Updating your course reading lists? Check out our essential reading recommendations

OscarNew research articles for course reading lists in Public Policy, Politics and Social Policy from Policy & Politics. By Oscar Berglund, Lecturer in International Public and Social Policy, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol.

All articles mentioned in this blog post are free to access until 20th September or Open Access. 

It’s that time of year again when unit and module guides are updated with fresh research. Here at Policy & Politics we hope to make that job easier for you, so here are seven suggestions for teaching two of the most topical themes. The first four articles address things that governments or parties do with the stated aim of improving democracy and transparency. They should all lead to interesting classroom discussions about democracy, trust and the relationship between citizens and the state. The subsequent three papers tackle different aspects of the relationships between the welfare state, immigration and xenophobia. All articles are ideal for Politics, Social Policy and Public Policy classes alike.

So firstly, four articles which focus on democracy and transparency. In a fascinating mixed-methods paper, Cristina Leston Bandeira explores the function of e-petitions in the UK. She finds that very few have concrete policy effects but argues that this does not necessarily render them pointless. Their primary role has been to increase the linkages between citizens and policymakers and, in that way, they have facilitated public engagement and made citizens feel listened to. Students will no doubt disagree on whether that is enough.

Sarah Moore provides a sociological critique of the growth of e-government by looking at virtual courts. The digitisation of government is meant to increase the capacity of the state through increasing productivity and improving trust in the state by rendering it more visible. The latter assumption is particularly problematic since it diminishes and simplifies the relationship between the state and citizens, rather than enhancing it. It presumes that trust is a ‘slender, specific problem of not being able to see — rather than make sense of, interpret, act on’.

Lisa Schmidthuber et al. move the focus to the digitalisation of political parties and what it means for participation. Their findings should cause interesting seminar discussions about the potential pitfalls of greater citizen engagement. They look specifically at an Austrian case of citizens being invited to contribute to a party program. Perhaps predictably, the most policy-relevant finding is that people with strong beliefs in their own capacity to contribute, do end up participating more frequently. Participation then boils down to confidence, which is not evenly distributed amongst the population. As a consequence, engaging citizens in policy development can perversely lead to silencing less represented voices along gendered, class-based and racialised lines unless measures are taken to mitigate these effects.

The use and abuse of participatory governance by populist governments’ studies Viktor Orban’s use of what he calls ‘national consultations’ in Hungary. Participatory governance is meant to meaningfully involve citizens in the policy process, thereby increasing its legitimacy. Battory & Svensson find that the Hungarian cases fall considerably short of this in terms of content and process in participatory governance. Nevertheless, it did have positive outcomes for the Orban government, which was able to claim greater legitimacy for its anti-immigration policies as a result.

Moving on to our clutch of articles about the welfare state, immigration and xenophobia, Taylor-Gooby et al. present a range of interesting findings based on democratic forums about attitudes to welfare. Amongst these is ‘reluctant individualism’ which describes the attitudes of those who favour heavy state involvement in basic universal services like health care and pensions, although many of whom also see this as ultimately unsustainable. Kevins & van Kersbergen argue that Canada’s more limited yet universalist welfare system has created less of an anti-immigration backlash than the relatively generous Danish one. Dwyer et al. explore how conditionality on EU migrants in the UK restricts our social rights, operating at three levels. At the EU level, migrants are only guaranteed rights providing they are actively working. At the national level, the UK and other countries have implemented stricter conditionalities for welfare payments that often exclude EU migrants. At the street-level, these policies and general anti-immigration discourses have led to the abolishment of the right to interpreters, and an increase in perceived xenophobia in individual encounters with jobcentre advisers.

The recommended articles here would all make great contributions to syllabi in various social science fields. There is a full bibliography below, allowing you to copy and paste these references easily into your syllabus.

As always, please let us know what you and your students think of these articles. We’re here to promote debate!

Happy reading and teaching.

Articles mentioned:

Batory, A.; Svensson, S. (2019) ‘The use and abuse of participatory governance by populist governments‘, Policy & Politics, 47(2): 227-244. [Open Access]

Dwyer, P. J.; Scullion, L.; Jones, K.; Stewart, A. (2019) ‘The impact of conditionality on the welfare rights of EU migrants in the UK‘, Policy & Politics, 47(1): 133-150. [Open Access]

Kevins, A.; van Kersbergen, K. (2019) ‘The effects of welfare state universalism on migrant integration‘, Policy & Politics, 47(1): 115-132.

Leston-Bandeira, C. (2019) ‘Parliamentary petitions and public engagement: an empirical analysis of the role of e-petitions‘, Policy & Politics, DOI: 10.1332/030557319X1557923042011

Moore, S. (2019) ‘Digital government, public participation and service transformation: the impact of virtual courts‘, Policy & Politics, DOI: 10.1332/030557319X1558603936750

Schmidthuber, L.; Hilgers, D.; Rapp, M. (2019) ‘Political innovation, digitalisation and public participation in party politics‘, Policy & Politics, DOI: 10.1332/030557319X15579230420054

Taylor-Gooby, P.; Leruth, B.; Chung, H. (2019) ‘Identifying attitudes to welfare through deliberative forums: the emergence of reluctant individualism‘, Policy & Politics, 47(1): 97-114. [Open Access]




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