Transitions research seminar | So close but still too far away from power?

A longitudinal analysis of women in top positions in the European Parliament (1994-2019)
  • When Apr 20, 2023 from 12:45 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
  • Contact Name Sophie Kopsch
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Since its constitution in 1979 the composition of the European Parliament (EP) has changed considerably. One notable evolution is the progressive but steady increase in the number of female MEPs: between 1979 and 2019 this number has risen from 15.2% to 39.5%. Therefore the EP is defined in the literature as one of the most feminized Parliaments in Europe. But it is questionable whether the number alone is decisive for the promotion of women in politics. Indeed whereas the literature refers a lot to the number of women in Parliament we find a gap when it comes to career chances of women in parliaments. My results show that more men than women hold and held top positions in the EP especially when it comes to the very powerful ones. In this paper I try to explain the hidden mechanisms that decide which (female) MEPs get into top positions and which do not. Studying female MEPs in top positions in the European Parliament between 1994 and 2021 I raise the question to which extent women are granted access to power in the EP. Leading questions are: Who are the women in top positions?  And is there a certain type of politician who gets into powerful positions? For this a unique dataset has been created which covers all MEPs in top positions in the EP. Top positions studied are committee chairs rapporteurs the chairs of the parliamentary groups and group committee coordinators. The paper analyses this gap between women and men and gives explanations. Further it considers theoretical thoughts about power and institutional authority and will put in question certain concepts of parliamentary power.

Transitions seminar | When the old meets the new

  • When Apr 13, 2023 from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
  • Contact Name Arthur Borriello
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Over the last half-century, the structure and nature of political competition has undergone major transformations in most European democracies, accelerated by the catalytic effect of the Great Recession of 2008. The marked but partial decline of the historical cleavages and the organisations that claimed them has generated a hybrid situation in which established parties and new players coexist, and in which old and new logics of confrontation intersect.

The aim of this research project is to understand the influence(s) this hybrid situation exerts on both the established players and the new entrants to political competition, at both ideological and organisational levels. It hypothesises that the effects on these two types of player are exactly the opposite: while the partial resilience of the historical cleavages is pushing the new players towards accelerated ideological and organisational standardisation, their relative decline is encouraging the traditional parties to innovate in these two areas.

To do this, the research team will compare the ideological and organisational developments of two parties (the main centre-left party and its new competitor, which has emerged over the last decade) in four countries where there are significant differences in the degree of resilience/decline of the cleavages (Italy, Belgium, France and Spain), using interviews and discourse analysis. The central aim is to grasp, within the same theoretical framework, the apparently contradictory recompositions leading to a hybridisation of the content and modalities of political competition in Europe.

Transitions seminar | Deliberative systems

  • When Feb 16, 2023 from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC100)
  • Contact Name Victor Sanchez-Mazas
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This thesis starts from the premise that democracy is a complex social system. It argues that by investigating the complexity of what a system is in general, we can better identify the distinctive features of what democratic systems are and could be. This thesis therefore questions what democracy might look like if we conceive of it as a complex social system. This questioning is rooted in the theoretical context of the systemic turn in the theory of deliberative democracy, and in democratic theory more generally.

From a focus on the democratic merits of a few innovations taken in isolation (citizens' assemblies; participatory budgets; etc.), a body of literature in democratic theory is now focusing on the systemic scale, i.e. the interconnection of these democratic innovations with the institutions and practices that make up existing democratic systems.

These developments (re-)highlight essential features of democracy: the contingency and complexity of institutional architectures and their constant transformation; the connectivity between democratic elements; and the agency of individuals in the task of (re-)designing democratic systems.

Transitions seminar | Deliberative procedures and ideological/policy orientations

  • When Feb 02, 2023 from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC100)
  • Contact Name Vincent Jacquet
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Among the attempts to address the so-called crisis of democracy, the development of deliberative processes (DPs) has gained success and visibility over the last twenty years. Broad slogans such as ‘bringing citizens back in’, ‘empowering the people’ or ‘innovating democracy’ have inspired practices where lay citizens – not only recognized stakeholders and experts – are invited to exchange about political concerns and provide input to decision-making processes. Such practices have attracted the attention of numerous scholars. Anchored in the deliberative paradigm (Asenbaum 2021), a vast body of empirical studies address their capacity to foster inclusive, respectful, open, coherent, well-informed and legitimate debates (Curato et al. 2021; van der Does and Jacquet 2023; Niemeyer et al. 2023). Many resources are devoted to these elements, considering they are key conditions to a successful event. These criteria relate to the intrinsic procedural merits of DPs as well as their capacity to be transferred into the broader political system. However, the focus on DPs’ procedural aspects neglects an essential element to grasp their relationship and potential contribution to political systems, namely their substantive orientation. These substantive orientations refer to mean the ideological directions of their outputs. Activists as well democratic theorists that promote DPs often consider that their outputs should question and challenge dominant policy orientations and favor alternative ones (Böker and Elstub 2015), including attention to minority rights (Chambers 2003), policies that ensure economic and social redistribution (Fung 2015) or solutions to address the global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss (Smith 2021). Conversely, some fear that DPs remain nothing else but easily manageable tools that ratify the dominant political order, which would lead to their disqualification as vehicles of political change (Pateman 2012). Beyond these projections, the directionality of DPs’ substantive outputs remains largely open for empirical analysis. We do not know in which context DPs outputs differ from those produced by ‘traditional’ decision-making process (provided that they sometimes differ, which should also be scrutinized). 

Through this letter, we therefore argue that to understand DPs’ current spread, influence and potential development, the directionality of their outputs deserves more scrutiny. In the first part of the letter, we defend that these issues can be best addressed by considering DPs as institutional arrangements that produce substantive outputs shaped by both internal dynamics and external political context. Based on this perspective, we identify in the second part of the letter a research agenda that tackles current and future DPs contributions to democratic systems. 

Transitions seminar | Citizens' Assemblies Drawn by Lot

Democratic Renewal or Technocratic Instrument?
  • When Jan 26, 2023 from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC100)
  • Contact Name Laurent de Briey, Elisa Minsart
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The recent proliferation of citizens' assemblies drawn by lot has been accompanied by a growing number of questions about their democratic function and their relationship with the institutions of the representative system. In political theory, while some argue that these assemblies should be able to make decisions, others stress the importance of their remaining consultative. This normative ambiguity is reflected in practice through radically different visions and expectations of these mechanisms. In her book Open Democracy, Hélène Landemore constructs one of the most accomplished institutional models in favour of the decision-making option.

The purpose of this article is to take a critical look at the main elements of her argument. It highlights the irreconcilable shortcomings of a model that would do without elections and argues, on the contrary, that these mechanisms should be seen more as a complement than a replacement for existing institutions. More broadly, he questions the existence of an ideal institutional model that would guarantee a fully deliberative democracy, stressing the importance of the deliberative ethos over and above institutional arrangements.

Transitions seminar | Computer programming, consultancy and related activities

  • When Dec 08, 2022 from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC100)
  • Contact Name Eleonore Robinson
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This research project aims to improve our understanding of career-end patterns through the analysis of the experience, trajectories, and representations of workers in the “Computer programming, consultancy and related activities” sector.

Transitions seminar | Fortuyn versus Wilders versus Baudet

The Evolution of Populist Radical Right Party Organisation in the Netherlands
  • When Nov 02, 2022 from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC100)
  • Contact Name Leonie de Jonge
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Existing research has shown that there is considerable diversity when it comes to populist radical right party (PRRP) organisation, but it is unclear why this is the case. The Netherlands provides an ideal laboratory to examine this question. The country witnessed the rise of several PRRPs, including the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), the Party for Freedom (PVV) and Forum for Democracy (FvD). Despite ideological similarities, there are clear differences between these parties in terms of party organisation. We argue that the organisational model of the FvD is a synthesis of the LPF and the PVV. To avoid internal dissension that brought about the demise of the LPF, the FvD adopted organisational elements of Geert Wilders’s ‘personal party’. The FvD also drew lessons from the financial limitations of the PVV by creating a large membership base. The findings show evidence of institutional learning, thereby shedding light on the persistence of PRRPs.

Transitions seminar | The development of the European political class in the EP

A longitudinal analysis of MEPs’ career patterns (1979-2019)
  • When Jun 17, 2022 from 12:45 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
  • Contact Name Jérémy Dodeigne
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This paper presents a systematic empirical analysis of career patterns of all 3654 MEPs having served in the EP over the last 40 years (1979-2019) and discusses how the attractiveness accessibility and availability of EP offices have shaped MEPs’ career patterns. The main conclusion is that the development of a European political class is a distinctive trend that took place early with the institutionalisation of the EP albeit with important differences across EPGs and Member states. However we complementary observe that the transformation of party systems and the electoral rise of Eurosceptic parties have been challenging the Europeanisation of the political class. Overall we argue that these latest developments could even result in a process of (de-)Europeanisation. Indeed as legislative institutions are as strong as the individuals serving into them these transformations could undermine the EP’s formal policy- making capacity in the mid- and long-terms. 

Campus in Transition

GRICE closing seminar
  • When Jun 07, 2022 from 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
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We are pleased to announce the last GRICE session for the year 2021-2022, which will take place on 07 June from 14:00 to 17:00 at SOCR -240. We have decided to hold this session face-to-face only to encourage discussion. We will be exploring the theme of transition in higher education by looking at a number of innovative initiatives.

We will be welcoming Cécile Renouard (Campus Transition in Forges), Marthe Nyssens (prorector Transition et Société at UCLouvain) as well as Nicolas Dendoncker (professor of geography at UNamur) and Corentin Hecquet (scientific collaborator at SEED). (Poster attached)

Don't hesitate to spread the word,

We look forward to closing the year in style with you!

Yours sincerely

Charlotte Luyckx and Geneviève Fabry,


Politics and society research seminar | Unequal opportunities? The Political careers of female members of the European parliament

  • When Oct 21, 2021 from 12:45 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
  • Contact Name Elena Frech
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On 22 October, as part of the Evolv'EP seminars, the Politics and Society Section will be welcoming Elena Frech, a post-doctoral researcher in the "Coordination Committees as Parliamentary Agenda Setter" (CoCoPAS) research project at the University of Bamberg (Germany). She will give a presentation on "Unequal opportunities? The political careers of female members of the European parliament".

Research Institutes Day

  • When Oct 05, 2021 from 09:00 AM to 05:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
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On 5 October 2021, the Research Council honoured the Research Institutes. The day was a great success and Transitions members had the opportunity to showcase the fruits of their research.


Evolv'EP project seminar

  • When Jun 18, 2021 from 12:45 PM to 02:00 PM (Europe/Brussels / UTC200)
  • Contact Name Julien Navarro
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Julien Navarro (Research Fellow in Political Science at ETHICS, Université Catholique de Lille Professor at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna & Associate Researcher at ESPOL): "Report on alternative institutional options to democratise and re- legitimate the EU polity in the eyes of its citizens. An analysis of the congruence between MEPs and their voters on the EU political system ».