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Jean Blondel PhD Prize

2020 – Elisa Volpi

Elisa VolpiThe 2020 Prize was awarded to Elisa Volpi, University of Geneva, for her thesis The Politics of Turning Coat: A Comparative and Historical Analysis of Party Switching.

In light of the exceptional circumstances, we presented the award to Elisa virtually, and created a short video to celebrate this very special moment along with our Jury Chair, Petra Meier and Elisa's thesis supervisor, Stefano Bartolini.

From our Jury: Elisa Volpi investigates legislative party switching, MPs changing party affiliation during the course of a parliamentary term or turning coat as she also calls it…Her study covers a sample of 14 Western European countries for which she collected an unique data set of all inter-party defections occurring over a time span of 70 years, from 1945-2015. With the help of this data set she investigates the scope of the phenomenon and explores the determinants of legislative party switching, analysing how legislative party switching is influenced by cost considerations. She opts to study cost – as opposed to gain – considerations of legislative party switching arguing that defection costs can be more easily assessed than eventual benefits. To date, relatively little research has been conducted on this topic, most of it not being comparative and or theoretically embedded…[She]finds that the overall level of party switching is to a large extent determined by party characteristics, especially ideological placement. Another factor playing a role is a low level of party system institutionalisation. Institutional factors seem to have little impact, electoral systems and parliamentary forms of government do play a role when it comes to collective forms of legislative party switching. She argues that individual and collective legislative party switching are not only theoretically…

The jury appreciates the innovative character of the doctoral thesis, both empirically and theoretically…The research design is clearly explained, and the methodology is convincingly justified. The discussion indicates a strong grasp of the epistemological and methodological aspects. The jury values the excellent structure of the manuscript, and the level of development of the arguments.’


2019 – Femke Bakker

Femke Elisabeth BakkerThe 2019 Prize was awarded to Femke Bakker, University of Leiden, for her thesis Hawks and Doves. Democratic Peace Theory Revisited.

From our Jury: 'Femke Bakker’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 democratic peace theory relies upon. Bakker more particularly 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 experimental research design. She employs an ambitious mixed-methods design that involves experiments with approximately 250 students in respectively China, Russia, and the US, an analysis of data on liberal norms in the three countries of study resulting from the World Value Survey, and a case study on the Falklands conflict to triangulate her findings from the comparative study.

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.'


2018 – Lauren Tooker

Lauren Tooker

The 2018 Prize was awarded to Lauren Tooker, University of Warwick and Université libre de Bruxelles, for her thesis Ordinary Democracy: Reading Resistances to Debt after the Global Financial Crisis with Stanley Cavell’s Ordinary Language Philosophy.

Lauren’s thesis, accomplished as part of an Erasmus Mundus funded Joint PhD programme, examines resistances to debt in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in the UK the US, developing a novel account of democratic subjectivity in the context of International Political Economy. To do so, Lauren applies Stanley Cavell’s ordinary language philosophy. With this theoretical approach, the thesis shows how 'ordinary democratic subjects' are opposing debt-based economic citizenship in the UK and the US.

The study's central argument is that debt’s 'ordinary democrats' are reconstructing debt relations as a site of democratic selfhood and community in finance, thus representing important practices of civic freedom.

From our Jury: 'Lauren’s thesis is not only innovative and theoretically inspiring – it is a thesis with a heart.'

2017 – Verena Wisthaler

The 2017 Prize was awarded to Verena Wisthaler, University of Leicester and EURAC Research, for her thesis Immigration and Collective Identity in Minority Nations: A longitudinal comparison of Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties in the Basque Country, Corsica, South Tyrol, Scotland and Wales.

From our Jury: 'Verena’s thesis evaluates stateless nationalist and regionalist parties’ identity constructions between 1992 and 2012. Her focus is on the Basque Country, Corsica, South Tyrol, Scotland and Wales. How do these parties construct national identity in a context of rising immigration? Do these parties consider migrants and diversity as an integral part of minority nations?

The dissertation for the first time deals with these questions in a longitudinal study and with a comparative perspective on the stateless nations. The thesis takes a qualitative approach and analyses the parties’ discourses on immigration and their policies on migrant-integration. The study shows that the parties take different approaches to immigration and the construction of the nation in times of rising immigration. The author convincingly explains these different approaches by carving out the specific political institutional relations between the state and the minority nation on the one hand and the conflict-free societal relations between the minority nation and the state majority living within the minority nation. 

Overall, the thesis generates timely and innovative knowledge and new paths of doing comparative political science analysis. The thesis is problem driven and therefore contributes to our understanding of urgent societal and political problems. Also, the dissertation is a pleasure to read.'

2016 – Philipp Köker

Philipp Koeker

The 2016 Prize was awarded to Philipp Köker, University College London, for his thesis Veto et Peto: Patterns of Presidential Activism in Central and Eastern Europe.

From our Jury: 'Philipp Köker's thesis maps and explains patterns in the activism of democratic presidents in nine Central and Eastern European democracies between 1990 and 2010 – an issue which has been subject to a number of studies over the last decade. However, only few scholars have explained how presidents actually use their formal powers and actively intervene in politics.

To study presidential activism in the region Köker proposes a new theoretical framework – a nested analysis approach, a statistical analysis and in-depth case studies. This approach, the thesis argues is able to explain presidential activism in and by the constitutional setting and the political environment. Köker put together an original data set including semi-structured elite-interviews on the use of presidents' legislative powers. With these data and the innovative approach the thesis provides an impressive cross-country empirical analyses of the actual use of presidents' reactive powers.

The thesis makes an important contribution to studies of presidential activism, it suggests an innovative research approach to explain this activism and, moreover, it is elegantly constructed and the dissertation is a pleasure to read.'

2015 – Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc

The 2015 Prize was awarded to Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, University of Ljubljana and Peace Institute Ljubljana, for her thesis Public Narratives of the Past in the Framework of Transitional Justice Processes: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From our Jury: 'Jovana examines the processes of transitional justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her thesis challenges assumptions about ‘transitional justice’ by studying the prosecution of war crime perpetrators in the 1992 to 1995 war. Different from assumptions that once the ‘truth’ about these crimes is publicly presented, it becomes part of the common public memory of the country, the dissertation shows that memory-making became a new battleground between the three dominant ethno-national elite groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hence, the thesis shows that memory-making was not a process of transnational justice.

The dissertation embodies a number of innovations: it critically assesses and introduces the concept of ‘transitional justice’ into political science, and in doing so bridges nicely legal and political science fields; and by selecting important case studies to analyse collective memory-making contributes to a political science concept of collective memory. Jovana enhances studies about transitional justice by taking a nuanced qualitative approach; the thesis analyses meaning production of ethnic elite groups in the processes of transitional justice and is able to show how ethnicity became an important factor in the peace process. A significant research effort the thesis undermines such assumptions as ‘truth’ being easily detected in processes of transition, but shows how truth is part of on-going hegemonic struggles, paving the way forward to further research.

Finally, the thesis is nicely constructed, the qualitative research has been very well carried-out, and on the whole is a pleasure to read.'

2014 – Carolina Plescia

Carolina Plescia

Carolina Plescia, Split-Ticket Voting in Mixed-Member Electoral SystemsThe 2014 Prize was awarded to Carolina Plescia, Trinity College Dublin and Universität Wien, for her thesis Split-Ticket Voting in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: A Theoretical and Methodological Investigation.

From our Jury: 'Carolina's thesis examines the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of split-ticket voting, combining a purely methodological analysis based on the New Zealand and Scottish parliamentary elections, a comparative study across ten mixed-member electoral systems, and two in-depth case studies (Japan and Italy’s regional elections). The dissertation embodies a number of innovations: using both individual and aggregate data (proving, in the process, that a composite approach provides more accurate understanding); a comparative rather than case study approach (though illuminated by the two case studies at the end); separating intentional versus forced split-ticket voting; using the Scottish and New Zealand legislative elections to test the reliability of the predictive model.

Carolina enhances electoral analysis by taking a more nuanced approach that does not rely on intuitive assumptions but real behaviour where it can be measured and evaluated. Her findings are notably similar across countries. She highlights some interesting differences across types of mixed systems and levels of experience with electoral rules. A significant research effort the thesis undermines such assumptions as the one party preference and points the way forward to further research.

The dissertation is elegantly constructed, the quantitative and qualitative research has been well carried-out, and the whole is a pleasure to read.'

2013 – Christian Rauh

Christian Rauh, A Responsive Technocracy?Christian RauhThe 2013 Prize was awarded to Christian Rauh, Wissenschaftzentrum für Sozialforschung and Freie Universität Berlin, for his thesis Politicisation, issue salience, and consumer policies of the European Commission: Does public awareness and contestation of supranational matters increase the responsiveness of Europe’s central agenda-setter?

The thesis challenges the image of the EU Commission as a technocratic actor removed from societal and political demands. On the contrary, Rauh’s analysis shows that European elites adapt their decisions to a politicised context. His research provides an insightful account of the European Commission’s approach to policy making, helping us understand better the dynamics of policy development in relation to European integration. The extent of public awareness, issue contestation and salience are shown to constrain the Commission positions, and explain the location of its policy stance between laissez-faire and interventionism in consumer and market regulation. Christian's research design nicely combines public-opinion and public-policy analyses, relying on multiple sources (including public opinion surveys, media analysis, elite interviews, and process tracing) which produce compelling evidence for the conditions (when? why? how?) that promote EU institutions’ responsiveness to European citizens.

2012 – Didier Caluwaerts, Julian Wucherpfennig

The 2012 Prize was awarded jointly to Didier Caluwaerts, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, for a PhD entitled Confrontation and Communication: Experiments on Deliberative Democracy in Linguistically Divided Belgium, and to Julian Wucherpfennig, ETH Zürich, for a PhD entitled Fighting for Change: Onset, Duration, and Recurrence of Ethnic Conflict

Didier's dissertation asks whether exercises in deliberative democracy in deeply divided societies reduce political conflict. Specifically, it examines whether different institutional rules affect the quality of deliberative democracy. Based on a highly innovative experimental research design, whereby small groups of people from the different linguistic communities in Belgium were brought together to debate contentious political issues, he finds that the quality of deliberative democracy was as high in discussions held between linguistically divided groups as in those between homogenous groups. He also finds that group decision-making rules were good predictors of deliberative quality in linguistically homogeneous groups, but were less so in divided groups. The jury was particularly impressed with the very careful research design and the clarity of the writing style, which makes the thesis accessible to a professional and a wider audience.

Julian’s dissertation examines the role of ethnicity in the onset, duration and recurrence of civil wars. It proposes a theoretically grounded grievance-based model in which the systematic denial of state benefits on the basis of ethnicity creates a collective demand for political change that can lead to conflict. It then submits this model to rigorous empirical testing and finds support for it. The jury was impressed by the way in which Julian identified the potential impact of his findings. In contrast to much of the existing scholarship, which assumes that grievances are constant and ethnic conflict is inevitable, Julian’s work suggests that if grievances can be accommodated, then conflict can be avoided.

2011 – Virginie Van Ingelgom

Integrating Indifference

Virginie Van IngelgomThe 2011 Prize was awarded to Virginie Van Ingelgom, UC Louvain, for her dissertation Intégrer l’indifférence: Une approche comparative, qualitative et quantitative, de la légitimité de l’intégration européenne (Integrating indifference: a comparative, qualitative and quantitative approach to the legitimacy of European integration).

From our Jury: 'The dissertation is innovative and sophisticated in dealing with the EU legitimacy issue. It is written in a clear and effective style, appealing both to a specialist readership and a wider audience. The thesis advances our existing knowledge of the European Union in significant respects, bringing together elements of political theory, empirical analysis of opinions and attitudes, and the study of regional integration processes all of which bear on the issue of legitimacy. The thesis distinguishes itself by a deft combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, as well as its attention to both the macro and the micro dimensions of its topic. The thesis examines the political legitimacy of European integration from an ‘internal’ perspective, focusing on citizens’ subjective perceptions, and their acceptance of, or resistance to, the process of European integration. Distinguishing itself from other literature on this issue, the thesis attempts to analyse and make political sense of the indifference that many citizens have towards integration, by treating this valid reaction rather than a residual state somewhere between acceptance and rejection.'

2010 – Paul Gill

The 2010 Prize was awarded to Paul Gill, University College Dublin, for his dissertation on The Dynamics of Suicide Bombing in Campaigns of Political Violence.

From our Jury: 'The dissertation is well written, engaging and appealing to a wide audience. Its approach is innovative, connecting different areas of political research, and based on solid empirical evidence. It scored high on all criteria, such as research innovation, methodological awareness, knowledge accumulation, research effort and clarity of execution. The thesis offers a new and complex perspective of the 'culture of martyrdom' underlying political experiences of suicide bombing. It proposes a multi-dimensional and interactive model of how such culture emerges and is fostered, mixing psychological, organisational and cultural levels of analysis, and borrowing from a variety of literatures such as social identity and social movement theories. It attempts to confirm its thesis by counterfactual arguments, and addresses a political problem of topical relevance.'

2009 – Daniel Mügge

Widen The Market Narrow The Competition Book Cover

The 2009 Prize was awarded to Daniel Mügge for his thesis Widen the Market, Narrow the Competition: The Emergence of Supranational Governance in EU Capital Markets.

From our Jury: 'The dissertation is extremely well written, fascinating and timely. An excellent dissertation in international political economy, addressing a key issue concerning the supranationalisation of governance: How can we best understand changes in patterns of governance in relation to shifting market structures?'

The thesis was developed into a book, published in 2010 by ECPR Press as Widen the Market, Narrow the Competition.

2008 – Silja Häusermann

The 2008 Prize was awarded to Silja Häusermann, European University Institute, for her thesis Analysing the adaptation of continental welfare states to post-industrial risk structures.

2007 – Tanja Aalberts

The 2007 Prize was awarded to Tanja Aalberts, Leiden University, for her thesis Politics of Sovereignty.

2006 – Daniel Naurin

Widen The Market, Narrow The Competition

The 2006 Prize was awarded to Daniel Naurin, University of Gothenburg, for his thesis Dressed for Politics: Why increasing transparency in the European Union will not make lobbyists behave any better than they already do.

A revised version was published by ECPR Press in 2007 as Deliberation Behind Closed Doors.

2005 – Laura Morales

Joining Political Organisations, Laura Morales

The 2005 Prize was awarded to Laura Morales, Universidad de Murcia, for her thesis Institutions, Mobilisation, and Political Participation: Political Membership in Western Countries.

A developed version was published by ECPR Press in 2008 as Joining Political Organisations.

2004 – Kevin Casas Zamora

Paying for Democracy

The Jean Blondel PhD Prize was first awarded in 2004 to Kevin Casas Zamora, University of Oxford, for his thesis Paying for Democracy in Latin America: Political Finance and State Funding for Parties in Costa Rica and Uruguay.

Kevin's thesis has since been developed into a book, published by ECPR Press in 2005 as Paying for Democracy.