CEE Digests-Why research matters

CEE Digests-Why research matters

by CEE's researchers
  • @MagicBones-shutterstock - Books in a library@MagicBones-shutterstock - Books in a library

The CEE is pleased to announce the CEE interviews Digests-Why research matters by presenting researchers' publications:

Emiliano Grossman (CEE) and The Comparative Agendas Project 

Emiliano Grossman, Associate Professor at Sciences Po and member of the CEE, presents his book "Comparative Policy Agendas". Theory, Tools, Data  (OUP Oxford, 2019)

This book brings data on government activities in twenty countries, and establishes a categorizing system to understand when a given institution of government in a particular country took action on any issue of public policy.


Transcript of the video

Question 1: Can you introduce your book?

The book was initially thought of as an essay companion to the comparative agendas Project website. The website basically presents the data and makes the data accessible for all the national projects that have adopted the Comparative Agendas Project.

So, what this book does is basically explaining first of all what this Comparative Agendas Project is. This project has now and almost 20 years history and it goes back to the initial US policy agenda project which started collecting data on policy-making and coding, theme coding that data for long periods of time.

In the US case it goes back to 1945, for most of the European projects we limited that to 1980. 

Second, we started collecting data on some parliamentary indicators, usually parliamentary questions or parliamentary debates where we also theme code what has been said in Parliament.

Third, the judiciary usually takes the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court for most European countries. We theme code again the major decisions but not all decisions since 1980 that is some kind of part that has picked up speed in the recent years only where we are doing new coding of the party manifestos that have been done by the Party manifesto project.  However, we coded with the same coding scheme that we have used for all others for those countries that had the resources to do that.

Finally, we also coded some kind of media agenda, usually the first page of some major national daily newspaper.

So basically the history of this project is presented in this first part of the book with information and also the advice about how to code and how to use machine learning.

The second section presents the national chapters.

So, there are more than 20 national chapters presenting the data that has been collected in each country. Those differ a little bit to the extent that the projects are often of different forms, for different reasons of different inspirations and different goals, but  also different levels of resources. So, as a consequence of that, those chapters highlight the specificities of international projects to facilitate the usage of the data for those people who were interested in going to the website afterwards to download.

The third section, which is I think the most important one, illustrates possible comparative uses of those datas. So there is a chapter on parliamentary questions, another one on the link between parliamentary attention and media attention, another one on party competition.

The goal here is basically just to show more than to actually provide an analysis to show how this data could be used for future analysis.

So from that one point of view the whole book is Reading textbook for introducing the Comparative Agendas Project and to introduce national teams or to encourage national teams to use a particular method, and a bit of a protocol to make sure that data is comparable with other countries one to stop finished collecting the data in a specific country.  

Question 2: Why did you decide to release it on Open Acces?

The main reason for this is the Oxford University Press which is a great publishing house which makes more expensive books. I think the list price of the book is about 80 euros, that isn’t easily accessible to the individual reader but even to some universities that might be really expensive.

We were, while sharing, rather happily some of the chapters for copyright reasons for a long time to chat time book manuscripts, so we contacted Oxford University Press to see whether this was possible.

Actually they were open-minded about it. After the payment of an open access fee, they accepted to put the book in access.

The goal of this is basically to make the book much more accessible and also two teams and in not so rich countries as we try to encourage the enlargement of the Comparative Agendas Project also to countries where University simply don't have the means to have libraries with books of that kind of prize by Oxford University press or other expensive University Press.

Interview: Myriam Sefraoui, Scientific Mediation Officer (CEE)

Emiliano Grossman, Associate Professor at Sciences Po, Member of the CEE, presents his book co-written with Isabelle Guinaudeau "Do Elections (Still) Matter?" (Oxford University Press, December 2021)

It’s an ambitious study of democratic mandates through the lens of political agenda setting since the 1980s in five countries: Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

The research results contribute to a renewal of theories of representation and lead to a questioning of much of the comparative politics literature according to which majoritarian systems are more responsive than consensual systems. 

Transcript of the video

Question 1: Why did you choose an analysis from the 1980’s?

We started in the 1980’s because we have excess datas starting in 1970 and 1980.

So that’s a purely circumstantial argument, but the real motivation to adopt such a long term view of democracy is to ensure understanding  how  democracy has evolved overtime.

The idea basically was to make a study on the importance of elections over a long period of time because there is an argument, also in such academic literature, that says there was a decline. We want to question the decline, we want to see if the elections still matter. 

Question 2: Why did you study Germany, Denmark, France, Italy and the United Kingdom in your book?

We want to study the evolution of democracy in the advanced industrial democracies.

We picked five European countries because they are the countries we know, in particular, the countries which we have datas, but we could have had the chance to include countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

We picked those five because we thought they represented a very nice diversity of political settings, of parties systems and political history.

We have on one hand, Denmark with a highly proportional democracy or consensual democracy, where decision making is highly consensual, but the government often has minority support but still manages the decisions.

At the other extreme, we have the UK with the Westminster system, a majoritarian system, the institutions give enormous power to the Prime minister.

And the three other countries, we have Italy, which has asymmetrical parliamentarism.They used to have a very strong parliament, but the parliament has become more powerful,  the government even though has become more stable.

Germany is a very complicated, mixed system. The proportional element dominates the system. He has a very complex institution set up where the chancellor spends most of his time managing this balance.

And finally, we have France, which is the more majoritarian with a very strong president, the effective head of executive except in”cohabitation”.

In the end we have five different countries. It  was a nice choice of cases to study the long term evolution of the effective election on policy making in the advanced industrial democracies. 

Question 3: Do elections still matter in our contemporary democracies?

This is the heart of the book.

We tried to answer the discussion from at least three different angles.

The first questions we asked: to which extent parties actually opposed each other during political campaigns?

So, we wanted to know, to which extent the parties respond to public opinion, or economic, or political context?

The parties in the short run, don't have the idea what the voters actually think.

The classic theory of democracy is the voters voted and gave mandate to parties, and parties implemented  the mandate.

It’s not really the way it happens.

First,  actually the parties present the program to the voters,then the voters choose.

The voters don't have an input in the first level.

What we say, in the short run, the only effective indicated are the other parties: its’ to win against the competitors. The parties first of all respond to other parties before responding to voters.

The voters are confronted with limited choices.

What we says, it’s note bad news for democracy, because basically there is a “tunnel of attention”, the concentration of attention on limited issues.

Other parties mobilised on the same issues, paid a lot of attention to the parties in government, made good on his promises, and forced parties to effectively take actions in this area.

This actually works, precisely because there is a kind of independence between those parties, they look at each other. There is also some kind of power that they have to force the government to go back to issues that the government promised to deal with. 

Interview: Myriam Sefraoui, Scientific mediation officer (CEE) 

Florence Haegel, Professor at Sciences Po, Director of the CEE., presents her article "Political socialization: Out of Purgatory?" published on 9 February 2021 in the European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie, Cambridge University Press.

Florence Haegel puts contemporary political socialization research in perspective.

She presents the reasons for the crisis in this field of research in 1970 and then turns her attention to post-crisis studies, beginning with the political socialization of children.

She explores lifelong political socialization and how it has developed around four research dynamics: the study of the civic and political socialization of school-age adolescents and young adults; generational renewal; the socialising effects of political mobilisation;  the processes and agents of secondary political socialization of adults.

The final part of the article asks what is political in political socialization.

Transcript of the video

Question 1: Why do you use the term «Purgatory» in your title?

Well, I have to come back to the story of  political socialization.

It’s a very interesting sub-field. And why? Because first it flourished during the 70’s and it was a very  promising topic within the field of american politics and it collapsed in the 70’s.

My paper addressed the question of  the exit of purgatory.

I offer state of the art of recent research dynamics on political socialization

Question 2: What are the reasons for  the crisis in this field of research?

It’s quite complex, but I will try to simplify the answer.

I think  my answer is both epistemological and political.

At this age, in american politics, political socialization was both predictive and normative. And the work on children in order to understand what type of adults they would become.

They portrait, very legitimist child, very respectful of the president and the policeman. Few years later, at the end of the 60’s, this very legitimist child became young men and women protesting against presidents, clashing with policy man in the streets.

So, finally political socialization runs the risk to be contradicted by social and political realities.

Question 3: Why is it useful to work on political socialization today?

I think it is useful because  there are a lot of social and political changes in contemporary societies. I will give you some examples.

There are more and more social and spatial mobilities including immigrants.

There are also changes in family structure, as the sociology of family is shown.

There is, for instance, a big generational gap on matters of politics.

All these changes make the question of political socialization very interesting, very challenging because working in political socialization is the way to understand how political change is transmitted and is integrated by individuals and groups.

Question 4: What research avenues have been recently explored?

I think there is a first big shift in new research dynamics because early research where  working on children and family  and now more and more works are focusing on what we call life-long political socialization.

But, I need to be more precise.

They are still working on children and family ,by using new methods in order to better gras the world of children , and they also address new questions.

For instance, they addressed the question of social, racial and gender inequalities within the process of political socialization.

They also addressed the question of the mechanism inside the family, for instance they have revaluted the role of mother inside the family. 

They have also shown that political socialization is not always vertical from the adults to children. In some cases, we have a reversed process, the children do socialise with their parents. It depends on the type of family and the type of issues. For instance, in the immigrant family you have the reverse political socialization but also for instance on ecological matters the children influence their parents both in attitude and environnement practices.

So we have new questions in research dynamics.

And finally, I think that the current research is not focused on children as I said, and it's  really  interested by life-long political socialization.

We know for instance, the university is very important as political socialization as concerned, couple formation is very crucial, but for instance we don't know a lot of things about the workplace and how political socialization occurs in the workplace.

As we see, there are many questions to be explored if you are interested in this question.

Interview: Myriam Sefraoui, Scientific Mediation Officer (CEE)

Florence Faucher and Gérôme Truc present their collective book Face aux attentats published by PUF (Presses Universitaires de France) in November 2020.

Through a multidisciplinary approach in the social sciences, this book offers keys to understand the effects and reactions of French society (from the street to social medias, and from victims to political leaders) in the face of the attacks of November 2015 and July 2016.

They answer the following questions:

  • How can the social sciences and humanities help us to understand the collective and individual impact of the attacks, and to better cope with them?
  • What was special about the attacks of January and November 2015?
  • What are the interactions between the state and public opinion in response to the attacks of January and November 2015 ?
  • What impact do the attacks have on our society?

Transcript of the podcast

Question 1: How can the social sciences and humanities help us to understand the collective and individual impact of the attacks, and to better cope with them?

When a society is faced with terrorist attacks, human and social sciences are sometimes criticized for being useless in preventing them, or complacent or indulgent with terrorists.

One remembers for instance that the Prime Minister of the time Manuel Valls complained that the explanations provided by social sciences to make sense of the situations were providing excuses to the perpetrators of senseless acts. Another example would be the recent polemic about islamo-leftism in French universities.
But what we are demonstrating in this book, which brings together the works of social scientists from different disciplinary backgrounds, is that academic research is the source of knowledge that allow society to make sense of what is happening to individuals and collectives in times of crisis, to engage with the difficult emotions and thus to find ways to respond to the challenges that arise with resilience and reflexivity. So the objective of the book is to contribute to the learning and healing processes that will take society, here French society, beyond the shock and horror of the events themselves and help renew the collective bonds. 

The expertise that we bring together here for instance helps us understand that terrorist attacks are moments of social effervescence that create the conditions for a certain degree of “hysteria” in social life: in other words, every single one of us is challenged into taking sides. Again, a symptom can be found in the accusations directed at social scientists. This is all the more striking as these academic disciplines are precisely useful to develop approaches that are reflective and self reflective. Social sciences draw lessons from empirical studies and their conclusions sometimes challenge taken-for granted notions or prejudices. One example would be the idea that individuals who are confronted with a situation of imminent lethal risk, such as a terrorist attack, are struck with panic and are driven to act irrationally and selfishly. Another example would be that Islamic terrorism automatically reinforces ethnic and social prejudice and therefore benefits the extreme-right. Many people think so but it is in fact much more complex than this.

Question 2: What was special about the attacks of January and November 2015?

The 2015 attacks were specific in many ways and in particular in terms of the targets, the number of victims and the repetition of attacks.

The targets are important first of all. As is often the case for terrorist attacks, they were selected for the symbolic message the attack would be able to convey. In January, the targets were famous journalists working for a satirical weekly magazine. Over the past 50 years, it has attracted a lot of attention for its many provocations, including the republication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, originally published in Denmark. The other targets were members of the police force and shoppers in a Kosher supermarket. The interpretative framework that was immediately articulated by the public authorities and relayed by the media was that it was an attack on the Republic, on the State and of the French Nation.

In November the targets were random people in Paris and the suburbs and places they could recognize and imagine going to: a concert hall, a football stadium, restaurants and bars. The frame of interpretation that was promoted was one of an attack on French society in its diverse and multifaceted dimensions.

The second shock is linked to the very high number of victims and who they were: 17 dead in January and 130 in November with many more people wounded, caused by simultaneous attacks in Paris and around.

Thirdly, even if the January and November attacks are those that people remember most, they turned out to be part of a series: repetitions hit other parts of France, aiming at ordinary citizens, places of everyday activities including churches, private homes and streets. Families and children were also victims in the attack against Nice on 14 July 2016. The repetition created a climate of fear and concernment, which itself impacted French people.
This triple singularity of the Paris attacks led to a highly unusual academic research project, and the results of some of them are gathered in this book.

Question 3: What impact do the attacks have on our society?

Attacks such as those of 2015 are total social facts that have far reaching implications through all domains of social life.

The strength of a collective book such as this one is that it brings together in a concise yet detailed fashion the results of the diverse research projects conducted since 2015 in different social scientific disciplines and with a great diversity of approaches. What the book does is that it seeks to understand and to explain the effects of these attacks on French society and the responses that they triggered, at different levels of society.

The book published by the French University Press (the PUF), in November 2020 contains six chapters but a new updated and expanded version will be published in 2021 by Palgrave with two more contributions.

The book thus includes a chapter looking at how people at the Bataclan reacted to the attack and one analyzing the multiplication of street memorials set up by citizens on city squares across Paris and around the country. Two chapters explore the world of media and communication through the angle of the adaptation and regulation of TV coverage of terrorism and through the emergence of counterpublics created by social media.

Question 4: What are the interactions between the state and public opinion in response to the attacks of January and November 2015 ?

First they challenge the idea that Islamic terrorist attacks may have an automatic impact on public support for the executive. Second, they undermine the idea that racial prejudice and intolerance between communities are necessarily increased by terrorist attacks because political capital can be made from amalgamating terrorists with the general Muslim population.

In the months that followed January 2015, and to a lesser extent after November, the French executive benefited from a rise in public support, which was documented in opinion surveys, in the press and in the political arena. The political science literature talks about a rally around the flag and of a patriotic reflex. However, in the chapter I co-authored with Laurie Boussaguet, who is an Associate member of the CEE, we highlight the symbolic  work that was developed by the President, the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister and their teams to build the country’s resilience and to prevent centrifugal tendencies. We also demonstrate that symbolic public action was prepared carefully and consciously and intended to prevent potential outbursts of violence.

Indeed one could think that Islamic terrorism contributes to increase support for the extreme-right and that it contributes to feed xenophobic and authoritarians sentiments in the population. What Vincent Tiberj argues is that the survey data collected over several years on attitudes towards minorities  shows a decidedly more complex picture. In fact, tolerance has increased regularly over several years and the period 2015-2016 is no different. One possible explanation for such an evolution in public attitudes towards ethnic and religious minorities lies in the performative dimension of political discourse. The framing  of the events that was proposed by the State, particularly after January may well have contributed to such an evolution.

Interview: Myriam Sefraoui, Scientific mediation officer, Sciences Po, CEE

Cyril Benoît, Researcher fellow CNRS & Olivier Rozenberg, Associate professor at Sciences Po, CEE (eds.) present: The Handbook of Parliamentary Studies Interdisciplinary Approaches to  Legislatures(Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020).

This comprehensive Handbook takes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of parliaments, offering novel insights into the key aspects of legislatures, legislative institutions and legislative politics.

Dominique Boullier, Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po & member of the CEE is interviewed about his book: Comment sortir de l’emprise des réseaux sociaux (Le Passeur, 2020).

Thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, the author fundamentally renews our design of these platforms and offers innovative solutions to use them without suffering them.

Patrick Le Galès, CNRS Research Professor of Sociology and Politics at the CEE & Dean of Urban School of Sciences Po is interviewed about the book (ed) : Gouverner la métropole parisienne. État, conflits, institutions, réseaux (Les Presses de Sciences Po, 2020).

Informed by original research, this documented analysis accurately illuminates the political and institutional dynamics of an unfinished metropolisation.

This interview with Bruno Palier, CNRS Research Director at Sciences Po, is devoted to his latest book: "Growth and Welfare in Advanced Capitalist Economies. How have Growth Regimes evolved", co-edited with Anke Hassel.

  • Bruno Palier discusses the innovative nature of a reflection that brings together two fields of research: one dedicated to the analysis of growth regimes and the other specialized on the welfare state and welfare reforms.>

Matthias Thiemann, Associate Professor  at the Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics at  Sciences Po is interviewed about the book : The Reinvention of Development Banking in the European Union: Industrial Policy in the Single Market and the Emergence of a Field (Daniel Mertens, Matthias Thiemann  and Peter Volberding (eds.), OUP, 2021).

The book Offers a new account of how national development banks are specifically impacted by EU regulations and constraint.

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