Welcome to our first virtual issue of 2021 and to a new year of reflecting on some of the latest thinking on the major policy questions of our time including the growing importance of digital democracy and on-line public service delivery, the decline of public trust in conventional politics, and the potential of citizen participation to reconnect electorates with political and policymaking processes.
Given that on-line working has become so pervasive and so important during the coronavirus pandemic, we start this virtual issue with a collection of papers that explores the role of digitalisation in promoting public participation and delivering public services. Read on as we journey from analyses of these innovative examples of digitalisation, stopping off at some familiar but important themes for regular readers of the journal including direct democracy, political leadership, and new insights into citizen participation. Continue reading Virtual issue on digitalisation, democracy and participation – free to access until 31 March 2021→
E-petitions have become extremely popular over the last decade. They circulate freely and quickly, with most people at some point having signed one. But there is a perennial question associated with them: what’s the point of e-petitions, do they achieve anything? In my recent Policy & Politics article, I approach this issue by exploring the different roles petitions can play, focusing on petitions to parliament. I show that petitions systems perform roles beyond enabling participation and policy change, depending on the types of processes in place to evaluate them. I demonstrate that the processes through which petitions are considered are crucial in shaping the role(s) they perform. Continue reading Can you make a difference when you sign an e-petition?→
New 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.
My name is Oli, I am currently studying for a BSc Social Policy (2nd year). I am passionate about issues surrounding inclusion and access in higher education, as well as contemporary challenges facing the welfare state.
I was delighted and surprised to receive the award for the ‘Best Undergraduate Public Policy student essay’. It has given me real confidence in my written voice and ability to comment on policy debates.
In brief, my essay reflects on the relative merits of choice and voice as mechanisms for improving policy outcomes and public service quality. My reading led me to be fairly critical of both mechanisms. Instead, I argue that more privileged social groups are better placed to exercise choice and to make their voice heard. Overall, I advocate voice mechanisms, drawing on the potential of participatory innovations to improve policy outcomes for the greatest number of people.Continue reading Winner of our 2019 BSc Social Policy essay prize on Understanding Public Policy→
In celebration of APSA’s Conference theme this year on democracy and its discontents, we bring you the latest and best of our research on that topic which is free to access until 20 September 2018. Just click on the hyperlinks below to go straight to the download page for each article.
To whet your appetite, here are three highlights from our range of articles on democracy, all of which aim to enhance our understanding of its importance.
One of the great things about being on sabbatical is that you actually get a little time to hide away and do something that professors generally have very little opportunity to do – read books. As a result I have spent the last couple of months gorging myself on the scholarly fruits that have been piling-up on my desk for some time, in some cases years. I’ve read books on ‘slow scholarship’ (Berg and Seeber, 2016) and ‘How to be an academic super-hero’ (Hay, 2017); books on ‘radical approaches to political science’ (Eisfeld, 2012); brilliant books on The festival of insignificance (Kundera, 2015) and In Defence of Wonder (Tallis, 2012); and even novels on university life, such as Stoner (Williams, 2012). What fun it is to soak yourself in the literature! To swim from genre to genre, from topic to topic with a little more freedom to explore beyond your micro-specialism than is ever usually possible and, through this, to garner new insights. Continue reading Are we to blame? Academics and the rise of populism→
Matt Flinders reflects on the changing nature of democratic politics and asks whether a focus upon all things ‘post’ – post-Trump, post-Brexit, post-truth, post-democratic, etc. – has prevented scholars and social commentators from looking beyond or beneath the populist signal.
Although there is no doubt that we live in ‘interesting times’, I cannot help but think that there is something incredibly boring, possibly even myopic, about most of the political analysis that is surrounding recent events. A clichéd sameness, defined by narratives of impending democratic doom, wrapped-up in notions of ‘crisis’, ‘disaster’, ‘hatred’, and ‘death’ that tend to flow into (and out of) dominant interpretations of post-Trump, post-Brexit, post-truth, post-democratic politics. The contemporary democratic debate is arguably cocooned within its own intellectual echo chamber that specialises in problem identification but falls short in terms of a more vibrant brand of design-orientated, solution-focused political science. Continue reading What kind of democracy is this? Scholars must look beyond the populist signal→
Many of us these days are deeply worried about the tone and content of contemporary public debate and discussion about key issues which affect us in common. Somehow, the gulf which has long appeared between elites, experts, academics and everyone else has widened out dramatically. We seem to lead separate lives, imbibing separate ideas and creating separate crude stereotypes about others with whom we share our environments and our political institutions.
A century ago, from the struggles between labour and capital and between tradition and modernity, and the fight for the political rights of workers and women, some sense of a shared political community was forged. Today, while we pass our fellow citizens by on the bus, in the playground, at the supermarket or the doctor’s, or meet in a care home, how much do we understand of our various ways of life, struggles and challenges? Political institutions without some sense of what citizens of that community share in common is far from any conception of democracy. They become easy prey to the megaphones of contemporary populism, as we in the Western world are re-discovering. Continue reading Reflections on my article: “Creating public value through caring for place”→
There is something very odd and bizarrely impressive about Donald Trump’s approach to democratic politics: it is quite obviously undemocratic. Indeed, if anything, his campaign is fueled by anti-political sentiment and populist slogans. It’s strong stuff. So strong that it deserves to be recognized in the form of a new political ideology: “Trump-ism” Eponymous…and yet also synonymous with the failure and farce of American politics. I’ve tried so hard not to write a piece about “you know who” Trump. I really have! It’s just too obvious and to some extent just too easy but as his apparent popularity in the United States grows so does my concern about who might actually hold the most powerful political office on the planet.
But in many ways my concern has nothing to do with partisanship, less to do with politics and everything to do with democracy.
Many countries across the globe have seen an increasing involvement of non-state actors in public policies. Scholars have used the term of network governance to describe this phenomenon. In democracies, such networks pose challenges to the democratic legitimacy of public policies. How can citizens control non-state actors given that they cannot be held accountable via elections? Previous research on the topic has mostly focused on institutional aspects of ensuring democratic accountability of governance networks. Our recent Policy & Politics article entitled ‘Over-responsibilised and over-blamed: elected actors in media reporting on network governance’ shows that – beyond institutional mechanisms – the media play an important and independent role for holding policy actors accountable to the public, whether they are elected or not.
Empirically, we examine policy-making processes in big European city regions, where network governance is widespread and usually includes a wide array of policy actors. Are non-elected actors held accountable in the media as much as elected actors and do the media report adequately upon them? To verify these questions we examined 1200 news articles from 12 different newspapers in eight big cities in four European countries (Berlin, Stuttgart, Zurich, Berne, Birmingham, London, Paris and Lyon). We looked at the public accountability of different types of actors involved in governance networks: how visible are they in the media and to what extent are they held responsible for policy success or failure? We were interested whether the media simply informs the public or whether some actors are more interesting to the media than others (media logic). Continue reading Over-blamed and over-responsibilised: elected actors in network governance→