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The COVID-19 pandemic poses specific risks to vulnerable population groups. Informal carers for older adults are especially at risk of increased strain, as support from social networks and professional care services is no longer available or in short supply. Already before the pandemic, caring was unequally distributed within societies, with women and people in lower socio-economic status groups bearing a higher risk of caring strain. In this article, we propose a conceptual framework of (unequal) caring strain during the pandemic. We then summarise the state of empirical research, suggest questions for future studies and outline implications for social policy.

Open access

Background:

The emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required a rapid acceleration of policy decision making, and raised a wide range of ethical issues worldwide, ranging from vaccine prioritisation, welfare and public health ‘trade-offs’, inequalities in policy impacts, and the legitimacy of scientific expertise.

Aims and objectives:

This paper explores the legacy of the pandemic for future science-advice-policy relationships by investigating how the UK government’s engagement with ethical advice is organised institutionally. We provide an analysis of some key ethical moments in the UK Government response to the pandemic, and institutions and national frameworks which exist to provide ethical advice on policy strategies.

Methods:

We draw on literature review, documentary analysis of scientific advisory group reports, and a stakeholder workshop with government ethics advisors and researchers in England.

Findings:

We identify how particular types of ethical advice and expertise are sought to support decision making. Contrary to a prominent assumption in the extensive literature on ‘governing by expertise’, ethical decisions in times of crisis are highly contingent.

Discussion and conclusions:

The paper raises an important set of questions for how best to equip policymakers to navigate decisions about values in situations characterised by knowledge deficits, complexity and uncertainty. We conclude that a clearer pathway is needed between advisory institutions and decision makers to ensure ethically-informed debate.

Open access

Findings from longitudinal research, globally, repeatedly emphasise the importance of a taking an early life course approach to mental health promotion; one that invests in the formative years of development, from early childhood to young adulthood, just prior to the transition to parenthood for most. While population monitoring systems have been developed for this period, they are typically designed for use within discrete stages (i.e., childhood or adolescent or young adulthood). No system has yet captured development across all ages and stages (i.e., from infancy through to young adulthood). Here we describe the development, and pilot implementation, of a new Australian Comprehensive Monitoring System (CMS) designed to address this gap by measuring social and emotional development (strengths and difficulties) across eight census surveys, separated by three yearly intervals (infancy, 3-, 6-, 9- 12-, 15-, 18 and 21 years). The systems also measures the family, school, peer, digital and community social climates in which children and young people live and grow. Data collection is community-led and built into existing, government funded, universal services (Maternal Child Health, Schools and Local Learning and Employment Networks) to maximise response rates and ensure sustainability. The first system test will be completed and evaluated in rural Victoria, Australia, in 2022. CMS will then be adapted for larger, more socio-economically diverse regional and metropolitan communities, including Australian First Nations communities. The aim of CMS is to guide community-led investments in mental health promotion from early childhood to young adulthood, setting secure foundations for the next generation.

Open access

Using discourse analysis as its methodology, this article demonstrates how the Turkish political elite sought to play a ‘Western nation role’ towards Afghanistan in order to appeal indirectly to the US political elite. In that sense, this article underlines how, under coalition (1999–2002) and the Justice and Development Party (2002–) rule, the Turkish governments used security and humanitarian narratives to underscore Turkey’s contributions to Western security after the 11 September 2001 attacks. Continuing on from those narratives, the article explains how a non-Western Muslim country could consider fellow Muslim nations as ‘others’ in order to present itself as a Western actor. This document also details how queer international relations theory and securitisation theory explain the Turkish elite’s decision-making during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s presence in Afghanistan over the last two decades. To that end, this article highlights how the Justice and Development Party government continued the pro-Western narratives of its predecessor coalition government, which decided to send Turkish military forces into Afghanistan in order to appeal to the US political elite.

Open access
Author: Laurence Godin

In this article, I argue that care is a useful tool to think about consumption as embedded in social relations within and outside the market, and draw the consequences for moving towards sustainable lifestyles. To do so, I engage in a review of the literature that brings together consumption and care in its various forms. I review three main bodies of work: the literature on consumption that links care to consumer behaviour and consumption practices; the work addressing the commodifications of care and how it feeds in the neoliberal organisation of society; and the literature on climate change and the development of sustainable lifestyles. I close with a reflection on some lessons of care for academic researchers studying sustainability, consumption and a transition towards more sustainable and just societies.

Open access
Author: Sophie Thunus

Background:

Meetings are essential events for the production of a policy. Yet they are largely taken for granted in policy studies: they are perceived as tools for achieving predefined tasks and used as a means of studying other topics, such as public participation.

Aims and objectives:

I aim to study meetings themselves and to develop the concept of meeting in brackets, which helps understand how meetings produce the policy to which they relate. I focus on a Belgian mental health policy supporting a shift from hospital to community mental healthcare.

Methods:

Qualitative methods, including direct observation of 77 meetings and interviews, were combined over an eight-year period in order to comprehensively understand the relationship between meetings and policy production.

Findings:

The Belgian mental health policy gradually emerged from meetings that took place at international, national and local levels. As a result of references made by the participants to previous meetings or to the resulting documents, these meetings gradually formed a web, outside of which the Belgian mental health policy cannot be understood.

Discussion and conclusions:

The concept of meeting in brackets led to define meetings as communicative events framed by decisions about meeting structure, which I call bracketing decisions. These decisions facilitate a form of communication described as reflexive. Reflexive communication in turn leads to a collective creation: a unique vision of the policy under discussion. Such unique visions are gradually assembled as meetings succeed each other, thus forming a web of meetings which is inherent to policy production.

Open access

By examining all speech in the 18th legislative period (2013–17) of the German Bundestag, including 6,598,831 words in 51,337 text segments, we compare women’s and men’s parliamentary speech. Our approach builds on the agnostic view on representation and follows a bottom-up approach, which avoids pre-set definitions of what is women’s or men’s language use. By analysing the frequencies of the most used words and keywords from semantic networks, we find four notable descriptive patterns. First, female members of parliament tended to talk more about stereotypical ‘feminine’ policy issues like, for instance, contraception. Second, female members of parliament put people more central in their language, while male members of parliament focused more on Germany as a country. Third, women focused more on procedures than men. Lastly, female members of parliament used a politer language style, for instance, by thanking others, more than male members of parliament.

Open access

This article analyses the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the European Parliament and aims at deciphering the role of its committees and political groups in advancing or hindering the integration of gender perspectives. The article engages with feminist institutionalism and micro-political approaches, and is based on interview and documentary data. It examines how formal and informal institutions and micro-political strategies within committees and political groups affect the abilities of this representative European Union institution to ensure a gender perspective is present in European Union policies. We suggest that although the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (the gender-focused parliamentary body) oversees gender mainstreaming, committees and political groups, as the core actors of European Parliament policymaking, are the gatekeepers that determine the outcomes. Our findings advance understandings of the limits of gender mainstreaming in European Union policymaking and shed light on the specific challenges of gender mainstreaming and broader gender equality change in parliaments.

Open access
Author: Sylvia Walby

The theory of crisis and society is advanced by developing a complex systems analysis and is applied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Five issues are identified, discussed and resolved: the definition of crisis; whether a crisis is treated as real or as a socially constructed narrative, or both; the underlying concept and theory of society and its alternative forms; and the different kinds of change in relationship between crisis and society (recuperation, intensification, transformation and catastrophe). This complex systems approach to crisis is applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, analysing the cascade of the crisis through institutional domains and the consequent changes to multiple regimes of inequality.

Open access

This article interrogates the digital storytelling of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy. Drawing on scholarship on state feminism and digital diplomacy, it shows how digital platforms offer opportunities to reproduce narratives of state feminism through storytelling. We propose that digital diplomacy is used to advance feminist foreign policy through emotional sense-making that requires the telling of personal stories. The article provides a narrative analysis of the stories of women and girls that symbolise and embody feminist foreign policy, and the way in which they are communicated by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The article concludes by noting that the digital storytelling of feminist foreign policy allows the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to communicate to a wider digital audience. These stories, however, run the risk of obscuring the feminist ambitions of feminist foreign policy by insufficiently considering the gendered injustices that undergird the global gender order and by bringing together seemingly incompatible stories of feminist exceptionalism and success.

Open access