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Crisis Development: Normal Accidents and Beyond  

Jean-Christophe Le Coze

Our current era is one of profound changes and uncertainties, and one issue is to understand their implications for high-risk systems and critical infrastructures (e.g., nuclear power plants, ships, hospitals, trains, chemical plants). Normal Accidents (NA), Perrow’s classic published in 1984, is a useful guide to explore the contemporary epoch, in the third decade of the 21st century. One reason is that this landmark book has triggered a sustained interest by scholars who have debated, challenged, rejected, refined, or expanded its core thesis over almost now 40 years. With La Porte’s, Sagan’s, Vaughan’s, and Hopkins’s contributions into what can be described as the “standard NA debate” in the late 20th century and the more recent “new controversies and debates” by Downer, Pritchard, or Le Coze in the early 21st century, the book can still resonate with current changes in the 2020s. These changes include phenomena as large, massive, intertwined, consequential, and diverse as the advent of internet and of digital societies, the increase of transnational flows of diverse nature (people, data, capital, images, goods) and the ecological crisis captured by a notion such as the Anthropocene. Taking stock, historicizing, and revisiting NA with such debates and changes in mind leads to characterize a post-NA narrative.

Article

Disasters and the Theory of Emergency Management  

David A. McEntire

Disasters and the theory of emergency management are vibrant subjects for scholars. Researchers have focused on a variety of topics, including the definition of disasters, human behavior in extreme events, the nature of emergency management, ways to make the profession more effective, the pros and cons of various paradigms, and new areas of research. In studying these subjects, scholars have employed a variety of methods, including observation, field research, and comparison, among others. Findings from research reveals that humans are responsible for disasters and that vulnerability must be reduced. Studies reveal that antisocial behavior is less likely to occur than more common activities to support victims of disasters. The principles of emergency management have been elaborated, and scholars have argued that the phases of disasters are more complex that initially meets they eye. Research also reveals that bureaucratic approaches to emergency management are based on false assumptions and are too rigid. Scholarship also explores how to make emergency management functions more effective, and a number of articles have been written to explore paradigms to guide research and practice. Theoretical work on disasters and emergency management has examined planning, improvisation, and spontaneous planning. Research has also explored humanitarian logistics, the use of social media, the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural competency and the culture of preparedness. Going forward, more research is needed on the complexity of disasters and the use or impact of technology in emergency management. A greater understanding of public health emergencies is warranted due to the challenges of Covid-19.

Article

The Realignment of Class Politics and Class Voting  

Geoffrey Evans and Peter Egge Langsæther

Since the early days of the study of political behavior, class politics has been a key component. Initially researchers focused on simple manual versus nonmanual occupations and left versus right parties, and found consistent evidence of a strong effect of class on support for left-wing parties. This finding was assumed to be simply a matter of the redistributive preferences of the poor, an expression of the “democratic class struggle.” However, as the world became more complex, many established democracies developed more nuanced class structures and multidimensional party systems. How has this affected class politics? From the simple, but not deterministic pattern of left-voting workers, the early 21st century witnessed substantial realignment processes. Many remain faithful to social democratic (and to a lesser extent radical left) parties, but plenty of workers support radical right parties or have left the electoral arena entirely. To account for these changes, political scientists and sociologists have identified two mechanisms through which class voting occurs. The most frequently studied mechanism behind class voting is that classes have different attitudes, values, and ideologies, and political parties supply policies that appeal to different classes’ preferences. These ideologies are related not only to redistribution but also to newer issues such as immigration, which appear to some degree to have replaced competition over class-related inequality and the redistribution of wealth as the primary axis of class politics. A secondary mechanism is that members of different classes hold different social identities, and parties can connect to these identities by making symbolic class appeals or by descriptively representing a class. It follows that class realignment can occur either because the classes have changed their ideologies or identities, because the parties have changed their policies, class appeals, or personnel, or both. Early explanations focused on the classes themselves, arguing that they had become more similar in terms of living conditions, ideologies, and identities. However, later longitudinal studies failed to find such convergences taking place. The workers still have poorer, more uncertain, and shorter lives than their middle-class counterparts, identify more with the working class, and are more in favor of redistribution and opposed to immigration. While the classes are still distinctive, it seems that the parties have changed. Several social democratic parties have become less representative of working-class voters in terms of policies, rhetorical appeals, or the changing social composition of their activists and leaders. This representational defection is a response to the declining size of the working class, but not to the changing character or extent of class divisions in preferences. It is also connected to the exogeneous rise of new issues, on which these parties tend not to align with working-class preferences. By failing to represent the preferences or identities of many of their former core supporters, social democratic parties have initiated a supply-side driven process of realignment. This has primarily taken two forms; class–party realignments on both left and right and growing class inequalities in participation and representation.

Article

Education, Inequality, and Political Behavior  

Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille

Educational level is one of the strongest factors in explaining how citizens behave in politics. Political scientists have shown time and again that the higher their level of formal education, the more people are interested in politics, the more they trust politicians, and the more they participate in politics. A strong educational gradient can be observed at almost every form of participation, and in many Western liberal democracies. Far less attention has been given to the political consequences of this gap in participation between the well- and the less-educated. In the 21st century, educational level has turned out to be a driver behind the rise of new social and political divides in Western democracies. Increasingly, education is studied separately from class or income as a source of political attitudes, political behavior, and social and political inequalities. It is a very relevant factor to understand the contours of the contemporary political landscape in consolidated Western democracies. Traditional cleavages are eroding, and rising levels of education have been creating new social groups and new political inequalities between educational groups. In many Western democracies, the well-educated have come to dominate democratic institutions. This rise of a political meritocracy has led to policy incongruences in favor of the well-educated and is a source of resentment among the lesser-educated. For example, education has been one of the main explanatory factors in the vote for Brexit, the support for Trump in the United States, and the election of Macron and the rise of the Yellow Vests movement in France.

Article

Military Coups d’État and Their Causes  

Fabrice Lehoucq

There have been three waves of scholarship on military coups d’état (or simply “coups”)—the unconstitutional replacement of chief executives by military officers—since the 1960s. The first used case studies to explore why the military overthrows governments. One of its central findings was that military uprisings were an integral part of political succession in many countries. A second wave produced the “aggregate studies” that were the first to deploy cross-national databases to identify the measurable features that distinguished more from less coup-prone political systems. These studies revealed, among other things, that coups proliferated in places with a history of instability. The third and current wave of scholarship takes advantage of the development of statistical software for limited dependent variables—then unavailable, now commonplace—to recast the quantitative research on coups. Two core findings have survived disconfirmation since the start of the third wave. First, higher income countries have fewer coups, though the effects are small (and become even weaker when models only contain developing countries). Second, “political legacy effects” mean that the probability of a coup declines with time since the last military uprising. Much of the latest wave of research pinpoints factors—like coup proofing, less inequality, or the end of the Cold War—that reduce the probability of a coup. The development of ever more sophisticated statistical techniques to divine the causes of instability, nevertheless, relies on off-the-shelf data sets and coup catalogs whose validity—properly understood as accuracy—is questionable. Only a greater attention to accuracy and complementary methods promise to produce a comprehensive account of why the military topples governments in some, but not in other, places.

Article

Psychology of Crisis and Trauma  

Ann Enander

The psychology of crisis and trauma is concerned with attitudes, reactions, and behaviors related to extreme events and conditions. Facing a crisis poses a number of challenges to the individual in terms of preparation, making sense of the situation, taking decisions, and coping with stress. Thus research on human reactions to crisis spans a broad range of theories and analytical frameworks. Traditionally there has been a strong focus on vulnerabilities and on the negative impacts of crises in terms of stress and traumatic responses. However, in the early 21st century research has increasingly moved toward investigating resilience factors and the ways in which people actually cope under extreme conditions. Although the term crisis is often used as a general concept, the reality of critical events can vary widely, each posing particular challenges to those affected. This can be illustrated by examples from natural disasters, toxic incidents, and socially generated threats of violence and terror, where the psychological contexts of such events differ considerably. While learning from the experiences of crisis events is important, research on human reactions does raise a number of practical and ethical issues of which the researcher needs to take heed.

Article

Fiji: The Militarization of Politics in a Small-Island Developing State  

Vijay Naidu

The Republic of Fiji is a small archipelagic state of less than a million people in the southwest Pacific. It has a relatively minuscule military force in global terms but is the largest among the island states of Oceania. The size of the Republic (formerly “Royal”) Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) in the early 21st century is due to its role in peacekeeping for the United Nations. The Fijian military became entangled in Fiji politics having usurped political power on four separate occasions in the last 30 years, and it can be unequivocally said that there has been a militarization of politics. At first, the military’s involvement in national politics was on the behest of defeated politicians but, 30 years later, the military itself has become a major political player. This is most evident by the fact that former military commanders and coup. The military has becoming a powerful player in Fiji politics has occurred in haphazard but overwhelming ways. Fiji politics has an ever-present “elephant in the room” which is the RFMF.

Article

Political Culture of East Asia  

Jie Lu

East Asia has been defined as a cultural sphere characterized by the lasting influence of Confucianism on its political and socioeconomic lives. Academic interest in the political culture of East Asia has been mainly shaped by the great diversity in this region’s economic and political landscapes. The systematic differences between Confucianism and its Western philosophical counterparts in prescribing how to organize societies and manage state–society relationships are central to understanding the uniqueness of this region’s political culture. The features of East Asian political culture cast some significant influence over the dynamics of political practice and development in the region, including but not limited to how East Asians assess their political regimes, conceptualize democracy, and participate in politics. Increasing access to high-quality regional barometer surveys, as well as expanding global survey projects, has empowered students of comparative politics to more effectively examine the political culture of East Asia and test the so-called “Asian values thesis” in a much broader context. Yet, among academics, there is a lack of agreement on what constitutes East Asia. This, along with discrepancies between empirical instruments and corresponding theoretical constructs and insufficient research designs tailored to various versions of the “Asian values thesis,” has prevented more fruitful dialogues among scholars. Considering such issues in future research could contribute to more effective accumulation of knowledge and yield a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of the political culture of East Asia.

Article

Niger: Armed Force Politics and Counterterrorism  

Virginie Baudais

Since the independence of Niger in 1960, Nigerien armed forces have played a prominent role in the country’s history, either because of their recurrent “nonpolitical” interventions in the political arena or based on their involvement in the stabilization process of the Sahel and the fight against terrorism. Nigeriens have lived under civil, military, and authoritarian regimes, experienced four coups d’état (1974, 1996, 1999, and 2010), four political transitions, nine presidents, and have voted on seven constitutions. The Nigerien population lived under military rule for 23 out of 60 years following independence. Thus, Nigerien contemporary politics cannot be analyzed without a sound understanding of the Nigerien Army, how the institution became an “entrepreneur politique,” and how institutional, economic, and social factors may encourage the intervention of a nonpolitical institution in the political arena. Politics and the military are definitely connected in Niger. Each coup has had a different motive. The 1974 military coup is one of the many successful military seizures of power that occurred in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. This first “praetorian” intervention resulted from intramilitary and domestic factors and lasted 17 years under the rule of Seyni Kountché and his successor Ali Saibou. The second intervention in politics occurred in 1996 and also resulted from institutional factors and the inability of the newly elected authorities to overcome their divisions. The 1996 coup d’état was a classic case: a time-limited military intervention using violence to convert itself into a civilian regime. In 1999 the army overthrew a military regime, whereas in 2010 militaries put an end to the democratically elected president’s shift toward authoritarianism. In 2010, the shift in the security situation in the Sahel marked the armed forces’ return to strictly military functions, such as national defense and security and providing support for external operations. Consequently, the security situation in the Sahel strip deteriorated and the major economic and social challenges of the poorest country in the world were neglected. This has led to recurrent political and social tensions that reinforce the fact that addressing the basic needs of the people is as, important as Niger’s security policy.

Article

Generations and Political Engagement  

Miroslav Nemčok and Hanna Wass

The concept of “generation” constitutes a useful tool to understand the world of politics. Trends in political behavior typical for the youngest generation are indicative for future development. In a wider perspective, large differences between generations also reveal potential for intergenerational conflict and a shift in the entire political paradigm. Four important topics need to be addressed in order to properly understand the body of research studying specifics of political behavior across generations and the use of generation as an analytical tool: (a) conceptual definition of generation, (b) its distinction from other time-related concepts, (c) methodological challenges in applying the time-related factors in research, and (d) understanding the wider implications of these factors for individuals’ political behavior which has already been identified in the scholarship. A political generation is formed among cohorts who experience the same event(s) during their formative years and become permanently influenced by them. Therefore, members of the same generation share similar socialization experiences which create a sense of group belonging and shape the attitudes and behavior throughout their lives. This definition of political generation is distinctive among the three time-related factors—age, period, and cohort—each of which has a well-grounded and distinctive theoretical underpinning. However, a truly insightful examination of the time-related development in political engagement needs to utilize hybrid models that interact with age and period or cohort and period. This imposes a challenge known as identification problem—age (years since birth), period (year), and cohort (year of birth) are perfect linear functions of each other and therefore conventional statistical techniques cannot disentangle their effects. Despite extraordinary effort and outstanding ideas, this issue has not been resolved yet in a fully reliable and hence satisfactory manner. Regardless of methodological issues, the literature is already able to provide important findings resulting from cohort analysis of political engagement. This scholarship includes two major streams: The first focuses on voter turnout, exploring whether nonvoting among the youngest generation is a main reason for the turnout decline in contemporary democracies. The second stream examines the generational differences in political engagement and concludes that low electoral participation among the youngest generation may be explained by young people being more engaged with noninstitutionalized forms of political participation (e.g., occupations, petitions, protests, and online activism).