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Article

Information and Communication Technology, Transparency, and Accountability  

Catie Snow Bailard

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are rapidly, profoundly, and simultaneously changing three structural properties that define contemporary communication systems. How we encode information, the means for transmitting this encoded information, and the networks that determine who can send and receive that information have changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet and mobile technology. Although the political events, outcomes, and behaviors precipitated by the political opportunities created by these ICTs are neither uniform nor automatic, this dramatic reshaping of contemporary information landscapes does have clear consequences for the quantity and range of information available to citizens across the globe. There are also evident effects on the communication costs that are integral to political organization. Additionally, there are indisputable implications for the informational relationship shared by governments and their citizens. Each of these sets of effects creates new opportunities for accountability and transparency in the electoral process and for the processes of governance more generally, in the context of developed democracies but also in developing and non-democratic countries.

Article

Luhmann and Systems Theory  

Mathias Albert

The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann has provided one of the most elaborate theories of society available, as well as numerous works on specific aspects of society. Commonly labeled as “systems theory,” this is but a shorthand description of Luhmann’s theory. In fact, the theory rests on at least three main theoretical pillars. In addition to systems theory, a theory of social evolution and a theory of social differentiation play important roles. The present article introduces these three pillars and describes Luhmann’s theory of politics in this context. It outlines the crucial difference between a theory of politics as part of a theory of society on the one hand, and political theory as a reflective theory within the political system on the other hand. More specifically, it introduces Luhmann’s accounts of the notions of political power, differentiation, the state, political steering, and the self-description of the political system. The contribution concludes with some observations on the fact that Luhmann’s theory has tended to overlook the dimension of international politics, but that his theory provides opportunities to account for it in innovative ways.

Article

Measuring Violations of Human Rights Standards  

Mark Gibney, Linda Cornett, Peter Haschke, Reed M. Wood, and Daniel Arnon

Although every violation of international human rights law standards is both deplorable and illegal, one of the major advances in the social sciences has been the development of measures of comparative state practice. The oldest of these is the Political Terror Scale (PTS), which provides an ordinal measure of physical integrity violations carried out by governments or those associated with the state. Providing data from the mid-1970s to the present, the PTS scores the human rights practices of more than 190 countries on a scale of 1–5, with 1 representing “best practices” and 5 indicating gross and systematic violations. There are two different sources for these scores: U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Amnesty International Annual Report. Although human rights have traditionally been associated only with the state, individuals can also be denied human rights protection by nonstate actors. To measure this, the Societal Violence Scale has been created to analyze three sources of physical integrity violations: the individual, corporate or criminal gang activity, and armed groups.

Article

Political Culture Paradigm  

Christian Welzel

The concept of political culture plays a critical role in the comparative study of democracy. Its major contribution is understanding the societal roots of democracy and how these roots transform through cultural change. Various cultural changes in post-industrial societies converge in a fundamental transformation of democratic ideals: the notion of the model citizen shifts from an “allegiant” to an “assertive” participant in politics. This cultural shift has far-reaching consequences, making democratic politics more mass-driven. Recent evidence suggests that non-democratic regimes also depend on their political culture: these regimes are stable as long as emancipatory desires for freedoms remain limited to small segments of the population. If, however, such desires spread throughout large parts of the population, non-democracies run into trouble and become more likely to undergo a transition to democracy.

Article

Political Representation: From Classical Research Traditions to Comparative Perspectives  

Jean-Pascal Daloz

The literature on political representation is split between research traditions that have remained largely separate: a philosophical normative strand, a behavioralist one focusing mainly on the roles held by representatives, and a third, more distinctly sociological one concerned primarily with issues of representativeness. These classical perspectives have been extended through the introduction of new dimensions into the analysis. The normative tradition has thus been able to formulate novel questions by considering, for instance, issues relating to the representation of nonhuman species or of future generations. Present-day writings on political representation also depart from accepted premises by integrating additional infra-institutional forms of representation. Similarly, a postmodern vein of thought has drawn increased attention to the fluidity of the processes involved and a rather hybrid literature has emerged that combines empirical and normative ambitions. Despite claims by some analysts to have renewed approaches on the topic, there are not so much major theoretical innovations as developments relating to the dynamics of political representation itself in the contemporary era. It is important to realize that much of the analysis of political representation has been couched in very general terms and that the field itself suffers from a lack of serious comparative work. In this respect, more inductive explorations are needed into the perceptions of representation (too often reduced to mere constructivist mechanisms), the concrete logics of accountability, and the “theatrical” dimension of the relationship—in all of which there has been underinvestment by political scientists.

Article

Protest and Music  

Sumangala Damodaran

The relationship between music and politics and specifically that between music and protest has been relatively under-researched in the social sciences in a systematic manner, even if actual experiences of music being used to express protest have been innumerable. Further, the conceptual analysis that has been thrown up from the limited work that is available focuses mostly on Euro-American experiences with protest music. However, in societies where most music is not written down or notated formally, the discussions on the distinct role that music can play as an art form, as a vehicle through which questions of artistic representation can be addressed, and the specific questions that are addressed and responded to when music is used for political purposes, have been reflected in the music itself, and not always in formal debates. It is only in using the music itself as text and a whole range of information around its creation—often, largely anecdotal and highly context dependent—that such music can be understood. Doing so across a whole range of non-Western experiences brings out the role of music in societal change quite distinctly from the Euro-American cases. Discussions are presented about the informed perceptions about what protest music is and should be across varied, yet specific experiences. It is based on the literature that has come out of the Euro-American world as well as from parts that experienced European colonialism and made the transition to post-colonial contexts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Article

Public Service Broadcasting, Hard News, and Citizens’ Knowledge of Current Affairs  

Toril Aalberg and Stephen Cushion

Public service broadcasters are a central part of national news media environments in most advanced democracies. Although their market positions can vary considerably between countries, they are generally seen to enhance democratic culture, pursuing a more serious and harder news agenda compared to commercial media . . . But to what extent is this perspective supported by empirical evidence? How far can we generalize that all public service news media equally pursue a harder news agenda than commercial broadcasters? And what impact does public service broadcasting have on public knowledge? Does exposure to public service broadcasting increase citizens’ knowledge of current affairs, or are they only regularly viewed by citizens with an above average interest in politics and hard news? The overview of the evidence provided by empirical research suggests that citizens are more likely to be exposed to hard news, and be more knowledgeable about current affairs, when they watch public service news—or rather news in media systems where public service is well funded and widely watched. The research evidence also suggests there are considerable variations between public broadcasters, just as there are between more market-driven and commercial media. An important limitation of previous research is related to the question of causality. Therefore, a main challenge for future research is to determine not only if public service broadcasting is the preferred news provider of most knowledgeable citizens, but also whether it more widely improves and increases citizens’ knowledge about public affairs.

Article

The Indexing Model of State-Press Relations  

Steven Livingston

State-media-relations theory hopes to explain variability in news content in open media systems according to the effects of professional journalistic norms and political and economic pressures felt by news organizations. According to the indexing model, variability in critical engagement of government policies rises and falls according to the degree of official public debate on an issue. As oppositional voices are silenced by political pressure campaigns of various types, oppositional frames in news content will diminish. As controversy among officials expands, so, too, will controversy in the news. Several alternative models of state-media relations, as well as their possible limitations in terms of applicability to non-American political systems, require further exploration; especially as to its relevance in the 21st century political and technical environment.

Article

Academic Capitalism  

Richard Münch

Academic capitalism is a unique hybrid that unites the scientific search for truth and the economic maximization of profits. It turns universities into enterprises competing for capital accumulation and businesses into knowledge producers looking for new findings that can be turned into patents and profitable commodities. To understand what this new institutional setting means for science and the evolution of scientific knowledge, science as a field in a Bourdieusian perspective, which operates in the tension field between autonomy and heteronomy, is explored. On this basis, crucial features of academic capitalism and their impact on science as well as the evolution of scientific knowledge are described. Academic capitalism is located in the zone of the intersection of scientific research, economic profit maximization, and innovation policy. The institutional conflicts of interest involved in the corporate funding of academic research are addressed. The logic of academic capital accumulation is spelled out by describing the entrepreneurial university. Field effects of academic capital accumulation on science, namely increasing inequality, over-investment at the top, and under-investment among the rank and file are examined, along with the organizational effects of academic capital accumulation in terms of tightened managerial quality assurance on diversity and creativity as crucial prerequisites of advancing scientific knowledge. The main results of the analysis are summarized and some guidelines for future research are presented.

Article

Audience Costs, News Media, and Foreign Policy  

Ross A. Miller

“Audience costs” are penalties imposed on leaders for failed policies by domestic audiences, such as political parties, interest groups, and the public. The profound consequences of audience costs for the foreign policies of states has led to its prominent position in the study of politics. News media plays a central role in connecting leaders, domestic audiences, and foreign policy, and these relationships have significant consequences for the study of audience costs. For example, media coverage of foreign policy issues can pressure leaders to take public positions, effectively tying their reputations to the outcome of those issues. Second, news coverage of leaders’ positions may elevate the costs leaders suffer for foreign policy failures. Third, the effects of national media coverage do not stop at the water’s edge: high levels of coverage in elite media outlets can activate foreign audiences to penalize their leaders for backing down in crises. Fourth, news media can be used by leaders to “spin” their foreign policy decisions, limiting penalties that domestic audiences impose. Critics charge that the research suffers from significant theoretical and empirical weaknesses. As a theory “audience costs” relies on at least two dubious assumptions: (a) that leaders are foolish enough to adopt foreign policy positions from which they are unable to maneuver without causing international embarrassment; and (b) that domestic audiences are astute enough to perceive the actual significance of foreign policy outcomes. Critics also claim that the empirical evidence in support of the theory is weak: the main data sets used to test the theory include very few cases where leaders take public positions on foreign policy issues. When extraneous cases are excluded, critics conclude that the effect of audience costs is weak to nonexistent. An additional challenge is inspired indirectly by diversionary theory. While audience costs theory predicts that leaders who can be easily punished by domestic audiences should be reluctant to start international conflicts, diversionary theory predicts (under some conditions) the opposite: leaders who face a high probability of being removed from office by domestic audiences may be more likely to start conflicts. Finally, the interaction of political polarization and social media appears to have been a powerful factor in the news media–audience costs relationship during the Trump administration (2017–2021). Researchers are just beginning to study this latest development. Studies of news media and audience costs provide important insights into how leaders and domestic audiences are connected, and those connections have significant implications for the outcome of international negotiations. However, although studies of news media and audience costs provide a way to grapple with many of the concerns raised by critics of audience costs theory, the interactive effect of polarization and social media on audience costs remains a pressing challenge.