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Class division in Brave New World and The Hunger Games: How capitalist dystopias limit individual agency

By Ibtisam Ahmed

The idea of utopia is to offer solutions to existing social problems, often in radical ways. The broad scope of the term and the etymological paradox at its heart – a place that is not a place – gives us an understanding of why this particular field of political thought appears so often in fiction. Whether the positive eutopia or the negative dystopia, a range of novels, films, television shows and even comic books have been used to explore these themes. To suggest that fictional accounts are not useful tools, then, is a glaring insult to the potential they hold.

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Six lessons from the initial failed international response to Ebola

By Catherine Gegout

The Ebola virus has killed more than 9,000 people – about 2,000 in Guinea, 3,000 in Sierra Leone and 4,000 in Liberia. The outbreak started in Guinea in December 2013, but the Ebola crisis really started in April 2014 when it began to spread.

The initial international response was deemed “totally inadequate” by British MPs. Since then efforts have improved, but here are six lessons that can be learned from the problematic initial response – from the problems highlighted by the MPs – and especially pertinent to those states that have the capacity to react to epidemics.

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Intelligence as the Philippines’ First Line of Defense

By Francis Domingo

A formidable defensive strategy is dependent on the understanding of an adversary’s intentions and capabilities. Inherently, a good strategy must then be based on solid intelligence. While military strategists have acknowledged the importance of intelligence, many doubt its quality and reliability considering the devastating intelligence failures in the 21st century. In the case of Philippines, intelligence is generally regarded an enabler of military operations. However, given the limited operational capacities of the military, improving intelligence capabilities should be the main focus of the Philippine Government. This article argues for the importance of prioritizing intelligence in defending the Philippines against adversaries.

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UK Defense and the 2015 Election

By Wyn Rees

Election fever is in the air and the party platforms are busily being debated. Amidst this febrile atmosphere, defence is coming under the spotlight. Although not an issue at the top of voters’ agendas it is a subject that attracts attention because of the heightened threat environment resulting from terrorism and events in the Middle East. What are the issues in defence that will figure in the General Election in May?

Like other government departments, the Ministry of Defence has experienced four years of austerity. The Conservatives conducted a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2010 that inflicted painful cuts on all three Armed Services.  Based on the premise that a £37billion shortfall had emerged between defence commitments and resources, the Regular Army was cut from 102 000 to 82 000, the surface fleet was reduced in size and the Harrier and Nimrod aircraft were retired. The legacy from these decisions creates the context in which a future government will conduct an SDSR in 2015. There was an expectation that by the time of the 2015 Review the defence budget would be growing again but the persistence of the national debt renders this unlikely. Anything more than a slight increase in the defence equipment budget, to take account of major weapons programmes, looks overly optimistic. Continue reading

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The End of Cheap Labour in China?

By Andreas Bieler

China’s developmental strategy has been based on cheap labour, foreign direct investment (FDI) and the assembling of pre-fabricated parts for export to North American and European markets. This export-oriented growth strategy in low value added production sectors has, however, come under pressure as a result of the global economic crisis and a decline in global demand. In his presentation at Nottingham University on 17 February, jointly hosted by theSchool of Contemporary Chinese Studies and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, Florian Butollo from Jena University in Germany investigated whether China’s attempts at industrial upgrading in response to the crisis have also resulted in ‘social upgrading’ for its workforce.

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Ukip’s 2020 strategy: topple Labour in the north

By Matthew Goodwin

Spend time with senior people in UKIP and it will not be long until you hear about the ‘2020 Strategy’. Buoyed by their recent success, Farage and his party are already talking openly about their plans for after May. And there is little disagreement about what they should be.

The 2020 Strategy is geared toward establishing Ukip as a permanent feature on the political landscape, transforming it from a short-term revolt into a long-term insurgency. It is anchored in an assumption that the party has already established ownership over its two core issues – immigration and Britain’s relationship with the EU.

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Armando Ianucci is a hypocrite for demanding Britons vote

By Steven Fielding

Armando Iannucci, the man who gave us The Thick of It and Veep, has just called on Britons to make sure they vote in the upcoming general election.

Iannucci points out, rightly, that politicians only notice those who vote. Yet, while arguing against Russell Brand’s claim that the British political system is so flawed it is only by non-voting that change will come, Iannucci suggests that it is perhaps only comedians like Brand who offer a “proper, mature engagement with democracy”. Britain’s political parties in contrast only come in for criticism. They engage in negatives, Iannucci claims, such that it is almost impossible to know for what they actually stand.

This is all a little rich from the man responsible for television situation comedies that on both sides of the Atlantic show politicians and their spin doctors to be lying, incompetent careerists. The current popular hostility to representative democracy is by no means all due to comedians’ jokes about politicians: office-holders have hardly done themselves many favours on that count. But the likes of Iannucci have played some role in framing the exaggeratedly negative way we see our leaders.

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Why the established parties are in trouble on immigration

By Matthew Goodwin

Which political party do voters back on immigration?

It is a question that has been asked during many election campaigns in the past and one that has influenced the strategies of the main parties. Ever since the 1960s, the most popular answer given by voters was the Conservative Party.

Historically, the centre right has held a strong advantage on this issue, being seen as the party that is most likely to deliver on what consistently around seven in ten voters want to see; a reduction in the level of immigration into the country. Despite concerns among some Tory ‘modernisers’ about possible reputational damage, the simple reality is that the Conservative Party has traditionally remained closest to public opinion on this issue and has been rewarded accordingly.

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Regulating European Party Politics: Causes and Consequences

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

The question of how political parties are, and ought to be, regulated, has assumed increased importance in recent years. The legitimacy crisis experienced by the parties themselves, and also their progressive codification in public law, including national constitutions or party finance laws, have raised important questions, ranging from the motivations inspiring specific regulations to their effect on the parties and the party systems, and the underlying conceptions of the role and place of political parties in modern democracies.

Interestingly enough, and notwithstanding the fact that, both in Europe and elsewhere, political parties have increasingly (see figure 1) been subject to regulations governing their external activities or determining the way in which their internal organisation may function, none of the abovementioned questions has received the necessary attention, neither from political scientists nor from constitutional lawyers. Indeed, the few works dealing with the subject are mostly descriptive and lack a comparative dimension.

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Is Modi’s Honeymoon Over? The 2015 Delhi Legislative Assembly elections and the Possibility of Change

By Wilfried Swenden

Since wresting power from the Congress led United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha elections (April-May 2014), Narendra Modi’s Bharitiya Janata Party (BJP) has secured a trail of successive electoral victories. The party swept the state legislative assembly elections of Haryana and Jharkhand, became the lead coalition party in the government of Maharashtra and, following the November 2014 state assembly elections, may well become the junior partner in the government of Kashmir after it successfully captured two third of the seats in Jammu, the Hindu-dominated part of that state. Yet, with a massive electoral defeat in the February 2015 Delhi legislative assembly elections to the Aam Aadmi (common man) Party, the BJP electoral bandwagon finally appears to have run into trouble. Despite winning all 7 Lok Sabha seats from Delhi in 2014, the BJP is set to capture only 3 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly against 67 for the Aam Admi Party and none at all for Congress, India’s –not so Grand- Old Party- which governed Delhi uninterruptedly for fifteen years (1998-2013).

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