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Research

 

Research in the Department of Political Economy focuses on fundamental questions about the human condition at the local, national and international scale. 

We recognise that understanding and evaluating the ability of states, markets and communities to address social problems requires a pluralistic approach, open to insights from different disciplines, theories and research methods.

Research from the Department of Political Economy continues to feature in top ranking journals across the nexus of politics, philosophy and economics. In doing so, our research draws on insights from rational choice theory to neo-classical economics to heterodox approaches to political economy. We also employ a range of methodologies including econometrics, case studies, historical and textual analysis, normative theory and policy evaluation.

Research culture

We have an open and inclusive research culture which stimulates conversation between contesting theories, approaches and ideologies, and which brings together faculty and graduate students in a collaborative and supportive atmosphere.

The outside of Bush House, London

Research groups and centres

Our research is organised into five groups and two research centres which reflect the diversity of interests and approaches in the department.

Our Current Research Projects

Funded by the British Academy (September 2016 - August 2019)

Funded by the British Academy (April 2017 - March 2019) In many elections, opinion polls affect electoral outcomes: some voters switch their original vote intention to support the party that is leading the polls. Previous research indicates that this ‘bandwagon effect’ can give an advantage of up to five percentage points to the leading party. Is this advantage unfair? To answer this question, we need to understand the mechanism behind election bandwagon effects. Campaign surveys are great tools to shed lights on the bandwagon effect. However, they can hardly elicit the mechanism behind it, as human beings are rarely the best judges when it comes at evaluating their own motives. Therefore, our plan is to conduct a series laboratory experiments where we organise elections among human subjects under various electoral rules. The advantage of laboratory experiments is that they allow the researcher to isolate some important factors, and as a consequence they can elicit the mechanisms that are at stake in group decision-making. In particular, we want to test whether the bandwagon effect is driven either by the willingness of some voters to follow the herd, or by them acknowledging that others might know better which is the best party.

Funded by EPSRC (September 2017- May 2020) This project aims to explore applications of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) in domains involving voting and collective decision making. The introduction of DLT into the voting domain enables new possibilities for voting schemes. Political systems around the world have evolved complex election systems, for example single transferrable vote, where the results are cumbersome and time-consuming to calculate, but where the result is considered to better reflect the will of the electorate and hence worthy of this effort. However for non-political elections run with paper ballots this effort is generally prohibitive. Social choice theory within Political Science considers how different voting systems can affect how choices are made, and the ability to support such systems electronically enables the viability of schemes whose tallying mechanisms are more complex but which may give results that match more closely the collective choice of the voters. Hence the project also investigates the potential impact on decision making processes through the variation of voting schemes.

Funded by the John Templeton Foundation (January 2018 - September 2020) This project examines how various institutional arrangements coordinate different forms of social action, ranging from the determination and enforcement of property rights to the provision of regulatory functions and the supply of public goods. The project understands these mechanisms to be ‘self-governing’ when they work outside the formal structures of the state and/or where those affected by a particular social problem have the capacity to ‘exit’ governance arrangements they deem unsatisfactory. Examples include the operation of ‘noxious markets’ (such as ransom for kidnap, and trade in human organs); mutual aid and reciprocity-based networks; financial regulation; the supply of collective goods (such as urban and environmental planning functions); definition and enforcement of property rights ‘outside of the law’; and trans-national governance and standards-setting processes.

Funded by the British Academy (April 2018 - April 2020) The expansion of the Gulag from the 1920s till the 1950s resulted in the forced resettlement of around 20 million prisoners to labour camps in previously unpopulated regions of the Soviet Union. Around 35% of them were highly educated political prisoners, i.e. enemies of the people. Our aim is to identify the economic legacy of this forced allocation of human capital. To do so we'll link camps to today's cities spatially to examine if the share of highly-educated political prisoners across camps can explain differences in education and income levels as well as firm performance across cities of the ex-Soviet Union today.

Funded by the British Academy (September 2018 - March 2020) This project represents the first systematic study of the patterns and drivers of unequal public goods provision in Tunisia. Leveraging original datasets on road construction and the geographic origins of political elites, available luminosity data, as well as fieldwork, we will explore the role of political patronage, protest and elite conflict in resource allocation. This allows us to systematically test competing theories on the origins of regional inequality in Tunisia, and to examine any change in these dynamics after the country’s democratic transition.

Funded by the Noble Foundation (October 2018 - June 2020) It is assumed that the rise in right wing populism poses a major and severe challenge for climate policy. Poland has seen some visible democratic backsliding since the right-wing populist Law and Justice party took power in 2015. However, Poland was widely perceived as the laggard of the EU in terms of energy transition and decarbonisation before the change of government, with the country often prioritising security of energy supply and economic development over environmental and climate protection. Poland’s representatives are often heard voicing strong doubts about both the form of, and the need for, global climate protection efforts. Poland provides a case for analysing the relationship between populism and different degrees of climate sceptical and climate denialist discourses. This project uses media analysis to focus on the relationship between experts and climate scepticism in public discourse and to outline the mapping of arguments used in Polish discourse domestically and in international forums – focusing on the extent of change in discourse before and after the election of the populist government in 2015; including a comparative analysis of Poland’s hosting of the UN’s Climate Change conferences (COPs) in 2013 and 2018. We seek to address questions such as: How prevalent is climate scepticism and denial in the media? Who speaks about climate change in Poland? What were the rhetoric strategies used in media discourse? What other topics were connected to climate change issues?

In the Muslim Middle East, the growth of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) has not been accompanied by the creation of comprehensive guidelines and regulations. In this region, any method of medically reproductive assistance is consistently governed by Islamic law. Given divergent sectarian perspectives among Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, there are various approaches to ARTs. Sunni religious authorities banned all forms of ARTs involving third-party donors, due to their strict faith regarding incest and biological lineage. Nevertheless, Shi’a Muslims hold more progressive opinions on gametes and embryo donation, and gestational surrogacy. Despite this conflict of beliefs, two Shi’a dominant countries, Iran and Lebanon, supply the donor technology for infertile couples from both Shi’a and Sunni sectors in the Middle East. This project aims to build an international network of humanities scholars, social scientists, bioethicists, policy-makers, regulators, scientists, and other stakeholders, to understand the key debates on the ethics and governance of ARTs in this region. It will lay the groundwork for a future large grant application by building an international and collaborative network to explore the global and regional perspectives about how to develop more authoritative and efficient ethical governance of the new ARTs in this geo-politically important region.

 

Funded by Global Integrity (January 2019 - December 2020) India has been identified by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries among those with similar growth rates such as Brazil and South Africa (Afridi (2017)). Both politicians (Bardhan and Mookherjee (2012)) and bureaucrats (Nath (2015)) have been implicated. There is also considerable variation across the states in terms of corruption. Based on perceptions of corruption across 20 Indian states in 2005, Charron (2010) found that smaller, wealthier and more fiscally decentralised states like Kerala and H.P. seem to be less corrupt than Bihar and J&K. Indeed, fewer cases were registered in bigger states such as Bihar, West Bengal and U.P. relative to small states like Haryana, Kerala, and H.P.

Our Research

People

People

Founded in 2010, the Department of Political Economy is the only department of its kind in the…

Departmental Seminars 2019/20

Departmental Seminars

Every week the Department of Political Economy invites guest speakers or academic staff to present…

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