British Journal of Politics and International Relations

Sage Publications, Inc.
Publication date:

Latest documents

  • Mediating power? Delegation, pooling and leadership selection at international organisations

    The selection of the executive heads of international organisations represents a key decision in the politics of international organisations. However, we know little about what dynamics influence this selection. The article focuses on the nationality of selected executive heads. It argues that institutional design impacts the factors that influence leadership selection by shaping the costs and benefits of attaining the position for member states’ nationals. The argument is tested with novel data on the nationality of individuals in charge of 69 international organisation bureaucracies between 1970 and 2017. Two findings stand out: first, powerful countries are more able to secure positions in international organisations in which executive heads are voted in by majority voting. Second, less consistent evidence implies that powerful countries secure more positions when bureaucracies are authoritative. The findings have implications for debates on international cooperation by illustrating how power and institutions interact in the selection of international organisation executive heads.

  • ‘Guided by the science’: (De)politicising the UK government’s response to the coronavirus crisis

    This article sets out to examine the politicising and depoliticising effects of the various stories that were deployed by the UK government in its response to the coronavirus crisis during its daily press briefings over a 2-month period between 16 March and 16 May 2020. In doing so, we identify four key narratives: (1) unprecedented government activism; (2) working to plan; (3) national security, wartime unity and sacrifice; and (4) scientific guidance. Through a quantitative and qualitative study of the deployment of these narratives, we attempt to further recent theoretical insights on depoliticisation by noting that the COVID-19 crisis produced a particular type of crisis moment in which the government was forced to respond in ‘real time’ to a set of circumstances which were rapidly changing. As such, this made it much more difficult to control the various stories they wanted to tell and therefore find a coherent ‘anchor’ for their politicising and depoliticising strategies. This led to some deft discursive footwork as the government sought to pass the ball of responsibility between various groups of actors in order to rapidly and continually shift the balance between avoiding blame and taking credit.

  • Who wants technocrats? A comparative study of citizen attitudes in nine young and consolidated democracies

    Technocratic cabinets and expert, non-political ministers appointed in otherwise partisan cabinets have become a common reality in recent decades in young and older democracies, but we know little about how citizens see this change and what values, perceptions and experiences drive their attitudes towards technocratic government. The article explores the latter topic by drawing on recent comparative survey data from nine countries, both young and consolidated democracies from Europe and Latin America. Two individual-level characteristics trigger particularly strong support for the replacement of politicians with experts: low political efficacy and authoritarian values. They are complemented by a third, somewhat weaker factor: corruption perception. At the macro level, technocracy appeals to citizens of countries where the quality of democracy is deficient and where technocratic cabinets are a part of historical legacy. Surprisingly, civic activism and, partially, satisfaction with democracy enhance technocratic orientation, indicating such attitudes are not expressions of alienation or depoliticisation.

  • ‘You are not my type’: The role of identity in evaluating democracy & human rights promotion

    In this article, we examine the impact of the democracy and human rights promotion efforts that are supposed to bolster positive attitudes among the public abroad and act as a tool to reach hearts and minds. Yet, we suggest that a salient in-group versus out-group dichotomy within a society could activate a reactive devaluation bias, and hence, conditions how individuals perceive and react to foreign actors and their policies depending on the source country and its links with in- and out-groups within the target state. By employing an original public opinion survey from Lebanon, we find that identities, and the level of attachment to the identity, affect individuals’ attitudes towards human rights and democracy promotion efforts. Our results offer important policy implications: practitioners should comprehensively reconsider the benefits of hearts and minds tools, as pre-existing attitudes are the main drivers of how these policies will be evaluated by the public abroad.

  • Not ‘my economy’: A political ethnographic study of interest in the economy

    Some political economists explain the apparent downplaying of the importance of economic issues in political events such as Brexit with reference to the growing anger or despair people on low incomes feel about the economy. This ‘everyday political economy’ article draws on an ethnographic study conducted between 2016 and 2018 with residents of an English city to explore what people think about the phenomenon of the economy. It reveals significant differences in how interested high- and low-income participants are in the economy and its role as a bedrock for welfare. Low-income participants are more negative about the economy, particularly contesting politicians’ claims that it is distinct from the human sphere, when they view it as controlled by the rich. However, reasoning is based on post-2008 crisis economic conditions, and any lack of interest in the economy may be more calculative and temporary than is often assumed.

  • The EU’s truth by omission: Learning and accountability after the Eurozone crisis

    While the literature generally frames crises as catalysts for organisational learning, most theories focus on ‘success’ stories of learning – ex post facto explanations of why certain ideas gained traction after a specific crisis. Less emphasis has been placed on lessons that were likely to be drawn, but were not. In probing this point, we explore the European Union’s selective learning after the recent Eurozone crisis. Reforms were mostly top-down institutional and macroeconomic ones, while good practices developed by individual European states in the domain of accountability were ignored. In particular, we focus on the absence of a truth commission, an independent institutional mechanism mandated to carry out a forensic investigation of crisis management and convert past policy failures into lessons for future institutional reform. Why, despite the direct exposure of EU policymakers to these commissions, did this institutional mechanism not travel to Brussels? Drawing on semi-structured elite interviews and analyses of primary sources, we argue only organisations with an embedded institutional capacity for self-reflection (meta-learning) possess the required institutional skills to put certain issues into the spotlight.

  • Building an authoritarian regime: Strategies for autocratisation and resistance in Belarus and Slovakia

    The article explores the conditions under which incumbent leaders in initially competitive political systems manage to offset democratic resistance and establish an authoritarian regime. Autocratisation – the transition from a competitive political system to a regime dominated by a single political force – is a challenging effort for an incumbent and involves interventions in three ‘arenas’ to achieve (a) public legitimation, (b) institutional reforms increasing political repression and (c) mass-scale co-optation. Focusing on Slovakia and Belarus in the 1990s, where autocratisation efforts failed and succeeded respectively, the article finds that co-optation plays a catalytic role in helping the incumbent pass institutional reforms and escalate repression without risking de-legitimation. In Belarus, co-optation engulfed society and the economy whereas, in Slovakia, a socioeconomic environment with greater autonomy from government limited the scope for co-optation. The Slovak opposition was able to find the resources and supporters necessary to fight back against the incumbent.

  • Multifaceted effects of globalisation on welfare attitudes: When winners and losers join forces

    How does economic globalisation influence individuals’ welfare state preferences? Moving beyond the unidimensional understanding of globalisation exposure, we intersect two dimensions of exposure perceptions (gain vs loss and individual vs societal impacts) and propose a novel typology: collective winner, lone winner, lone loser and collective loser. We then explain the preference gap among losers (collective losers vis-à-vis lone losers) and among winners (collective winners vis-à-vis lone winners) by considering three distinct motivations for welfare state support: compensation, risk-pooling and inequality reduction. We illustrate the usefulness of our typology using an original survey in South Korea. We find that lone winners are far more supportive of welfare spending than collective winners. At the same time, collective losers are found to be much more supportive of welfare spending than lone losers. We provide some first-cut evidence that the insurance-seeking motivation common to lone winners and collective losers drive their welfare state support.

  • Editorial: British political studies and the politics of global challenges
  • Social globalisation and quality of democracy: An analysis for old and young democracies

    The literature on globalisation and democracy has primarily paid attention to economic integration and its effects on democracies. Systematic empirical evidence on the effects of social globalisation on democracy is absent. This article intends to fill this gap. Social globalisation is disaggregated into interpersonal, information and cultural globalisation. I apply the generalised method of moments estimation and analyse democracies encompassing the periods 1970–1991 and 1991–2017. The results indicate that the democratic qualities affected by social globalisation are freedom of expression, equal access and protection, and the quality of elections. The moderating effect of a given country’s democracy stock has been confirmed across different estimations. However, and especially during the post–Cold War period, younger and older democracies benefit equally from the increased spread of information caused by globalisation with regard to equal access. Equally, both categories experience similar challenges with the rise of interpersonal globalisation in terms of the quality of elections.

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