Politics and International Relations > International Relations

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Although equal pay for equal work between women and men is a founding principle of the European Union, enshrined in the Treaties since 1957, the gender pay gap stands at 12.7 per cent in 2021 and has only changed minimally for two decades. This article explores a policymaking paradox: the EU equal pay policy seems unaffected by failure, on the contrary, failure seems to contribute to the legitimisation of the policy. The article asks how and why a policy implementation failure framing has been developed in the field of EU equal pay promotion? What is the political function of this framing and what is its impact on the EU policymaking process? Over the years, the EU equal pay policy has been associated with a repeated experience of implementation failure. This failure framing has been particularly present in the debates over the implementation of the 2006 Recast Directive, especially since this frame has been impelled by the quantitative and symbolic strength of the gender pay gap’s percentage. The article shows that this framing performed important functions. From a policymaking perspective, the implementation failure framing allowed the gender equality policy community to keep the issue firmly on the EU agenda and to ride out the dismantling storm. The article also shows that the analytical definition of what constitutes a policy failure should be more nuanced. To conclude, the article asks if this type of failure framing can continue to produce results in an increasingly polarised context such as that of gender equality.

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Research on local government in the UK during the era of austerity has shown that the decisions taken by local councils to cope with financial stresses were often narrated through the discourse of ‘resilience’, referencing their capacity to innovate and transform services, while protecting service provision in core areas. This emphasis on ‘resilience’ focused on the deployment of strategies to overcome funding challenges. However, this earlier research did not question the longer-term risks, trade-offs and negative social implications associated with such decisions, and how, even in circumstances where these practices provided some ‘breathing space’, in the longer-term they risked adding even more strain to the system as a whole.

This article fills an important research gap by considering four resilience strategies of two local authorities in England: Leicester and Nottingham. These four strategies are: savings, reserves, collaboration and investment. Applying a meso-level perspective and exploring resilience through the lens of crisis management, it asks in what ways and for whom resilience generates positive, zero and negative-sum outcomes.

This research enhances our understanding of the resilience concept by reflecting on its limitations and the risks it poses for local government. It also reveals that, while the concept of ‘resilience’ has been much criticised for normalising crises and generally operating as part of a de-politicising vocabulary, research is lacking on how the practices of resilience produce positive, zero or negative-sum outcomes.

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Migration flows have diversified western societies, challenging the political viability of inclusive welfare states. This is very clear in research on perceptions of deservingness to social benefits, which consistently shows that immigrants are considered as less deserving of collective help than natives. At the same time, welfare states are being reoriented towards social investment, putting more emphasis on services that strengthen human capital and improve access to employment rather than on redistribution. In this article we ask whether the shift towards a social investment welfare state is likely to reduce the immigrant deservingness penalty. Theoretically, we rely on two perspectives: social trust and identity theory. Following the literature on social trust, we expect the reorientation of welfare states towards social investment to reduce the negative impact of diversity on solidarity, as those interventions are to an extent immune to free-riding. Alternatively, according to social identity theory, we expect a similar in-group bias independent of the intervention. We rely on vignette experiments conducted in 2021 in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US to compare the immigrant deservingness penalty between social compensation and social investment interventions. Results show no difference between the immigrant deservingness penalty across the social intervention types, suggesting exclusionary attitudes are driven by in-group favouritism.

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Feminist advocacy for ‘gender transformative’ approaches to development, public policy and humanitarian action that account for social norms has surged in recent years. This article intervenes in the debate around norms and implications for transformative approaches. We draw on a unique set of quantitative, global ‘gender data’ collected in 2020 and 2021 and examine how social norms inform women’s experiences of economic empowerment, as well as how these relationships map onto the current debates around interventions to address social norms and the form these interventions ought to take. Our data show that social norms matter for access to and control over resources; in addition, they illustrate that an individual belief in gender equality is fairly common around the world but that such individual beliefs frequently do not coincide with what people think their neighbours believe. These findings suggest a need for consideration of factors beyond individual attitudes towards and beliefs in gender-transformative interventions for women’s economic empowerment.

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This article analyses how regional actors and national authorities shape and transform ‘the region’ from a geographical place into an object of governance for organising and delivering older person care. Drawing on an extensive ethnographic research project in the Netherlands, our findings show that these actors in interaction constitute the region through three practices: consistently creating urgency to foreground regional problems and solutions; renegotiating regulatory policies to facilitate regional care provision; and reconstructing care infrastructures to materialise regional care provision. Actors use and obtain power from co-existing and interacting institutional arrangements to develop new regional care arrangements. This evokes new interdependencies that reconfigure existing governance arrangements. Studying governance objects in-the-making reveals the required iterations, reconsiderations, and adjustments as processes within a given (ambiguous) institutional context, and which lead to institutional change. As regional organisation policies are increasingly scrutinised, this article provides an interesting and important contribution to this field.

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Punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) has evolved into a comprehensive theory of organisational information processing over the past two decades, with hundreds of studies adopting it to examine various aspects of the policy process. Despite the growing number of studies building on PET, however, our understanding of stability and change in media agendas remains rather limited. I propose a theory that seeks to explain the conditions under which media agendas are more punctuated and test my hypotheses using a dataset of 7 million news stories from 15 newspapers in Belgium, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK between 2000 and 2019. Results, based on an analysis of change distributions and a series of regression models, highlight two important findings: first, punctuations in the media agenda are less severe and frequent than those in other organisational agendas. Second, the severity of punctuations is greater in politicised news and diminished in issue areas related to ‘core functions of government’ (Jennings et al, 2011), relative to non-politicised news and issues outside the core areas, respectively. Results also suggest that despite the varying media and political characteristics of the countries examined in this study, change distributions of media attention are strikingly similar across the country cases. Through this novel and innovative study, the article contributes to PET theory by considering different elements of news stories, as well as re-engaging with the discussion of the relationship between the media and politics.

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Digital Sovereignty is core to many contemporary debates on the regulation of digital technology, securing supply chains and strengthening the digital economy. In this paper, we focus on the European debates and policies around this project. We argue that the notion of digital sovereignty should be understood more as an overarching economic, societal and geopolitical project, rather than a project aimed at achieving any kind of political sovereignty or autarky in the digital sector. We arrive at this conclusion by analysing European policy documents and commentaries from various stakeholders for two cases: platform governance and semiconductors. The case of platform governance shows how the EU and its member states struggle to extend their regulatory power over the ‘data monopolies’ of the major Silicon Valley companies. The other is semiconductors, where the EU has kick-started several projects to improve the competitiveness of European manufacturers in a highly integrated global market. These examples demonstrate two things: a) that the pursuit of digital sovereignty does have some impact on the Internet (platform regulation) but also extends to other technological fields beyond it (semiconductors) and b) that digital sovereignty is not only a regulatory or technological project but also an economic, societal and geopolitical one.

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Why do individuals in democratic societies voluntarily request and support stringent policies? What factors contribute to variations in support for different restrictive measures among citizens? This study examines the micro-level impact of the securitisation narrative on individuals’ voluntary support for stringent policies within a democratic context, using the narrative policy framework. Based on evidence from a conjoint experiment conducted in Taiwan, the study finds that agreeing with the narrative ‘COVID-19 is a national security threat’ does not translate into support for all types of restrictive measures. The contents of the securitisation narrative matter significantly; individuals who are more persuaded by the narratives are more likely to support border containment measures and mask mandates because of how narrative contents were structured. These findings highlight the importance for researchers and policymakers to carefully consider policy narrative contents to effectively communicate and garner support for a range of policies during times of crisis.

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Recognition in general comes in many flavours, and so do desires and hopes for recognition. The same is true of recognition of agency in particular. In this short text, I will engage in some basic conceptual work that could be useful for thinking about the theme of this special issue. I will, first, distinguish between several forms of agency that matter in international relations (though not only there) and that can be either recognised or remain unrecognised. Second, I will reflect on what exactly it may mean to ‘recognise’ agency of these various kinds. Finally, I will discuss possible uses of the denial of agency in international relations.

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This article employs the framework of agentic misrecognition to explore the institutional dynamics and distinct forms of agency operative in the global monetary system. The analysis is framed by the concept of “political recognition,” exploring the relationship between the dominant actor and subordinate actors, and showing the complex ways by which misrecognition is performed through, as well as shaped by, the sociopolitical logics of the monetary system. It shows how with the employment of formalist methodologies, the dominant actor protects its status by misrecognizing and resisting pleas for greater concern and more coordination, seeing subordinates not as creative agents but as challenges to its dominance. The analysis also explores how and why subordinate members come to support the misrecognition scheme even though it perpetuates instability and systemic inequalities. Similar to most studies on recognition theory, this article pays close attention to the plight of the misrecognized, but the analysis is also concerned with understanding the underlying cause of the misrecognition scheme and how the dominant actor as misrecognizer contributes to dysfunctions in the monetary system. In demonstrating the underlying features of the misrecognition scheme, this critique challenges established theories and methodologies in the monetary sphere.

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