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2019 Jean Blondel prize goes to Femke Bakker

Jean Blondel Prize Winner, Femke BakkerThe 2019 Jean Blondel PhD Prize for the best thesis in politics has been awarded to Femke Bakker (University of Leiden) for her thesis Hawks and Doves: Democratic Peace Theory Revisited.

Femke’s thesis empirically investigates the theoretical foundation of democratic peace. While her thesis does not raise a new research topic, it explores this question from highly innovative theoretical angles by stressing the micro-foundations of conflict, investigating the assumptions about individuals upon which democratic peace theory relies.

More particularly, Bakker addresses the question ‘What influences decision-makers to decide to attack another country when they are on the brink of war?’. She argues that to understand whether decision-makers from liberal democracies, said not to go to war with other democracies, are really influenced by the democratic institutions and liberal norms of their state, they should be studied in comparison with decision-makers from states of other regime types.

To this end, Bakker uses an innovative and ambitious mixed-methods design that involves experiments with approximately 250 students in China, Russia, and the US, an analysis of data on liberal norms in the three countries of study resulting from the World Values Survey, and a case study on the Falklands conflict to triangulate her findings from the comparative study.

She argues that decision-makers from liberal democracies much the same as those from other regime-types are not influenced by their own regime-type, nor by the regime-type of the opponent, nor by the level of liberal norms they hold. Bakker argues that they are rather influenced by individual norms she labels as hawkishness and dovishness, as referred to in the title of her dissertation. In her subsequent reconstruction of the Falklands conflict she underlines how the hawkishness of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher played a role in the sequence of the conflict.

From our prize jury

'With her emphasis on a micro-level actor-based approach to empirically investigate the theoretical foundations of the democratic peace, Bakker makes an interesting and potentially influential contribution to the field, thereby opening a range of options for further empirical investigations using methodologically innovative approaches.'


In her own words

'Working on my PhD research has been one of the most fun and fulfilling periods of my life. I have always been interested in understanding if and how individual differences might affect large-scale decisions, but there hasn’t always been space for or acceptance of this type of analysis in the literature on war and peace, including democratic peace theory. To be awarded the Jean Blondel PhD Prize is therefore not only a real honour, I also feel it is a recognition by the field that work that crosses sub-field boundaries and bridges analytical perspectives truly matters.'

About Femke

Femke E. Bakker is an assistant professor of political science at Leiden University. Broadly speaking, her research focuses on the psychological aspect of political decision making. It relates to international relations, foreign policy analysis, political leadership, political psychology, and experimental methods. Femke teaches in the field of research methods and political psychology.

Femke's PhD research focused on the microfoundations of democratic peace theory. Her current research involves the personal characteristics and beliefs systems of political leaders, and the impact these might have on leaders’ decision making processes. Femke has recently embarked on another research project, to study the impact of meditation on political behaviour and conflict resolution.

Femke is an associate researcher at the Laboratory of Comparative and Social Research (LCSR) and serves as book reviews editor for Acta Politica. Prior to her academic career, Femke worked for almost two decades as a professional actor. In addition to her academic work, she teaches meditation.


Jury members

Petra Meier University of Antwerp (Chair)
Daniele Caramani University of Zurich
Mary Farrell ECPR Vice-Chair
Thomas Zittel Goethe University Frankfurt


Jean Blondel PhD prize shortlist

Koen Damhuis European University Institute
Roads to the Radical Right: Understanding Different Forms of Electoral Support for Radical Right-Wing Parties in France and the Netherlands

Konstantin Glinitzer University of Vienna
The Limits of Democratic Control: Three Decades of Retrospective Voting in Great Britain

Or Tuttnauer Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Parliamentary Opposition in Established Democracies: A Comparative Approach

Christine J Winter University of Sydney
The Paralysis of Intergenerational Justice: Decolonising Entangled Futures

Keywords: Foreign Policy, International Relations, Political Leadership, Political Psychology, Experimental Design

30 July 2019
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