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EUI professor awarded Stein Rokkan Prize

Posted on 05 July 2012

Pepper Culpepper

Professor Pepper D Culpepper  from the EUI’s Department of Political and Social Sciences has been awarded the 2012 Stein Rokkan Prize in Comparative Social Science Research, for his 2011 work ‘Quiet Politics and Business Power: Corporate Control in Europe and Japan’.

The news was announced on 4 July, and Culpepper will receive the award at the World Social Science Forum in Montréal, Canada, in October 2013.

The professor’s work was hailed as “a major contribution to the study of political and economic institutions, processes and outcomes” by the panel of judges, while Culpepper described news of the award as “delightful”.

‘Quiet Politics and Business Power’ examines how politics works in capitalist democracies, focusing on France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. “Those four countries have notable systems of corporate control in 1990, and so the question was how those four adjusted to the constant pressure for change, in a variety of ways,” Culpepper explained. ‘Quiet Politics’ refers to the many decisions that are taken without being widely publicised, in which business plays a central part.

Culpepper described his findings as a step away from mainstream thinking: “Political scientists tend to focus on the headline [political] conflicts; the ones that are extremely salient with the public. But many important conflicts don’t have that character.”

“The public will only read what the public are interested in, so you have to figure out a way to catch public interest if you want to keep the public engaged,” he added, calling on policymakers to put structures in place to regularly bring ‘quiet’ issues to the attention of the public.

Culpepper’s 2011 work states that if an issue receives broad public attention, politicians are willing to act, although his more recent research counteracts this claim. “One lead-on project from this book has to do with the politics of financial bailouts, which goes against some of the central things I say in the book - that political parties will pay attention to public opinion. This has much to do with the character of crisis politics,” he said, explaining that policymakers adopt a risk-adverse approach in spite of their citizens. Culpepper’s work in this area is being supported by Raphael Reinke, a researcher at the EUI. 

Despite the differences between policymakers’ approach in times of stability and crisis, Culpepper asserted that his award-winning publication was “extremely relevant” to present-day Europe, as a way of understanding how politicians interact with their public.

 (text Rosie Scammell)