Department of Government

New Research Projects

FORTE AND RIKSBANKENS JUBILEUMSFOND

SWEDISH RESEARCH COUNCIL

SWEDISH RESEARCH COUNCIL'S DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH GRANT

WALLENBERG FOUNDATION

Forte and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

Research on public investment, political mobility and national inspections of the welfare sector has been rewarded research grants from Forte and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

The researchers at the Department of Government awarded research grants are:

  • Pär Nyman and Axel Cronert for The politics of public investment (3 530 000 from Forte).
  • Karl-Oskar Lindgren for Like Parents Like Child? Political Mobility in Sweden Over the Past 100 Years (3 695 000 SEK from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond).
  • Linda Moberg and Karin Leijon (in collaboration with Mio Fredriksson at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences) for How does national inspections affect welfare professions? (4 046 000 SEK from Forte).

The politics of public investment

In the research project "The politics of public investment", Pär Nyman and Axel Cronert examine why much-needed public investments are sometimes not implemented. They explore two political explanations of under-investment. First, governments might prioritize immediate consumption over long-term investments if they expect the former to increase their chances of re-election. Second, any investment is afflicted with a certain degree of uncertainty, as whether the investment decision would be revoked after a cabinet change.

Pär Nyman

– Many of the challenges that we face today will require voluminous investments in education as well as infrastructure. Due to slow economic growth and low interest rates, increased public investment is also compelling from a purely economic perspective. Why then, is it the case that the level of investment has declined in most rich countries? That's what we want to find out, says Pär Nyman, who is leading the project.

Like Parents Like Child? Political Mobility in Sweden Over the Past 100 Years

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?

Karl-Oskar Lindgren

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).
Find out more about the project on Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

How does national inspections affect welfare professions?

During the last decades, Sweden has re-organized its provision of welfare services. Inspired by ideas best known under the headline of New Public Management, policy makers have aimed to reduce costs and raise service quality by privatizing and market-orienting the service provision and introducing various forms of performance management. In the wake of New Public Management reforms, there has also been an increased focus on auditing, or controlling that providers of public services fulfill stipulated objectives and provide high quality services.

Linda Moberg

The increased focus on audit has led to a growing concern among researchers regarding the implications of auditing for welfare professionals. The aim with this project is to contribute to this literature by studying what inspection strategies that are used to supervise Swedish health care, education and eldercare, and if these strategies are compatible with professional discretion. As such, the project will be able to contribute with practical and policy relevant insights about how national inspections can be designed in order to meet public authorities need for control, but without undermining the professional discretion of the staff.

Swedish Research Council

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.

Swedish Research Council's Development Research Grant

A three-year research project about gender and social media in contentious elections was awarded the Swedish Research Council's Development Research Grant.

A research team at the Department of Government consisting of Pär Zetterberg, Elin Bjarnegård, Malin Holm and Sandra Håkansson was assigned SEK 3 900 000 for Gender and social media in contentious elections. 

Gender and social media in contentious elections.

The purpose of the project is to explore how social media affects political candidates in repressed states and whether male and female candidates are affected differently

Per Zetterberg

Social media has changed the preconditions for public debates. For instance, they are suggested to have both positive and negative impacts on political candidates in repressive regimes. On the one hand social media may give opposition candidates and other marginalized groups new possibilities to organize and conduct campaign activities. On the other hand social media may provide repressive regimes with new tools to silence and intimidate opposition candidates. In the project we will take a closer look at these dynamics during an election campaign. We will also investigate whether male and female candidates are affected differently by social media, says Pär Zetterberg who heads the project.

Wallenberg Foundation 

A research project studying how the performance management reforms of the Swedish public administration have affected the two agencies responsible for the state’s legitimate use of force: the Swedish Police Authority and the Swedish Armed Forces receives funding from the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg (in collaboration with Sofia Ledberg Knöchel and Emma Björnehed both of The Swedish Defence University) receives SEK 3 800 000 from the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation for Governing public professions: Performance management and professional autonomy in the police and military.

Governing public professions: Performance management and professional autonomy in the police and military

How does the state govern the military and police and what consequences does this have for professional groups within these state agencies? This project studies how the performance management reforms of the Swedish public administration have affected the two agencies responsible for the state’s legitimate use of force: the Swedish Police Authority and the Swedish Armed Forces. Despite their important role as defenders of liberal democratic values, these two agencies are absent from performance management research. Research on other public sectors illustrates that the level of detail in government steering may impact the autonomy of professional groups, their organizational development and conduct of work. This appears true also for professional groups within the military and police. They work within similar hierarchical organizations, apply a system of ranks, carry out tasks and responsibilities under difficult, sometimes life-threatening conditions, yet their capacity to cope with organizational changes display great differences. Whereas professional groups in the military are entrusted with professional autonomy regarding central military issues, reports of the shortcomings in self-regulation and leadership within the police force have peaked recently. A key hypothesis of this project is that these differences are due to the implementation of performance management reforms and the strategies of the professions to cope with these.

Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg

– Given the importance of these two state agencies, the outcome of this research is not only of theoretical importance, but also of great societal interest. This comparative case-study maps the performance management reforms in the police and military 1990-2016 to capture their effects on the working proceedings of these agencies. Through interviews with members of the profession, it studies how the reforms affect the professional autonomy, conduct of work, the underlying norms of the profession, and the self-perception of its members, says Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg who heads the project.