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Selected Ph.D. theses defended recently


Every year, about 30 Ph.D. theses are defended in the SPS Department. In order to illustrate the range of topics, the department presents a selection of theses chosen among those that are both of very high quality (as certified by the examiners’ reports) and whose findings may be of interest to a wider public. 

 

Picture_WolfEurope’s Military Responses to Humanitarian Crises

Katharina Wolf


Thesis summary

Why do European Union (EU) member states sometimes respond collectively to prevent or address large-scale humanitarian crises while, at other moments, they use different institutional channels? More than once, EU states have pondered, hesitated, disagreed and let others interfere when widespread and systematic killing of civilians were looming. Instead of using the EU’s military crisis management capacities, member states have acted through different institutional channels such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), ad-hoc coalitions of states or single state-led operations to interfere in humanitarian crises. At times, they have decided not to intervene at all. To examine this striking variation in European states’ responses to large-scale humanitarian crises, Wolf draws on in-depth case study evidence from the conflict in Libya during 2011, the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire during 2010/2011, the sectarian war in the Central African Republic during 2013 and 2014 and the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. The cases capture the entire range of variation on the dependent variable covering EU operations, NATO operations, ad-hoc operations, and non-intervention.Wolf”s thesis develops a three-step model to explain why, when, and how European states use military force for humanitarian purposes. At the domestic level, Wolf’s findings show that support by powerful domestic elites is critical for European interventions. In contrast, where powerful domestic actors oppose intervention, European states refrain from intervening and typically promote alternative crisis management solutions. For instance, African states took charge of crisis management at the initial stage of the sectarian war in the CAR during 2013 while France and the EU refused to intervene. As a second factor, Wolf finds that at the international level, European states attach importance to the preferences of UN Security Council members, regional organizations and the host nation when deciding whether or not to intervene. While international approval can speed up European military action, its absence constrains, delays, and hampers intervention, so the thesis’ argument. For instance, Britain and France only deployed force to stop Gaddafi after they had received approval by regional organizations and authorization by UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Finally, at the regional European level, Wolf’s results indicate that the deployment of EU and NATO operations is likely when intervention is backed by the organization’s most powerful states and when it is acceptable to other member states. When member states’ preferences diverge, hence, when they strongly disagree on what the appropriate response to a crisis should be, common action through the EU or NATO is unlikely. In this situation, like-minded states will resort to ad-hoc arrangements or national operations.Wolf’s dissertation concludes that European states’ preferences, the political contexts in which they operate and their ability to pursue their goals at the international and the regional level considerably influence why, when, and in which format European states intervene in humanitarian crises.

 

Short bio

Katharina Wolf is a Research Associate at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies in the Global Governance Programme. After that, Katharina will take up a position as Defence Data Analyst at the European Defence Agency (EDA) in Brussels. Her doctoral research examines why, when, and in which format European states intervene militarily in humanitarian crises. She holds a M.A. degree in International Relations from the University of Nottingham and a M.A. degree in International Administration and Conflict Management from the University of Konstanz. During her doctoral research Katharina worked at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) in Paris and at the Global Governance Programme. Katharina’s research interests include International Relations, European Security and Defence Policy, military interventions, Franco-German security and defence cooperation, and Foreign Policy Analysis. Her publications include Franco-German Defence and Security Cooperation, in: The Handbook of European Defence Policies and Armed Forces (with Ulrich Krotz) (Oxford University Press, 2018), Global defence spending 2015: the big picture (EUISS publication, 2016), Putting numbers on capabilities: Defence inflation vs. cost escalation (EUISS publication, 2015), and Defence spending in 2014: the big picture (with Antonio Missiroli) (EUISS publication, 2015). 

 

 

 

Lorenzo PiccoliThe politics of regional citizenship. Explaining variation in the right to health care for undocumented immigrants across Italian regions, Spanish autonomous communities, and Swiss cantons

Lorenzo Piccoli


Thesis summary

Do citizenship rights of vulnerable populations vary within states? And if so how, and why? In his thesis, Lorenzo Piccoli shows that distinct traditions of regional protection of vulnerable individuals—like minor children, the disabled, and the homeless—can be used to challenge and contest national governments’ ideas about citizenship and their policies. 

Piccoli compares how governments protect the right to health care for undocumented immigrants in three multilevel states and, within these, in pairs of regions that have been governed by either left- or right-wing parties and coalitions: Lombardy (Italy, conservative government from 1995), Tuscany (Italy, progressive government from 1970), Andalusia (Spain, progressive government from 1980), Madrid (Spain conservative government from 1995), Vaud (Switzerland, progressive government from 2002) and Zürich (Switzerland, conservative government from 1991). The comparison is based on the analysis of 31 legislative documents and 62 interviews with policy-makers, health care professionals, and members of NGOs.

Piccoli’s main argument is that the politics of regional citizenship represent a source for parties to influence the national agenda, interpret policy outcomes, and encourage political compromise. The regional and cantonal governments of Tuscany and Vaud, for example, have traditionally opposed national policies that curtailed social rights for immigrants. The time when the legislation and the expansion of the rules of access to rights by the government of Vaud was most intense coincided with the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the right-wing anti-immigration Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP) gained greater power within the Swiss Federal Council. Similarly, the regional government of Tuscany defended some of the rights of undocumented immigrants as a reaction to the anti-immigration policies pursued by the right-wing national government in the early 2000s and then again between 2008 and 2009. At the same time, the regional government of Madrid and Lombardy are characterised by deliberate inaction on this issue, leaving the responsibility to assist undocumented immigrants to NGOs and civil society organisations. 

The author explains how the structure of the territorial system of the state plays an important role in determining the direction of the politics of regional citizenship. The value assigned to territorial pluralism within a country, in particular, determines whether regional citizenship is developed against the state, as a strategy to manifest dissent and mark the difference—as is the case in Spain and, to some extent, in Italy—or, instead, together with the state, as an expression of multilevel differentiation—as in Switzerland. Importantly, however, regional citizenship does never develop in complete isolation from the state because it always represents an attempt to weaken or reinforce the policies of the central government.

Short bio

Lorenzo Piccoli is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the nccr – on the move, the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) for migration and mobility studies, and a Research Assistant at GLOBALCIT, the global observatory on citizenship at the Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies in Florence. He defended his doctoral thesis at the European University Institute in April 2018 and is currently working towards publication of the main findings on Ethnopolitics and Regional Studies. While pursuing his doctoral studies he taught comparative and European politics at the universities of Düsseldorf, Florence, and Trento. He also contributed to internationally recognised information outlets such as openDemocracy, LSE European Politics and Policy, The Guardian, Radio France International.

 


 

 

 

 

WozniakowskiTowards Fiscalization of the European Union? The European and American Fiscal Unions in a comparative historical perspective

Tomasz Wozniakowski


Thesis summary

Under which conditions could the European Union (EU) get the power to tax? Tomasz P. Woźniakowski’s demonstrates that fiscalization—a concept he defines as a process that leads to the emergence of a federal/supranational power to tax—is triggered by internal threats. His dissertation focuses on the ‘post-crisis’ economic governance of the EU from a comparative historical perspective, and analyses the conditions under which a supranational/federal power to tax is likely to emerge. To this end, Woźniakowski investigates the emergence of the United States (US) fiscal union in the late 18th century to demonstrate how the institutional flaws of its first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, led to a sovereign debt crisis culminating in a taxpayers’ revolt.  Under the Articles of Confederation, the central budget was based on contributions from the states called ‘requisitions.’ However, in order to pay off debt from the War of Independence, the states imposed heavy taxation leading to taxpayers’ revolts in 1786/1787. This social unrest, in turn, was perceived by the political élite as an internal (or endogenous) threat to the union, which paved the way for the ‘fiscal bargain’ that created a fiscal union with the federal power to tax, and was firmly enshrined in the Constitution of 1789. Woźniakowski concludes his comparative analysis with four insights for the EU. First, paradoxically, fiscalization tends to be proceeded by a sovereign debt crisis. Second, fiscalization can trigger the democratization of central institutions. Third, any proposed fiscal union should be proceeded by a wide debate, involving the citizens of the member states. Finally, the main opponents of fiscalization should be offered clear benefits that will result from giving up some of their tax power.

In an attempt to tackle the threat to the union, which a sovereign debt crisis constitutes, the US in the 1780s and the EU in the 2010s opted for two fundamentally different approaches. The US went for the fiscalization of the federal government, in which the new Constitution granted central government the power to tax. A sovereign debt crisis at the state level was the single-most important reason for this. The EU, on the other hand, followed the paradigm of enhanced regulation of the fiscal and economic policies of its member states. For instance, under the European Semester, the EU can even impose sanctions on the member states if they fail to take ‘the corrective action’ on the excessive macroeconomic imbalances. However, this paradigm may change, as we observe a growing number of proposals calling for an adjustment in the way that the EU has been responding to the Euro crisis, and, ultimately, to use Jean Monnet’s famous formulation, for an adjustment to the form that Europe will take, as it will be forged as the result of this response. For instance, when in May 2017 Emanuel Macron became the President of France, the idea of fiscalization, albeit limited to a Euro Area budget, became the main part of his plan for the EU reform, to be debated during democratic conventions of European citizens (which connects to the first and third insight for the EU mentioned above). In fact, the voluntary and unilateral Brexit gave a further impetus to such proposals. It remains to be seen, however, if it will have similar consequences for the EU, as the forced British exit from America had on the future of the US two centuries ago.

 

Short bio

Dr. Tomasz P. Woźniakowski is a Postdoctoral Researcher for LEVIATHAN, an ERC-funded project at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin devoted to addressing the EU’s 'post-crisis' accountability challenge in economic governance. His research focuses on the role of national parliaments in the EU economic governance, Europeanization as well as US and EU fiscal unions in a comparative historical perspective. In 2015, Woźniakowski has been awarded the Fulbright-Schuman Fellowship and the College of Europe – Arenberg European Prize for an article comparing the American and European fiscal unions, which was recently published in the Journal of European Public Policy. He holds degrees in political science and history from the University of Wroclaw as well as a PhD from the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. He has been awarded the Supranational Political Economy Prize 2017 for „a landmark contribution to scholarship on supranational political economy” of a doctoral thesis in which he demonstrated that a fiscal union emerges as a result of an internal threat. Woźniakowski also studied at the universities of Bern, Fribourg, Dundee and North Carolina. 

During his doctoral studies at the EUI he was a visiting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (Fulbright), the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe in Lausanne (Rieben fellow) and LMU Munich (Laufer fellow), where he taught a course on European Governance. He is responsible for Work Package 3 of the Leviathan project.

Cadmus: http://cadmus.eui.eu/handle/1814/52565

Personal website: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tomasz_Wozniakowski

 

Publications:

  • Woźniakowski, Tomasz P. (2018) ‘Why the Sovereign Debt Crisis Could Lead to a Federal Fiscal Union: The Paradoxical Origins of Fiscalization in the United States and Insights for the European Union’ (winner of the first College of Europe-Arenberg European Prize ‘Exploring Federal Solutions), Journal of European Public Policy (4). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1285340
  • Woźniakowski, Tomasz P. (2016) ‘Towards Fiscalization of the European Union? The US and EU Fiscal Unions in a Comparative Historical Perspective’, University of California, Berkeley, Institute of European Studies Working Papers Series, spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rone 150x“Don’t Worry, We Are From the Internet”. The Diffusion of Protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in the Age of Austerity 

Julia Rone


Thesis summary

Does the use of digital tools facilitate protest diffusion, challenge existing hierarchies, and allow more bottom-up information to diffuse during protests? Julia Rone’s thesis goes against overly optimistic views on the role of the Internet in protests and shows that in the mobilization against ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) organizational resources and pre-existing protest traditions mattered more for diffusion than using digital tools and media. Rone situates the anti-ACTA mobilization within the context of the post-financial crisis cycle of contention and analyses it as an important manifestation of the Internet-utopianism that marked the whole cycle.

Indeed, in the mobilization against ACTA the Internet was not simply a tool but also a cause to defend and fight for. What is more, Rone claims that this mobilization is particularly important to explore, since ACTA was the first trade agreement to be rejected by the European Parliament after the expansion of its powers with the Treaty of Lisbon.

The historical rejection of ACTA was brought about by the sustained campaigning and lobbying of transnational NGOs, but also by the spontaneous bottom-up protests that spread throughout the EU and came as a surprise to most NGOs. While there have been several studies on ACTA, this is the first in-depth research of the campaign, of the particular patterns of protest diffusion, and of the frames and forms of contentious action that diffused across space and time.

Apart from expanding and systematizing the empirical knowledge on the anti-ACTA mobilization, Rone makes three main theoretical contributions. First, in explaining why anti-ACTA protests spread in the East, West, North, but NOT in the South of the EU, Rone rejects several possible explanations based on post-materialism, economic distress, share of the population engaged in illegal downloading, etc. Instead, she shows that what explains the pattern of diffusion best are pre-existing protest traditions and the extent of previous politicization of Internet issues in each country examined. Nevertheless, pre-existing protest traditions not only facilitate the diffusion of subsequent protests but might also impede it. For example, single-issue protests might fail to diffuse in the aftermath of mass anti-systemic protests that have experienced a growth in generality.

Second, Rone shows that contrary to narratives of Internet use leading to emancipation and bottom-up knowledge production, there was a clear top-down directionality in frame diffusion in the anti-ACTA mobilization, with transnational NGOs (often based in Brussels) providing legal expertise to NGOs and protesters in different national contexts, without any reciprocal frame diffusion. What is more, compared to frames used by non-experts, the frames diffused by transnational NGOs were less connected to national politics and were strongly adapted to the expectations of Brussels-based decision makers. The diffusion of forms of contentious action was also highly political, with NGOs, protesters and hacktivists often disagreeing on what the most appropriate type of campaigning is.

Third and finally, the thesis shows that sometimes diffusion happens more successfully between different cycles of contention than within the same cycle of contention. Thus, the movement against TTIP was influenced more by the alter-globalization movement than by the protests against ACTA.

Ultimately, Rone insists that the focus on the politics of technology and on the role of technology for diffusion should not make us underestimate the techne of politics. Far from being an automatic technologically-driven episode of “contagion”, protest diffusion is in fact a highly political and contested process in which different actors have different visions and different strategies about what should be diffused.

 

Short bio

Julia Rone defended her PhD at the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the EUI in February 2018. Julia is a member of the COSMOS research network and has participated in the project "Mobilizing for Democracy", under the supervision of Donatella Della Porta. She has taught courses on digital media law and politics at the University of Florence and the Heinrich-Heine University inDüsseldorf. She has an MSc from the Oxford Internet Institute with a thesis on the hacktivist collective Anonymous, and a BA from Sofia University with a thesis on utopias and practices of the digital age. In a forthcoming research paper, she has compared how the radical right and the radical left have opposed TTIP and CETA. She is currently exploring the diffusion of fake news and the co-optation of citizen media by corporations and the state.

 

Publications:

  • Rone, Julia ‘Co-optation’ In Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media, edited by Luis Pérez-González, Bolette Blaagaard and Mona Baker. London: Routledge, forthcoming, 2018.
  • Rone, Julia “Left in Translation: The Curious Absence of an Austerity Narrative in the Bulgarian 2013 Protests.” In The Global Diffusion of Protest: Riding the Protest Wave in the Neoliberal Crisis, edited by Donatella della Porta. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017.
  • Rone, Julia “The People Formerly Known as the Oligarchy: The Cooptation of Citizen Journalism.”  In Citizen Media and Public Spaces, edited by Mona Baker and Bolette Blaagaard. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Rone, Julia (2014a): Anonymous Bulgaria. In: Internet Law and Politics. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Internet Law and Politics Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, 3-4 July, 2014. Barcelona: Hugens Ediorial.
  • Rone, Julia “Bulgarian Pirates: At the World’s End.”  In Cultural Trends, 22, 2-13, 2013.
  • Rone, Julia “The Seducer's Net: Internet, Politics and Seduction.” In Digital Cultures and the Politics of Emotion Feelings, Affect and Technological Change, edited by Athina Karatzogianni and Adi Kuntsman. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
  • Rone, Julia “Culture Wide Closed: Pirate Monopolies, Forum Dictatorship and Nationalism in the Practice of File Sharing.” In Cultures and Ethics of Sharing. Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press, 2012.

 

 

 

 

Despoina Karamperidou 150xThe Business of State Building: How Business Shaped Local Government Performance in Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina

Despina Karamperidou


Thesis summary

Why does the performance of local governments in conflict-affected states differ so much? Why is it that in some communities, political stability is established and economic development takes off soon after conflicts end, whereas other localities are plagued by prolonged political instability and poor economic performance? Despina Karamperidou’s dissertation sets out to solve this puzzle. Challenging existing explanations – the role of political institutions, civil society and social capital, and foreign aid - she argues that it is state-business relations which shape the performance trajectories and the development paths of local communities.

Karamperidou’s work draws on original qualitative data collected during 15 months of intensive field research in eight municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She conducted over 130 interviews with international, national and local stakeholders, extensive archival research and engaged in prolonged observation in her sites of research. Building on an impressive amount of data Karamperidou unpacks the meaning of state-business interaction, and advances a carefully layered argument: The context of political instability, widespread corruption, institutional malfunctioning and heavy destruction during the war, which is characteristic for post-conflict societies, may incentivize firms to mobilize and engage in building effective state institutions, as firms need a functioning state to “get business done”. The propensity of firms to engage in this state-building exercise, however, varies with economic structure. In localities with concentrated economic structures, large firms are more likely to take advantage of their structural power. There is thus a strong likelihood such companies capture local government with dire developmental and institutional consequences. In contrast, in localities characterized by small and heterogenous businesses, individual firms depend on a functioning state for their survival, but are too weak to be able to push for adequate political and economic institutions. They thus have a strong incentive to create encompassing business associations to overcome their individual weakness and cooperate with local government to solve development and governance problems. However, Karamperidou also finds that the emergence of business associations alone does not guarantee a successful state-business interaction. For this to happen, she argues, business associations must also professionalize, and be accountable to their members.

Despina Karamperidou combines elements of economic structure and agency to offer a convincing explanation for the different performance trajectories of local governments after civil wars. Bridging the literatures on collective action, post-conflict state-building and multiple political economy traditions, the author breaks new ground by highlighting the capacity of organized business groups to act as state builders and, under certain conditions, enhance the performance of governments in war-torn societies. This finding has several implications. It invites scholars and policy makers to think of the business community not as monolithic but as comprised of a diverse set of actors with different objectives and interest representation strategies that impact on state performance differently. Learning to differentiate between types of enterprises with varied state-building potential is important for designing programs that encourage business organization and mobilization for state capacity enhancement. It is also important for business development programming and economic restructuring, as this is often the basis for firm-driven state-building.

Overall, Karamperidou’s work makes a strong case for a political economy approach to state-building that is insightful and represents an important contribution both to the general literature on institutional performance and the more specific literature on the emergence of capable states in the aftermath of internal wars. 

Short bio

Despina Karamperidou is a research consultant at the UNICEF Office of Research (Innocenti) where she coordinates the Time to Teach project – a multi-country study on the determinants of teacher absenteeism in sub-Saharan Africa. In her doctoral dissertation at the SPS department at the EUI, Despina examined state-business relations and their impact on the performance of government institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 2013 to 2015 she worked with the Robert Schuman Research Center for Advanced Studies on projects exploring migration and state capacity in the EU and beyond. Despina’s research centers on state-building, the political economy of good governance, and public service delivery in humanitarian and developing contexts. Empirically, her work involves extensive field research and employs multiple qualitative data collection and interpretation methods. She holds master’s degrees from the European University Institute (M.Res. Political Science), the University of Bristol (M.Sc. Economics) and the University of Macedonia (M.A. Southeast European Politics). Despina has also received various research grants and has completed research fellowships at Yale University, the George Mason University and the Central European University.

Publications:

  • Karamperidou, D. (2016). Review of Nettelfield, L. and Wagner, S. ‘Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocide’, (2014), Journal of Europe-Asia Studies, Volume 68, Issue 6, pp.1078-80.
  • Karamperidou, D. (2015). ‘Portrayals of Indian Immigrants in the Greek Media’, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Migration Policy Centre, CARIM-India Research Report 2015/05, European University Institute.
  • Karamperidou, D. (2014). Reviews of Ulas, E. D. “Politics of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Between Conflict and Democracy’, (2011), Journal of Southeast European andBlack Sea Studies (2014), volume 14, issue 2, pp. 339-341.
  • Richardson, D. and Karamperidou, D. (forthcoming), ‘Sequencing of Child Well-Being Outcomes across the Lifecycle: A Focus on Education’, UNICEF Office of Research Working Paper

 

 

 

 

Holtmann

Why are children from disadvantaged families left behind? The impacts of families, schools, and education systems on students’ achievement

Anne Christine Holtmann


Thesis Summary

Why do school children from families with lower socio-economic status fall behind those from better-off families? Is this because disadvantaged children are raised in disadvantaged families or because they attend lower-quality schools? Does it make a difference whether schools and education systems are socioeconomically segregated or integrated? In her thesis, Anne Christine Holtmann argues that the role of schools is often overstated, as it is intertwined with that of families. However, even when taking this into account, she finds that children from disadvantaged families perform better if they attend socioeconomically integrated schools.

Although the American Dream suggests that all children should have equal opportunities, US children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are much more likely to perform poorly in reading or mathematics than disadvantaged children in many other countries. The Washington Monthly concluded: “If you want the American Dream, go to Finland”. However, international student assessments such as PISA do not tell us why. As education researcher Jack Buckley said: “That’s like taking a thermometer to explain why it is cold outside”.

There are different hypotheses on why countries differ in terms of students’ performance and inequality of educational opportunity. The most common hypothesis is that schools and education systems shape students’ performance. Hence, many parents and policymakers called for school reforms as a reaction to bad PISA scores. But there are two alternative explanations. First, students’ achievement may be the outcome of what happens outside schools. The second alternative argument is that disadvantaged children already lack skills when they enter school. In her thesis, Holtmann tries to find out which of these arguments is correct. 

Low-SES children don’t lack the brains

Do disadvantaged children lack skills when they enter school? It is true that, on average, disadvantaged children have lower skills when entering school than children from more advantaged families. However, there are disadvantaged children who begin school with high test scores, and even these high-performing children fall behind their advantaged peers during elementary and middle school. The fact that this group of disadvantaged children initially performs well tells us that they are not genetically less capable. Something else other than ability must cause them to fall behind. 

Too much hope in schools while underestimating families

The question then is why students from disadvantaged families fall behind. Are schools to blame or families? To distinguish the effect of families and schools, Holtmann compares learning during the school year, when families and schools are the driving force in students’ learning, to learning during the summer, when families alone play the crucial role. Holtmann finds that during the summer holidays, achievement gaps between children from different family backgrounds widen much more in the United States than in Finland. Because summer learning is influenced exclusively by non-school factors, this suggests that the lower degree of socioeconomic inequalities between families in Finland contributes to high educational equality in that country. 

Socioeconomically integrated schools and education systems are better able to compensate for a disadvantaged family environment.

Holtmann presents three findings suggesting that socioeconomically integrated schools and education systems still boost disadvantaged children’s educational opportunities. First, she finds that in the USA, socioeconomically disadvantaged students learn more in schools with more advantaged children. Because the effect only arises during the school year and not during the summer holidays, this indicates an effect of better schools. However, in the USA, disadvantaged families tend to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods with low-quality schools. In contrast, in Finland, disadvantaged and advantaged students go to the same schools. So Holtmann asks whether schools are more equalizing in Finland than in the USA. The answer to this question is yes; Finnish students with less educated parents catch up during the school year, whereas they fall behind in the United States. This second finding suggests that schools in Finland help disadvantaged students catch up, unlike those in the United States. This may be because the socioeconomically integrated Finnish school system gives all children access to high-quality schools with higher quality teaching, peers with higher aspirations, and a school climate that is more conducive to better performance. To find out whether this applies elsewhere as well, Holtmann analyzes changes in the socioeconomic segregation of education systems in 35 countries. Her third finding is that disadvantaged students perform better when an education system becomes more socioeconomically integrated over time. 

School conditions are more important for students from low-SES families

Contrary to the fears of many middle and upper class parents, their children do not learn less when an education system becomes more socioeconomically integrated. In fact, children from more privileged families perform well in all education systems. 

To sum up, schools cannot fully compensate for inequalities in non-school resources and learning environments. Yet socioeconomically integrated schools can still provide opportunities for children from disadvantaged families. Even though students only spend a small proportion of their waking hours in school, this time is especially important for children from disadvantaged families. For these children who are not surrounded by books, do not learn an instrument during the afternoons, and do not play with science kits at home, schools can open up the worlds of literature, music, and science.

Short bio

Anne Christine Holtmann is a research fellow in the project ‘New Opportunities or Reinforced Disadvantage? Variation in returns to low-achieving school leavers' participation in pre-vocational training measures’ at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB). She defended her thesis in Social and Political Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence in 2017. Her research interests are focussed on social inequalities, education, families, social policy, and the transition into the labour market.  

Publications:

  • Holtmann, Anne Christine; Laura Menze, Heike Solga (forthcoming): Mangelt es wirklich an der „Ausbildungsreife“? Die Bedeutung von Handlungsressourcen und Gelegenheitsstrukturen für die Ausbildungschancen von leistungsschwachen Jugendlichen. In: Nele McElvany, Wilfried Bos, Heinz Günter Holtappels, Johannes Hasselhorn, Annika Ohle (eds): Bedingungen erfolgreicher Bildungsverläufe in gesellschaftlicher Heterogenität. Waxmann
  • Holtmann, Anne Christine; Laura Menze, Heike Solga (forthcoming): Schulabgänger und  abgängerinnen mit maximal Hauptschulabschluss. In: Gudrun Quenzel, Klaus Hurrelmann (eds): Handbuch Bildungsarmut. Springer VS Verlag.
  • Holtmann, Anne Christine; Laura Menze, Heike Solga (2017): Persistent Disadvantages or New Opportunities? The Role of Agency and Structural Constraints for Low-Achieving Adolescents’ School-to-Work Transitions. Journal of youth and adolescence, Volume 46, Issue 10, pp 2091–2113, DOI: 10.1007/s10964-017-0719-z
  • Holtmann, Anne Christine (2016): Excellence through equality of opportunity. Increasing education systems’ social inclusiveness benefits disadvantaged students without harming advantaged students. In Blossfeld, H.-P., Buchholz, S., Skopek, J., and Triventi, M. (Eds.), Models of Secondary Education and Social Inequality – An International Comparison. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Holtmann, Anne Christine (2014): "Wo hilft die Schule, wo die Familie? Kompetenzentwicklung in der Unterrichts- und Ferienzeit". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 143, S. 33-35. 

 


 

Macarena 150xA new working class? A cross-national and a longitudinal approach to class voting in post-industrial societies.

Macarena Ares Abalde


Thesis summary

Is there a new working class in post-industrial societies? Macarena Ares’ thesis finds that in terms of its socio-demographic characteristics today’s working class is different from the traditional industrial one, but that both are still similar in terms of political attitudes. Since the 1990s many advanced economies have undergone important transformations of their occupational and class structures, most notably through growth of the service sector and a decline in industrial occupations. These changes in the social structure can have important implications for the mobilization of social classes by political parties. While existing research has amply documented the increasing support for the left among professionals in service occupations and the rising support for populist right parties among production workers, there is little information on the political leanings and preferences of low- and unskilled workers in the service sector (such as auxiliary nurses, cooks, home helpers, bartenders). In her dissertation, Ares carries out a systematic comparison of the political preferences of production and service workers in European democracies. She attempts to answer in this way the question of whether today’s working class is still politically relevant and, if so, how it differs from the old industrial working class. The thesis also provides interesting new insights on the individual-level association between class, policy preferences and voting in post-industrial societies.The empirical analyses are based on data from the European Social Survey, the Chapel Hill Expert Survey and the British Household Panel Survey. The first part of the thesis studies the differences between production and service workers with regard to their preferences towards specific policy issues, such as state redistribution or attitudes towards immigration. Ares compares political attitudes and voting behavior of production and service workers but examines also how their preferences differ from those of other social classes. She also takes into account the policy positions of political parties. The results of the empirical analyses indicate that, in spite of strong differences in their socio-demographic composition, production and service workers are strikingly similar in political terms. While service workers are, on average, more likely to be female and younger, and more often have ‘atypical’ employment careers, production workers are mostly male, older and have a more stable position in the labor market. Despite these differences, both classes show similar levels of support for economic redistribution, low tolerance towards immigrants and homosexuals, and stronger opposition to European integration. This homogeneity in preferences is further reflected in similar probabilities of supporting left-wing and culturally authoritarian parties. Hence, although the “new” working class is manifestly different in terms of its socio-demographic composition, it shows a strong political resemblance to the industrial working class. These workers also display markedly higher levels of electoral abstention. The second part of the dissertation tackles class voting from a different angle by taking into account stability and changes in class location over people’s employment careers. Hence, instead of taking class location as a static characteristic of individuals’ employment situation, Ares accounts for (i) how long individuals have remained in a specific class (and how this affects their political preferences) and (ii) different forms of mobility between social classes. The longitudinal models in this section rely on data from the United Kingdom, where occupational mobility is more widespread than in other European democracies and where good-quality panel data is available for almost two decades. The results from these analyses indicate that class trajectories do have relevant implications for class voting. Individuals who have been long-term members of a specific class will hold more distinct preferences than new entrants into a specific class or individuals who move between classes. This has implications for aggregate levels of class voting: where employment careers become unstable and class mobility increases, social classes will show lower political distinctiveness.

 

Short bio

Macarena Ares Abalde is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zürich, where she is part of an ERC-funded project studying welfare policy priorities in Western Europe. She defended her doctoral thesis at the European University Institute in November 2017. Her research interests focus on political sociology, electoral behavior, welfare state politics and quantitative methods. Her research has been published in Comparative European Politics, the Journal of European Public Policy and Research and Methods. Prior to her Ph.D. studies, she earned an MA from Universitat Pompeu Fabra and one from Universität Konstanz.

 

Publications:

  • Ares, M., Ceka, B., & Kriesi, H. (2017). Diffuse support for the European Union: spillover effects of the politicization of the European integration process at the domestic level. Journal of European Public Policy24(8), 1091–1115. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2016.1191525
  • Ares, M., & Hernández, E. (2017). The corrosive effect of corruption on trust in politicians: Evidence from a natural experiment. Research & Politics4(2), 2053168017714185.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168017714185
  • Bernardi, F., & Ares, M. (2017). Education as the (not so) great equalizer: new evidence based on a parental fixed effect analysis for Spain. EUI Working Paper SPS 2017/6. http://hdl.handle.net/1814/48264
  • Hernández, E., & Ares, M. (2016). Evaluations of the quality of the representative channel and unequal participation. Comparative European Politics. https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2015.45.

 

 


 

 

Juan MasulloA Theory of Civilian Noncooperation with Armed Groups. Civilian Agency and Self-Protection in the Colombian Civil War

Juan Masullo Jimenéz

 


Thesis Summary

What do civilians do when living in warzones? Why do some flee, others support and even join armed organizations, and yet others engage in forms of resistance? While many studies have focused on the insurgents, Juan Masullo’s dissertation looks into the life of communities living in the midst of war. He studies the choices civilians make to navigate through war and avoid, prevent or at least mitigate violence. Concretely, Masullo focuses on one pattern of civilian agency that has been widely overlooked: civilians’ decision to collectively and nonviolently refuse to cooperate with armed factions. He asks why some communities engage in civilian noncooperation while others, similarly situated within war dynamics and facing similar choices, do not. 

Communities living in areas where territorial control by armed factions is shifting, where violence against civilians has recently spiked, and where civilians believe that there is nothing they can do individually to avoid being targeted, are more likely to have a desire to organize and refuse to cooperate with armed groups as a means to improve their survival prospects and life conditions. Yet, for noncooperation to emerge, this desire must be supported by capacity for collective action. This capacity is nourished by such factors as a prior history of mobilization and support by external actors – ranging from the Catholic Church to Peace Brigades International – which allow communities to count on and tap into existing leadership and associational resources needed for organizing contentious action. 

The dissertation bridges literatures on civil war, social movements, civil resistance and civilian protection. It draws on original data, both qualitative and quantitative, gathered during two separate waves of immersive field research in multiple warzones in the Colombian civil war. Juan Masullo conducted over 150 individual and group interviews with civilians and (ex)combatants, memory workshops, collective map-drawing and timeline-building exercises, engaged in direct observation, and used event data on armed groups’ military activity and violence against civilians.
The study breaks new ground in recognizing victims also as agents of social and political change. The implications of this are strong and many. Noncooperation has the power to shape the way war unfolds on the ground. Perhaps more important, it also creates new collective identities and cleavages that are likely to leave legacies that endure beyond the aftermath of the war. This close examination of civilian noncooperation improves our understanding of civilian agency and the way communities interact with armed groups. In addition, it will help us think more comprehensively about how wartime social processes present obstacles and opportunities for the protection of civilians, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction.

Juan Masullo’s thesis succeeds in combining parsimonious theorization with the smells and sounds of the complex processes that give life to noncooperation. In other words, providing sensitive simplification and empirically falsifiable theoretical claims is as central in his study as offering a realistic and fair account of the lives of the communities in the midst of which the author lived and worked over the past years. 

Short bio

Juan Masullo, Ph.D. (European University Institute), is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Bremen International Graduate School of the Social Sciences (BIGSSS). In 2016 – 2017 he was a Research Fellow at the Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence at Yale University. His academic interests include civil wars, collective action and, more broadly, contentious politics. He is also interested in social science methodology and research design. His current work explores the micro-dynamics and social processes of civil war, with a particular focus on civilian agency and civilian (self) protection. His work combines multiple types of evidence and methods for data collection and analysis, and relies extensively on immersive fieldwork in conflict-affected areas. At BIGSSS he is associated with the Methods Centre, where he teaches and supports research fellows in the areas of qualitative and mixed methods, as well as research design more generally. His work has been published in Terrorism and Political Violence, Mobilization, Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, Global Policy Journal, and by Amsterdam University Press and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. He has also contributed to internationally recognized blogs such as The Monkey Cage, openDemocracy and Minds of the Movement.

 

 

 

Mathilde M. Van DitmarsFamily & Politics. The enduring influence of the parental home in the development and transmission of political ideology

Mathilde M. van Ditmars


Thesis summary

How does the family influence citizens’ political ideology, and what role do family dynamics and structure play in this process of political socialization? Mathilde van Ditmars’ thesis provides new answers to this question by engaging with recent and ongoing changes in society and family forms that previous studies have not taken into account. She investigates specifically how the transmission and development of citizens’ political ideology is affected by the gender of parents and siblings, the experience of parental separation during childhood, and intergenerational social mobility. 

The empirical analyses are mostly based on household studies from Germany and Switzerland, which provide rich data on individual family members and family characteristics. Van Ditmars makes use of longitudinal models wherever possible to show individual change in the preferences of parents and children over time. The chapter on parental separation also makes use of European Values Study data, increasing the number of countries covered in the study and demonstrating that the findings apply across different social and political contexts. 

Van Ditmars shows how parental influence is important for adult children’s ideology until later in life, and which factors impact the transmission process. Gender of parent and child are not found to be significant factors, but the similarity of parents’ ideological orientation is. Upwardly socially mobile individuals are less influenced by their parents’ ideology, but Van Ditmars demonstrates that instead of social mobility causing such larger ideological differences, children who are able to move up the social ladder tend to diverge from the parents’ ideological orientation already beforehand. Importantly, her thesis demonstrates that family influence is not limited to transmission from parents. In Switzerland, moderate left-wing effects of the presence of an older sister are found for females, and in families with a centrist ideology. For males, however, having a female eldest sibling has a right-wing effect. Adults whose parents separated during childhood hold a more leftist ideology. Longitudinal analyses show that this effect is partially caused by the mother becoming more left-wing after separation from the partner. These results indicate that formative experiences in the family are decisive for the political development of individuals in ways that have not been adequately understood so far. The family is crucial not only because of parents providing political cues and role models, but also because of the day-to-day experiences that are implied by the structure of the family and the dynamics of relations within it.


Short bio

Mathilde M. van Ditmars is a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University, where she coordinates an ERC-funded project regarding family socialization and its relation to educational choices, and co-supervises four Ph.D. students. She defended her doctoral thesis at the European University Institute in September 2017. Her research revolves around questions concerning the development and structure of individual preferences, and is marked by an interdisciplinary approach drawing from political science, sociology, and psychology. Previous work regards the policy preferences of political elites and voters and its relation to the quality of representative democracy, and the collection of a dataset on municipal councillors. While pursuing her PhD, she has been a visiting researcher at the Gesis EUROLAB in Cologne, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin, and the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS) in Lausanne. Previously, she obtained her MSc at the University of Amsterdam and was a lecturer in the Political Science Department of the same university. She also worked at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research where she co-authored a study of the Citizen Outlook Barometer.

 

 

 

 

Dennison 150Re-Thinking Turnout. Explaining Within-Individual variation in Electoral Participation

James Dennison


Thesis summary

Why do citizens vote in some elections but not in others? James Dennison’s thesis presents four essays that aim to answer this question. The motivation behind the thesis is not only the importance of voter turnout to democracy, both as a guarantor of legitimacy and representation, but also the methodological and theoretical weaknesses in the existing literature caused by the lack of attention given to why individuals vote at some points in their lives and not at others. This deficit stands in contrast to the vast literature explaining why some individuals vote and others do not, as well as why national-level turnout varies both between countries and within countries over time. Each of the four essays seeks to re-think one of the existing explanatory models of between-individual voter turnout – mobilisation, resources, psychology and socialisation - by applying many of their determinants to within-individual variation, as well as, in some cases, adding new ones.


Dennison’s methodological approach to explaining within-individual variation is to use data from the British Household Panel Survey, the Swiss Household Panel Survey and the British Election Study. Each of these ask individuals the same questions repeatedly over time to capture change of attitudes and behaviours ‘within’ the individual. In the case of the former two surveys, this is done over the course of years and even decades. In the case of the latter, it is done over the course of a few recent years that include a number of elections. In using these data sources and testing only within-individual variation, Dennison’s models are able to control for all of the ‘hidden’ variables that vary between individuals and which surveys do not capture, such as intelligence, upbringing, peer group and countless others. According to Dennison, these models—primarily fixed effects panel data models, but intermittently random effects models, cross-sectional models and structural equation models—should give us more reliable results.


The thesis makes a number of theoretical, methodological and substantive contributions. Surprisingly, Dennison shows that within-individual variation in voting seems to be fairly unaffected by such issues as material resources, ‘anti-political’ sentiments, household politicisation or even feelings of personal ability to vote effectively – all of which have been mainstays of the literature on variation between individuals. Rather, he concludes that, regarding ‘political supply’, individuals vote when they are interested in the politics of the time, feel affinity towards a party or when a party has bothered to contact them. On the other hand, and more fundamentally, it is the lifestyle of the individual at the time of the election which determines his or her likelihood of voting – with lifestyles built on rootedness, social integration and roles demanding responsibility increasing the individual’s desire to turnout to vote.
Therefore it seems that the reasons that individuals are more likely to vote in some elections rather than others are less to do with socio-economics, as previously emphasised, and far more to do with a combination of an appealing political offer and the individual’s lifestyle at the time.


Short Bio
James Dennison is a Research Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre in the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute in Florence. He defended his doctoral thesis—Rethinking Turnout: Explaining Within-Individual Variation in Electoral Participation—at the European University Institute in July 2017. His research interests include electoral behavior, attitudes to immigration, attitudinal formation, political psychology and quantitative methods. While pursuing his doctoral studies he authored a monograph, The Greens in British Politics: Protest, Anti-Austerity and the Divided Left, which was published by Palgrave in 2016. His research has been published as peer-reviewed articles in Party Politics, Mediterranean Politics, and Parliamentary Affairs, as well as a forthcoming publication in The Journal of European Public Policy and chapters in a number of edited volumes such as The Oxford Handbook to the Radical Right. He previously taught quantitative methods at the University of Sheffield and was a Junior Visiting Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. Prior to his Ph.D. studies, he earned an MSc at the London School of Economics and worked in the British House of Commons and House of Lords, as well as the European Commission.

He regularly writes blog posts for LSE Politics and Policy and LSE European Politics and Policy. His research has appeared in The Washington Post, The Financial Times, Sky News, La Repubblica, de Volkskrant, Le Soir, Folha de São Paulo, Il Foglio Quotidiano, Dagens Næringsliv, Pagina99, The International Business Times and elsewhere. He tweets @JamesRDennison.

 

 

 

Camille BrugierSoft-Balancing the United States, Forum-Shopping or Prestige Diplomacy? Explaining the Rise and Expansion of EU-China Trade Relations

Camille Brugier


Thesis summary

Theoretically, a strong trade relationship depends on a number of factors: reciprocal strategic interest, geographical and cultural proximity and similarity of the regimes involved. In this respect, the EU-China trade relationship is best characterized by a lack of strategic interest of the two actors in each other’s region, strong cultural differences, a great geographical distance as well as strongly contrasting regime types. However, in the last couple of years, the EU has remained China’s first trade partner and China is the EU’s second trading partner after the United States. The question Camille’s thesis tries to answer is how have these unusual partners managed to develop and consolidate such a strong trade relationship. She argues that despite their mismatching characteristics, two factors have pushed the EU and China to create a strong relationship from scratch since 2003: their common interest in maximizing gains from trade and their mutual responsiveness to each other’s needs in terms of international prestige.

Empirically, Camille focuses on four sensitive trade issues in order to investigate the driver behind the thriving EU-China relationship: food safety, geographical indications, textiles and solar panels. These show that China and the EU’s main goal is to be efficient and reap maximum benefits from trade agreements. Camille shows that political and trade matters are clearly separated in EU-China relations - “business is business”. The institutional design of their relationship, which clearly separates trade discussions from human rights talks for instance, reflects this mutual preference. The two actors navigate the negotiation fora at their disposal (World Trade Organization or the bilateral relationship) depending on which is most likely to be efficient to sign a deal or to settle a trade dispute. For example, in both the textile and the solar panel disputes, the EU and China show a strong preference for bilateral solutions because they are less time-consuming and less costly than the multilateral Dispute Settlement Mechanism of the World Trade Organization.

Camille’s data show that the preferred bilateral solution for trade disputes is not only linked to European and Chinese efficiency concerns. In times of turmoil, the bilateral route allows the EU and China to “privatize” their disagreements. This privatization serves another purpose – that of avoiding loss of prestige in the international community. To be clear, when two states oppose each other on a trade problem in the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism, the dispute is settled by clearly designating a “winner” and a “loser”. In order to keep their image intact, the EU and China deal with disputes face-to-face. For China, this avoids potential loss of face in front of its own population – which could have an impact of the legitimacy of its government at home. For the EU, the purpose is to fend off a potential loss in a dispute settlement judgment that could, in turn, have an impact on the EU’s image as an international law-abiding actor.

The findings outlined in Camille’s research show that common concerns for efficiency as well as their shared goal to increase their prestige – and working together to achieve this objective – has brought the EU and China closely together, drastically enhancing the flow trade over the last decade against all odds.

Short bio

Camille M. Brugier defended her Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute in June 2017. During her doctoral studies, she worked for the European Institute for Security Studies as a Junior Analyst and spent three month in Renmin University in Beijing. She is now teaching Methods of the Social Sciences and International Relations in the department of political science of the Capitole University of Toulouse since September 2016.

Prior to her Ph.D. research, Camille graduated from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Grenoble, France, with a special focus on electoral studies in her undergraduate studies and the political science of the European Union during her masters’. She spent a great part of her childhood growing up in China in both Beijing and Chengdu where she went to a Chinese primary school.

Fluent in French, English and Mandarin Chinese, she focuses on the reasons that have brought the EU and China – two very different actors – to become each other’ s first trade partners in just a little over a decade. In her dissertation, she scrutinizes their behaviour towards one another at the bilateral and multilateral levels on trade in goods that have special appeal to developing countries (textile, green energy and agriculture).

Parts of her dissertation and other pieces have been published in Asia Europe Journal and on the website of the EUISS. Her research interests include international trade, European foreign and trade policy, Chinese foreign and trade policy.

 

Daniel SchulzToo Little, Too Late? How Central Bankers' Beliefs Influence What They Do

Daniel Schulz


Thesis summary

How do policymakers take decisions in the face of extreme uncertainty? What guides their policies when past evidence does not apply to the conditions they confront in the present? In his PhD thesis, Daniel Schulz argues that policymakers turn to their beliefs of ‘what works’ when designing policies in such situations. Empirically, the thesis examines central banks’ decisions during the Great Recession with a particular emphasis on the monetary policies of the European Central Bank (ECB). He shows that in 2008 central bankers faced an unprecedented situation in which they were unable to draw on historical experience and had to resort to their beliefs about how the economy works instead.

The thesis focuses on the ECB for two reasons. First, we know relatively little about how this powerful institution makes its decisions and why. In light of its ever-increasing importance in European governance and the criticism this has attracted, this seems particularly regrettable. Second, the ECB has adopted a more conservative approach to the crisis than other major central banks. It was criticized for doing too little to help the economic recovery by politicians, the financial press, and economists alike. In comparison to the US Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, the ECB has indeed been a laggard for a long time – regarding both conventional interest rate policies and unconventional balance sheet operations, such as ‘Quantitative Easing’. Why?

Schulz explains the ECB’s relatively timid response to the crisis as a function of its orthodox economic philosophy. He surveyed 422 central bank economists in order to quantify their different ways of thinking about the economy. His data shows that a) some economic beliefs matter for policy preferences and b) both beliefs and preferences are unevenly distributed among different central banks. In particular, European central bank economists lean more towards orthodox beliefs and preferences for low inflation than their colleagues in Britain and the US. They are considerably more conservative.

Regarding the situation within Europe, the data reveals a dividing line in economic philosophy between core and periphery. Northern European central bankers tend to be more skeptical regarding the role money can play to stabilize the economy than their Southern European counterparts; and they are also more opposed to accepting higher inflation. This suggests that the frequently surfacing conflicts inside the ECB’s Governing Council reflect a battle of ideas rather than a conflict of interests between creditor and debtor states. Proponents of more activist monetary policies at the ECB, such as its current president Mario Draghi, had to overcome the enormous resistance of skeptics within its own ranks before they could follow the examples set by other central banks. Schulz argues that this is a main reason why the ECB first did too little to support the economy, and only changed its orthodox stance very late.

Short bio

Daniel Schulz is currently a Research Associate at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the EUI and works for Sven Steinmo’s ERC-funded project on citizens’ willingness to pay taxes . His research interests focus on the field of comparative political economy, particularly on issues of monetary policy, financial regulation, and the politics of taxation. Prior to joining the EUI’s doctoral program (2013-17), Daniel studied in Berlin, Friedrichshafen, and Copenhagen. He earned his BA in Public Management & Governance at Zeppelin University (2005-08) and his MA in Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin (2011-13). Outside of academia, he has worked in public sector consulting for several years, providing policy evaluations and advising national and local public authorities on organizational reform.

  

Marco ValbruzziGovernment Alternation in Western Europe: A Comparative Explanation

Marco Valbruzzi


Thesis summary

Alternation in government has been usually regarded as a hallmark of liberal democracy. But what determines how often and when parties in government alternate? What are the conditions that make alternation possible, probable and real? These are some of the questions at the centre of this thesis, which investigates the determinants of governmental alternation in Western Europe since the end of WWII. 

‘The silence of democratic theory, even in its most modern versions, about alternation in office is astonishing’. The thesis breaks this silence by providing a new conceptualization of alternation. It treats alternation in power as a three-dimensional concept:  actuality, probability and possibility of alternation. Unfortunately, in the literature these dimensions have been frequently conflated, both in theoretical and empirical research. The result of this dismal state of affairs is that we do not have a theory explaining both the causes and the consequences of alternation.

With the new conceptual toolkit at hand, the thesis investigates the evolution over time and across space of the process of alternation in seventeen West European party systems. As shown in the empirical part of the study, alternation is considerably on the rise. Without doubt, there are still niches where alternation has not yet made its breakthrough but, these  exceptions  aside,  the  overall  trend  is  rather  clear  and  striking. The room for alternation has progressively increased over time, especially during the last three decades, and more parties have (re)arranged themselves or their strategies in order to grasp these rising opportunities. Moreover, it is important to stress that the rise in the frequency of alternation has involved countries featuring both two-party and multi-party systems. Which is to say that there is no one-to-one relationship between type of party system and type of change in government. Alternation in office is now widespread among all party systems, with only minor exceptions.

Given the multi-dimensionality of the concept, there is no overarching factor or condition explaining the occurrence of alternation. Indeed, different dimensions of the concept seem to be associated with specific configurations of explanatory factors. However, wrapping up the main findings of the research, it is possible to provide the general chain of causation linking the possibility to the actuality of alternation. As far as the explanation of the possibility of alternation is concerned, two factors emerge as the most relevant: 1) cabinet size, both of the outgoing and the incoming government; and 2) electoral volatility, that is, the attitude of the voters to change their mind (and vote) from one election to the next. Regarding the probability of alternation, two conditions have the strongest explanatory power: 1) the existence of large anti-system parties; and 2) the formation of a dominant party located around the metrical centre of the party system. Finally, two factors explain better than others the actuality of alternation: 1) party-system fragmentation; and 2) the closeness of the electoral results. 

Once this set of conditions has cleared the way for the occurrence of alternation, the interaction between two specific factors – increase in electoral volatility and waning of anti-system parties – lies at the heart of the observed rise of alternation in Western Europe since the 1980s. The transformation within the European electorate, on the one hand, and, the disappearance of the ‘traditional’ anti-system parties, on the other hand, have contributed to making alternation a more frequent event. Yet the recent emergence or strengthening of anti-system parties in the wake of the Great Recession puts a question mark behind the continuation of the upward trend in alternation.  

 

Short bio

Marco Valbruzzi is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Bologna (Department of Political and Social Sciences) where he works on a project investigating the political consequences of the economic crisis in Europe. He is also Adjunct Instructor at Gonzaga University (Florence campus), where he teaches a seminar on the Italian political system. Marco earned his BA and MA degrees from the University of Bologna. He has been visiting scholar at the University of California-San Diego (2008) and at the University of Sydney (2014) where he acts as Research Assistant for the Electoral Integrity Project (Harvard University). Part of his research has recently been published in the European Journal of Political Research, Contemporary Italian Politics and the Italian Political Science Review. He is currently writing a book on the transformation of the preferential vote in Western Europe.  

 
Publications:

  • McDonnell, D. and Valbruzzi, M. (2014), Defining and classifying technocrat-led and technocratic governments, in «European Journal of Political Research», 53(4): 654-671. 
  • G. Pasquino and M. Valbruzzi (2015), A Changing Republic. Politics and Democracy in Italy, Epokè: Novi Ligure.
  • Valbruzzi, M. (2015), Trasformismo, in E. Jones and G. Pasquino (eds), Oxford Handbook of Italian Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 26-40.
  • Valbruzzi, M. (2014), Not a normal country: Italy and its Party Systems, in «Studia Politica. Romanian Political Science Review», 9(4): pp. 617-640.
  • Valbruzzi, M. (2005), Primarie. Partecipazione e leadership, Bologna: Bononia University Press.
  • Valbruzzi, M. and Vignati, R. (2017), Questione di preferenze. Com’è cambiato il voto personale in Italia, Bologna: Il Mulino (forthcoming).

  

 

Jan KarremansState interests vs citizens’ preferences: on which side do (Labour) parties stand?

Jan Karremans


Thesis summary

What matters more for public policy today: electoral programs or technical competence? This question is being raised from different angles in the political science literature, often in relation to the growing impact of processes such as globalization and Europeanization on national policy-making. This thesis argues that electoral programs still matter for public policy but they increasingly run the risk of being subordinated to the technical competences related to governing activities. This development, in turn, risks becoming a threat to the future of democracy as we know it.The thesis departs from the ideas of the late party-scholar Peter Mair, who claimed that in Europe today there is a growing gap between the political preferences of citizens and the activities of government. In Mair’s view, this gap is to a large extent generated by the increasing commitments that governments have towards institutions such as the EU or the IMF. As a consequence, governing become increasingly difficult and for political parties it becomes impossible to reconcile the activities of government with their electoral commitments. Consequently, the political preferences of citizens are bound to become less and less influential for public policy.

This claim is tested by looking at how governments justify their yearly budgets. More specifically, the thesis looks at the presentation of the budget, which in most countries is provided once a year by the government in front of the parliament. By comparing governments between the 1970s and today, the analysis identifies similarities and differences in how political parties approach public policy. The study concerns mainly left-wing parties who, according to different theories, should suffer most from the growing incompatibilities between the task of governing and the demands of left-wing voters. 

The findings reveal a two-sided story. On the one hand, they illustrate how the legitimacy of European democracies is largely based on a balance between political representation and the technical capacities of governments in delivering public goods. This balance is at the centre of the functioning of what we call party-democracy, and the findings show that today governments still rely a lot on the legitimacy deriving from the ideological identity of the parties in office. From this perspective, the political preferences that bind voters and parties still have a relevant impact on public policy.

At the same time, a deeper look into the justifications offered in parliamentary budget speeches reveals how the left-wing governments of the 1970s were willing to meet the demands of their voters to the extent that they would act irresponsibly. In the contemporary cases, governments are instead much more concerned to reassure the audience that they are competent caretakers of the public good and that they are acting within the boundaries of their institutional duties.

To some extent, thus, the findings of this study could be interpreted as a signal that democracy is working better today than a few decades ago. The political colour of the government still matters – meaning that citizens still have relevant political choices – and there seems to be a smoother interplay between the party-alternation in office and the institutional continuity of public policy. At the same time, however, governments’ actions appear to be strongly streamlined by specific guidelines which, in the long run, may have hindering effects for the competition between different political alternatives. This development, in turn, would strongly reduce the democratic choices available to citizens.

 

Short bio

Johannes (Jan) Karremans is currently a research assistant at the European University Institute, working at Hanspeter Kriesi’s POLCON project. From June 2017 Jan will be a Post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, working for Dr Marina Costa Lobo’s MAPLE Project. Jan’s research interest resides mainly in the Responsive-Responsible dilemma of party-government, which he addressed in his Ph.D. dissertation with a comparative study of the arguments with which governments justify their national budgets. Prior to his doctoral studies, Jan earned his BA degree from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam (2008-2011) and his MA from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2011-2012). Part of his research has recently been published in West European Politics, and he is currently co-editing a special issue on the Responsive-Responsible dilemma that will be ready for publication in Autumn 2017.

Publications:

  • Damhuis, K. & J. Karremans (2017) ‘Responsive to whom? A comparison of the Mitterrand and Hollande presidencies’, West European Politics, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2017.1300472.
  • Karremans, J. (2014) ‘Why Not Solve the Democratic Deficit within the EU Through Genuine Transnational Political Conflict?’, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. 2014/107, European University Institute.
  • Karremans, J. & Z. Lefkofridi (forthcoming) ‘Responsive VS Responsible government during the Eurocrisis’
  • Karremans, J. & K. Damhuis (forthcoming) ‘The weight of governmental responsibility in budgetary policy-making: A comparison of the Hollande and Mitterrand presidencies’
  • Karremans, J., Malet G. and D. Morisi (forthcoming) ‘A changing political landscape. The Italian transition from a bipolar to a multi-polar party system’. In Hutter, S. & H. Kriesi (eds) Transformative elections? Restructuring the National Political Space in Europe in Times of Multiple Crises, forthcoming.

 

 

Martín Portos GarciaVoicing outrage, contending with austerity. Mobilisation in Spain under the Great Recession

Martín Portos García 


Thesis summary

What motivates citizens in countries hit by an economic crisis to join protest movements or support new challenger parties? In his PhD thesis Martín Portos argues that it was not their economic grievances but their political dissatisfaction. Protesters were not the most deprived people, but those more angry with the political status quo and the policies being implemented.

This thesis deals with the Spanish cycle of protest in the shadow of the economic recession between 2007 and 2015. As his first task, Portos seeks to unravel the timing of the cycle of contention. He argues that  the peak of protest stretched over a long time (from mid-2011 until 2013) because institutionalisation was postponed and radicalisation contained. Specifically, he focus on three aspects that are key to understanding the trajectory of collective actions in the Spanish case (and beyond): 1) issue specialisation of protest after the first triggering points, 2) alliance building between established unions and new actors, and 3) the transition process towards more routinised repertoires of action as protests declined. 

Secondly, the thesis aims to shed light on the role that grievances play for mobilisation dynamics in a context of material deprivation. Covering multiple levels of analysis, the main argument developed here is that the effects of socioeconomic aspects (both objective-material deprivation and subjective-attitudinal grievances) are mediated by political attitudes, especially political dissatisfaction. In other words, why do people protest? What does account for the varying size of protest events over time? In the depth of the Spanish economic crisis, it was not economic factors but political attitudes that motivated Spaniards from different walks of life to participate massively in protests, and eventually led them to support new challenger parties. 

To empirically test these arguments, Portos draws on qualitative data from semi-structured interviews, which are combined with information from an original protest event analysis and different statistical techniques based on time series, panel data and other survey materials.

Cadmus: http://cadmus.eui.eu//handle/1814/45426  

 

Short bio

Martín Portos G. is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre on Social Movements (COSMOS), Scuola Normale Superiore (Florence). He completed a PhD in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in February 2017, with a thesis focused on anti-austerity protests in Southern Europe. His research interests include political participation, social movements, democratic attitudes, institutions and nationalism. Martín holds a BA (Hons) in Political Science from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Regional and National Award for Excellence in Academic Performance, 2011), a MSc Politics Research from the University of Oxford and a MRes from the EUI. He has participated in different international projects and has been awarded grants and fellowships from Fundación Caja Madrid, Obra Social La Caixa, Linares Rivas–Oxford University, EUI-MECD, Banc Sabadell and Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, among others. His contributions have featured in different international outlets. The monograph Referendums from below? Social movements and direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis is forthcoming in 2017 with Policy Press/ University of Bristol (co-authored with D. della Porta et al.).

Publications:

  • Della Porta, Donatella; Francis O’Connor, Martín Portos, and Anna Subirats. (2017). Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis (book manuscript forthcoming with Policy Press/ University of Bristol https://policypress.co.uk/social-movements-and-referendums-from-below).
  • Álvarez-Pereira, Brais; Martín Portos, and John Vourdas. (2017). Waving goodbye? The determinants of autonomism and secessionism in Western Europe. Regional Studies. DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2017.1282609.
  • Portos, Martín and Juan Masullo. (2017). Voicing outrage unevenly. Democratic dissatisfaction, non-participation and frequencies of participation in the 15-M protest campaign. Mobilization (forthcoming).
  • Portos, Martín. (2016). Taking to the streets in the context of austerity: a chronology of the cycle of protest in Spain. Partecipazione & Conflitto, 9 (1): 181-210.
  • Portos, Martín. (2016). Movilización social en tiempos de recesión: un Análisis de Eventos de Protesta en España, 2007-2015. Revista Española de Ciencia Política, 41: 159-178.

 

Davide MorisiThe influence of information in political campaigns

Davide Morisi


Thesis summary

From Britain’s decision to leave the EU to Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S., recent political events in 2016 have shown how voters’ decisions in election and referendum campaigns can lead to unpredictable and sometimes troubling outcomes. Among the many factors influencing these outcomes, information plays a crucial role. How do voters react to campaign arguments when they need to make political decisions, such as voting for a candidate, a political party, or a particular issue presented in a referendum? How does availability of information sources influence these decisions?

Davide Morisi’s PhD thesis makes a unique contribution to understanding these fundamental questions. His investigation aims at identifying causal effects of information, which has been a persistent challenge for research on public opinion and political behaviour. This challenge has acquired increased relevance in the current information environment where the possibilities to access content have dramatically increased. In his PhD thesis, Morisi employs an original combination of quantitative methods, including experimental designs, survey research and regression discontinuity designs based on quasi-natural experiments. The combination of these methods provides us with novel empirical evidence on how information shapes voting behaviour in different political contexts.

The analysis focuses on three case studies. The first one concerns how campaign arguments influenced attitudes and voting behaviour in the campaign for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Drawing on data from a laboratory experiment, two follow-up surveys and additional survey data, Morisi’s analysis reveals that information increased the support for Scottish independence mainly through reducing the uncertainties related to this referendum option. In addition, results show that also in a referendum campaign voters display a series of “biases” in information processing, since they interpret the same arguments in completely different directions, depending on their prior opinions on Scottish independence (a so-called “confirmation bias”).

As Figure 1 illustrates, voters evaluated the same arguments in favour or against Scottish independence in opposite directions, depending on how they intended to vote in the referendum: while Yes voters found pro-independence arguments more convincing than anti-independence arguments, the opposite effect occurred among No voters. Among highly-engaged voters (i.e. those who considered Scottish independence a highly relevant issues), this gap is even larger (Graph B). These results tell us how difficult it is to persuade voters in a referendum campaign through the “forceless force” of the better argument, as Habermas famously put it, since voters filter new information through the lenses of their prior dispositions.

 

Figure 1. Evaluation of pro- and anti-Scottish independence arguments by prior voting intentions

Morisi graph 

Note: Data from control group only, N=59. Experiment conducted in May 2014. 

The second case study focuses on how negative messages by party leaders affected support for parties in the 2015 British general election in Scotland. Findings based on an online experiment and a representative panel survey show that negative campaigning polarised the electorate along national identity lines, by driving British and Scottish voters more apart in their support for parties. Morisi’s third case concerns how the recent introduction of digital television in Italy affected turnout and voting behaviour in a series of referendums and elections. By exploiting a quasi-natural experimental setting, the analysis reveals that the increased availability of entertainment channels brought by digital television reduced turnout at the elections indirectly by dragging out some voters from the political arena.

The main message of Morisi’ PhD thesis is that information does influence political behaviour in election and referendum campaigns, although this influence is subtler than generally imagined by earlier research, since individuals’ reaction to political messages differs markedly. Nevertheless, in a complex political world, subtle effects can still contribute to winning elections. Identifying how citizens make political decisions in response to information matters not only from an academic perspective but also for improving the quality of the democratic process.

 

Short bio

Davide Morisi is currently a postdoctoral research assistant at the European University Institute. He defended his thesis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences on 4 November 2016. Davide’s research focuses on political behaviour and public opinion, with a specific emphasis on political psychology. In particular, he studies how citizens process information and how campaign messages affect voting behaviour in election and referendum campaigns. While writing his Ph.D. thesis, he spent a period as a visiting student at New York University, working with the research team of Professor John Jost. Before joining the EUI, he gained a Master’s degree in Media policy at the London School of Economics, and a BA and an MA from University of Bologna. Besides his academic experience, Davide has worked as a communication assistant for the Communication Directorate-General of the European Commission, and as a journalist for daily newspapers.

Personal website: www.davidemorisi.com


Publications:

  • Morisi, D. (2016): Voting under uncertainty: the effect of information in the campaign for the Scottish independence referendum. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 26(3): 354-372
  • Karremans, J., Malet, G. and Morisi, D. (forthcoming): “A changing political landscape. The Italian transition from a bipolar to a multi-polar party system”. In Hutter, S. and Kriesi, H. (Eds.), Transformative elections? Restructuring the National Political Space in Europe in Times of Multiple Crises.
  • Morisi, D. (2014): “Shaping voting intentions: an experimental study on the role of information in the Scottish independence referendum”, EUI Working Paper RSCAS 2014/88, 2014
  • Craufurd Smith, R., Tambini, D., and Morisi, D. (2012): “Regulating media plurality and media power in the 21st century”. Media policy brief, 7. The London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

Katharina_MeissnerCompeting for Economic Power: South America, Southeast Asia, and Commercial Realism in European Union Foreign Policy

Katharina Meissner 


Thesis summary

The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of engaging in external economic relations with economic powerhouses and entire regions. Much of this happens outside of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, current negotiations with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP) face strong opposition from civil society groups and the election of Donald Trump deals a de facto deathblow to TTIP, reinvigorating economic nationalism. By pursing bilateral economic relations, has the EU already in the past developed a strategy of ‘commercial realism’ that can endure during an age of protectionism?

Over the last decade, the EU has made more and more frequent use of bilateralism in its external relations towards Asia and the Americas. Thereby, it has increasingly turned away from multilateral negotiations through the WTO or with regional organizations. The reason for this turn to bilateralism can be found in the EU’s motivation to secure its economic and regulatory power in these world regions. Factors explaining this turn are thus external to Europe, located in the international system, rather than within the EU. This puts into question conventional explanations that focus heavily on Europe’s identity, interest groups or EU member states.

Grasping the influence of factors located at the international level on EU external relations, Katharina Meissner puts forward a theory of ‘commercial realism’. ‘Commercial’ describes the fact that the EU’s power in trade is longstanding and it therefore strives to enhance its global economic position. ‘Realism’ describes the EU’s attempt to strive for relative economic gains and to be better off than other big players, such as China or the United States, in the global economy. These two components help us understand why the EU actively negotiates more and more agreements outside of the WTO and why it adds important new issues to these negotiations: investments, services and regulatory standards.

Relying on rich empirical data from 90 interviews with officials and stakeholders from Asia, Europe and Latin America, Katharina Meissner studies these dynamics in two regions: South America, especially Brazil, and Southeast Asia, especially Singapore. In both cases, the European Commission, representing the EU, was in the driver’s seat of international negotiations. It designed external relations in reaction to China and the United States and sometimes even pursued negotiations in opposition to European interest groups or EU member states. Commercial realism helps us understand these dynamics as well as the European Commission’s proactive and central role in the EU’s external economic relations.

Cadmus: http://cadmus.eui.eu/handle/1814/41766

 

Short bio

Katharina Meissner is currently Assistant Professor at the Institute for European Integration Research (EIF) at the University of Vienna. She obtained her Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute in June 2016. Katharina Meissner works at the intersection of European Union studies, International Political Economy and International Relations. More specifically, she studies European Union external relations towards world regions in the context of trade negotiations. Before joining the European University Institute, Katharina Meissner completed a Diplom in Political Science at the University of Bamberg, Germany, and obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies with distinction from the University of Otago, New Zealand. 

Personal website: https://me.eui.eu/katharina-luise-meissner

 

Publications: 

  • Lachlan McKenzie and Katharina L. Meissner (2016) Human Rights Conditionality in European Union Trade Negotiations: the case of the EU-Singapore FTA. Journal of Common Market Studies. Doi: 10.1111/jcms.12522
  • Katharina L. Meissner (2016) Democratizing EU External Relations: The European Parliament’s Informal Role in SWIFT, ACTA, and TTIP Negotiations. European Foreign Affairs Review, vol. 21(2): 269-288 
  • Katharina L. Meissner (2016) A Case of Failed Inter-regionalism? Analysing the EU-ASEAN free trade agreement negotiations. Asia Europe Journal, vol. 14(3): 319-336
  • Sebastian Krapohl, Katharina L. Meissner and Johannes Muntschick (2014) Regional Powers as Leaders or Rambos? The Ambivalent Behaviour of Brazil and South Africa in Regional Economic Integration. Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 52(4): 879-895 

 

Chiara ComolliFertility in Times of Economic Crisis

Chiara Ludovica Comolli


Thesis summary

 

Uncertainty blocks the decision to have a child

The recent recession has been the longest and strongest downturn that western economies have faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. When individuals are uncertain about present or future earnings or occupation, they tend to postpone life-changing decisions. Empirical evidence confirms conventional wisdom and shows that the Great Recession had a paralyzing effect on childbearing in most western economies. After a period of positive trends, these countries saw their fertility rates plummeting after 2008.

 

The perception of general uncertainty in the economy matters

Chiara Comolli’s dissertation shows that the effect on fertility of the massive uncertainty generated by the crisis goes beyond the structural conditions of the economy and labor market insecurity. The thesis demonstrates, in particular, that if we limit our research to the usual macroeconomic indicators we miss a substantial part of the negative effects that the crisis had on childbearing. Comolli’s research points to the need for a wider definition of uncertainty that drives fertility rates during periods of exceptionally high economic insecurity.

Using the Economic Policy Uncertainty index (Baker et al. 2012, for 31 European countries and the US) and Sovereign Debt risk (Eurostat, ECB, OECD and FED, for Southern European countries), proves that economic and public financial uncertainty impacts on the persistence in the decline of birth rates, over and above the deterioration of labour market conditions. Even when unemployment rates return to pre-crisis levels, diffuse feelings of uncertainty about the near future inhibit couples from procreating. They postpone childbearing because they are insecure about their future job but, on top of that, also because they are uncertain about the financial solidity of their country.

Figure 1 illustrates the decline of fertility rates in different age groups in response to two different indicators of the crisis: unemployment rates and the cost of government debt. The graph shows that birth rates reacted similarly strongly to the increase in unemployment rates and to the rise in public financial risk (measured by long term government bond yields).

 

Figure 1: The impact of increasing unemployment and rising government debt on fertility during the crisis.

 

Comolli graph

Source: elaboration by the author based on data from the US and 31 European countries. Data sources: Eurostat, ECB, Bank of England, OECD and FED Data, US National Vital Statistics and US Treasury. Coefficients and 95% confidence intervals. Log-log models. 

This drop in fertility has been especially sizeable among young women in their twenties who can afford to postpone parenthood, even though a paper included in the thesis (co-authored with Fabrizio Bernardi) further shows that the crisis had a permanent negative effect also on births among American women close to the end of their reproductive life, around the age of 40.

 

Women’s upward mobility in the labour market facilitates child-bearing

Finally, findings on the US underline the growing importance of women’s employment and career for childbearing. Based on analyses of the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID), Comolli shows that during the crisis in the US it was largely women’s labor market status that determined their decisions on childbearing. American women have become mothers more easily when employed in better occupations than their parents. Women’s rewarding careers have thus favored motherhood in the US during the crisis. By contrast, occupationally inactive women are less likely to decide to have their first child compared to working women.

 

 

Short bio

Chiara Ludovica Comolli is post-doctoral researcher at SUDA, the Demography unit in the Sociology Department at Stockholm University. She defended her thesis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence on 27 April 2016. Chiara’s main research focus is fertility behavior in developed countries. In particular, she studies how childbearing responds to various sources of economic and financial uncertainty in the United States and in Europe. Her other research interests cover more broadly changes in family dynamics in western countries and their consequences in terms of inequality. Currently, Chiara participates in the TITA project on Inequalities in Time of Austerity, working on changes in intergenerational mobility and brother correlation in income and class over cohorts in Finland, using Finnish register data. Chiara was born in Italy on 10 December 1984. She did her BA and MSc in Milan at Bocconi University in Economic and Social Sciences.

 

Publications:

  • Bernardi, F. and C.L. Comolli, 2016, “Connubium: who marries whom”, in G. Ritzer (ed.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Comolli, C.L. and F. Bernardi, 2015, “The causal effect of the Great Recession on childlessness of white American women”, IZA Journal of Labor Economics, 4:21.

 

Enrique HernandezEuropeans’ Democratic Aspirations and Evaluations

Enrique Hernández


Thesis summary

Are ordinary citizens capable of forming coherent opinions on how democracies should ideally work? In contrast with the assumption that mass publics are ill informed about politics, Enrique Hernández’ PhD thesis reveals that most Europeans have a coherent idea about how democracies ought to work ideally. When thinking about their ideal model of democracy, a majority of individuals attribute higher importance to essential democratic features, such as free and fair elections, than to other features that apply also to not fully democratic political systems, such as the fact that governments explain their decisions to citizens. Hernández, who was supervised by Hanspeter Kriesi and defended his thesis on 21 October 2016, concludes that the democratic aspirations of most Europeans are coherently structured.

What happens when individuals perceive that their political systems do not fulfill these democratic aspirations? To answer this question, the thesis develops a series of measures of democratic discontent that reflect the extent to which individuals perceive that their political systems do not match their democratic aspirations and relates them to individuals’ political participation and party choice.  

Generally, most forms of democratic discontent reduce the likelihood of turning out to vote and increase the probability of participating in demonstrations. Whenever individuals perceive that their political system falls short of their democratic aspirations they are less likely to participate in politics through formal institutional channels and more likely to do so through informal and non-institutionalized means. Thanks to use of novel measures of democratic discontent that refer to specific dimensions of democracy, the thesis can assess for the first time how the relationship between discontent and participation is moderated by the presence of political parties that are capable of mobilizing different forms of discontent in the electoral arena. Hernández  analysis of European Social Survey data indicates that the negative impact of democratic discontent on the likelihood of turning out to vote is weaker if parties make proposals that address the roots of citizens’ discontent.

When it comes to party choice, the results confirm the assumption that discontent with the functioning of democracy increases the likelihood of supporting challenger parties. However, the empirical findings also indicate that this is not likely to occur independently of the specific nature of individuals’ democratic discontent. Individuals are more likely to support either a left-wing or a right-wing challenger party depending on the specific dimension of democracy for which their democratic aspirations are not fulfilled. For example, while those who perceive that their democracies fall short of their aspirations on the social dimension of democracy are more likely to vote for left-wing challenger parties, those who perceive a democratic deficit in the direct-democracy dimension are more likely to support right-wing challenger parties.  The implication of these findings is that the vote for challenger parties should not just be considered a protest vote, but a rational protest vote that is informed by individuals’ democratic aspirations. 

 

Short bio

Enrique Hernández is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Political Science Department of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He defended his thesis and was awarded a Ph.D in Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence on 21 October 2016. Enrique Hernández’s research interests include electoral behavior, political attitudes, public opinion and political participation. Specifically, he studies the formation and change of political attitudes and their relationship to citizens’ political behavior from a comparative perspective. Before joining the European University Institute Enrique completed a BA and a MA in Political Science at Pompeu Fabra University and a MA at the University of Konstanz. 

Personal website: http://www.enriquehernandez.eu


Publications: 

  • Hernández, E. and M. Ares (2016) Evaluations of the Quality of the Representative Channel and Unequal Participation. Comparative European Politics. doi: 10.1057/cep.2015.45 

  • Hernández, E and H. Kriesi (2016) Turning Your Back on the EU. The Role of Eurosceptic Parties in the 2014 European Parliament Elections. Electoral Studies. 44, 515-524 

  • Hernández, E and H. Kriesi (2016) The Electoral Consequences of the Financial and Economic Crisis in Europe. European Journal of Political Research. 55, 203-224. 

  • Hernández, E (2016) Europeans’ Views of Democracy: the Core Elements of Democracy in: Ferrín, M., and H. Kriesi. (Eds.), How Europeans View and Evaluate Democracy. Oxford University Press. 


 

Jerome RoosWhy Not Default? The Structural Power of Finance in Sovereign Debt Crises

Jerome Roos 


Thesis summary

Why do heavily indebted countries not default on their external debts more often? The question may seem simple but the answer has eluded economists for decades. We generally take it for granted that governments will honour their financial obligations under all circumstances — yet historical experience belies the notion that this is somehow a natural condition. During the Great Depression, virtually all European and Latin American borrowers unilaterally suspended payments on their foreign debts. Today, by contrast, the declaration of such outright moratoriums is exceedingly rare. Even as the European debt crisis reached a climax in 2011-2015, the total share of world public debt in a state of default fell to a historic low of 0.2 percent. How do we explain this extraordinary degree of debtor compliance in the contemporary period?

In his Ph.D. thesis, supervised by Pepper Culpepper, Jerome Roos sets out to answer this question through a comparative-historical study of international crisis management. The main objective of his research project was to uncover the often-invisible enforcement mechanisms of debtor compliance that lie embedded deep within the global financial architecture, and to explore the reasons why debtor countries — even if they generally honour their financial obligations — still occasionally choose to defy their lenders and default on their debts anyway. Building on case studies of Mexico (1982-1989), Argentina (1999-2005) and Greece (2010-2015), his thesis develops a novel approach to account for the recent decline in unilateral defaults on sovereign debt.

In contrast to the traditional explanations of debtor compliance in the economics literature, which have tended to depoliticize the subject matter by overlooking the importance of distributional conflict and asymmetries in the balance of power, Roos’ thesis proposes a political economy approach that foregrounds protracted political struggles over who gets to bear the burden of adjustment in times of crisis. In these struggles private and official lenders possess a unique advantage over their borrowers. Through their capacity to collectively withhold the short-term credit lines on which states, firms and households depend, they can inflict debilitating spillover costs onto a debtor’s economy, triggering a host of crippling knock-on effects that would risk undermining social harmony and the political legitimacy of the borrowing government.

The central argument of the thesis is that this capacity to inflict profoundly destabilizing spillover costs simply by refusing to extend further credit endows lenders with a form of structural power. Roos’ findings demonstrate how this structural power operates through three specific mechanisms: the market discipline enforced by an international creditors’ cartel; the policy conditionality imposed by the international lender(s) of last resort; and the bridging role fulfilled by financial elites inside the borrowing country. His thesis shows how these enforcement mechanisms have been strengthened as a result of the processes of globalization and financialization, involving a dramatic increase in the size, concentration and influence of financial institutions, and leading to a situation where a suspension of payments becomes so costly as to be almost inconceivable — with far-reaching consequences for the quality of democracy inside the debtor countries.

Cadmus: http://cadmus.eui.eu//handle/1814/41404 

 

Short bio

Jerome Roos is a postdoctoral researcher in political economy at the Department of Sociology of the University of Cambridge. He obtained his Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute in May 2016, and is currently working on the book version of his thesis, to be published by a leading American university press. Prior to taking up his Ph.D. position at the EUI, Jerome studied International Political Economy at Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics. Beside his academic work, he regularly provides commentary on current affairs for various international media, including BBC World, BBC News and Al Jazeera English. He is also the editor of ROAR Magazine, a quarterly journal of radical democratic politics.

Personal website: http://jeromeroos.com 

Publications: 

  • Leonidas Oikonomakis and Jerome Roos in: Angelovici, Marcos, Pascale Dufour and Héloïse Nez, Street Politics in the Age of Austerity: From the Indignados to Occupy, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.: A Global Movement for Real Democracy? The Resonance of Anti-Austerity Protest from Spain and Greece to Occupy Wall Street.
  • Jerome Roos and Leonidas Oikonomakis in: Della Porta, Donatella and Alice Mattoni (2014), Spreading Protest: Social Movements in Times of Crisis, Colchester: ECPR Press: They Don't Represent Us: The Global Resonance of the Real Democracy Movement from the Indignados to Occupy.

 

Céline ColomboPartisan, not ignorant: citizens’ use of arguments and justifications in direct democracy

Céline Colombo 


Thesis summary

How competent are citizens in direct democracy? While the popularity and use of direct democratic instruments is growing throughout the democratic world, criticism persists that ordinary voters lack the necessary competence to make complex policy decisions. The Brexit referendum and the Italian constitutional referendum are only the two most recent examples of controversial policy decisions taken by citizens directly at the ballot box. In times of increasing polarization, where the talk is of post-truth politics, fake news, and echo chambers, it is particularly important to asses to what extent citizens base their decisions in direct democracy on the consideration of different, polity-related facts and arguments.

The thesis assesses citizen competence by measuring the complexity of citizens’ political thinking. Analysing data from Swiss referenda and from the Scottish independence referendum, the thesis finds, first, that most voters know at least some arguments concerning the policy proposals. The complexity of their political opinions varies, however, along personal as well as contextual factors. In particular, intensive media campaigns and the involvement in political discussions with people who are not like-minded help to increase citizen competence in direct democracy. Furthermore, with complex and technical questions, citizens are significantly less competent than with more familiar proposals which are close to their everyday life. Finally, while most voters have some information and are aware of arguments, they tend to process these arguments in a biased way, preferring partisan information which is promoted by their preferred party while rejecting contrary information.

The thesis includes three studies. The first analyses citizens’ justifications for their vote decisions in 34 direct democratic votes in Switzerland. A content analysis of open-ended survey answers where voters are asked for their main reasons for voting yes or no finds that 70% of voters are able to mention at least one policy-related argument. 22% of voters are not able to mention any reason for their decision, and another 8% refer to recommendations, such as their preferred party’s recommendation. Voters are particularly competent in direct democratic decisions where the media campaign is intensive. They are least competent when they have to decide on complex and technical issues.

A second study[1] analyses two direct democratic votes in Switzerland more in depth by using panel survey data (i.e. the same citizens are surveyed three times during a referendum campaign). Here, we find that policy arguments shape people’s vote decisions. However, during the campaign voters tend to align their opinions and arguments with their preferred parties’ position. Thus voters seem not to be ignorant of facts or arguments, but they tend to process information in a way that is biased by their partisan attitudes.

Finally, in a third study, I conducted an opinion experiment during the Scottish independence referendum campaign in 2014. 179 Scottish residents were invited to write down their opinion on Scottish independence after having read a set of arguments pro and contra independence. When these individuals were told that they would have to take part in a group discussion where they would have to justify their opinion, they wrote significantly more complex opinion-texts. This suggests that being involved in deliberations with citizens holding different views might foster complexity of political thinking.

[1] This study is co-authored with Hanspeter Kriesi

Cadmus: http://cadmus.eui.eu//handle/1814/41045

 

Short bio

Céline Colombo is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Political Science Department, University of Zurich, with a focus on Political Psychology and Behaviour. She defended her thesis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence on 3 May 2016. Céline Colombo studies citizen competence and political decision-making, mainly in direct democratic settings. More specifically, she is interested in citizens’ political knowledge, motivated reasoning, the functioning of elite-cues versus policy-arguments and deliberation in decision-making, integrative complexity of political thinking, as well as the link between deliberative and direct democracy. Céline Colombo was born in Switzerland and has Swiss and Italian Nationality. She did her BA and MA at the University of Zurich, with a major in Social Psychology and a minor in Political Science. 

Personal website: https://celinecolombo.net/ 


Publications: 

  • Colombo, Céline (2016). Justifications and Citizen Competence in Direct Democracy – A Multilevel Analysis. British Journal of Political Science.
  • Colombo Céline and Kriesi, Hanspeter (forthcoming). Party, Policy – or both? Partisan biased processing of policy arguments in direct democracy. Journal of Elections Public Opinion and Parties.

 

Page last updated on 15 June 2018