Jun 26 2020

Ideology and Polarization in times of Coronavirus

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By Javier Padilla and Belén Hípola

The coronavirus crisis has reinforced some of the tendencies that were already taking place for some time. In the United States, before the demonstrations initiated by George Floyd’s death began, Donald Trump alternated between public appearances calling for lockdown and appeals to ‘liberate’ the democrat states from the ‘oppressing’ measures their governors would have been taking. His erratic management led to conflicts with several governors, among them some republicans. However, the population’s perception of Trump’s management of the health crisis has been determined by their mentality prior to the pandemic: Most Republicans approve of it while Democrats almost unanimously consider it a failure. This phenomenon, called affective polarization by Iyengar y Westwood, can affect technical as well as personal issues.  In the recent years, the number of Americans who declare that they would not want their children to get married with someone of the opposing party has increased. As Rogowski and Sutherland have shown, affective polarization is conditioned by ideology: the closer the person gets to the extremes, the greater the contempt for the opponent. 

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Apr 27 2020

The vaccine Portugal discovered which Italy doesn’t know about

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By Alessio Colonnelli

The importance of April 25 in Italy and Portugal can hardly be overstated. Both celebrate being freed from a violent dictatorial regime. A day to get the flag out and put it on your balcony on full display. Lots of green and red everywhere in town. And plenty of sunshine to make it a perfect day. A southern European July 4 of sorts.

Similarities end here, though. Portugal has experienced the coronavirus crisis very differently; it went into lockdown comparatively earlier. The gravity of it all was grasped sooner. António Costa’s government’s measures – health and financial – have been endorsed by the opposition throughout.

Rui Rio, president of the centre-right Social Democratic Party and leader of the opposition, publicly said last week that attacking Costa’s left-leaning executive “is not patriotic” at times like these. He also sent a letter to party members to remind them of this vital message, which also advocates for the country’s unity. A sign of political maturity. You should be so lucky to find anything like this in Italy.  Continue reading

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Apr 26 2020

The European Ecological Transition in the ‘Post-Covid’ Era

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By Andrea Pérez Ruiz and Kilian Wirthwein Vega

Only a few months ago, the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, now a field hospital, hosted the COP 25 climate summit, whose task was to close the rule book of the Paris Agreement. At that time, an energetic von der Leyen had just taken up her post as President of the European Commission in a difficult context to lead the European Union. The green parties were gaining strength in the European Parliament, which had lost the traditional absolute majority between the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) in the May 2019 elections. This parliamentary fragmentation, the need for a new impetus to the European project in the context of Brexit, and the aim of addressing citizens’ concerns about climate change were important factors in the adoption of the ambitious European Green Deal as the flagship project of Ursula von der Leyen’s new mandate. The current Covid-19 crisis, however, opens up a new set of political and economic uncertainties: decisions taken now could either hamper the Commission’s green agenda or lay the ground for paradigmatic shifts to facilitate the transition to a green economy.

Von der Leyen’s efforts to get the new Commission off to a productive start and to set the tone for the entire legislature have been reflected in the speed with which the Green Deal was proposed (in the first 11 days of her term). In addition, as early as March, the Commission unveiled several of the initiatives arising from this pact. First of all, the European Climate Law, which aims to give force of law to the objective of climate neutrality and which is pending approval by the European Parliament and the Council. Secondly, the new European Industrial Strategy, which aims to help European industry maintain its global competitiveness in the new geopolitical context, while making the transition to climate neutrality and digital leadership. In addition, the New Circular Economy Action Plan has also come to light, which aims to transform product manufacturing methods and give consumers tools to choose sustainable products, thus accelerating the ecological transition. Continue reading

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Dec 21 2019

Greta does not need to be saved, she needs to be listened

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By Victoria Abi Saab and Miguel Angel Zhan Dai

Through a comparaison with Malala Yusafzai, the authors aim to undertsand the campaign of demonisation and decredibilisation specifically targeted at another young activist, Greta Thunberg. First, the nature of their messages is different: the education of women is not a challenge for the western status quo. Meanwhile, Greta poses a systemic change, which is inherently conflicting. Secondly, the form of the messages is different, while Malala has been reduced by some to a girl who inherently needs to be saved. Greta advocates for actions, she uses her anger and refuses to be reduced to the role of passive victim. Thus, Malala is accepted as a fetishized object, consolidating the narrative of European liberal progress and satisfying the Western Savior complex while Greta receives insults because she poses a double challenge to hegemonic discourses regarding the climate crisis, both in nature and in form.

As people who grew up as a political activists, we deeply respect what Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg have done to raise awareness among the youth and the not so young. They became important, global voices. They both carried the burden of becoming poster child. Yet, despite both being girls of approximate the same age, willing to come forward and deliver a message to a global audience, Malala never suffered the level of misogyny, decredibilisation and hate experienced by Greta. Continue reading

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Dec 11 2019

Debate: Social Fragmentation in Catalonia: a civil conflict?

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This event explored the endogenous historical factors and contemporary dynamics that have led to unprecedented political polarisation and social fragmentation within Catalonia around the issues of secession, ethnic identity and language. The event took place on Faw 2.04, Fawcett House, on Tuesday 3 Decemeber 2019.

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Dec 11 2019

Turkish populism as a “Theory-reconstructing” case study

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By Yaprak Gürsoy

Although there is consensus that the AKP is a populist party it does not directly resemble European or Latin American cases of populism. By exploring the case of Turkey and its difference with Europe and Latin American populism, the author argues that rather than trying to adapt the cases to the pre-existing typologies of populism, scholarly work should also be open to the idea of reconsidering their definitions if it does not fit the peculiarities of the countries.

General interest and academic work on populism have significantly expanded since the 1990s, as evidenced by the number of books with “populism” or “populists” in their title jumping from around 450 in the 1990s to above 700 in the first decade of the 2000s. This surge of interest was certainly due to the rise of radical right in Europe and the changing character of populist movements in Americas from the 1990s onward. Reflecting the trends in these regions, academic work and commentaries on populism still maintain their focus on Europe and the Americas. Despite progress that has been made in understanding populism, its consequences and causes, the literature still lacks a truly global perspective. Continue reading

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Dec 11 2019

Why the European Stability Mechanism reform should be postponed

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By Shahin ValléeJérémie Cohen-SettonPaul De Grauwe and Sebastian Dullien

Eurozone finance ministers reached a preliminary agreement on a reform of the European Stability Mechanism in June, but failed to conclude it last week. The reform is now set to be discussed during the European Council meeting on 12-13 December. The authors argue that the proposal should not be endorsed in its current form. They argue it would represent a missed opportunity to secure a broader and more ambitious reform package.

At the December European Council, EU leaders will be asked to endorse a reform of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). They should refuse to do so. Closing the ESM negotiations now would remove an important element from a better potential reform package. Indeed, the reform is highly imperfect and imbalanced, and the issue of euro area reform deserves a broader and more ambitious agenda. Continue reading

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Nov 25 2019

It’s Not the Left: Ideology and Protest Participation

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By Filip Kostelka & Jan Rovny

Who participates in protests? Much literature assumes that economic left-leaning individuals are expected to protest more than right-leaning ones. However, Filip Kostelka and Jan Rovny question this assumption and suggests that there is no natural affinity between left-wing or right-wing economic outlooks and protest behaviour. They argue that it is the cultural dimension that matters for protesting.

This fall is increasingly hot for democratic and undemocratic rulers alike in many countries of the world. Last month, the media reported massive citizen protests from places as diverse as Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Lebanon, or Pakistan. The reasons for these protests are manifold, accounting for the diversity in the socio-demographic and political profile of protesters. Political science research shows that in most contexts, younger, male, educated, politically interested, and trade-unionised citizens are more likely to engage in protest activities. Importantly, much of the literature also assumes that left-wing ideology, defined primarily in economic terms as support for redistribution, is conducive to protesting. In general, left-leaning individuals are expected to protest more than right-leaning ones. However, our recent study questions this assumption and suggests that there is no natural affinity between left-wing or right-wing economic outlooks and protest behaviour. Continue reading

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Nov 21 2019

Do political divides translate into social divides? Winners and losers of globalisation

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By Marc Helbling and Sebastian Jungkunz

Over the years globalisation has led to major socio-political change that led to the emergence of a new cleavage between those who profit from it and those who suffer from the negative consequences thereof. Marc Helbling and Sebastian Jungkunz’s research show that these political divides also translate into social divides: Sympathy for people from the other side of the cleavage is much lower as compared to one’s own group, particularly for partisans of these groups.

In recent decades, economic and socio-political change has led to the development of a new integration-demarcation cleavage in Western Europe, which pits those who profit from globalisation against those who do not. Today, we know quite well what groups of society belong to which part of the cleavage and also how political parties position themselves around it. It is especially education and positions towards globalization issues such as immigration that allows us to distinguish winners from losers of globalization. Moreover, we know that those who profit from globalisation also associate themselves with green or social democratic parties, whereas the often labeled “losers” of globalisation are found among supporters of right-wing populist parties. However, we have not known so far how strongly such political divides also translate into social divides. Or in other words, does having different political convictions also mean that people dislike each other more strongly in daily life? The answer to that question can have considerable implications for social cohesion and tells us something about the salience of the integration-demarcation cleavage. Continue reading

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Nov 12 2019

Nationalism and England’s Political Predicament

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By Charles Leddy-Owen

As the Brexit crisis continues to unfold, Leddy-Owen’s recently published book fills a gap in academic analysis left by quantitative political scientists who ignore the sociology of nationalism and sociologists of race who ignore electoral politics. This article introduces his critique of two of the most prevalent current academic standpoints regarding Brexit: first, that England is descending into ‘culture wars’; and, second, that there is a straightforward anti-racist and anti-nationalist response to the present predicament.

England’s political predicament in Portsmouth South

In the weeks and months that followed the United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) self-declared ‘political earthquake’ of 2014 I noticed that political scientists researching contemporary British politics weren’t engaging with the sociology of nationalism or race. At the same time, despite the rapid emergence in England of a major, explicitly nationalist political party, contemporary British sociologists of race weren’t showing much interest in electoral politics.

With these gaps in mind I wondered how insights drawn from the scholarship on nationalism and racism might illuminate a political landscape in which concerns about immigration were becoming increasingly prominent and influential. I also wondered, from a methodological perspective, how a qualitative approach exploring the interweaving of political ideology with personal narratives might complement the quantitative analyses drawn from large-scale surveys that dominate the academic study of British politics. The core aim of my book was therefore to bring hitherto detached research areas into dialogue, providing valuable insights into the relationship between nationalism and contemporary politics in England. Continue reading

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