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Category: Academic Impact

What holds a democracy together – political parties, or the party system itself?

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa.

Who hasn’t heard that democracy is in crisis? Election after election, we see people participate less and extremist political parties on the rise. The most recent example is in Georgia, where during this month’s legislative elections half of the country’s electorate decide to stay at home and a far-right pro-Russian Eurosceptic party (The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia) managed to gain its first seats in parliament.

Meanwhile, traditionally stable party systems are collapsing. Traditional parties are challenged and in many cases displaced by totally new political formations, making the polity more fragmented, volatility and unstable. Spain and Greece constitute, perhaps, the clearest examples. And political parties themselves are in crisis. It is not only that parties have lost members and voters, but – more importantly – they are considered to be among the most corrupt and untrustworthy institutions.

The Chilcot Report and the use of inquiries for research

Written by Louise Kettle.

On Wednesday 6th July the Iraq Inquiry’s report will finally come to light. Seven years after investigations began the 2.6 million word report will be published in twelve volumes and is expected to establish what happened in the planning and throughout the Iraq War. It is hoped that this will provide answers for families of those who lost loved ones in Iraq and lessons to be learned for all future governments.

In addition to these outcomes the report will provide invaluable insights for researchers interested in Tony Blair and his government’s handling of the Iraq War. Whilst archives, such as The National Archives at Kew, also offer a behind the scenes glimpse at the inner workings of government, researchers have to wait 30 years (currently transitioning down to 20 years) for documents to be publicly released. Inquiries, on the other hand, provide instant and easy (often online) access to contemporary sources without the prolonged process of a Freedom of Information request.

Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life: Award-winning Open Course Returns!

Written by Mathew Humphrey.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘Ideology and Propaganda in Everyday Life’ returns for its second run on Monday May 16th

The course is run in partnership between the University of Nottingham and The British Library, taking advantage of the extensive collections held by the British Library relating to politics and cultural history. In the course, we explore the connections between political ideas and beliefs and the experiences of citizens and communities as they go about their daily lives. Recent scholarship has emphasised the need to understand how political ideas ‘flow’ through societies, in ways that are often complex and contested. We look to move beyond views that see propaganda as simply a ‘top-down’ mode of indoctrination, mainly associated with totalitarian regimes such as National Socialism or Communism. Similarly, we look to expand our understanding of ideology, beyond the view that ideological beliefs must necessarily be ‘false’ or rigid and doctrinaire.

Introducing a new Nottingham project on the legacy of dictatorships

Written by Anja Neundorf.

Dr. Anja Neundorf from the School of Politics and International Relations started working on a new project that is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Secondary Data Analysis Initative. This project will study the legacy of past authoritarian regimes on its citizens’ political attitudes today. Here we are talking with Dr. Neundorf about this new research project.

Breaking Boundaries

Written by Matthew Francis.

On the final afternoon of last year’s Rethinking Modern British Studies conference a small group gathered in a corner of the University of Birmingham’s Arts Building to sing the Political History Blues. The panel – subtitled Whatever Happened To Political History? – explored the ‘strange dearth’ of political history, and concluded that political historians had ‘drawn back from the methodological barricades’.

The panellists had a point. If Rethinking Modern British Studies was, in many respects, an indication of the present vitality of contemporary British history, historians working on aspects of what might be thought of as conventional politics – that is, on high politics, on political parties, on think-tanks, and so forth – were notable for the relatively small part of the programme they occupied. The headline acts of the conference were for the most part working in the fields of social or cultural history; political history was present at the conference, but was confined to rather smaller stages. Political historians, it seemed, had not been doing very much ‘rethinking’.

Political Studies: The number one choice for British academics

In the wealth of commentary that followed upon the release of the results of the REF exercise just before Christmas 2014, not much attention was devoted to the places in which British academics working in politics and international relations felt that their very best work had appeared.  But a recent posting on Chris Hanretty’s blog shows that more work submitted to the latest REF appeared in Political Studies than in any other journal, at home or abroad.   In the event, 109 items submitted to the research exercise were published in Political Studies, the lead journal of the Political Studies Association, with the nearest other contender (with 97 items), being the Review of International Studies, flagship journal of the PSA’s sister organization, the British International Studies Association.   Along with the 71 articles drawn from the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, this means that nearly three hundred articles submitted to the REF exercise had appeared in journals published by the two professional associations of academics in politics and international relations working in the UK.