Research grants from the Swedish Research Council

2017-12-07

Research on the political opposition in the European Union, Thomas Hobbes, the origin of political inequality and the political significance of work has been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council.

The researchers at the department assigned research funds are:

The Paradox of Political Opposition in Multilevel Europe: Examining Plenary Debates in Thirteen Parliaments

Political opposition in the European Union is plagued by a paradox. On the one hand, the EU is fiercely opposed. In many member states we find strong anti-EU sentiments among the citizenry. On the other hand, the EU has by the scholarly community been described as a political system characterized by governance without opposition where decision-making has been depoliticized. The academic consensus thus seems to imply there is an opposition deficit in EU politics, and yet our political reality seems to tell another story. How can this be? This project will scrutinize the contradictory images of political opposition in multilevel Europe by examining plenary debates in thirteen parliamentary arenas 2004-2019. What does the data tell us? Is there an opposition deficit in EU politics or not? The project will make a much needed empirical contribution by conducting the first-ever large scale comparison of oppositional behaviour, but it will also utilize the extensive data gathered to advance our theoretical understanding of opposition by formulating and testing a number of hypotheses about what may explain variation in oppositional behaviour.

Christer Karlsson

To fully appreciate the importance of opposition for democracy it may be useful to ponder over the consequences of a deep seated opposition deficit for a political system. For one thing, the opposition keeps a watchful eye on the government, thereby reducing the risk of power abuse and action that would undermine the foundations of democracy. However, the key importance of opposition is that it underpins the legitimacy of the democratic polity. For if citizens are deprived of opportunities to organize opposition within a political system, there is an obvious risk they will end up opposing the polity as such. In fact, this seems to be what is currently happening around Europe where Eurosceptical parties have entered many national parliaments. The project’s significance is thus underscored by the political events unravelling in contemporary Europe. The signs of a real crisis for democracy are too telling to be ignored. In many European countries populist and anti-democratic forces are on the rise. In a number of Central and Eastern European member states, especially Hungary and Poland, democratic backsliding is evident and political leaders like Viktor Orbán and Jaroslav Kaczynski argue the case for “illiberal democracy”. This development underlines the importance of improving our understanding of political opposition in multilevel Europe.

Thomas Hobbes and Liberty of Conscience: The Unity of Interpretation and Critique

This project has two aims.

Johan Tralau

First, it will offer a radically new understanding of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), one of the most important philosophers in the history of political thought. I will examine his defence of liberty of conscience, i.e., the possibility for citizens to hold dissenting views without the state punishing them. Liberty of conscience is enshrined in many legal systems, yet its implications are still a vexed problem. The project will explore Hobbes’s theory by three different approaches – normative political theory, contextualism and hermeneutics – in three different studies, each of them developing a novel thesis.

Second, the project will develop a greater theoretical and methodological thesis about the affinity of these three approaches. It is generally held that normative theory, contextualism and hermeneutics are very different intellectual ventures. The second aim of the project is, however, to try the idea that they all operate on the basis of what is sometimes labelled ‘internal critique’ – the Platonic project of assessing a certain argument on the basis of its own premisses, thus identifying and coming to terms with incoherences in the argument. The thesis is thus that different kinds of approaches and methods have a principle in common. This insight is arguably important, especially in an age of reluctance to understand other people and their arguments.

The Origin and Reproduction of Political Inequality: Political Mobility in Sweden over the past 100 years

Karl-Oskar Lindgren

The principle of equality of political opportunity lies at heart of democracy. Ideally, all citizens should have the same opportunity to engage in politics regardless of who their parents are. But to what extent is this the case? Whereas there is plenty of research on how social and economic positions are passed on from parents to children, much less is known about the transmission of political inequality between generations. For instance, to what extent are children to politically active parents more likely to vote or run for political office themselves? And if so, why is that the case and what can be done about it?

The aim of the proposed project is to answer vital questions such as these. One likely reason for the lack of research on this important topic is the shortage of adequate data. This project seeks to remedy this state of affairs by utilizing population-wide data from Swedish administrative registers that offer excellent opportunities for studying political participation at the mass level (electoral participation) as well as at the elite level (nomination for and involvement in political assemblies).

The political significance of work

A common statement in the public debate is that unemployment and other types of economic vulnerability not only constitute a major social problem but also constitute a threat to democracy. While some fear that high unemployment and widening economic gaps will lead to increased political passivity and alienation, others worry that the same factors will promote populist and anti-democratic currents in society.

However, there are considerable knowledge gaps considering how people's labour market status affects political commitment and political attitudes. The purpose of this project is therefore to contribute to increased knowledge about these issues by using Swedish register data to investigate whether, and if so how, people's position on the labor market relates to their political participation and political attitudes.

– We hope that the results of this research project will help to raise awareness of the importance work has in order to create politically committed citizens, essential for a vital and functioning democracy," says Karl-Oskar Lindgren, who heads the project.

The Department's News

Research grants from the Swedish Research Council

2017-12-07

Research on the political opposition in the European Union, Thomas Hobbes, the origin of political inequality and the political significance of work has been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council.

The researchers at the department assigned research funds are:

The Paradox of Political Opposition in Multilevel Europe: Examining Plenary Debates in Thirteen Parliaments

Political opposition in the European Union is plagued by a paradox. On the one hand, the EU is fiercely opposed. In many member states we find strong anti-EU sentiments among the citizenry. On the other hand, the EU has by the scholarly community been described as a political system characterized by governance without opposition where decision-making has been depoliticized. The academic consensus thus seems to imply there is an opposition deficit in EU politics, and yet our political reality seems to tell another story. How can this be? This project will scrutinize the contradictory images of political opposition in multilevel Europe by examining plenary debates in thirteen parliamentary arenas 2004-2019. What does the data tell us? Is there an opposition deficit in EU politics or not? The project will make a much needed empirical contribution by conducting the first-ever large scale comparison of oppositional behaviour, but it will also utilize the extensive data gathered to advance our theoretical understanding of opposition by formulating and testing a number of hypotheses about what may explain variation in oppositional behaviour.

Christer Karlsson

To fully appreciate the importance of opposition for democracy it may be useful to ponder over the consequences of a deep seated opposition deficit for a political system. For one thing, the opposition keeps a watchful eye on the government, thereby reducing the risk of power abuse and action that would undermine the foundations of democracy. However, the key importance of opposition is that it underpins the legitimacy of the democratic polity. For if citizens are deprived of opportunities to organize opposition within a political system, there is an obvious risk they will end up opposing the polity as such. In fact, this seems to be what is currently happening around Europe where Eurosceptical parties have entered many national parliaments. The project’s significance is thus underscored by the political events unravelling in contemporary Europe. The signs of a real crisis for democracy are too telling to be ignored. In many European countries populist and anti-democratic forces are on the rise. In a number of Central and Eastern European member states, especially Hungary and Poland, democratic backsliding is evident and political leaders like Viktor Orbán and Jaroslav Kaczynski argue the case for “illiberal democracy”. This development underlines the importance of improving our understanding of political opposition in multilevel Europe.

Thomas Hobbes and Liberty of Conscience: The Unity of Interpretation and Critique

This project has two aims.

Johan Tralau

First, it will offer a radically new understanding of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), one of the most important philosophers in the history of political thought. I will examine his defence of liberty of conscience, i.e., the possibility for citizens to hold dissenting views without the state punishing them. Liberty of conscience is enshrined in many legal systems, yet its implications are still a vexed problem. The project will explore Hobbes’s theory by three different approaches – normative political theory, contextualism and hermeneutics – in three different studies, each of them developing a novel thesis.

Second, the project will develop a greater theoretical and methodological thesis about the affinity of these three approaches. It is generally held that normative theory, contextualism and hermeneutics are very different intellectual ventures. The second aim of the project is, however, to try the idea that they all operate on the basis of what is sometimes labelled ‘internal critique’ – the Platonic project of assessing a certain argument on the basis of its own premisses, thus identifying and coming to terms with incoherences in the argument. The thesis is thus that different kinds of approaches and methods have a principle in common. This insight is arguably important, especially in an age of reluctance to understand other people and their arguments.

The Origin and Reproduction of Political Inequality: Political Mobility in Sweden over the past 100 years

Karl-Oskar Lindgren

The principle of equality of political opportunity lies at heart of democracy. Ideally, all citizens should have the same opportunity to engage in politics regardless of who their parents are. But to what extent is this the case? Whereas there is plenty of research on how social and economic positions are passed on from parents to children, much less is known about the transmission of political inequality between generations. For instance, to what extent are children to politically active parents more likely to vote or run for political office themselves? And if so, why is that the case and what can be done about it?

The aim of the proposed project is to answer vital questions such as these. One likely reason for the lack of research on this important topic is the shortage of adequate data. This project seeks to remedy this state of affairs by utilizing population-wide data from Swedish administrative registers that offer excellent opportunities for studying political participation at the mass level (electoral participation) as well as at the elite level (nomination for and involvement in political assemblies).

The political significance of work

A common statement in the public debate is that unemployment and other types of economic vulnerability not only constitute a major social problem but also constitute a threat to democracy. While some fear that high unemployment and widening economic gaps will lead to increased political passivity and alienation, others worry that the same factors will promote populist and anti-democratic currents in society.

However, there are considerable knowledge gaps considering how people's labour market status affects political commitment and political attitudes. The purpose of this project is therefore to contribute to increased knowledge about these issues by using Swedish register data to investigate whether, and if so how, people's position on the labor market relates to their political participation and political attitudes.

– We hope that the results of this research project will help to raise awareness of the importance work has in order to create politically committed citizens, essential for a vital and functioning democracy," says Karl-Oskar Lindgren, who heads the project.