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You want to win a prize in a writing contest in social science in which contributions written like an academic paper will not be accepted? Pay attention to the following call for articles: The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) invites young scholars to submit texts on Sustainable Development Goals and their human dimension, be it political, technological, economic, or social.

Prizes are US$ 500, US$ 200, and US$ 100 and the three winning pieces will be published in the in-house magazine Dimensions.
The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 15, 2013.

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If summer school organizers asked me: “Is all knowledge local?”, I would respond: “Surely not”. However, then I would falter trying to say any more about the spatial dimension, locality and knowledge in motion.

The summer school “Sites of Knowledge: Space, Locality, and Circulation between Asia and Europe” in Heidelberg, Germany, addresses this relationship. It focuses on a variety of exemplary places like courts, temples, and academies; discusses actors and practices; as well as suitable concepts.

The event is part of the research cluster “Asia and Europe in a Global Context: The Dynamics of Transculturality” at Heidelberg University. The agenda includes presentations by a great bundle of international speakers.

Invited to apply are graduate students from the humanities and social sciences. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2013.

Date: August 4 to 8, 2013.

(jiska)

Another witty animation by the RSA, this time featuring everyone’s favourite misanthrope. Slavoj Žižek’s provocative thesis is that attempts to weave ethics into consumption – for instance with the Fairtrade label – merely serve to make the inbuilt injustices more durable: “The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible, and the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim.”

We can buy exploitative and corporate items, and the anti-exploitative anti-corporate antidote is already included in the product, like ethical coffee at Starbucks. We can increase our wealth while pursuing sustainability or equity, like SRI. We can lend money for profit and promote virtues like entrepreneurship or “financial inclusion”, as in microfinance.

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This post is provided by our guest blogger Ingo Nordmann. Having gained his Master’s degree in Global Studies in Leipzig, Poland, and South Africa, Ingo has worked at the German embassy in Ghana and in intercultural management consulting.

If you’re 28 years old, with two university degrees, and your parents have invested all their money in your education, and you’ve done everything that was expected of you: if society then tells you, ‘sorry, we don’t have a job for you’, then it’s easy to understand why people revolt. We have to give young people hope. In Europe, the world’s richest continent, there has to be a place for young people, damn it!

With these words, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, describes the heart of the problem. Most young, unemployed Europeans are not marginalized, deprived, and lazy, but they live in the centre of society – a society that seems to have no use for them. This is particularly the case in some Soutern European countries such as Greece and Spain where unemployemnt rates for young people are over 50% as compared to currently 8% in Germany. Youngsters from countries outside of the EU face even more severe challenges on the job market.

Recently, I went to the Balkans to gather some impressions from the beautiful, but often-neglected Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In the country’s second-largest city, Bitola, situated close to the Greek border on the foots of Pelister National Park, I talked to young people, to officials at the municipality, and to activists at the Business Start-up Centre Bitola, to find out how young people in this region evaluate the situation and what the government and NGOs are doing to change it.

Bitola’s main street – a popular meeting place for young people

Bitola’s main street – a popular meeting place for young people

During a training course supported by the EU’s Youth in Action Programme and YMCA Bitola, I had the chance to interview 22 young activists, volunteers, youth workers, and students between the ages of 21 and 28 from 10 countries. They mainly came from countries outside of the EU, namely Albania (3), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2), Kosovo (2), Macedonia (3), Serbia (2), and Turkey (3), while seven were from EU countries (Romania, Portugal, Poland, and Slovenia). Read the rest of this entry »

In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

fair-search-europe-logoA common complaint of Google’s competitors in fields such as Internet maps is that Google’s search algorithm favors its own services over those of competitors in its search results. For instance, the FairSearch coalition led by Microsoft, Oracle and others calls for more transparency in displaying search results and harshly criticizes Google:

Based on growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition, we believe policymakers must act now to protect competition, transparency and innovation in online search.

Given Google’s market dominance in Europe with over 90 percent in core markets such as Germany, such allegedly discriminatory practices led to an antitrust investigation by the European Commission (EC). However, providing reproducable evidence for such discriminatory search results is difficult. Google is not only constantly changing its search algorithm (see “Algorithm Regulation #4: Algorithm as a Practice“) but also increasingly personalizing search results; both these characteristics of contemporary search algorithms make it difficult to compare search results over time.

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This post is provided by guest blogger André Förster who studies the Masters program “Sociology and empirical social Research” at the University of Cologne. Alongside his studies, he works as a student assistant at gesis – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne.

book cover

Mark R. Beissinger, 2002: Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In this important book Mark R. Beissinger, director of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and former professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sets out to explain how the collapse of the Soviet State  became viewed from the impossible to the inevitable within only a few years. While many studies refer to the inherent logic of the communist system as the main reason for its disintegration, Beissinger highlights the importance of nationalist events that took place during the years 1987 to 1991. Based on rich quantitative and qualitative data, the author argues that the tidal impact of these demonstration and protest events and their cross-country influence shaped a phase of history, in which institutions were changed not as the result of an inherent logic, but rather through the whole process itself.

Beissinger’s book offers a very productive combination of transnational and comparative sociological analysis. In the following review, I will focus on the second and fifth chapter of the book, in which Beissinger explains how the transnational glasnost tide of nationalism evolved and why some movements of nationalism succeded while others failed. On the basis of Beissinger’s analysis I will show that the development and the success of nationalist movements can be explained from a transnational perspective, whereas the failure of movements can rather be explained from a comparative view. Read the rest of this entry »

GovernanceXBorders co-editor Phil Mader contributes a review of Wolfgang Streeck’s new book “Gekaufte Zeit: Die vertagte Krise des demokratischen Kapitalismus“, a book which is highly critical of transnational regimes, at least regarding the European Union’s crisis management, at TheCurrentMoment.

Last semester I taught a class on “Comparative and transnational analysis of contemporary societies” for master’s and doctoral students at the University of Cologne. The aim of the course was to familiarize students with key approaches in comparative-historical social and political analysis, major critiques, and alternative approaches of world society and transnational analysis. We started with the now well-known critique that comparative-historical analysis often falls victim to “methodological nationalism” because it all too frequently assumes society to be bounded by the nation-state. In consequence, comparative-historical analysis often ignores cross-border social relations and horizons of actions, emerging from increasing cross-border flows of people, goods and cultures, transnational and global organizations, networks and communities, as well as transnational institution building.

We started with the sociological classics of whom many considered the comparative method as a key heuristic of social and political analysis. From that we moved on to post-World War II sociological analysis, world systems theory and the world society approach. Empirical illustrations covered issues such as state building, social classes and inequality, migration and diaspora communities, transnational movements, cross-border policy networks and the Europeanisation of welfare institutions.

Interestingly enough, we discovered that even within transnational analysis focusing on networks, diffusion or multi-level interactions, the comparative method does still have an important role to play. Going back to the classics, we found intriguing combinations of comparison and diffusion analysis in Tocqueville’s and Weber’s work. More contemporary critical approaches, such as world systems theory and world society theory, continue to use country comparison as a reference point. This led us to the conclusion that the comparative method is still very valuable but needs to be adapted and combined with other methodological approaches such as network analysis, process tracing or sequence analysis to encompass the transnational and global realities of contemporary societies. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the things that make blogs particularly interesting are series. The “series” series recommends series at related blogs.

When Daniel Rozas warns, I listen. Rozas forecasted the crisis of microfinance which broke out in India in late 2010, warning as early as November 2009 that Andhra Pradesh was the most saturated microfinance market in the world alongside Bangladesh, and mass defaults could begin any time.

2009:

I can’t predict whether the microfinance bubble I believe exists and continues to grow in Andhra Pradesh and other south Indian states will deflate quietly or burst spectacularly. […] In their pursuit of growth, many MFIs have continued to add large numbers of new customers in Andhra Pradesh and other highly saturated regions – I believe that is irresponsible. […] The spark that sets off a large-scale delinquency crisis can be anything and could come at any time – a rapid drop in economic growth, a populist political movement, a religious decree, or a collections effort gone bad.  One can’t control the spark, but one can control how much fuel that spark can ignite.

Since this February, Rozas has been outlining the scenario of a possible further repayment crisis in a series of posts (links to parts 2 & 3) on the Financial Access Initiative Blog. He says self-regulatory efforts over the past years have been important, but perhaps not enough to stem lending excesses in certain countries (I would agree). Looking at indebtedness and lending at the sub-national level, Rozas reveals a fairly alarming picture in the Mexican state Chiapas, which shows similar patterns to Andhra Pradesh in 2009.

But it is Rozas’ attunement to the political economy of microlending which sets him apart from most sector consultants. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
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