Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: european university institute

Why and how women in Europe continue to be oppressed

Since 2011 my university has provided a concrete contribution to the European and international debate on governance through a two-day event with qualified and plural participation. Every year now, at the beginning of May, the State of the Union gathers political leaders, members from civil society, and personalities from the business world to join selected professors and discuss the current state of affairs of the European Union.

I was there in 2014, when I listened to a truly remarkable speech on the vision of Europe by Matteo Renzi, and then I was there again in 2015, when Renzi delivered a more demagogic and way less impressive speech on the topic. Other than politicians, however, the State of the Union is worth following for the ideas put forward by academic and researchers.

Unfortunately I could not be there this year – dling! I am in Switzerland – but I have followed some of the sessions online and I wanted to share with you the Keynote address by Professor Ruth Rubio Marin on the topic Women in Europe and the World.

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It is a short read that contains a rich list of data and practical advices. If you can, it is worth giving this speech fifteen minutes of your time.

Ruling the void

What good is political science if it flubs the biggest development in American politics in generations? Using this question, some commentators are turning “political science didn’t predict Trump” as the 2016 version of “economists didn’t predict the 2008 recession“. But this is factually misleading: there are plenty of political science books anticipating Trump’s rise.

For instance, the findings of Peter Mair’s “Ruling the Void” show how strong outsiders could escape the control party rankings used to have on their candidates. The book was published in 2013, two years after its author had unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Obviously, Mair didn’t predict the rise of Donald Trump. Nonetheless, his book explains why someone like him, like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, or Marine Le Pen could succeed against the odd.

Once upon a time, political parties created a vital link between the public and political decision making. Now this is no longer true: parties have become glorified spin doctors for state power as their leaders are more interested in their role as part of the government than in representing their voters. Traditional elites have progressively abandoned domestic loyalties, forming a sort of global elite, like the one that assembled in Davos one month ago. Mair suggested that traditional political parties have become glorified spin doctors for state power and he quoted another political scientist, Rudy Andeweg: “the party … becomes the government’s representative in the society rather than the society’s bridgehead in the state.

It is become of this context that at some point voters rebel against the traditional parties and look for outsiders. Like Martin Wolf wrote some time ago, “it is not hard to see why ordinary people … are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused.” In Italy these people vote for another party, say the Five Star Movement; in the US they vote for outsiders shaking up the traditional party ranks. Elites need to work out intelligent answers to voters’ discomfort. But this is for politicians to find. Good political science, on its part, should remain concerned with asking the right questions.

 

The isolation of Russia

Each year, my university provides 160 fully funded grants that are made available to Ph.D. candidates by the national governments of the 28 EU Member States and a few other countries. Among these other countries there is Russia. Or, I should rather say, there was Russia. Yesterday I have been informed that the government in Moscow has decided to close the convention with the EUI, meaning that from the next academic year no more Russian students will be able join the Institute. Apparently the European Institute is trying to restore the convention, although a success seems very unlikely. Too bad. Russian citizens went through all of this with the Soviet Union, when a closed system only multiplied its inefficiencies and eventually caused complete dismay. Once again, Russian elite’s fixation on isolationism comes with an increasingly high toll on its citizens.