Category Archives: Policy & Politics

Practice theory for practice change: Policy making to changing collective conventions

FionaSpotswoodFiona Spotswood

At the recent cross-government Behavioural Insights (BI) network conference, delegates were introduced to the idea of theories of practice as a way of framing policy making for behaviour change. BI network members design and test policies using principles from behavioural economics, which is as far removed from the sociological routes of ‘practice’ as it is possible to be. However, the limits of behavioural economics for achieving meaningful behaviour change are well documented. For example, critics have highlighted its narrow scope and low ambition in the face of intractable problems such as climate change and obesity.

Theories of practice underpin the work of an increasingly large number of academics who aim for systemic, cultural change, not just better choices. Some government social researchers (GSRs) are aware of the ‘practice’ approach, although the lack of evidence base has so far stunted its adoption. However, most GSRs are unfamiliar with its potential.

Continue reading Practice theory for practice change: Policy making to changing collective conventions

Majoritarianism reinterpreted: why Parliament is more influential than often thought

FelicityProfileFelicity Matthews, co-editor of Policy & Politics

This blog post was originally published on the British Politics and Policy blog run by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In the Hansard Society’s latest Audit of Political Engagement, a record 73% of respondents agree that Westminster’s Parliament is ‘essential to democracy’. Yet within the very same survey, only 32% are satisfied with the way Parliament works and only 28% believe that it encourages public involvement in politics. A number of academic commentators have also cast doubt upon Parliament’s credentials, with some regarding it as ‘either peripheral or totally irrelevant’; and within comparative scholarship, the House of Commons is frequently derided as lacking the clout of its continental counterparts.

Continue reading Majoritarianism reinterpreted: why Parliament is more influential than often thought

One week until the 8th December deadline for new special issue proposals for Policy & Politics

Policy and Politics coverWe are hoping to consider a range of varied special issue proposals in response to our annual call this year. We are looking for proposals that can demonstrate how they will make a significant and lasting contribution to their field, be it through new theoretical, conceptual or empirical developments. In particular, we are seeking proposals that challenge dominant assumptions and set the agenda for future debates.

To be successful, it’s important that each individual article within the special issue is able to evidence a clear contribution to the field, as well as ensuring that the issue as a whole coheres to advance our understanding of its topic. In addition, proposals that articulate how to maximise their impact will be viewed favourably.

Over ¾ of our readers are from outside the UK, so it’s important that proposals feature – and speak to – a global audience. The journal is supportive of scholars from diverse backgrounds so we look for such diversity in proposals, such as a mixture of established scholars and mid and early career researchers, as well as other diversities such as gender and ethnicity.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please read our guidance document on what information we will need to evaluate it. If you would like to talk through any aspect of your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The timetable for evaluating proposals is set out below: Continue reading One week until the 8th December deadline for new special issue proposals for Policy & Politics

Towards a multi-scalar understanding of superdiversity

Ole Jensen

By Ole Jensen

The geography of much superdiversity research reflects what can be described as a new way of mapping familiar spaces. Why new? Why familiar?  Many analyses of diversity often restrict their analytical focus to gritty and inner-city areas already recognised as diverse according to established categories based on race and ethnicity. Using data from the EU-funded Concordia Discors project, my recent Policy & Politics article argues that an understanding of superdiversity, which is informed by attention to the broader context of unequal power relations and resource allocations in the post-industrial city (Soja 2010), can lead to a more nuanced understanding of socio-cultural dynamics at neighbourhood level.    Continue reading Towards a multi-scalar understanding of superdiversity

A matter of public knowledge? Inquiring into the Grenfell Tower disaster

John Clarke

By John Clarke

An extended version of this post was originally published in Discover Society on 4 October 2017.

The continuing controversies about the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire point to real conflicts about how we – the public – are supposed to know about such matters. At the heart of these controversies is a crisis of knowledge in which different ways of knowing (and their social and political implications) are in dispute: who gets to ask the questions and what questions get asked? What information should be included, what knowledge is considered valid and invalid, and who gets to make those judgements?  Bundled up in these arguments are problems about the relationship between evidence, expertise and experience, as survivors and nearby residents demand a form of inquiry that is responsive to their needs and concerns. The problem is that public inquiries are rarely designed in such terms: rather they aim to be evidence-based, legal in approach and formally authoritative. This classic public inquiry model seeks to impose a cool and dispassionate gaze on the horrors of Grenfell. Continue reading A matter of public knowledge? Inquiring into the Grenfell Tower disaster

Introducing our forthcoming Special Issue on superdiversity

Guest editors Jenny Phillimore, Nando Sigona and Katharine Tonkiss introduce their forthcoming Special Issue on superdiversity.


‘Super-diversity’ is a concept introduced by anthropologist Steven Vertovec (2007; Meissner and Vertovec 2015) to capture migration-driven demographic complexity and diversification which have emerged over recent decades in London and similar urban centres. While the nature and impact of superdiversity have begun to be interrogated in a wide range of fields and disciplines, the governance of – and development of policy associated with – superdiversity has received little attention. This special issue of Policy and Politics brings together contributions from across Europe in order to begin to address some of the gaps in knowledge around the multi-scalar governance of superdiversity.

The first article in our collection, by Hadj-Abdou and Geddes, focuses on the implications of increasing diversity for governance at the European level. Their findings concern the emergence of new policy paradigms associated with diversity at the European level. Interestingly they reveal the radical transformations in policy and governance brought about by processes of diversification in the demos which have often been hidden in studies of European governance.

Geldof et al go on to argue that flexible migration strategies emerge in superdiverse urban areas and consider the interplay between transnational practices by migrants and existing institutional responses in the country of residence.

Van Breugel and Scholten’s contribution offers a national comparative investigation of how the Netherlands, the UK and France have used mainstreaming to respond to migration-driven transformations in ways that are driven by political and economic motives, rather than considerations of diversity.

Ambrosini addresses the changing relations between national and local immigrant policies, and the involvement of civil society in the urban governance of immigration.

Medda-Windischer’s piece shifts the analysis to the sub-national level. By examining the multi-layering of ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities in South Tyrol, she highlights the shortcomings of traditional ways of thinking about the representation of minorities in policymaking processes and highlights the potential of superdiversity to move past some of these limitations.

Oliveria and Padilla focus upon the ways in which superdiversity has been used as a marketing tool to highlight the uniqueness of certain places and increase their attractiveness to tourists.

Magazzini’s article demonstrates the value of superdiversity as the basis of a model for the governance of minorities. Turning her attention to the Roma populations of Europe, she develops a nuanced and detailed critique of pre-existing models and an analysis of the possibilities presented by a superdiversity-based approach.

Pemberton examines the role of urban planning in responding to migration-related superdiversity. Through a focus on Liverpool in the UK, the article highlights the importance of class-based differences above ethnic and cultural differences in shaping the practices of urban planners.

Finally, in Jensen’s contribution, the focus shifts to the neighbourhood level where the tension between diversity as a social fact and the neighbourhood as a site of local governance is explored.

Collectively, the authors propose a multi-scalar investigation of how local, regional, national and supranational institutions are coming to terms with the rapid and profound transformation of their populations. In doing so, they also contribute to the development of an agenda for future research that considers opportunities and challenges for policy and governance in the age of migration-driven superdiversity. Taken as a whole, the issue suggests paths to pursue and questions that needs further in-depth investigation. It also opens up a space for the encounters between different bodies of scholarship that to date have not yet, or only fleetingly, met.

Look out for the special issue forthcoming in October! But until then, each of the individual articles which are already published online, can be found by clicking through the titles above.

Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham. Nando Sigona is Deputy Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham and Katharine Tonkiss is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University.

Policy & Politics Editorial Team co-chair a panel at ECPR on ‘strengthening local governance capacity through interactive political leadership’


Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board Member Eva Sorensen (Roskilde University) and Co-editor Sarah Ayres (Bristol University) co-chaired a panel on the first session of the 2017 European Consortium for Political Research Conference (ECPR) in Oslo, Norway.

The panel drew together a number of international scholars to examine how political leadership is enacted in interactive governance arenas. Gro Sandkjaer Hanssen (Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research) acted as discussant and drew attention to the range of policy and governance theories underpinning the analysis and the benefits of international comparative research.

Panelists debated the fact that local governments are facing a growing number of wicked and unruly problems that call for the exercise of political leadership that defines the problems and challenges at hand, designs new and innovative solutions and mobilizes support for their implementation. Unfortunately, many local councilors tend to spend most of their time acting as complaints services for the citizens, advanced case managers engaged in detail-regulation and controllers of the conduct of public bureaucracy. Consequently, they fail to exercise the kind of political leadership that is needed to deal with the deep-seated and emerging problems that confront local communities in times of crisis and turbulence. The result of this failure is a steady decline in political trust and a paralysis of local democracy that may trigger the rise of authoritarian populism. Continue reading Policy & Politics Editorial Team co-chair a panel at ECPR on ‘strengthening local governance capacity through interactive political leadership’