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Book

This book provides a broad and accessible introduction to contemporary European politics, covering the fundamental elements of European democracies, institutions, and practices of government. It provides comprehensive coverage of the twenty-seven member states of the European Union, additionally drawing on examples from the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 focuses on democratic representation, examining the core features of electoral democracy in Europe. Part 2 turns to the institutions and practices of government, focusing in particular on how institutional design shapes political outcomes. Part 3 examines a number of contemporary issues and challenges, including migration, economic crises, the threat of international terrorism, and the rise of anti-establishment parties, and examines the effects they have had on politics in European countries. Throughout, up-to-date examples on issues such as Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, and growing instability in Europe are used to help students understand the real-world context of European politics.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on citizen attitudes, values, cultures, and behaviours, which underpin the British political system. Particularly important is voting for elected representatives, whether MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), Members of the Senedd (MSs), Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs), directly elected mayors, police and crime commissioners (PCCs), local councillors, or even parish councillors. Then there are extensive forms of political participation from citizens and groups, ranging from complaining to public authorities to protesting. Both voting and participation are linked to wider attitudes and beliefs about politics. The chapter also provides an understanding of the different forms of turbulence that have emerged in recent years, in particular since 2014, with the arrival of populist movements, and the more frequent use of referendums.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the European Parliament (EP), the one directly elected institution of the European Union. It first provides an overview of the EP’s composition and functions, before discussing the struggle for increased powers within the EP. It then considers debates and research on the EP. The focus of contemporary research on the EP includes political behaviour and EP elections, the internal politics and organization of the EP, and inter-institutional bargaining between the EP, the European Council, and the European Commission. One theme of the academic debate is the extent to which the EP has become an effective independent actor in the affairs of the EU.

Chapter

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with institutions and states. Institutions are essentially regular patterns of behaviour that provide stability and predictability to social life. Some institutions are informal, with no formally laid down rules such as the family, social classes, and kinship groups. Others are more formalized, having codified rules and organization. Examples include governments, parties, bureaucracies, legislatures, constitutions, and law courts. The state is defined as sovereign, with institutions that are public. After discussing the concept of institutions and the range of factors that structure political behaviour, the chapter considers the multi-faceted concept of the state. It then looks at the history of how the European type of state and the European state system spread around the world between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. It also examines the modern state and some of the differences between strong states, weak states, and democratic states.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on fundamental assumptions that researchers make about how we can know and develop knowledge about the social world, such as assumptions about the nature of human behaviour and the methods appropriate to studying and explaining that behaviour. The main objective is how to carry out a systematic and rigorous investigation of social phenomena. The chapter considers three different answers to the question of how to approach the study of social phenomena: those offered by positivism, scientific realism, and interpretivism. It also explores the differences among these answers and their implications for conducting political research. Finally, it discusses the use of a positivist (rational choice) and interpretivist (constructivist) approach to the analysis of ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Chapter

This chapter explores the relationship between the state and institutions and how political scientists theorize about them. It first provides an overview of the concept of institutions and the range of factors that structure political behaviour, noting how political, economic, and social factors determine particular outcomes, which are in turn influenced by ‘structure’ and ‘agency’. It then considers the multifaceted concept of the state and the rise of the European state, focusing in particular on the ways in which the European type of state and state system spread around the world between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. The chapter goes on to discuss the modern state and some of the differences between strong states, weak states, and democratic states, suggesting that states need legitimacy and robust institutions to be strong.

Chapter

Nuno Garoupa and Pedro C. Magalhães

This chapter focuses on the constitutions of European countries as well as on the mechanisms in place to interpret and enforce them. It starts by defining ‘constitution’. It then proceeds to a discussion about the role of courts and constitutional review of legislation. Focusing in particular on centralized constitutional review, it describes the variety of powers enjoyed by contemporary constitutional courts. Existing mechanisms for litigation and judicial appointment are also considered. Finally, it addresses the existing empirical evidence about both judicial behaviour in such courts and their political impact. The chapter concludes with an examination of current trends in the direction of supranational constitutionalism and constitutional review.

Chapter

6. The Media and Agenda-Setting  

Political Turbulence

This chapter addresses media in politics, including newspapers, television, the internet, and social media. It seeks to answer the question of how influential the media is over politics, in areas such as voting behaviour. This discussion gives a broad overview of politics and the media, about the agenda of politics and its framing, and what shapes it. The chapter then covers the classic question of the influence of the media in British politics. It also considers the importance of social media, and how it is now part of all media today, especially in relation to elections and referendums. Finally, the chapter looks at media and social media campaigning in elections. It introduces the concept of chaotic pluralism as a way of characterizing today's social media-dominated and fluid political environment.