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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Illiberalism and post-ideology party politics in South East Europe

On March 8 2017, Dr. Adis Merdzanovic and Dr. Othon Anastasakis presented two separate papers and shared the findings of their recent research in a SEESOX seminar, chaired by Nancy Bermeo.

In his presentation, Dr. Merdzanovic, who is a junior research fellow at SEESOX, first provided definitions to the key concepts of the seminar. The first concept he explained was “party politics,” which he argued was linked with the concept of “cleavages.” Merdzanovic agreed with assessments that the four ruptures that Lipset and Rokkan in their seminal piece (1967) stressed, has been reduced to two dimensions in most European countries, as argued by Kriesi et al. (2006).  The two cleavages that seem to matter the most are the economic and cultural, with the latter’s exact content being contested and spreading from materialist versus post-materialist values to the cosmopolitan versus communitarian values. The second and third concepts Merdzanovic explained were “ideology” and “illiberalism”. He argued that illiberalism was not an ideology, but a mode of political rule which negated liberal values through rhetoric and took action against liberal rules and practices, targeting institutions.

Moving on to his case studies and the region of SEE, Merdzanovic argued that in South East Europe (SEE) recent research conducted by Szöcsik and Zuber (2014) demonstrates that economic issues are not salient within the party systems, meaning that the parties do not differ much on this dimension. What matters more is cultural polarization along two dimensions: (1) the libertarian/post-materialist versus traditional and authoritarian, and (2) ethnonationalism, in other words, the majority versus minority nationalisms. These two dimensions, however, are highly correlated, suggesting that any types of concerns get channeled through political culture.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Assessing varieties of populism: From Europe to Asia


On 1 March 2017, Dr. Yaprak Gursoy (St Antony’s College, Oxford) gave a seminar on variants of populism in a comparative perspective at SEESOX with Prof. Michael Freeden (Emeritus, Mansfield College, Oxford) as discussant. In the seminar titled “Assessing varieties of populism: From Europe to Asia,” Gürsoy compared Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), Thailand’s Thais Love Thais Party (TRT) and India’s People’s Party (BJP). The event was part of SEESOX’s Hilary Term seminar series dedicated to the rise of illiberalism in South East Europe and chaired by Karolina Wigura. Gürsoy kicked off by mapping the vast array of definitions currently attributed to populism. There are three approaches to defining populism: Populism as an ideology, populism as a strategy and populism as style.

While Cas Mudde in his 2004 work considers populism as a thin-centered ideology that separates society into two ‘homogenous and antagonistic groups’ as ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite,’ Jan Müller describes the populist world view as “morally pure and fully unified –but … ultimately fictional—people against elites who are deemed corrupt or in some other way morally inferior.” (Müller 2016) As Gürsoy argued populism being an ideology is contested but considering populism as a strategy does not provide an intact definition of the phenomenon either, but it correctly emphasizes the importance of leaders. On the other hand, through this approach, populism can be seen as adaptive to neoliberalism due to its low institutionalization agenda which is also directly linked to the charismatic leader factor who “reaches the followers in a direct, quasi-personal manner that bypasses established intermediary organizations, especially parties…» (Weyland 1999, 381)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Social constraints and the decision to leave: Emigration from Greece at ...


Manolis Pratsinakis’ presentation, his inaugural as SEESOX/Onassis fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, focused on the determinants of the decision to migrate in the context of the currently unfolding big wave of Greek emigration and brain drain. 
Recession and austerity has made migration a survival strategy for several people who are finding it hard to make ends meet in Greece. However, there are others in less pressing need who are also leaving the country and present their migration as something they were considering already long ago. Focusing on the latter category, Manolis outlined how the crisis in Greece has altered the everyday discourse on emigration and loosened up social constraints towards long distance mobility, ultimately changing the emigration mentalities in Greece. 

In the first part of his talk, he provided a broad overview of the nature and identity of this wave of Greek emigration. Placing it as part of the current crisis-ridden Greek economic environment and complex migratory landscape, he outlined its differences from previous emigration flows and described its magnitude, dynamics and demographic make-up. In the second part of the presentation Manolis shifted the attention to the micro and meso level of analysis. 

Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews which he conducted with Greek migrants in Amsterdam and London and empirical material from participant observation at the Greek Community House in Amsterdam, he explored how migration decisions are actually taken by families and individuals. He pointed that the decision to leave lies somewhere between choice and necessity. The sudden increase in the emigration outflows after the deepening of the crisis in Greece allows for easy assumptions of a direct link between the two. However, Manolis explained that the increase of migration is actually strongly mediated by developments that we would analytically categorize as falling within the “social realm”. Exploring emigrant’s aspirations, social networks abroad and the reactions of friends and kin back home on their decision to leave, he highlighted the paramount significance of "the social" in the decision to migrate, relativizing mono-causal theories that make claims for the deterministic significance of economic factors. 

Lamprini Rori, AG Leventis/SEESOX fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford

Monday, 20 February 2017

A Faustian Pact? Selling the Rule of Law in South East Europe

The third of the SEESOX Hilary Term core seminars, on 8 February 2017, on the rise of illiberalism in South East Europe looked at Rule of Law and how it can be promoted in the region.  Speakers were Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s), Damir Banović (University of Sarajevo) and Mehmet Karli (St Antony’s), with Francis Cheneval (University of Zurich) in the Chair.

Kalypso Nicolaidis gave a general introduction to the promotion of Rule of Law. She characterised it as defined by its absence; we only recognise it when we lose it.  It is more than a legal technicality – it is about people’s lives. The EU’s 2007 enlargement had led to the entrenchment of the RoL problems in Romania, with later backsliding in Hungary, Poland and perhaps others Member States. The EU faces a challenge in dealing with this, and its failure to do so undermines the EU’s original contract – a “cathedral of limitations” where the basis for mutual trust and recognition is  the implicit recognition of EU Member State capacity to make and implement laws.
But the dilemma of RoL is that the EU tends to proceed through a means-based, institutions-focused approach, while RoL can only be consolidated if it is outcomes-based and citizen-focused. And the EU is ill-placed to promote RoL, since itself, it  falls outside a normal legal order consistent with definitions of RoL. For Kalypso, the remedy must lie at the level of the individual, through a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down one led from the EU’s centre.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Authoritarian turn: The Western Balkans’ move towards EU membership and away from democracy


On 1 February 2017, Florian Bieber (University of Graz, Austria) spoke at SEESOX about the authoritarian turn in the Western Balkans and how the region simultaneously moves away from democracy and progresses towards EU membership. The event was part of SEESOX’s Hilary Term seminar series dedicated to the rise of illiberalism in South East Europe and chaired by Richard Caplan (Linacre College, Oxford). 

Bieber started his talk by recalling the ten rules a contemporary Machiavelli would give the Balkan princes, a blog he wrote two years ago that still seems very relevant today––so relevant indeed that it recently received an update. In fact, there is widespread consensus that Western Balkan states have been moving backwards in terms of democratisation in the recent decade and particular states such as Serbia or Macedonia are more authoritarian today than they have been ten years ago. Yet EU officials still claim that the process of EU integration is intact and progressing, in defiance of the realities on the ground. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

Exit from democracy: Illiberal governance in Turkey

Kerem Oktem and Karabekir Akkoyunlu of the University of Graz presented on this theme on 25 January: David Madden chaired.

Kerem described the overlapping democratic backsliding in Turkey and its various neighbourhoods after the June 2015 elections when AKP lost its absolute majority. There followed the rise of populism and authoritarianism, the November 2015 elections, the de facto executive Presidency, the attempted coup of 15 July 2016, the state of emergency and suspension of the rule of law. This was against the background of the progressive retreat of liberalism in the US and the EU; and the return of Russia as a power centre of illiberal governance. As a second key theme he outlined the peril of secular middle class nostalgia for Kemalism. Kurds, non-Muslims and Alevis had always experienced a different Turkey, even during the space for freedom in the early 2000s; and the Kemalist project collapsed because of the contradiction between enlightenment and racism. Thirdly, the arrangements which assured AKP power and popular support, through a government- dependent civil society, might now be dissolving.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Turkey’s 1974 Cyprus military intervention: Can it be evaluated in the context of responsibility to protect (R2P)?

On 30 November, Altuğ Günal, who is an assistant professor at Ege Univeristy, Izmir, and an Academic Visitor at St Antony’s College, gave a talk on the events preceding the 1974 Turkish intervention on the island of Cyprus. David Madden, a Distinguished Friend of St Antony’s, was the discussant, while Yaprak Gürsoy, Academic Visitor at St Antony’s and Associate Professor at Istanbul Bilgi University chaired the seminar.

At the outset of his talk Altuğ Günal stressed the different ways the Greek and Turkish sides of the conflict interpret the same events. He also stated that he prefers to use the term Turkish “intervention” of July-August 1974 instead of “invasion,” as the Greek side believes, or the “peace operation”, as the Turkish side claims.

The main question of the talk was whether the Turkish intervention of 1974 had the right elements to call it a “just war”. The “just war” doctrine, which forms the basis of the more recent concept of “responsibility to protect” (R2P), has 6 criteria: (1) Just cause, (2) Right intention, (3) Right authority, (4) Last resort, (5) Possibility of Military Success or Reasonable Prospects, and (6) Proportionality. Although the concept cannot be used retrospectively to judge past events, seeing the intellectual rewards of such an exercise, Altug Günal applied each one of the 6 principles, which is also shared by the R2P, to the events of the “hot summer”.