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B. T.


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Articles by B. T.

Only public dialogue can resolve Poland’s judicial reform crisis

5 days ago

New disciplinary procedures for Polish judges have generated a sharply polarised response from Polish citizens. The reforms are part of a wider judicial reform programme the ruling Law and Justice party has implemented since coming to power in 2015. Anna Matczak argues that while politicians often cite public opinion when making their case for or against the reforms, there has been little considered reflection on what the public actually wants.
Since 2015, Poland has experienced a gradual destabilisation of its judiciary and a weakening of the rule of law which now ranks as probably the most detrimental democratic crisis in the country’s post-1989 history. This is the result of a range of legislative changes introduced and implemented by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that have

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Britain needs friends in the post-Brexit era. Alienating EU allies would be counter-productive

5 days ago

Amid the posturing about trade, the fact that Britain no longer has a voice in the EU has gone largely unremarked, writes N Piers Ludlow. He warns that alienating European allies by talking tough risks harming the UK’s soft power and long-term interests.
At the heart of Edward Heath’s speech winding up the so-called ‘Great Debate’ in October 1971, when the Commons was asked to take the decision in principle whether or not Britain should join the European Economic Community (EEC), was an argument about participation. Western Europe’s leaders, Heath reminded MPs, had recently agreed to gather in Paris in 1972 in order to take a number of important collective decisions, including the best policy response to the breakdown of the Bretton Woods currency system. As the leader of a country on the

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Lessons from another extraordinary general election in Ireland

6 days ago

Sinn Féin won the highest share of the vote at Ireland’s general election on 8 February. As Conor Little explains, the late surge in support for the party was so unexpected that it failed to run enough candidates in the election to fully capitalise on its popularity. The resulting volatility, fragmentation and polarisation will make coalition negotiations challenging, and a new general election later in the year remains a possibility.
Ireland’s general election took place on Saturday 8 February. The result was extraordinary in a number of respects. Sinn Féin’s vote share increased by 10.7 percentage points, making it the most popular party. This is the first time it has achieved this distinction; it will not be the largest party in the Dáil only because it did not run enough candidates to

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Introducing eastern Germany’s far-right intellectuals

7 days ago

On 5 February, Thomas Kemmerich of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) was elected as Minister President of Thuringia with the help of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Sabine Volk explains that the incident, which has generated a heated reaction in Germany, highlights the role of far-right groups in shaping public debate in eastern Germany.
Following the AfD’s coup in Thuringia and the resulting political earthquake in German party politics, eastern Germany has once again moved into the spotlight of national debates on rising far-right populism. I have recently conducted research in the region, where far-right subcultures have been able to establish themselves, providing a platform for far-right debate and networking.
Once in a blue moon, a public bus goes to Schnellroda, a tiny township in

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What are the prospects for the Polish Peasant Party?

8 days ago

The unexpected success of Poland’s agrarian-centrist party in last autumn’s parliamentary election suggests that there could be a niche for a moderate conservative-centrist grouping among voters uncomfortable with the country’s right-wing ruling party and liberal-left opposition, writes Aleks Szczerbiak. But, critics argue, in spite of its changing electorate and apparently more open political style, the agrarian party remains a deeply pragmatic, office-seeking grouping rooted in provincial transactional politics.
The agrarian Polish Peasant Party (PSL) was formed in 1990 as the organisational successor to the former communist satellite United Peasant Party (ZSL), although it attempted to legitimise itself by claiming to have roots in the pre-communist agrarian movement which dates back to

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Book Review: The Bourdieu Paradigm: The Origins and Evolution of an Intellectual Social Project by Derek Robbins

9 days ago

In The Bourdieu Paradigm: The Origins and Evolution of an Intellectual Social Project, Derek Robbins explores the intellectual and social background informing the development of the theoretical perspective, or theory-as-method, of Pierre Bourdieu. Given the increasing application of Bourdieu’s theoretical tools across the social sciences, this book is a timely addition to scholarship, writes Ross Goldstone. 
The Bourdieu Paradigm: The Origins and Evolution of an Intellectual Social Project. Derek Robbins. Manchester University Press. 2019.
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In The Bourdieu Paradigm: The Origins and Evolution of an Intellectual Social Project, Derek Robbins explores the intellectual and social background informing the development of the theoretical perspective, or theory-as-method, of Pierre

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A political economy forecast of Ireland’s 2020 general election: Will the government lose fewer seats than expected?

10 days ago

Irish voters will go to the polls today for a general election. Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Stephen Quinlan outline a new forecast model which suggests that Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael will lose seats, but perhaps fewer than opinion polls currently suggest.
Irish voters head to the ballot box today. According to recent national opinion polls, we are on the cusp of a seismic shift, with the outgoing Fine Gael led minority coalition bound for defeat and the dominant two parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, on course for their lowest combined vote share ever. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, a party historically associated with the violent conflict in Northern Ireland, look set to gain its largest share of votes and seats in an election in the Republic. These expectations have been driven primarily by

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Far-right, populist or bourgeois? How the election of Thuringia’s regional governor shakes up German politics

11 days ago

The election of liberal politician Thomas Kemmerich as regional governor of the German state of Thuringia has shaken up German politics. Julian Göpffarth writes that the surprise vote shows far-right ideas in Germany not only resonate with the economically left-behind, but also with an educated bourgeoisie.
Wednesday, 5 February 2020 is likely to enter German post war history as a political earthquake. Against all expectations, the incumbent left-wing regional governor Bodo Ramelow, who has been in office since 2014 and presided over a coalition between Die Linke, the SPD and the Greens, was not confirmed in office by the Thuringian parliament. Instead, the so far largely unknown liberal democrat (FDP) politician Thomas Kemmerich was elected regional governor of the East German state by

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Brexit and the liberal elephant trap

12 days ago

Given the success of populist politicians across Europe, some pro-Europeans have openly wondered whether they should adopt the same tactics as populist parties to make the case for European integration. Michael Cottakis argues that this would be a mistake. To reverse the trend, pro-Europeans must quit dabbling in populism and instead play to their strengths by promoting dialogue and substantive policy reform.
This week, pro-European politicians will feel a deep sense of Brexit regret. On Friday, such sorrow was evident in several ostentatious gestures of goodwill directed toward the UK, from the moving rendition of Auld Lang Syne in the European Parliament to the illumination of Brussels’ Grand Place and the Berlin Fernsehturm Tower with the colours of the Union Jack.
Yet despite such

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Azerbaijan’s snap election: a real contest or business as usual?

12 days ago

Azerbaijan will hold a snap parliamentary election on 9 February. Arzu Geybullayeva explains that although there is little expectation the vote will be genuinely free and fair, there is a sense that this election could constitute a break with the past given the visibility of new candidates. However, it remains to be seen whether this will translate into real change once voters go to the polls.
On Sunday, 9 February, Azerbaijani citizens will vote in a snap parliamentary election. But only time and an ample amount of documented evidence from the election will show whether their ballots have mattered and whether real political reform is afoot in the country.
There has been much speculation on the real cause behind incumbent president Ilham Aliyev’s December 2019 decree to dissolve the

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What would it take for Scotland to rejoin the EU as an independent state?

13 days ago

If Scotland voted for independence, it would probably apply to rejoin the EU. Despite its unique history, it would have to follow the normal path to EU accession, says Anthony Salamone. Scots are not keen on the euro and fisheries would be a flashpoint. While the Scottish government would be well-advised not to seek opt-outs of the kind the UK had, Scotland would have the potential to become a successful EU member state.
Independence is perennially high on the Scottish political agenda – and Brexit has cemented its salience. The Scottish government is currently seeking the transfer of power from Westminster to hold another independence referendum. Although the UK government has to date simply refused, the argument over another vote will continue until either it is resolved or the next

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The implications of Brexit for the UK economy

14 days ago

The United Kingdom has now formally left the European Union, but what does the future hold for the British economy? Following a recent event at LSE, Gerard Lyons, Vicky Pryce and John Van Reenen took questions from LSE staff, students and members of the public on the economic impact of Brexit.
A lot of the focus on the economic impact of Brexit has been on London, but the votes for Brexit mostly came from outside of the capital. What will Brexit provide for the people who live in these areas?
Vicky Price: There was a time following the vote where people in London wanted to emphasise how different they were from the rest of the UK and how differently they voted in the referendum. There was a suggestion London should have its own immigration policy. In fact, some people have produced some

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How populist radical right parties have eroded the EU’s human rights agenda in the Mediterranean

15 days ago

It is often assumed that populist radical right parties will support disengaging from the European Union by default. Adrià Rivera Escartin writes that although many of these parties do support disengaging from the EU, there is the potential for a different approach to be adopted in future which might be termed ‘informal and illiberal Europeanisation’. Italy’s capacity to shape EU relations with Tunisia and Hungary’s efforts to influence the EU’s relations with Egypt offer two recent examples of how this trend might materialise.
The days before the 2019 European elections, Steve Bannon, the guru of the populist radical right, pledged that an alliance of Eurosceptic parties orbiting around the figures of the former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and the Hungarian Prime Minister

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Book Review: Resist: Stories of Uprising edited by Ra Page

16 days ago

In Resist: Stories of Uprising, editor Ra Page brings together contributors to offer an anthology of short stories and critical essays that narrate a rich counter-history of resistance in the UK, spanning from the Boudicca Rebellion to the protests in response to Grenfell Tower. Positioning fiction as a radical medium, this is a valuable book that will be of particular interest to participants and scholars of social movements, writes Chris Waugh. 
Resist: Stories of Uprising. Ra Page (ed.). Comma Press. 2019.
Writing towards the end of his life, Michel Foucault identified the importance of ‘counter-history’ as a tool for radicals. Counter-history refers to ‘the ability to identify omissions, to listen to silences, to play with discursive gaps and textual interstices as a crucial part of

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If Poland’s government believes in ending discrimination, it should reassess its conception of Polish identity

18 days ago

In recent years, a march has been held in Poland to mark the country’s independence. While the event is viewed as an opportunity to remember those who died in the process of establishing the Polish state, it has also faced allegations of racism and xenophobia. Bolaji Balogun argues that in light of these debates, it is worth examining how ethnic minorities in modern Poland frequently find themselves at odds with traditional conceptions of Polish identity.
On 27 January, world leaders, including the President of Poland, who is backed by the current ruling party (Law and Justice – PiS), gathered at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp for the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. During the event, they all called for the defeat of anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination.

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Whose fault is it really? How policymakers in the EU shift the blame when things go wrong

19 days ago

EU membership provides ample opportunities for politicians at the national level to shift blame for unpopular decisions to the EU’s institutions, while EU-level actors also have an incentive to blame national politicians when things go wrong. Drawing on a new study, Tim Heinkelmann-Wild explains how these blame-avoidance processes function in practice.
When EU policies are publicly contested, policymakers try to avoid blame by downplaying their own responsibility and emphasising the responsibility of others. EU member states and EU institutions thus have a strong incentive to engage in multi-level blame games. For example, during the Eurozone crisis, Greek politicians repeatedly blamed the EU for the harsh economic conditions they had to fulfil under the European rescue programmes, while

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Public intellectuals and experts cannot tell citizens what to do

19 days ago

How should academics approach their roles as public intellectuals in light of decreasing trust in experts and growing need for their expertise? Peter J. Verovšek argues there is a need to ensure the strategic competition for media power does not destroy the quality of public debate that is necessary to maintain a functioning representative democracy. Academics should view themselves as guardians of the public debate.
In addition to the significant damage it has already done, the British government officially estimates that the UK economy will sacrifice another £130bn in lost GDP growth over the next 15 years under the terms Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement. While this loss of 6.75% of GDP under Johnson’s deal is smaller than the estimated 9.3% losses under a no-deal scenario (which may

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Trust spillovers: Does increasing public trust in the EU’s institutions undermine support for national institutions?

20 days ago

Several studies have identified a link between the public’s trust in national institutions and their trust in the EU’s institutions. Yet the effect of this link is unclear, with some studies finding that an increase in trust in national institutions boosts trust in the EU’s institutions, and other studies identifying the opposite relationship. Drawing on a new study, Goran Dominioni, Alberto Quintavalla and Alessandro Romano explain that the relationship between trust in national and EU institutions is bilateral, almost always asymmetric, and that spillover effects change over time.
Public trust in political institutions is a key determinant of the political life of the European Union. Importantly, in the European Union, governance is shared among institutions that operate at the

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Understanding the key factors that lead countries to reform their pension systems

21 days ago

Faced with ageing populations and strains on their public finances, many countries across Europe have endeavoured to reform their pension systems, yet these reforms have varied substantially in their content and aims. Leandro N. Carrera and Marina Angelaki present findings from a novel study of eight European countries to highlight the key factors that lead countries to undergo significant pension reforms.
Governments in Europe and around the world must increasingly focus on pension policy, given population ageing and the impact of public pensions on government finances. Since the late 1980s, European countries have engaged in a variety of pension reforms, yet these have been far from uniform in terms of their content and direction. Broadly, they have ranged from changes to eligibility

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How will the latest judicial reform controversy affect Poland’s presidential election?

22 days ago

New disciplinary procedures for Polish judges have moved a controversial judicial reform programme to the top of the political agenda in the run-up to Poland’s presidential election in May. Aleks Szczerbiak writes that although the issue could mobilise and consolidate the right-wing vote, thereby helping incumbent President Andrzej Duda, the potential for political instability and legal chaos means it could also damage his re-election prospects.
A radical but fiercely contested overhaul of the judicial system has been one of the main sources of political controversy in Poland since it was introduced two-and-a-half years ago by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, the country’s ruling grouping since autumn 2015. One of the most important and contentious elements of the reform

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Book Review: Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum Seekers

23 days ago

In Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum Seekers, David Scott FitzGerald argues that the rich democracies of the Global North have developed ways to evade the spirit of international humanitarian laws when it comes to migration, whilst simultaneously de jure adhering to them. With a rich empirical basis and a clear, accessible style, this compelling and topical book will appeal to a wide range of audiences, writes Denny Pencheva.
Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum Seekers. David Scott FitzGerald. Oxford University Press. 2019.
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Halting immigration to the United States was Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise. A promise he seems all too adamant to deliver: from introducing a travel ban for visitors and refugees from mainly Muslim

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Lessons from the Nordics: Does party membership still provide a meaningful link between citizens and politics?

25 days ago

Political parties play a crucial role in enabling the views of citizens to be represented in political decision-making. Yet across Europe, the vast majority of citizens no longer actively participate in political parties, with party membership numbers experiencing a sharp fall in recent decades. Drawing on a new edited volume covering the Nordic countries, Marie Demker, Knut Heidar and Karina Kosiara-Pedersen explain how parties might continue to link citizens with politics, despite the fall in membership numbers.
In the Nordic countries, as in many other established democracies, there has been a rise in the number of political parties competing in elections in recent decades. Yet this has coincided with a period in which parties have suffered a loss of members. A new edited volume we have

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Brexit may make EU trade policy more progressive

26 days ago

The conventional wisdom amongst many commentators has been that Brexit will render EU trade policy more protectionist, as the Union will be losing one of its more liberal member states. Ferdi De Ville and Gabriel Siles-Brügge argue that this is not necessarily the case. Instead, they highlight how the EU could render its trade policies more progressive by insisting on more stringent ‘level playing field’ provisions with other trade partners, as they are doing now with the UK.
The Conservative majority following the December 2019 UK general election means that negotiations between the UK and EU will from February move from the ‘divorce’ talks to discussing the future economic partnership. The content of this new economic partnership will be of vital importance not just for EU-UK relations,

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The failed integration of an anti-system party: Where Luigi Di Maio and the Five Star Movement went wrong

27 days ago

Luigi Di Maio is expected to resign as leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement later today. Mattia Zulianello writes that Di Maio’s resignation will represent the latest twist in the story of an anti-system party that has suffered from a failed attempt to integrate into the system it previously opposed.
According to reports from several Italian media outlets, Luigi Di Maio is about to resign from his role as leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S). This raises the question of why, in contrast to other populist parties, the M5S appears to have imploded while in office.
The Five Star Movement has been characterised as a ‘valence populist party’. Not all populist actors are ‘left’ or ‘right’. Some of them predominantly, if not exclusively, compete by focusing on non-positional issues such as the

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A question of trust: Intra-party delegation in the European Parliament

28 days ago

Much of the European Parliament’s work rests on negotiations within parliamentary committees, as well as other informal negotiations that take place behind closed doors. But what determines the selection of the MEPs who participate in these negotiations? Drawing on a new study, Fang-Yi Chiou, Bjørn Høyland and Silje Synnøve Lyder Hermansen illustrate that loyalty to the leadership of the transnational parties present in Parliament is the key factor in the selection process. While knowledge about a given policy area is important, parties typically develop a group of experts from which they can select candidates rather than relying on individuals with the most expertise.
The European Parliament provides the only directly elected representation of EU citizens. It is also – on many accounts –

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How war helped facilitate the introduction of unemployment insurance in the West

29 days ago

The question of whether governments should provide financial assistance to the unemployed has proven to be one of the most heated issues in modern politics. Yet given the opposition such schemes have faced throughout history, what prompted states to introduce them? Drawing on a new study, Herbert Obinger and Carina Schmitt highlight the crucial impact the West’s experience with war during the 20th century had in motivating states to adopt unemployment insurance systems.
Unemployment insurance was and still is one of the most contested social protection schemes. As a consequence, it was not only introduced at a relatively late stage in the development of modern societies, but is also still missing in many countries around the world.
Income support for the unemployed was highly controversial

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Book Review: Anatomies of Revolution by George Lawson

January 19, 2020

In Anatomies of Revolution, George Lawson offers a new account of how revolutions begin, unfold and end through a dynamic amalgam of in-depth sociological theory, multiple historical narratives and poignant commentary on contemporary politics. This book is a triumph when it comes to a creative theorisation of revolution, writes Eric Loefflad, providing clarity not in spite of complexity, but through it. 
If you are interested in this book review, you may like to listen to a podcast of the book launch of Anatomies of Revolution, recorded at LSE on Tuesday 22 October 2019. 
Anatomies of Revolution. George Lawson. Cambridge University Press. 2019.
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In his landmark text The Interpretation of Cultures, renowned anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted a particularity regarding the

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Why ‘greening’ the EU’s institutions remains far from straightforward

January 17, 2020

In response to the increasing salience of climate change, there have been renewed efforts to enhance the green credentials of the EU’s institutions. As Tobias Tesche writes, these efforts include proposals for the European Central Bank and European Investment Bank to take climate change into greater consideration when making decisions. Yet not all of these proposals have been well received and there remains the potential for significant controversy to be generated over how this ‘green turn’ is implemented.
The issue of climate change has taken over the European political agenda and will likely dominate it for the coming years. The new European Commission has outlined its plan to ‘green’ the European economy in its communication for a European Green Deal, which partially reflects the new

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Austria’s new ÖVP-Green government: united in diversity?

January 16, 2020

Austria’s new coalition government, incorporating the conservative ÖVP and the Green Party, was sworn in on 7 January. Paul Schmidt writes that the two parties have so far expressed a desire to find working compromises between their competing priorities. However, the rest of Europe will be watching with interest to see if their partnership remains sustainable in the long-term.
Like it or not, we live in interesting times. This undoubtedly holds true for Austrian politics, where a new governing coalition between the conservative ÖVP and the Green Party just took office. The coalition is a new experience for Austria and will present some notable challenges for the two essentially dissimilar coalition partners. The new government has already raised substantial international interest.
Both

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Battle of the mandate: Defining the dispute over a new Scottish independence referendum

January 16, 2020

The ongoing dispute over whether a new Scottish independence referendum should take place reflects very different interpretations of Scotland’s sovereignty, writes Anthony Salamone. Questions of whether Westminster or Holyrood can determine if a new referendum is held are distinct from the issue of independence itself, and will most likely continue to be contested at least until after the next Scottish parliamentary elections.
Independence is the predominant issue of Scottish politics, with a significant amount of business at Holyrood filtered to some degree through its prism. Even the most consequential matter of the day – Brexit – has become more a proxy for ongoing arguments over Scotland’s constitutional future than an impetus for substantive reflection on its relationship with the

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