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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Nov 8 2019

The roots of right-wing populism in Central and Eastern Europe: at the nexus of neoliberalism and the global culture wars


By Elżbieta Korolczuk

In their recent article in The Guardian, based on the forthcoming book The Light that Failed: The Reckoning Ivan Krastev and Steven Holmes claim that the current illiberal backlash in countries such as Poland and Hungary is best explained by the post-transformational fatigue rooted in unsuccessful efforts to emulate the West after 1989. While this tendency “has been given an assortment of names – Americanisation, Europeanisation, democratisation, liberalisation, enlargement, integration, harmonisation, globalisation and so forth – … it has always signified modernisation by imitation and integration by assimilation” resulting in resentment, anger and resistance harnessed largely by the right-wing populists. They pronounce that the “god of liberalism” died in Eastern Europe, mostly due to the unfulfilled promises of western liberalism to transform post-communist countries by helping them to catch-up with the West. This explanation fits well into narratives of fragile democracy in post-communist countries, but is it true? Today’s populist leaders in the region are certainly eager to present democratization as a form of cultural colonization, and call for regaining sovereignty – in politics, economy and culture – in order to mobilize the electorate, but is this the key to their electoral successes?

Clearly, the tensions between what was promised in 1989 and what was delivered two decades after were one of the factors that facilitated the victories of right-wing populist parties in the region, but the connection between the two is neither straightforward nor is disillusionment with democracy unique to the post-communist context. I disagree with the vision presented by Krastev and Holmes on three levels. The first problem is that they uncritically follow the populists in collapsing the difference between liberal democracy and neoliberalism. Secondly, they ignore the role of transnational ultraconservative networks and discourses in promulgating a vision of the West in need of being saved by the East. Thirdly, they view the illiberal tendencies in effect as an Eastern European peculiarity, rather than a transnational trend, present also in most Western countries.

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Nov 6 2019

Democracy without choice – or just ‘the economy, stupid’? Political support during the Eurozone crisis

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By Daniel Devine

Between 2008 and 2014, satisfaction with democracy and the trust people had for their political institutions collapsed across most of Europe, but most severely in Southern Europe. Was this decline about the loss of citizens’ democratic choice due to the economic interventions or just the economic turmoil that surrounded them? In a new paper, Daniel Devine provides evidence that the likely cause was the economy rather than concerns about democratic processes.

The mass protests following the economic crisis in 2008 particularly, but not only, in Southern Europe, were concerned not just with the dire economic situation facing the majority of Europe, but how and where decisions were made. This is captured in an interview with an activist for the Barcelona-based Real Democracy Now, who said: ’We believe that real democracy is no longer possible in one country, but on a European level […] The commission, the European Central Bank – they are imposing austerity on us, yet they are not democratic institutions’. In the same tone, a call-to-arms pamphlet, Indignez-Vous, which sold over a million copies and united the European protest movements, decried the power that financial capital had to undermine European democracies. The movements were, of course, about the economic and social impacts of austerity, but also how and from where the policy was implemented. Continue reading

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Oct 29 2019

Issue communitarisation in Belgian politics: explaining the prolonged appeal of New Flemish Alliance’s nationalism

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By Koen AbtsEmmanuel Dalle Mulle and Rudi Laermans.

Since the early 2000s, the stateless nationalist party New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) has experienced a burgeoning growth without major changes in grassroots support for independence and only ambiguous ones for more regional autonomy. Issue communitarisation can help understand why.

When it came into existence in October 2001 nobody could predict that New Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie) would become, in less than 10 years, the biggest party in Belgium. Yet, since the 2010 general election N-VA has dominated Flemish politics and scored consistently better than any other party in the country. Strangely enough for a party that declares the independence of Flanders as its ultimate goal, this has happened without major changes in grassroots support for independence and only ambiguous ones with regard to demands for more regional autonomy. A strategy of issue diversification, whereby the party expands its policy portfolio beyond the centre-periphery cleavage, can explain how the party managed to broaden its appeal beyond the limited circle of committed hard-core nationalists. As a matter of fact, apart from stealing votes from the Flemish nationalist and radical right Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang), the party attracted former voters of the Christian-Democratic CD&V and of the liberal Open Vld. Continue reading

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Oct 21 2019

Whose freedom, and from what?: The child as cipher for a (transnational) politics of ‘traditional values’

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By Maria Brock

Awareness of increasing (and increasingly politicised) sentiment against so-called ‘gender ideology’ is spreading, and no longer merely confined to academic and activist circles. Indeed, while her work is considered notoriously inaccessible to those outside academe, Judith Butler, one of the icons of gender and queer theory since the publication of Gender Trouble (1990), enraged far right Christian groups in Brazil enough to have them produce and then burn effigies of her as a witch while she visited São Paulo in 2017. Protesters accused her of calling for the destruction of gender identities, and warned of the harm to children that could ensue. While this is a wilful misreading of her work, the focus of protesters on the protection of children from physical and psychological risk is worth paying closer attention to.,_c_1904,_watercolour_by_Thomas_Cooper_Gotch.jpg

‘Innocence’ by Thomas Cooper Gotch.

The Birmingham school protests to inclusivity lessons are just one instance of how child safety is becoming a particularly powerful, contentious issue always at risk of being taken over by ideologues who find ways of ‘smuggling’ anti-LGBTQ and anti-feminist claims into mainstream media. It is through the rhetoric of child vulnerability and protection that certain ideas that question or openly oppose gender- and sexual equality are finding their way into mainstream political discourse. In fact, resistance to reproductive freedoms and LGBTQ rights can no longer be confined to certain countries or contexts, to the undemocratic or fundamentalist ‘other’ – evoking the spectre of potential harm to the child makes the questioning of seemingly entrenched rights and freedoms admissible across Europe, and beyond. Continue reading

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Jul 30 2019

Inspiring the fight? Protests and Voter Defections in Electoral Autocracies

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By Katerina Tertytchnaya

As protests unfold in electoral autocracies – regimes that combine authoritarian practices with multiparty elections – voters who previously supported the ruling regime are expected to shift and back the opposition. However, by looking at the case of Russia, Katerina Tertytchnaya discusses how anti-regime protests may, paradoxically, contribute to explain the resilience of autocracies. When opposition parties and activists fail to convince their citizens that political change is likely, protests may generate political disengagement among the masses which, in turn, helps authoritarian regimes to remain in place.

Between December 2011 and May 2012, and amid accusations of electoral fraud in the 2011 parliamentary election, a series of demonstrations, the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union, took place across Russia. During this time, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, standing as presidential candidate in the March 2012 election, was allegedly ‘angry, nervous and frightened’. Drawing parallels with events in the Arab Spring that brought down rulers in the Middle East and North Africa, observers and journalists around the world described the protests as Russia’s ‘white, or snow revolution’.  After all, this was the first time in many years that parliamentary and on-parliamentary oppositions united together in the streets. Initial optimism, however, did not last, as the leadership of parliamentary parties – such as that of the KPRF and Just Russia – as well as the protesters, left the streets. In the spring months of 2012 Vladimir Putin also saw his approval ratings recover. Russia’s ‘snow revolution’ melted quickly with the spring.

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Jul 19 2019

The European elections generated real momentum for renewable energy – it’s time for MEPs to rise to the occasion

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By Anar Ahmadov

The EU has set a target of generating at least 20% of its total energy needs through renewables by 2020. Given the success of Green parties in May’s European Parliament elections, there is now real momentum in the push toward renewable energy transition. But a number of resilient obstacles remain and there is a clear need for stricter policies at both the EU and national levels.

Green parties were among the main winners in May’s European elections. Indeed, they have become a political force in the new European Parliament, and their success should add significant momentum to the push toward renewable energy transition in an otherwise unsympathetic environment. Yet for this to lead to a real tipping point for renewable energy in the EU, the new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will need coherent strategies for overcoming a set of resilient political obstacles.

By early 2019, the production of solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric energy reached 40 percent in Germany’s electricity production, for the first time replacing coal as the country’s main source of power. In a country known for its large production and dependence on coal this was noteworthy. Investment in renewables has generally stalled globally, but many initiatives in Europe hold promise. Continue reading

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Jun 27 2019

The European Periphery and the Eurozone Crisis

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By Neil Dooley

Nearly ten years on from the first Greek bailout, the countries of the eurozone periphery have exhibited markedly divergent recoveries. A popular narrative attributes the contrasting recoveries of Greece and Ireland to their divergent enthusiasm for following EU rules on structural reforms and austerity. In contrast, my new book, The European Periphery and the Eurozone Crisisshows that ‘following the rules’ doesn’t always ensure good economic health, but is linked to the causes of the eurozone crisis in the first place.

Why the ‘official narrative’ is flawed

The eurozone crisis has often been told as a story of excessive spending, runaway borrowing, weak competitiveness, and the political unwillingness to make painful but necessary reforms. This ‘official narrative’, developed by, among others, Greece’s lenders has underpinned a policy response of austerity and ‘structural reforms’. As Greece exited its bailout in August 2018, this story resurfaced as a tale of assisted redemption. The European Commission tweeted that Greece has embarked on a “new chapter” which is:

“the result of both national reforms and support from EU partners. The sacrifices and efforts of the Greek people in undertaking these reforms have delivered real, tangible results”.

European Commission President hopeful Manfred Weber similarly tweeted:

“It is good that #Greeceexits its bailout. Nevertheless we don’t have to forget that due to the SYRIZA government this didn’t happen much earlier and much cheaper for the Greek people”.

As this story goes, the country got into trouble by flouting the rules of the game. The EU helped Greece recover by assisting it in (eventually) getting with the programme. Ireland, on the other hand, has been held up as the ‘poster child’ of austerity, praised by former Commission President Barroso as evidence that “with strong determination and support from partner countries we can and will emerge stronger from this deep crisis”. Continue reading

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May 15 2019

A Polarized yet Hollow Debate: The Journalistic Coverage of the Greek Memoranda

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By Christos Kostopoulos

The three memoranda signed between various Greek governments and the creditor Troika have been one of the most important European political issues in this decade, generating a lot of journalistic and scholarly interest. This article presents findings from a framing analysis (you can find the complete research here) conducted on three mainstream Greek newspapers (Avgi, Kathimerini, Ta Nea). These frames were compared with the advocate frames promoted through the announcements of the four constant parties in the Greek Parliament throughout this period (PASOK, Nea Dimokratia, SYRIZA, KKE), in order to shed light on the range of democratic debate fostered by the media and the political opinions that were legitimated through their application in the press.

Starting with the first memorandum in 2010 the examination of frames from all three newspapers reveals the range of the debate. The memorandum is discussed mainly in terms of the division between those who are for it and against it, and its good and bad qualities. The framing of the newspapers follows the advocate frames of the two larger parties PASOK and ND, whereas SYRIZA, a marginal party at that point, also manages to be included, because it’s frames fit on the range of legitimate opinions. All the newspapers apply advocate frames by three out of the four major political parties, whereas none of them includes KKE frames. From a market perspective the positions of KKE are not interesting, as lower income workers form it’s main electoral base. Additionally, the examination of the exclusion of the frame from a political and ideological standpoint reveals the limits of the liberal consensus. The analysis of the frames in 2010 reveals that positions that promote a wider criticism of the capitalist mode of production fall outside the acceptable limits of debate. The main frames construct the debate around the issues of efficiency of the measures, their impact, and issues of sovereignty and democracy. The causal attribution dimension revolves around the political game with the parties accusing each other for the crisis, while there is also some blame attributed to the troika. Finally, the solutions discussed concern the future of the memorandum with positions ranging from the necessity of the successful implementation of the program, to its adjustment or complete cancelation. The application of frames is not identical by all newspapers, reflecting a multitude of evaluative positions. Nonetheless, the debate is set around the memorandum without addressing wider reaching topics and alternatives that would question the economic system, which was under a crisis globally. This framing of the debate cuts off the Greek crisis from the global developments and treats it as an issue of management of the system, to be solved by the system itself. Continue reading

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