„Dreiländertagung 2019“ – Zurich

View from the ETH Zurich during sunrise

Last week, Georg Wenzelburger, Pascal König (Goethe University Frankfurt), and myself travelled to Zurich to attend the „Dreiländertagung“ – the conference of the three German speaking political science associations of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland at ETH Zurich.

Georg Wenzelburger and Pascal König presented a current paper on “The electoral role of fiscal conservatism at both extremes of the political spectrum”: While both radical left (RLP) and radical right parties (RRP) claim to protect those most vulnerable to globalization, far-right parties are no staunch advocates of welfare. To examine how they can nevertheless attract citizens with strong pro-spending attitudes, they tested the role of welfare chauvinism, the effect of an anti-system stance, and whether the effect of an anti-system stance depends on the RRP’s anti-system credentials. Using data from the 2016 European Social Survey, Georg and Pascal found for five continental European countries with successful RRPs weak support for an effect of economically motivated welfare chauvinism beyond a general anti-immigration stance. But besides immigration preferences, a lack of political support formed a major factor for explaining why voters with strong redistribution preferences support RRP.

Georg Wenzelburger, Pascal König, Helge Staff (from left to right) in front of the main building of ETH Zurich

On the last day of the conference I presented my latest study in which I explore the usefulness of the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) to explain the length of policy processes during decision making. As a most time attentive theory the MSF should offer a good account of which determinants influence the temporal dynamics at agenda setting and decision making stage. In addition, my study aimed at contributing to the still small list of quantitative MSF applications by critically discussing and partly implementing recent suggestions of how to apply the theory in a quantitative manner. Empirically, I drew on the dataset of all German penal and security legislation from 1997 to 2017, collected during the research project “The Politics of Law and Order”. Although the results were mixed and much work remains to be done, the preliminary results support the MSF literature’s stance that during decision making it is the political stream which is most dominant and influential in shaping the policy process.

With many interesting, current, and methodologically sound papers as well as a welcoming and well organized structure, the “Dreiländertagung” in Zurich greatly helped to improve our current studies, and was a rewarding conference experience as well as a good chance to interact with researchers from all German speaking countries.

Helge Staff

(photos by Georg Wenzelburger)

“Social Housing – Not in my backyard?”

The third of four talks in the Brown-Bag Seminar of the Political Science Department at the University of Kaiserslautern dealt on the 12th of December with questions of social housing policy – the subject of the dissertation of Alexander von Kulessa.

Of the very early project, Kulessa presented preliminary results of his first empirical case: London. A massive decline in the rate of social housing has been evident in the British capital since the 1980s. And by 2011 there was almost no social housing left in the city’s center. Instead social housing is now mainly located on the outer edges of the metropolitan area. An important factor in this regard was the “Right to buy” introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980. The “Right to Buy” scheme is a UK policy which gives tenants of councils and some housing associations the legal right to buy, at a large discount, the apartment they are living in. In the talk, Alexander von Kulessa presented various hypotheses to explain this temporal and geographical variance. A specific issue adressed by him was the role of political parties in terms of a partisan effects approach.

However, the hypotheses which assume that the social housing rate is higher given a higher share of Labor mandates in a community, have not yet been confirmed. The multi-level regression model rather indicate that the social housing rate is lower when the proportion of homeowners is higher. Following the presentation of the first results, a lively discussion ensued with a large number of students and the teaching team of the Political Science Department of the University of Kaiserslautern.

Daniel Meyer

(Photo by Daniel Meyer)

Pizza, Politics & Private Security

Last Friday and on invitation by Dr. Tim H. Stuchtey, director of the BIGS (Brandenburgisches Institut für Gesellschaft und Sicherheit gGmbH), I held a talk at the BIGS PizzaSeminar – right in the center of Berlin. The BIGS PizzaSeminar offered the unique opportunity to present preliminary research results of my dissertation project “The Political Economy of Private Security” to an audience of experts from academia, business, and politics – lured to the talk by the interesting topic of private security as well as by the delicious pizza.

First, I introduced the audience to the heterogeneous landscape of private security services in the EU by highlighting the differences between member states in the number of private security personnel – both in relation to population and police officers – and in the industries’ turnover. In addition, I reported on three possible indicators which measure the degree of a country’s private security regulation. In the second part of my talk, I offered an overview of my qualitative work and the three regulatory case studies of private security regulation policy processes. The applied process tracing strongly suggests three main drivers: individual actors (entrepreneurs), organized interests, and path dependent decision-making. These appear to be causally responsible for the policy output and should thus be looked at when trying to determine responsible factors driving the variance of private security regulation in the EU.

Scatterplot of the quality of private security regulation and turnover

Finally, and coming to the main question of the talk, I cautiously presented  very preliminary and basic calculations on a possible correlation between the degree of regulation and the scope of the national private security industries. So far the statistics suggest a somewhat mild but positive link between regulation and turnover as well as a market’s concentration – influenced by some outliers. Due to the absence of more and better data, the analysis has to stop here and needs to remain quite critical concerning its results. Yet the answers found encourage to continue the valuable research on private security from a political science perspective.

Helge Staff

[photo by BIGS, figure by the author]

Lecture by Colette Vogeler on “Trade-offs in the Governance of Agricultural and Environmental Policy”

Colette Vogeler

On November 27, Colette Vogeler lectured at the University of Kassel as part of the lecture series “Challenges and possibilites for Sustainable Development Goals: Food security, human development and natural resource management”. Her talk focused on interdependencies between environmental and culture policies. The following video shows a discussion between students and Colette Vogeler.

Continued discussion

Gepostet von Future of Food Journal am Dienstag, 27. November 2018

More pictures, videos, and other informations about the event can be found here.

Daniel Meyer

(Photo by Future of Food Journal)

Gaining new perspectives – a workshop on „interpretation“

When travelling abroad you certainly learn more about foreign countries, yet you also – and perhaps even more so – learn about your own country. Following this spirit, I spent two days of the last week at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg, where I attented a workshop on “Interpretation” and its use in political science. The workshop was part of the preparation of an upcoming special issue in the German journal “Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft”, guest-edited by Marlon Barbehön, Sybille Münch, and Gabi Schlag.

The renowned “Libeskind building” at Leuphana University

Being rooted in positivist policy analysis, I do not use interpretative or constructivist approaches in my research at all. Yet, the special issue offered the unique opportunity to reflect upon one’s own perspective by engaging with ideas usually not treated in my day-to-day work. Indeed, my contribution to the special issue tries to determine whether interpretative elements do exist in positivist policy analysis. I answer this question by examining the two sets of theories mainly used  in traditional German policy analysis, policy-output-theories and policy-process-theories, as well as two methods of data collection, the quantification of policy outputs and semi-structured expert interviews.

The preliminary results suggest that while policy-output-theories exhibit very little interpretative elements, theories of the policy process contain concepts which highlight the role of individual meaning-making and societal discourses. The theories’ assumption of bounded rationality and their focus on the micro-level make them appear closer to interpretative approaches, although their main aim remains the testing of  generalizable hypotheses. Concerning the two methods of data collection, the quantification of policy outputs did feature less interpretative elements than expert interviews. Yet, I got so many new ideas at the workshop, that I may reconsider these early results and sharpen my conclusions.

Lüneburg’s picturesque old town

In sum, you have to get out of your own shoes sometimes in order to have a closer look at them. Participating in the special issue and going to Lüneburg to discuss the many different contributions to the special issue and ideas about “interpretation” was therefore a very worthwhile endeavor also – or perhaps especially – for a researcher in positivist policy analysis.

Helge Staff

[photos by the author]

Brown bag talk on animal welfare policy

Last week Colette Vogeler held the first talk in this semester’s “Brown Bag Seminar” – an event hosted by the political science department of the University of Kaiserslautern. Colette Vogeler began her talk on “Animal welfare policy in policy analysis” with an overview of the current state of research in this under-researched policy field. After a brief description of subdivisions of animal welfare, Colette Vogeler spoke about the problems of animal welfare policy.

In fact, there are various competing interests, e.g. between economy and animal welfare, but also sometimes between environmental protection and animal welfare. In the further course of the presentation, different aims of animal protection were mentioned, e.g. the “Five Freedoms” approach, which originated in the UK, the country with the highest level of animal welfare policy in the EU.

Furthermore, Colette presented evidence on the influence of party politics on animal welfare policy in Germany. Yet, there is not only a great variance in animal welfare policy between the German states, but within the EU as well. Indeed, the different national societies exhibit quite different views on the question of who should take care of animal welfare (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Who should handle animal welfare? (Eurobarometer 2016)

In the near future, Colette aims to take a closer look not only at partisan effects but also at other influencing factors such as societal pressures, international dependencies, the influence of interest groups and issues of harmonization in the EU. She also plans to apply her research to the United States and even developing countries.

It was great to see so many students and faculty members at the first Brown Bag Talk in this semester, which turned out to be the most visited one in the history of the Brown Bag Seminar(!). [For more information on the research projects of the Professorship for Policy-Analysis and Political Economy, also visit Alexander von Kulessa’s Brown Bag Talk on “Social Housing – The Politics of Social Housing in Paris, London and New York” on the 12th of December (57-315; 12pm).]

Daniel Meyer

(Photo by Daniel Meyer, figure by Colette Vogeler)

Interview with Helge Staff on private security regulation

Four years ago in the fall of 2014, media reports about the horrendous abuse of refugees by private guards in an accomondation in the German city of Burbach shocked the national public. Yesterday, the criminal trial against 32 persons involved in the scandal started and the Deutsche Welle interviewed Helge Staff, on private security guards in German refugee shelters, the role of regulation and the recent reforms in German private security law. All of these topics feature prominently in his dissertation project “The Political Economy of Private Security”. The full interview in German can be read here.

New article in JCMS by Colette Vogeler on aninmal welfare policy

Livestock farming is an important pillar of European agriculture, in Germany more than 200 million animals are permanently kept. At the European Union level, animal welfare policies have been developing since the 1970s. However, national regulations vary considerably between member states. A systematic comparative analysis of factors that influence these differences in national farm animal welfare policies has yet to be carried out. In my recent study, published in the Journal of Common Market Studies, I address this research gap by applying theories from comparative policy analysis. I find that societal concerns and partisan politics can contribute to the understanding of varying animal welfare policies. My results contribute to the exploration of a hitherto under-researched area in public policy, the field of farm animal welfare.

Colette Vogeler

Workshop: Security: Politics, Culture and Concepts

Yesterday, Prof. Dr. Annette Spellerberg, chair for urban sociology at the University of Kaiserslautern, and Prof. Dr. Georg Wenzelburger welcomed a range of experts from both political science and sociology to a joint workshop on “Security: Politics, Culture and Concepts”. The workshop was an important step in the preparation process for a grant application by Prof. Spellerberg and Prof. Wenzelburger.

Georg Wenzelburger presenting the draft project to the workshop participants

Their draft project focuses on the variance of security policies across German states as well as German cities. The multi-level structure of the German political system featuring federal, state, and (several) local levels of government exhibits a remarkable diversity in the delivery of security services. The project aims to explore and to explain this diversity by analyzing the impact of “security cultures”. Within organizations such as the state police forces, courts but also political parties or local administrations particular practices, understandings or norms of how to deal with security issues – and also what to regard as a security issue – have been established over time and are passed along. These cultures and their interplay with other causal factors are the focal point of the planned research. The draft project is structured at the moment in four sub-projects which will deal with (1) the exploration and explanation of the variance on the state level, (2) the impact of security cultures on policy transfer across states and between levels, (3) the impact of local security cultures on security concepts within cities, and (4) the influence of such local security concepts on the feelings of insecurity within cities. The sub-projects are tightly linked by studying the same cases of security concepts for mass events and for urban hotspots of insecurity.

Variety in the the harshness of security policies across German states based on a preliminary qualitative coding

At the workshop, Prof. Dr. Dietrich Oberwittler, Prof. Dr. Rita Haverkamp, Dr. Jasmin Riedl, and Dipl-Pol. Dipl.-Psych Hermann Groß held short presentations on current questions of security research before – along with further guests – they commented on the draft project which was presented by Michaela Ehbrecht and Georg Wenzelburger. The ensuing discussion yielded many insights and very good hints of how to further improve the project. The discussion zoomed in on the concept of “security culture” and very importantly how to operationalize such a concept and to ultimately measure it. Very important in this regard were remarks by security practitioners such as personnel of the local police departments who also attended the workshop.

In sum, the workshop proved once again the need for cooperation across the disciplines of social science, the value of a dialogue between academia and practitioners, and the merit of seeking advice and critique when developing a draft grant application.

Helge Staff

[photo by the author, diagram by Georg Wenzelburger]

Teaching Policy Process Analysis (3)

Probably one of the most important skills a political scientist needs in his daily working routine, is the capability of academic writing. Therefore acquiring knowledge of academic writing techniques is an absolute necessity for every political science student.

At the end of the undergraduate seminar on policy processes (click here and here for our previous blog posts), students were asked to write a term paper on an individually chosen policy process using the theories (e.g. ACF, MSF, PET) introduced in the class sessions. Since most of the students had never written an academic paper before, we decided to offer three voluntary tutoring sessions during the summer break. The idea was to provide theoretical basics of academic writing on the one hand, and on the other to accompany the individual writing process by providing practial knowledge, first hand tips, and individual tutoring.

One-on-one tutoring as a key for a succesfull first term paper in political science

Having those two goals in mind, I planned the three sessions following the steps of an ideal writing process. Hence, we started by asking basic questions such as: How to do scientific research? What are scientific sources and where to find them? Or how to find a research question that meets not only the guidelines provided by the lecturer but also my own interests within the context of public policy processes? Afterwards we focused on structuring the term papers regarding the paragraphs that need to be included (introduction, hypothesis, theory, analysis and key results). In the last tutoring session we focused on the topics of citation and other formalities, which I remembered to be a major issue to me when I started my studies.

The tutoring sessions conclude our undergraduate seminar and hence also our mini series on teaching policy process analysis featured on this blog.

Kathrin Hartmann

[photo by Helge Staff]