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Plenary Lecture and Roundtables



Plenary Lecture

Time: 18:15-19:30 Thursday 7 September

Location: University Aula, Domus Media, Karl Johansgate 47


Johan P. Olsen

Democratic Accountability and the Changing European Political Order

Ongoing transformations of the political organisation of Europe, where both the nation-state and the European Union are challenged, make it possible to explore phenomena that are difficult to see in more stable periods. The upsurge of accountability-demands, where political leaders are required to explain and justify what they are doing and not doing, is one such phenomena. Assuming stable principal-agent relations may give insight into the routines of institutional accountability. But it is not enough to analyse how accountability processes contribute to routinised maintenance of an established order within relatively stable, simple, and well-known situations. We need to understand accountability in eras of institutional confusion and contestation and in dynamic, complex, and unknown situations. First, variations in the relations between democratic accountability and political association, organisation, and agency are endogenous to democratic politics and government. Second, accountability processes take place within both settled and unsettled orders. They can be both order-maintaining and order-transforming. Third, accountability involves sense-making as well as decision-making. Fourth, accountability may attract public attention and involve mass mobilisation or go on largely unnoticed by the public. Fifth, accountability processes may or may not foster new ideas about political order, democratic government, and the role of rank-and-file citizens in political life. They may or may not foster democracy as a particular form of political community, organisation, and governance and affect what democracy will mean and imply in the future.

Johan P. Olsen is professor emeritus in political science and former director of ARENA Center for European Studies, University of Oslo. He has published in many international journals and among his books are: Europe in Search of Political Order (2007), Governing through Institution Building. Institutional Theory and Recent European Experiments in Political Organization (2010) and Democratic Accountability, Political order and Change (forthcoming 2017) – all with Oxford University Press. Rediscovering Institutions. The Organizational Basis of Politics (1989) and Democratic Governance (1995) – both with James G. March – were published by The Free Press, New York.




The Future of the European Welfare States

Time: 14:00-15:30 Thursday 7 September

Location: GS AUD1, Georg Sverdrups hus

The financial meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent recession caused all European welfare states to experience similar problems, including rising unemployment, reduced credibility of the banking sector, falling exports and rising budget deficits. Because of the problem similarity, governments initially responded in roughly similar ways. The immediate response was to massively support the financial sector and to protect and then stimulate demand by continuing existing social policies and introducing temporary measures. But bailing out banks, recapitalising them and a host of other measures to save the financial sector, came at a high price. On top of that came rising social expenditures and decreasing taxes and contributions, which put public budgets under extreme financial pressure.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed in its wake were not initially blamed on the welfare state. In fact, the welfare state was celebrated for how it cushioned the harmful effects of the crisis as its automatic stabilisers did exactly what they were meant to do: automatically stabilise demand and protect people from hardship. But then something happened, which Mark Blyth has labelled ‘the greatest bait and switch in modern history’: although the fiscal crisis in European welfare states (except Greece) was a consequence of the financial crisis, it became progressively portrayed as its cause. Because the European welfare states took responsibility for the banks’ massive private debt by socialising it as public debt, the banking crisis was turned into a sovereign debt crisis. Thus, the problem became reformulated as one of excessive (welfare) state spending and public debt, which had to be battled by a severe politics of austerity in order to solve the financial crisis and stimulate the economy.

As a result, the political conviction seems to have become that the costly initial response to the crisis and the recession was not sustainable in the long run because it was causing deficit spending to rise dramatically. This ushered in a period of austerity with a view to restore balanced budgets and contain public debt. Governments realised, or in some cases were reminded of this by the financial markets, that deficit spending had reached its limits. Consequently, the politics of reform increasingly came to revolve around the question of who was to pay for what, when and how. In other words, the outcome of these political struggles will determine who will carry the heavy burden of financial and economic recovery. The crucial political choice virtually everywhere seems to be founded on the conviction that a swift return to a balanced budget is the only sensible route to economic recovery and that drastic retrenchment is the only means to achieve that goal. Governments have already agreed on significant public spending cuts, which add up to drastic reforms that induce new distributional conflicts, although more so in some European countries than in others.

The European welfare states have been remarkably flexible and capable in their adjustment to their permanently changing environments. Their core social arrangements remain highly popular so that any attempt at a radical overhaul continues to meet public resistance. However, under increasing stress, especially in the wake of large budget deficits and pressures from financial markets, it is not evident that core social programs can still be protected through reform; they may become victims of the pending distributional battles or of policy drift. Severe budgetary problems, the unpredictable but threatening responses of financial markets and the real economic consequences of the financial crisis not only pressure for further reform, but possibly undermine the political capacity to implement those reforms needed to guarantee the continued protection of people against social risks that the welfare state has so far offered. The future of the European welfare states looks gloomy. Or does it?


  • Kees van Kersbergen, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University


  • Marius Busemeyer, University of Konstanz
  • Maurizio Ferrera, University of Milan
  • Silja Häusermann, University of Zurich
  • Anton Hemerijck, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam




The Consequences of the Internationalization of Political Science Education

Time: 14:00-15:30 Thursday 7 September

Location: ES AUD1, Eilert Sundts hus,

Today many students seek undergraduate and/or graduate education in political science outside the confines of their countries. Academic staff are increasingly hired internationally, and the opportunities for academics to immerse themselves in the cultures of political science departments abroad have multiplied.

Universities promote staff and student exchange schemes, and many American universities offer study abroad programmes for their students or dual degree programmes with universities from other countries.

In Europe, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was established to facilitate the competitiveness of European universities by creating a comparable, compatible system that made it easier for students to study abroad.

The Erasmus programme has encouraged shorter-term exchanges, not only for faculty members but also for administrative staff. Joint degree programmes under the Erasmus Mundus scheme make it inevitable that students study abroad.

Strategic partnership agreements seek to encourage the exchange of ideas and research between faculty members of partner institutions. Many American and European universities open campuses in countries such as China, Dubai, Malaysia, Mauritius, Hungary or Uzbekistan. However, such efforts at internationalisation are not limited to the transatlantic area.

The Chinese state – still the major actor in the internationalisation of higher education, directly or through its state universities – has funded international experience for its students and faculty, and offered academic positions to citizens returning home from doctorates earned in the West. Affluent Chinese parents aspire to send their children abroad to earn their degrees, and universities in some countries, including Brazil and Denmark, have looked to hire foreign scholars.

Despite the grand ideas that motivate internationalisation, and the lively exchange of personnel, results appear mixed. Some educational systems resist what they see as foreign intrusion. Others create barriers inadvertently when, for example, administrative staff refuse to work in English (which has dominated internationalisation) because it was not written in their contracts or because they earn too little to make the effort. Other universities pursue internationalisation inconsistently: providing inadequate funding or not offering enough courses for foreign students.

This Roundtable will discuss the consequences of internationalisation. Does the meaning of political science and the way research is pursued change? What does this process mean for political science teaching? Does it encourage innovation, or just create difficulties in terms of teaching methods and the curriculum? Finally, how does this process influence research and publishing trends?


  • Eszter Simon, University of Birmingham


  • John Ishiyama, University of North Texas, USA
  • Carolina Curvale, FLACSO, Ecuador
  • Meng-Hsuan Chou, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Agnes Simon, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
  • Erkki Berndtson, University of Helsinki (Emeritus)



Equality in Recession? Transnational Developments

Time: 16:00-17:30 Friday 8 September

Location: GS AUD1, Georg Sverdrups hus,

Gendered inequality remains a domain of strong and multiple contestations. The effects of the financial crisis and new austerity regimes impact negatively on the political will to promote equality policy. The growing nationalism and authoritarianism in Europe raise new strong concerns about effective human rights protection. At the same time, major international organisations such as the World Bank, the UNDP or the OECD stress ever more strongly how gender equality is crucial for growth and sustainability; the new UN Sustainable Development Goals pinpoints gender equality as one of 17 major goals.

In one sense, gender equality has become a new global norm paradigm. To offer but a glimpse of prevailing gender equality norms: State action should provide protection against discrimination and harassment, violence and honour killings, trafficking in girls and women and gendered crimes in armed conflicts. State action should also secure access to law and gender mainstreaming of national laws and policies. Equality in decision-making, equality in employment and work-family balance are norms on the rise internationally. Intersectional discrimination and contextual vulnerability are growing concerns transnationally. Such concerns are based on new insights as to how gender combines with class, age, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality and race to produce ‘gender +’ inequality. What EU lingo calls ‘the six inequality strands’ have over the past two decades provided impetus to the development of regional law and the gradual build-up of a new equality architecture in Europe.

Equality governance, however, combines universal normative ambitions with a great variety of law and policy translations. In the European context comparatively weak equality institution building has combined with strong austerity politics and growing populist nationalism to create new doubts about the actual normative power of EU institutions. In light of both austerity and political polarization, gender + equality scholars worry that European equality victories are standing on feet of clay.

This Roundtable takes stock of contradictory tendencies in gender + equality norm and policy development in ‘crisis times’, following up on the theme which has been an increasing concern over the past decade, as previous ECPR sessions show. Four in depth analyses provide our points of departure. They all showcase the familiar ambition of feminist scholarship not only to analyse but also to act for change.

First, the Roundtable engages with core meanings of equality; how differences formally recognised in ‘strands’ policies intersect and are woven into complex claim making. What are the implications of complex equality for advancing social justice? How is complex equality linked to basic human rights reasoning? (Anne Phillips). The Roundtable here refers both to the global ambition of the international social progress Panel (report 2017) and nationally targeted efforts such as the LSE commission on gender, inequality and power (report 2015). Both examples show the clear ambition of social scientists to seek actual remedies that might narrow disparities in resources, power and agency; on an independent basis addressing policy makers and social actors alike. What might be gained by such academic endeavours?

Second, the Roundtable will assess research insights from international relations and comparative politics, engaging with literature on transnational politics, norm diffusion, and the study of social movements (Phillip Ayoub). Particular interest in how the transnational mobilization of marginalized people and international channels of visibility influence socio-legal change across states.    

Third, it explores patterns of resistance and backlash to gender+ equality, focusing on negative reactions to increased diversity among elected representatives in Europe and beyond (Mona Lena Krook). Is violence and harassment against diversity politicians on the rise? What are its motivations and what forms does it take? And what are the implications for democracy when the political presence of different groups is undermined?

Fourth, the Roundtable asks how different forms of opposition to gender equality can best be mapped, analysed and theorised (Mieke Verloo). What is the range of oppositional forms in Europe today and how do ‘European’ forms connect globally? How are different forms of opposition normatively evaluated by gender equality researchers? Again the Roundtable will thus ask how analysis might intertwine with agency. Aligning issues raised also in the former presentations: How should – could – researchers offer public advice on dealing with opposition to gender equality? To facilitate the general debate, the Roundtable will – finally – draw up a set of cross cutting reflections on tendencies in political and policy developments as well as on tensions, responsibilities and dilemmas in academic agency.


The ECPG Gender and Politics Career Achievement Award honors an outstanding career of intellectual accomplishment, mentoring and service to the profession in the field of Gender and Politics in Europe. We are delighted to announce that our 2017 winner is Hege Skjeie, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo, the first woman appointed to a full professorship in political science in Norway. Her career demonstrates both a commitment to scholarly advancement but also to public engagement, and she has taken an active role in advocating for gender equality. Hege's innovative research on ethnicity, diversity and intersectionality, human rights law and policy, and political representation, power and elite politics has advanced theoretical approaches and empirical knowledge of European gender and politics.

ECPG is very pleased to host an invitation-only reception to honor Hege at the 2017 ECPR conference in Oslo, following the roundtable.


  • Mari Teigen, Institute for Social Research, Oslo
  • Johanna Kantola, University of Helsinki


  • Anne Phillips, London School of Economics & Political Science
  • Phillip Ayoub, Drexel University
  • Mieke Verloo, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna
  • Mona Lena Krook, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey



Democratic Representation in Interconnected Settings

Time: 16:00-17:30 Friday 8 September

Location: ES AUD1, Eilert Sundts hus

The standard notion of representation presupposes a demos which selects and authorizes representatives to decide on its behalf, demands from them account for these decisions, and can punish them for unsatisfactory delivery. It is understood that only the members of the demos are entitled to participate – directly or indirectly – in this decision-making process, while all other subjects remain more or less decision-takers. The accountability of representatives is therefore owed only to these citizens, other subjects being protected by the rule of law, eventual bilateral agreements and a general duty of reciprocity owed to members of the human community.

In highly interconnected settings such as the European Union, however, this model of democratic representation fails, for several reasons. First, the amount of joint legislation which is produced through (qualified) majority procedures is extensive, thus disrupting the domestic representation-accountability chains (Scharpf 2009). Second, the Treaties enjoin "loyal cooperation" among member-states and create expectations of cooperative and trustworthy behavior on the part of national authorities. National representatives – both in EU institutions and in national ones – must therefore balance responsiveness towards their own constituents with responsibility vis-à-vis other national constituencies, an uneasy predicament particularly in times of crisis (Mair 2013). Third, an extensive jurisprudential interpretation of the four liberties enshrined by the Treaties and the turn to intergovernmentalism during the Euro-crisis have constitutionalized a hyper-liberal polity whose founding principles have never been the object of collective deliberation, thus creating the conditions for potential domination (Bohman 2007). Fourth, in a European Union which enshrines the freedom of movement of its citizens and aspires to a regime of open borders the number of denizens and temporary workers is very high and growing, a situation which has created evident inequalities in the way in which EU citizens can exert their political rights depending on the member state in which they happen to reside.

These developments create a sense of sovereignty loss and a yearning for “gaining back control”.  They also call for institutional innovations – new ways of organizing decision-making, new ways of including currently disenfranchised subjects, new ways of fully factoring the externalities caused to others in domestic decision-making processes – as well as for theoretical innovations – new ways of defining the representative mandate, new ways of conjoining representation and deliberation, new ways of conceptualizing the demos. This Roundtable addresses these issues from a variety of standpoints, both theoretical and empirical, in the hope of teasing out common threads and moving closer to a new definition of democratic representation for the currently highly interconnected context of political organization.


  • Simona Piattoni, Università degli Studi di Trento


  • Mark Warren, University of British Columbia


  • Simona Piattoni, Università degli Studi di Trento: "Towards Deliberative Representation: Could Decoupling Judgement from Will be the Way?"
  • Lucy Kinski, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna: "Trans- and Supranational Representation in EU National Parliaments: The Case of EU Treaty Debates"