation in European integration. Rather, the cause of contention had been the policy response to the specific challenges posed by the country’s debt crisis.
Before the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis in 2009, relations with the European Union seemed to be a non-issue in Greece. Public opinion was overwhelmingly positive about EU membership, with support levels above the EU average. Two pro-integrationist parties, the

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Book Review: Stretching the Constitution: The Brexit Shock in Historic Perspective by Andrew Blick

26 days ago

In Stretching the Constitution: The Brexit Shock in Historic Perspective, Andrew Blick situates Brexit within the wider context of UK constitutional reform debates over the course of the past century. Blick’s unconventional approach to this topic is insightful, providing instructive historical context to contemporary discussions of Brexit that will be of particular value for scholars of constitutional affairs, writes Gary Wilson. 
Stretching the Constitution: The Brexit Shock in Historic Perspective. Andrew Blick. Hart. 2019.
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The phenomenon of Brexit has generated a considerable body of literature, much of which either seeks to understand the reasons why the UK voted to leave the European Union or assess the likely consequences of departure from the EU. Stretching the

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How politicisation facilitates responsiveness in the European Union

28 days ago

The politicisation of EU policies is often seen as a threat to European integration. But as Iskander De Bruycker explains, politicisation also presents possibilities for better public scrutiny of EU policymaking. Drawing on a new study, he illustrates that the politicisation of EU policy processes can strengthen both public and policy responsiveness.
The recent negotiations to appoint key EU positions strikingly illustrate the gap between European citizens and EU elites. German MEP Martin Schirdewan went as far as to call Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination as the new President of the European Commission ‘a betrayal of democracy’. Time and again, critical voices have highlighted that the EU’s political system suffers from a democratic deficit: EU policy tends to have low salience for

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The impact of job loss on political ideology

29 days ago

Do citizens alter their political ideology when they lose their job? Drawing on data from the Netherlands, Dingeman Wiertz and Toni Rodon find that – if anything – people revise their ideology to the left upon becoming unemployed.
What happens to citizens’ political preferences when they are confronted with economic hardship? This longstanding question has recently attracted renewed attention in the wake of the Great Recession. Nonetheless, many matters remain unresolved. For example, which types of preferences are affected? Are we mainly talking about views on concrete policy issues and politicians’ approval ratings, or are more deep-seated convictions such as political ideology also influenced? And are all people equally affected by experiences of economic hardship, or do such events

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Assessing Ursula von der Leyen’s proposals for a new chapter in European cooperation

July 24, 2019

Ursula von der Leyen will take over as the new President of the European Commission on 1 November. Dennis J. Snower examines her proposals for the European Union and what the likely effect will be for the integration process, noting that a key theme in her vision for the EU is the need to invest in the hearts and minds of Europeans.
In her recent address to the European Parliament, new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen articulated a way forward toward a united Europe, stating that “if we are to go down the European path, we must first rediscover our unity; if we are united on the inside, nobody will divide us from the outside”. While sceptics heard a speech strategically crafted to win votes, it could portend a vision that stands to breathe new life into the European Union.

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The EU’s institutional response to the Brexit vote

July 23, 2019

Angélica Szucko discusses the EU White Paper on the future of the union and analyses the institutional response to the Brexit vote. The EU has to tackle future challenges in a more flexible way than before and acknowledge that the integration model needs to be revisited.
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union – alongside the recent crises on the continent – have led to reflections about the reformulation of the European project. In this vein, the publication of the “White Paper on the Future of Europe: reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025” on March 1, 2017, even before the UK had officially communicated the EU about their withdrawal decision, represents an institutional response to the Brexit vote.
The EU’s response, which points to five possible scenarios based on the

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What German citizens want from democracy

July 22, 2019

Although democracy is viewed positively across Europe, surprisingly little is known about the type of democratic processes citizens support. Drawing on new research in Germany, Saskia Goldberg, Dominik Wyss and André Bächtiger illustrate that disenchanted citizens want stronger involvement in political decision-making, irrespective of the concrete participation format.
What do people want from democracy and democratic decision-making? Are they happy with the current shape of representative democracy or do they want something else, e.g. getting more involvement and having a say when political decisions are made? Currently, there is a lot of democratic experimentation around the globe, but we have surprisingly little robust knowledge on what citizens actually want from democracy.

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Book Review: Theory for the World to Come: Speculative Fiction and Apocalyptic Anthropology by Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer

July 21, 2019

In Theory for the World to Come: Speculative Fiction and Apocalyptic Anthropology, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer argues that speculative fiction offers a rich vein to theorise catastrophe and crisis in ways that are not paralysing or demoralising, drawing on the work of those such as Octavia E. Butler and Kurt Vonnegut. This book admirably succeeds in showing its source material to offer a repository of potential paths forward through multifarious possible futures, writes Frankie Hines. 
Theory for the World to Come: Speculative Fiction and Apocalyptic Anthropology. Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer. University of Minnesota Press. 2019.
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How can we theorise catastrophe and crisis in ways that are not paralysing or demoralising? Is it still possible to chart a path out of the Anthropocene and

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If it wants to survive, the EU must think much more strategically

July 19, 2019

Europe needs to be far more ambitious if it is to challenge the dual hegemony of the United States and China. José Ignacio Torreblanca calls for the EU to develop its strategic autonomy through boosting its security and diplomatic authority.
Europeans observe with great concern how the rivalry between the United States and China is shaping the twenty-first century, and wonder what their role in that great power game is and how to avoid getting caught up in the confrontation between these two giants. What better capital than Lisbon – and what better hospitality than that of Augusto Santos, Portuguese minister of foreign affairs – to discuss the global relevance of Europe? So many centuries spent at the centre of the world have led Europeans to think that they are still in this position. But

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