Politics and International Relations > Foreign Policy
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At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders claimed that their public health policy decisions were ‘following the science’; however, the literature on evidence-based policy problematises the idea that this is a realistic or desirable form of governance. This article examines why leaders make such claims using blame avoidance theory. Based on a qualitative content analysis of two national newspapers in each of Australia, Canada and the UK, we gathered and focused on unique moments when leaders claimed to ‘follow the science’ in the first six months of the pandemic. We applied Hood’s theory to identify the types of blame avoidance strategies used for issues such as mass event cancellation, border closures, face masks, and in-person learning. Politicians most commonly used ‘follow the science’ to deflect blame onto processes and people. When leaders’ claims to ‘follow the science’ confuse the public as to who chooses and who should be held accountable for those decisions, this slogan risks undermining trust in science, scientific advisors, and, at its most extreme, representative government. This article addresses a gap in the literature on blame avoidance and the relationship between scientific evidence and public policy by demonstrating how governments’ claims to ‘follow the science’ mitigated blame by abdicating responsibility, thus risking undermining the use of scientific advice in policymaking.
This study examines the articulation of anti-gender politics in the parliamentary debates centred on two citizens’ initiatives in Finland and Romania. Although different in their endeavours (in Finland, supporting equal marriage rights; in Romania, attempting to legislate pre-emptively against them), these citizens’ initiatives resulted in significant defeats for the wider anti-gender campaigns in these countries. Examining closely the parliamentary debates ensuing these proposals, we evidence how anti-gender politics developed in ways specific to each examined polity and served as a key vehicle for different manners of retrogressive mobilisation, which bypassed left–right ideological cleavages and party loyalty. We scrutinise critically the discursive scenarios that coalesce in anti-gender politics in the two countries, and we map out both the commonalities and differences between the antithetic narrative scenarios, which hinge on the position of the child within a heteronormative nuclear family and the depiction of marriage equality as a harbinger of an impending societal collapse.
A popular explanation for governments’ persistent enthusiasm for evidence-based policymaking (EBPM) is its expected capacity to solve policy conflict. However, research is divided on whether or not EBPM actually has a positive impact on conflict. On the one hand, EBPM is said to introduce a set of principles that helps overcome political differences. Simultaneously, EBPM has been criticised for narrowing the space for democratic debate, fuelling the very conflict it is trying to prevent. This article explores how EBPM structures policy conflict by studying the example of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in policy processes through reconstructive interviews and ethnographic observations. It argues that, although EBPM channels conflict in a way that prompts engagement from stakeholders, it also escalates conflict by misrepresenting the nature of policy processes. As such, the findings suggest that managing process participants’ expectations about what evidence is and can do is key in fostering productive policy conflict.
To achieve the dual goals of minimising global pollution and meeting diverse demands for environmental justice, energy transitions need to involve not only a shift to renewable energy sources but also the safe decommissioning of older energy infrastructures and management of their toxic legacies. While the global scale of the decommissioning challenge is yet to be accurately quantified, the climate impacts are significant: each year, more than an estimated 29 million abandoned oil and gas wells around the world emit 2.5 million tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the US alone, at least 14 million people live within a mile of an abandoned oil or gas well, creating pollution that is concentrated among low-income areas and communities of colour. The costs involved in decommissioning projects are significant, raising urgent questions about responsibility and whether companies who have profited from the sale of extracted resources will be held liable for clean-up, remediation and management costs. Recognising these political goals and policy challenges, this article invites further research, scrutiny and debate on what would constitute the successful and safe decommissioning of sites affected by fossil fuel operations – with a particular focus on accountability, environmental inequality, the temporality of energy transitions, and strategies for phasing out or phasing down fossil fuel extraction.
Development and Marxism are both discourses with a complex and not-always-consistent genealogy. This article seeks to (re)set the dialogue between them through a process of deconstruction. It shows the substantial shift in the position of Karl Marx from a somewhat evolutionist conception of development to one that aligns more with our understanding of combined and uneven development. It outlines Lenin’s epistemological break from an orthodox or evolutionist view of development to a view of the global economy via the hinge of ‘imperialism’. This ushers in a new view of capitalism as non-homogeneous rather than one where part of the world develops and another ‘underdevelops’. Finally, we offer some thoughts on development in the era of globalisation that, to some extent, confirms Marx’s original intuition that capitalism would come to spread across the world.
In this policy intervention, we recount the process of producing a policy briefing targeting researchers and practitioners who use drones in biodiversity conservation. We use the writing process as a springboard to think through the ways that interdisciplinary exchange has and might further inform the ethical use of new technologies, such as drones. This approach is vital, we argue, because while drones may be deployed as tools that enable or empower forest, wildlife or habitat monitoring practices, so too can they be variously disruptive, repurposed and/or exceed these applications in significant ways. From questions of surveillance and capture, data ownership and security, to noise disruption, drone use requires careful and critical reflection, particularly in sensitive contexts. Yet, interdisciplinary exchange attentive to the ethical, social and experiential dimensions of drone use remains patchy and thin. To this end, this intervention reflects on the process of a group of scholars from ecological, environmental and social science backgrounds coming together in an interdisciplinary project grappling with diverse issues around responsible conservation drone use. After recounting our methodology, including the surprises and learning that emerged in practice, we contextualise the key themes we chose to foreground in our published policy briefing. We conclude by connecting our collaboration with wider actions and energies in the context of existing (conservation) drone policy and practice, while underscoring our contributions to existing work.
The re-emergence of conflict at the apex of the global political economy between the United States and China makes it imperative to establish analytical connections between geopolitics and national political-economic development trajectories. However, just as realist international relations conceals ‘domestic’ causes of international conflict, most comparative capitalisms (CC) research has systematically underplayed the role of geopolitics and the global political economy as forces structuring and driving national economies. Furthermore, both IR and CC analyses misleadingly treat states as analogous and independent ‘units’, rather than relationally constituted and internally heterogenous political forms whose existence and reproduction requires explanation. As such, CC fails to examine either the geopolitical preconditions for, constitution of, or the geopolitical outcomes of growth models. This article presents an uneven and combined development (U&CD) account of the connections between global order, geopolitical economy and Chinese capitalism, showing how – rather than an alien infiltrator – Chinese state capitalism is both a product, and increasingly a transmitter, of the dynamics of competitive capital accumulation operating in the global political economy. In this way, I contribute to the development of heterodox CC literature by advancing i) a conception of capitalism as a geopolitical-economic system, (ii) an example of how national cases can be treated as dialectically related to and sites for the emergence of the global geopolitical economy, and (iii) a concise application of this method to the case of Sino-US relations.
This article makes a contribution to the literature on the new politics of the welfare state. Taking the case of home care for the elderly in France, it shows that contestation around this policy has been rooted more in the opposition between different interest groups as regards marketisation than in gender issues. However, in a highly feminised sector, the results of this contestation have had gendered effects. Neither left- nor right-wing governments have sought to halt the process of marketisation; instead, they have replicated the opposition between interest groups and defended the development of different forms of care marketisation, with different, gendered consequences for the valuation of care work.
The ‘unevenness’ of European capitalism has been well established by Comparative Political Economy (CPE) as central to the origins of the eurozone crisis. The influential ‘growth models’ perspective has shown how the integration of export-led models in the ‘core’ with demand-led models in the periphery has led to the build-up of destructive current and capital account imbalances. However, CPE approaches are limited by their methodological nationalism, which stands in their way of adequately theorising the international dimensions of the crisis. In contrast, recent scholarship on Uneven and Combined Development (U&CD) and the global financial crash is more suited to overcome methodological nationalism, but existing contributions are let down by their lack of mid-range International Political Economy (IPE) concepts and their limited engagement with CPE. The main contribution of this article is to develop a new account of the origins of the eurozone crisis in Portugal and Ireland, by developing a framework that synthesises recent U&CD scholarship on the eurozone crisis and new developments in CPE, namely, the growth models perspective (GMP). This article shows how the GMP provides U&CD with two key mid-range analytical tools, namely the notion of the ‘dominant growth coalition’ (DGC), and a wider conception of European multiplicity. The DGC concept makes it possible for U&CD analysis to account for peripheral politics, while also recognising the wider multiplicity beyond relations of core-periphery dependency. In turn, U&CD makes it possible for the GMP to take the international more seriously in its analysis of the political economy of capitalist diversity.
The conditional cash transfer programme (CCT) for poor families was terminated in Mexico in 2019. CCTs seek to fight poverty under a social investment logic by promoting the formation of human capital through the compliance of behavioural conditionalities. The programme – the first of its kind introduced at national level – accomplished several achievements and was maintained and developed by three successive federal administrations. As the backbone of anti-poverty policy for more than two decades, its achievements included delivering positive results to a significant proportion of the population; and triggering the expansion of social policy beyond social insurance. As a result, it was emulated by governments across the globe. A programme of these characteristics would have been expected to generate path dependency and policy stability, yet it was swiftly terminated with practically no opposition. This article applies a framework of historical institutionalism to analyse the feedback effects developed during the duration of the programme from the perspectives of beneficiaries, in order to contribute to the explanation of its termination. The research is based on qualitative empirical data from interviews with former beneficiaries. Our findings show that self-undermining mechanisms linked to a ‘hard’ design and implementation of conditionalities counterbalanced the self-reinforcing mechanisms derived from the benefits supplied by the programme, causing beneficiaries to become apathetic towards its continuity or termination. Conclusions yield theoretical insights that might serve to examine policy feedback in similar contexts, as well as lessons for policymakers regarding the design and implementation of social programmes.