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Alison Carter - Blog editor

January 31st, 2024

MSc Prizewinners 2022/23 announced

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Alison Carter - Blog editor

January 31st, 2024

MSc Prizewinners 2022/23 announced

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

 

The International Relations Department is very pleased to announce the MSc prizewinners for the 2022/23 session:

 

for the best 10,000 word MSc IR Dissertation

This was awarded to:

Flora Willimek

for the dissertation entitled
When Diplomats become Leaders: Conceptualizing Diplomatic Leadership in Crisis from a Psychological Angle

Read summary

 

Susan Strange MSc IPE Dissertation Prize

for the best 10,000 word MSc IPE Dissertation

This was awarded jointly to

Dimitrios Efthymiadis

for the dissertation entitled
What are the driving motives behind currency union participation? Examining the historical experience of Greece in the Latin monetary union

and

Louis Rawlings

for the dissertation entitled
Private equity firms as orchestrators: a study of leverage power 

Read summaries

 

Martin Wight MSc IR Research dissertation prize

for the best 10,000 word MSc IR(R) Dissertation

This was awarded to

Mak Kasapovic

for the dissertation entitled
Counter-hegemony and peace common sense: A neo-Gramscian framework for peace analysis

Read summary

 

MSc International Relations IR4A1 Core Theories and Debates Michael Donelan Prize

This was awarded to

Nadja Lovadinov

for the best performance in IR4A1 Core Theories and Debates

 

MSc International Relations IR4A2 International Relations: Global Applications Margot Light Prize

This was awarded to

Alina Iltutmus

for the best performance in IR4A2 International Relations: Global Applications

 

MSc International Relations A4A3 International Relations: Critical Perspectives Fred Halliday Prize

This was awarded to

Layal Niazy

for the best performance in IR4A3 International Relations: Critical Perspectives

 


 

See below for summaries of the above dissertations:

MSc International Relations Philip Windsor Dissertation Prize

Flora Willimek

When Diplomats become Leaders: Conceptualizing Diplomatic Leadership in Crisis from a Psychological Angle

On 5th September 2022, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held a speech on the occasion of the 20th Conference of the Heads of Missions, calling upon the assembled ambassadors not to refrain from speaking out loud “out of fear of headwind” (Baerbock 2022). This request is new. Traditionally, diplomats prevent confrontation through trustful behind-the-door negotiations. They are expected to tactfully adhere to the clear line separating their job from that of their political leaders. When an ambassador oversteps boundaries by disregarding conventions or interfering too actively in the host country’s affairs, this usually does not end well. One might think of former US Ambassador Grenell who, from 2018, found himself isolated in a Berlin that was reluctant to deal with his controversies (Von Hammerstein 2019).

Notable individuals who alter the course of history have fascinated already at the times of Plato and Aristotle (Bass; Stogdill 1990: 3). But since these tender beginnings of the engagement with leadership, the necessary skills have usually been attributed to those in formal positions of power, such as monarchs or presidents. Members of the diplomatic corps instead are supposed to represent and implement standard codes of action as custodians of the international system (Adler-Nissen 2015(b): 27). In rare occasions however, we observe instances of extraordinary diplomatic leadership  that do not follow this expected pattern, neither in style nor in substance. The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg would be one of those examples, who saved thousands of Jews through protective passports during the Holocaust in Hungary in 1944 (Matz 2014: 582f). More recently, Tom Fletcher, a British Ambassador to Lebanon, became known as a pioneer of innovative diplomacy and social media use (Pelling 2015: 174).

With my study, I aim to draw attention to these ‘outliers’ in diplomacy, seeking to develop a lens which allows us to better understand the nature and origins of those ‘undiplomatic’ occurrences of diplomacy. What can they tell us about leadership in a profession that is not meant to bear leaders? On a theoretical level, research has so far surprisingly neglected the impact that regular diplomats and their character traits have on foreign policy decisions of their hosts countries, especially in times of disruption. Yet, we have much to gain from applying approaches from the realm of political psychology to diplomatic scholarship.

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MSc International Political Economy Susan Strange Dissertation Prize

Dimitrios Efthymiadis

What are the driving motives behind currency union participation? Examining the historical experience of Greece in the Latin monetary union

Governments occasionally choose to either yield their monetary control to other nations or to co- manage monetary authority with them. The European Monetary Union (EMU) and the introduction of a common currency for its 20 members has been the latest in a long history of such endeavours. The decision to adopt a common currency, however, has not been easy for members and not one without potentially catastrophic drawbacks. Greece, following the transmutation of the 2008 global financial crises into a eurozone crisis suffered the longest recession of any advanced post-WW2 economy (Alogoskoufis, 2012). Yet Greece, for as long as it had independence over monetary affairs, has tried to integrate itself into supernational monetary arrangements and the global monetary system, with the EMU being just the latest of many attempts at monetary cooperation in which the country participated. The first such attempt was the Latin Monetary Union (LMU) which is the subject of this paper.

The LMU represented a 19th-century attempt to unify several European currencies into a single currency that could be used in all the member states. At its core the LMU was a bimetallic currency union based on the French franc’s fixed legal gold-silver ratio at 1:15.5, and used the franc as the common monetary unit (Flandreau, 1995a). The union was established in 1865 by France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy. Greece also was also admitted as a member in April 1867. From its inception, the Greek state had sought to adopt a reliable monetary system, on the one hand to consolidate its political sovereignty, on the other hand to establish a monetised economy domestically, as well as to integrate into the international monetary system and become an integral part of the European polity. In relation to these ends, joining the LMU offered the potential of inducing modernization of the country’s monetary institutions as well as the desired politico-economic integration with the rest of the continent.

But what was it that motivated the Greek decision to join the LMU and to subordinate part of its autonomy over monetary affairs? Why do countries join monetary unions? In the orthodox economic literature, the answer has come to lie in Optimal Currency Area theory (OCA). According to this theory, countries are motivated to join monetary unions to reap microeconomic benefits, particularly as they relate to improving the usefulness of money in international trade. The International Political Economy (IPE) literature, particularly the contributions of Benjamin Cohen, supplement the economic factors with political considerations that determine states’ decisions to join a currency union. This literature adopts a largely realist approach, arguing that participation in transnational monetary arrangements ultimately hinges upon whether or not they expand the state’s range of available actions or relative power on the international stage.

Louis Rawlings

Private equity firms as orchestrators: a study of leverage power 

On the 2nd of October 2020, TDR Capital (‘TDR’), a relatively unknown private equity firm, announced their intention to acquire Asda, a UK supermarket chain, for £6.8bn (Asda, 2020). As the largest ‘leveraged buyout’ in the UK since 2007, the transaction’s size in itself was enough to turn heads. But what took even corporate finance professionals by surprise was how TDR funded the acquisition. According to one senior investment banker, “the City couldn’t understand how [TDR] could buy a £7bn asset with £800m in equity” (IFR, 2022a: 92). It was later revealed that TDR and their business partners, the Issa family, had funded only £200 million of the multi-billion-pound acquisition in equity, with the remaining capital borrowed from financial markets (Smith and Wiggins, 2023). The relative ease with which TDR acquired a corporation that feeds millions of people every day, funded through an exceptionally complex and large debt financing, raises political-economic questions about the forms of power that private equity firms have over the real economy and other actors in the financial system.

Whilst the distribution and nature of power are the subject of much scholarship in International Political Economy (‘IPE’) (Cox, 1997), the power of the finance industry in advanced political economies has been relatively under-theorised (Braun and Koddenbrock, 2023). Though some literature since the global financial crisis has focused on the instrumental and structural power of finance over the state (Culpepper and Reinke, 2014; Pagliari and Young, 2016), there has been less focus in IPE on the power that financial actors exert vis-à-vis other financial actors and non-financial corporations (‘NFCs’) (Braun, 2022; Christophers, 2023). Recently, two contributions have proposed novel research agendas that look to fill this gap. Braun and Koddenbrock (2023: 23) suggest that research should focus on “the various types of financial firms” and “their business models”. In parallel, Dafe et al. (2022) have proposed a research agenda that acknowledges how ‘financialisation’ has “transformed the basis of [the] structural power [of finance] away from facilitating productive investment toward alternative functions that have gone unnoticed in the existing literature” (2022: 536). Dafe et al. (2022: 527) explicitly single out the power of private equity firms (‘PE firms’) as under-researched. This paper brings together both research agendas by focusing on the power of PE firms at a specific, but significant, moment in their financialised business model: the leveraged buyout.

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MSc International Relations Research Martin Wight Dissertation Prize

Mak Kasapovic

Counter-hegemony and peace common sense: A neo-Gramscian framework for peace analysis

Studies of peacebuilding are witnessing a macro (re)turn. The rise of non-Western powers such as China and India that have started to contest Western dominance in global peace governance and other areas has turned the gaze of peacebuilding scholars towards large-scale, global perspectives. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, in particular, jolted the complacent field that was stuck in the “local turn”, debating the intricacies of local and indigenous agency, practices, and modes of being, and how they interweave with external (Western) interventions that aim to impose a peace based on the dictates of liberalism and the democratic peace thesis. This macro turn is often based on the assumption that the sun has set on the Western-dominated liberal order and the epistemic certainties it afforded both to mainstream and critical approaches, or at the very least that its foundations are starting to tremble. As noted recently by Bargués et al. (2023, p. 2), “as the old liberal order collapses and new orders emerge, let us take a moment to talk about this transformation”.

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