Nov 252016
 

Googling around for a citation Doing serious scholarly work, I stumbled upon this article that was published in Foreign Affairs back in 1997. It would seem that these guys were rather prescient here.

zakaria-fa-1997

Before you get too excited: On the next page, the article claims that liberal values and democracy are “interwoven in the Western political fabric, [but] are coming apart in the rest of the world. ” Like many others, I’m wondering if this is still a valid assertion. And yes, the warnings about Yeltsin look rather quaint now.

Apr 012014
 
Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

MP, Peer, Secretary of State for India, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Opposition, thrice Prime Minister of Britain, architect of the Empire and arch-Conservative. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, third Marquess of Salisbury and colloquially known as Lord Salisbury was not exactly a fan of mass democracy. This is from one of his essays in the Quarterly Review, quoted in David Marquand’s history of Britain in the 20th century. A lovely thing, these dead tree books.

Aug 072011
 
Photograph of a sketch of the French author an...

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Fails/Pierce 2010 article in Political Research Quarterly 2010 is easily the most interesting paper I have read during the last Academic Year (btw, here are my lecture notes). Ever since the 1950s, mainstream political science has claimed that mass attitudes on democracy matter for the stability of democracy, while the intellectual history of the concept is even older, going back at least to de TocquevilleBut, as Fails and Pierce point out, hardly anyone has ever bothered to test the alleged link between mass attitudes and the quality and stability of democracy. This is exactly what they set out to do, regressing levels of democratic attitudes compiled from dozens of surveys on previous  and succeeding polity scores. As it turns out, levels of democratic attitudes do not explain much, while they seem to follow changes in the polity scores. If these results hold, the Political Culture paradigm would have to be thoroughly modified, to say the least: It’s the elites, stupid.

My students poured a lot of primarily methodological criticism on these findings (I can see my bad influence on them), and I’m not sure that the interpretation of the last (first-differences on first-differences regression) is conclusive. But nonetheless, this is fascinating stuff. I wonder if the big shots will have to say anything interesting about it, or whether they will just ignore the work of two annoying PhD students.

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Nov 192010
 

You got to love public radio. Granted, any institution that has a guaranteed income from the tax/licence payer and is therefore effectively insulated from their customers demands is slightly suspicious, but nonetheless, the continued existence of programs that provide an hour-long space for political debate without any commercials (and next to nil music in between) is reason to rejoice. This week, the good folks over at Bavarian Broadcasting’s (radio is mostly federal in Germany) Political Dossier invited me for a friendly chat with a representative of “Mehr Demokratie“, an NGO campaigning for institutional reform in general and a (much more) extensive use of referenda in particular. The subject of our little conversation was the apparent contradiction between allegedly widespread political disaffection and a “new lust for politics” in Germany. I do not really believe in the latter, but the former was the subject of my PhD thesis, so I had a lot of fun for a whole hour. If you just can’t get enough of my lovely voice, you can listen to the show’s podcast (in German).

Mar 212008
 

Last year, the “Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie and Sozialpsychologie” published an article on the level of support for the European Union’s core principles (democracy, gender equality, religious freedom, rule of law) in Turkey. In essence, the author claimed that the level of support for these principles in Turkey is low because a) the level of economic development is low while b) the number of Muslims is very high. Thanks to the very efficient PR office at the university of Cologne, these findings made their way into the mainstream media in Germany (including the English service of the Deutsche Welle) and Turkey and eventually even into the more shady parts of the blogosphere (that are normally the object rather than the consumer of sociological studies).

I felt, however, that the analysis suffered from a whole host of serious methodological and theoretical shortcomings, and that the claims of the original paper are untenable. Therefore, I wrote a comment on “Paßt die Türkei zur EU und die EU zu Europa” (in German, also as PDF). The Kölner Zeitschrift has recently accepted my article, and it will appear in the next issue. Replication data and stata scripts for my paper are available, too.

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