Democracy, identity and culture

Trust in European justice institutions is markedly lower in Southern and Eastern Europe, but legitimacy also requires that institutions meet substantive requirements to legitimise their power and structure.

Trust in legal systems, the courts, and police varies widely across Europe, especially in former communist countries such as Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria. Jonathan Jackson and the FIDUCIA project team argue that current social survey statistics provide only a partial picture. While they do show how much people trust institutions across Europe, they do not address whether or not the […]

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Conservative values have a different effect on political orientation in Central and Eastern European countries than they do in the West.

Certain values, such as conservatism and liberalism, are assumed to have a close link to the political orientation of citizens. However is this effect the same across all European countries? Anna Aspelund presents the findings of a study on the link between conservative values and left-right political orientation in 28 European countries. The results show that while values such as […]

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States with a history of undemocratic regimes in the 20th century are more likely to repress racist movements.

Why do some liberal democracies repress racist associations, while others tolerate their existence? Erik Bleich outlines the results of a study into the different factors that affect a state’s response to racist political parties and movements. He finds that the most significant predisposing factor to states placing restrictions on racist associations is a history of undemocratic regimes in the 20th […]

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The growing economic and ideological breach between Northern and Southern EU countries is pushing Europe towards a perfect storm.

Southern European countries have been hardest hit economically by the Eurozone crisis. Using Eurobarometer data, Sonia Alonso notes that this economic disparity has also had a significant effect on public attitudes. Citizens in Southern European countries now have substantially less trust in government, trust in political parties, and satisfaction with democracy than those in the North. She argues that allied […]

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Book Review: Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin

In this well-received new analysis, Ben Judah argues that Putin is not the strongman he appears. Russia’s leader may be victorious as a politician, but he has utterly failed to build a modern state. Once loved for its forcefulness and the spreading of new consumer lifestyles, Putin’s regime is now increasingly loathed for incompetence and corruption. Joel Krupa finds this […]

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Bulgaria’s on-going protests are driven by a society that refuses to tolerate further a political class that disregards democratic principles

Only weeks after national elections in May, street protests have once again erupted in Bulgaria. Marietta Stankova writes that what began as a protest against an ill-judged state appointment has developed into a widespread movement of dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of respect for democracy. In spite of the protests, and while new elections are increasingly probable, a major change in […]

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Young people are less likely to vote than older citizens, but they are also more diverse in how they choose to participate in politics.

Participation in electoral politics has declined across Western Europe in recent decades as citizens have become increasingly disillusioned with conventional forms of politics. As James Sloam notes, this is especially true for the current generation of young Europeans, who have turned to alternative forms of political engagement that seem to have more relevance to their everyday lives. Indeed, in the […]

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Divided Nations: Why global governance is failing, and what we can do about it

Globalisation has made the world a far more interconnected place than ever before. Ian Goldin writes that while this increased connectivity provides unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and innovation, it also risks facilitating the spread of global crises. Meeting these globalised challenges will require a radical rethinking of global governance structures, with five core principles being at the heart of any […]

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Book Review: Women and ETA: The gender politics of Radical Basque Nationalism

In 2011, the Basque separatist and nationalist group, ETA, declared the definitive cessation of its armed activity, bringing more than five decades of paramilitary activities to an end. Carrie Hamilton’s book, ‘Women and ETA’ examines the history and evolution of ETA from a gender perspective, charting the often very different roles of men and women in the organisation since the […]

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The UK’s proposed referendum on Europe would test British commitment to the European Union

How can European states test popular commitment to the European Union? Richard Rose assesses the use of referendums to gain consent from European citizens for the integration process. While three quarters of member states have held at least one referendum on Europe, the UK is notable for allowing major changes in the powers of government to be approved by a […]

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The Gezi protests have shown the rampant institutional bias in Turkey’s media which now leaves little room for facts.

The past month has seen a wave of protests across Turkey against the increasingly authoritarian government. Burcu Baykurt looks at media coverage of the protests, and finds that there are concerns from both sides that pro-government and alternative media are distorting and ‘re-constructing’ the facts to favour the government or the protestors. Also, worrying are the increasing written, verbal, and […]

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Does money buy happiness? It depends on the context

Ilka Gleibs explains how the money–happiness link is variable and highly context-dependent. Outlining the results of two studies, she shows that both money (individual income) and community (social capital) can be the basis for individual happiness, and that the relative influence of each factor depends on the context. She argues that strong social relations are much more consistent in providing us […]

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Book Review: Bakhtin Reframed

Visionary philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) was largely ignored during his lifetime, yet his work has significantly impacted how we think about visual culture. His ideas renewed interest in the word-forming potential of the creative voice and he developed concepts which are bywords within poststructuralist and new historicist literary criticism and philosophy yet have been under-utilised by artists, […]

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Euroscepticism is rooted in a broader authoritarian worldview that also includes higher levels of nationalism and hostility to ‘outsiders’.

What factors are likely to lead to citizens opposing European integration? Erik R. Tillman notes that a number of recent studies have attempted to explain opposition to the EU in terms of social identity. Drawing on these studies, he argues that those who oppose the EU are likely to subscribe to a particular ‘authoritarian’ worldview which includes a predisposition towards […]

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Falling support for the European Parliament, not the economic crisis, has led to a decline in support for the EU in Spain and Portugal.

In April, a major Eurobarometer study reported that there had been a decline in support for the European Union across Europe, especially in countries where the Eurozone crisis’ effects had been most severe. Mariano Torcal takes a closer look at the reasons behind falling support for the EU in Spain and Portugal. Using panel data, he finds that a significant […]

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Why are conspiracy theories popular? There’s more to it than paranoia.

Conspiracy theories have long played a part in political debates. Following the recent meeting of the Bilderberg group in Watford, Joseph E. Uscinski assesses why the popularity of conspiracy theories has proven so resilient. He argues that some of the most common explanations, such as the notion that a belief in conspiracy theories reflects psychological defects like paranoia or mental […]

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In its efforts to tackle banking crisis and avoid a bailout, Slovenia is now facing a crisis of democracy.

In recent months, many commentators have turned their attention towards Slovenia, with some predicting that the country may soon need to request a bailout from the ‘Troika’. With this in mind, Slovenia’s government has moved to push through a package of tax increases, public sector pay cuts, privatisations and bank reforms. Nicole Lindstrom argues that while the government’s reform agenda […]

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The EU should take inspiration from Switzerland in its attempts to increase democratic legitimacy.

One perceived problem for the democratic legitimacy of the EU is that linguistic diversity across Europe makes it difficult for there to be a viable European democratic community. Joseph Lacey assesses the potential for the EU to take inspiration from multilingual Switzerland in its attempts to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the EU policy process. He argues that, much like […]

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The problems faced by Greece’s public sector are such that the sudden closure of ERT may have been the least bad option.

Last week, with almost no warning, the Greek government closed the national broadcaster, ERT, putting over 2,700 jobs at risk. Kevin Featherstone argues that while the way the announcement was made raised justifiable concerns, the central objective should be broadly welcomed. The case typifies the problems in achieving serious public sector reform: indeed, it may be the only way to […]

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Turkey’s protests have stirred debate about democracy and the unchecked power of governments that have an electoral mandate.

What do the protests of the past two weeks mean for democracy in Turkey? Zeynep N. Kaya and Matthew Whiting argue that they represent the clash between the desire of the Prime Minister, Recep Tayip Erdoğan, for a majoritarian politics with few checks on power, and those who wish for government to consult widely in its decision-making. While the current […]

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