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  • Author: Sebastian Kohl
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: America’s “infatuation with homeownership” has been identified as one cause of the latest financial crisis. Based on codings of 1,809 party manifestos in 19 OECD countries since 1945, this paper addresses the question of where the political ideal to democratize homeownership came from. While conservative parties have defended homeownership across countries and time, center-left parties have oscillated between a pro-homeownership and a pro-rental position. The former occurs in Anglo-Saxon, Northern and Southern European countries, while the latter prevails among German-speaking countries. Beyond partisan effects, once a country has a majority of homeowners and parties defending homeownership, larger parties are more likely to support it. The extent of center-left parties’ support for homeownership is conditionally associated with higher homeownership rates, more encouraging mortgage regimes, and a bigger housing bubble burst after 2007. The ideational origins of the financialization of housing and private Keynesianism are, after all, not only conservative and market-liberal.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Mark Lutter, Karlijn L. A Roex, Daria Tisch
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: Anomie and imitation have been prominent mechanisms explaining the Werther effect, i.e., the effect of celebrity suicides on a general population’s suicide rate. This study presents a new approach to empirically disentangle both mechanisms. Imitation theory suggests that celebrities act as role models, and that the Werther effect is triggered by the status of the celebrity in question. Anomie theory, on the other hand, suggests that the Werther effect is triggered by the unexpectedness of the event. To this end, we empirically compare the effects of celebrity suicides with the effects of celebrities who died unexpectedly from causes other than suicide (accidents, illnesses, alcohol abuse). Based on language and page-link data from 3,855 Wikipedia pages of 495 celebrities who committed suicide between 1960 and 2014, we measure the status a celebrity has in a particular country and calculate the potential country-specific imitation effect of their suicide. In the same manner, we measure status effects of celebrities who died unexpectedly from accidents, illnesses, or alcohol abuse to reflect anomie-related effects. We use these measures in a time-series cross-sectional dataset for 34 OECD countries to assess their effects on a country’s overall annual suicide rate. Fixed-effects analyses reveal that country-specific status effects of celebrity suicides lead to significant increases in overall suicide rates, while anomie-related, unexpected celebrity deaths show no effects. The findings remain robust across a number of alternative specifications, such as controlling for further anomic factors at the macro level (divorce or unemployment rate, for instance). We conclude that the results support the imitation mechanism as an essential social explanation for the Werther effect.
  • Topic: International Relations, Health
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Matias Dewey
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: State concerns about crime and security issues have strongly affected conceptions of economic action outside the law, a traditional field of research in sociology. This increasing encroachment by policy-related concerns on the intellectual framework of the discipline has led, on one hand, to an almost exclusive focus on criminal organizations in the analyses of illegal economic activity. On the other hand, it has led to the downplaying of the importance of classic topics of sociological reflection, such as the embeddedness of action, the moral dimension of illegal products, or the relationship between social change and the spread of illegal exchanges. This short paper problematizes economic action outside the law by taking legal definitions and their effects seriously. It begins with the problem of naturalizing state definitions. This is followed by a discussion of the illegality of illegal markets, which illustrates sociological contributions. Finally, three dimensions of the study of illegal markets are suggested. Overall, the paper lays out a research program for this field of sociological inquiry.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Markets, Sociology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Renate Mayntz
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: In sociology generally, the infringement of legal norms is not treated as a special kind of norm violation, the sociology of law being an obvious exception. The study of illegal markets therefore faces the challenge of distinguishing illegality from legality, and relating both to legitimacy. There is no conceptual ambiguity about the distinction between legal and illegal if legality is formally defined. In practice, (formal) legality and (social) legitimacy can diverge: there is both legitimate illegal action and illegitimate legal action. Illegal markets are a special kind of illegal social system, constituted by market transactions. Illegal markets are empirically related to organized crime, mafia and even terrorist organizations, and they interact both with legal markets and the forces of state order. Where legal and illegal action systems are not separated by clear social boundaries, they are connected by what has come to be called “interfaces”: actors moving between a legal and an illegal world, actions that are illegal but perceived as legitimate or the other way around, and a gray zone of actions that are neither clearly legal nor illegal, and neither clearly legitimate nor illegitimate. Interfaces facilitate interaction between legal and illegal action systems, but they are also sources of tension and can lead to institutional change.
  • Topic: Crime, Markets, Sociology, Law
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Elizabeth Carter
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: Economists assume increased producer flexibility creates production advantages. So why do inefficient French quality wine producers dominate their flexible, efficient Italian counterparts? French AOC wine producers created “corporatist” producer organizations which served three purposes: encouraged increased product quality information across the supply chain; allowed for the emergence of a unique production style; and enabled producers to define their production methods as “quality” via state regulation. Italian DOC wine producers have fragmented political structures at both the regional and national levels, causing producers to rely more on the price mechanism and less on political structures to coordinate supply chain transactions. Market asymmetries persist across the supply chain, making it difficult for producers to guarantee quality and adversely shaping their potential production and brand strategies. Solving supply chain problems through representative political institutions yields superior economic outcomes than uncoordinated market transactions because the former corrects market power asymmetries.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Politics, Regulation
  • Political Geography: France, Italy, Global Focus
  • Author: Adel Daoud, Bjorn Hallerod, Debarati Guha Sapir
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: This paper explores the degree to which exposure to reoccurring natural disasters of various kinds explains seven dimensions of severe child poverty in 67 middle- and low-income countries. It also analyzes how certain institutional conditions, namely the quality of government (QoG), have moderating effects on the relationship between disasters and child poverty. Two main hypotheses are tested. The first is that disasters do have an adverse average effect on severe poverty. The second is that disasters reveal a positive coefficient (i.e., more disasters, more deprivation) but that higher levels of QoG negatively moderate this effect, i.e., the adverse effect of disasters is diminished by increasingly high QoG levels. From 70 possible combinations of relationships (7 types of deprivation combined with 10 types of natural disaster measures), 11 have the expected correlation between disasters and child deprivation and only one has the expected interactive correlation between quality of government, disasters, and child poverty. Several unexpected results could also be observed which are discussed in the paper along with recommendations for future research.
  • Topic: Economics, Natural Disasters, Governance, Research, Child Poverty
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Martin Höpner, Bojan Jurczyk
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: This paper reviews Eurobarometer surveys from 1995 to 2010 and shows how Eurobarometer selects and frames questions in ways that systematically produce “integrationist” outcomes. The violations of the rules of good public opinion research concern incomprehensible, hypothetical, and knowledge-inadequate questions, unbalanced response options, insinuation and leading questions, context effects, and the strategic removal of questions that led to critical responses in previous Eurobarometer waves. It is highly unlikely that the violations happen unintentionally. Eurobarometer therefore blurs the line between research and propaganda.
  • Topic: Sociology, Public Opinion, Research
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Thomas Paster
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: What is the impact of business interest groups on the formulation of public social policies? This paper reviews the literature in political science, history, and sociology on this question. It identifies two strands: one analyzes the political power and influence of business, the other the preferences and interests of business. Since the 1990s, researchers have shifted their attention from questions of power to questions of preferences. While this shift has produced important insights into the sources of the policy preferences of business, it came with a neglect of issues of power. This paper takes a first step towards re-integrating a power-analytical perspective into the study of the role of business in welfare state politics. It shows how a focus on variation in business power can help to explain both why business interest groups accepted social protection during some periods in the past and why they have become increasingly assertive and averse to social policies since the 1970s.
  • Topic: Human Welfare, Politics, History, Sociology, Landpower, Business
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Wolfgang Streeck
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: The rise of the consolidation state follows the displacement of the classical tax state, or Steuerstaat, by what I have called the debt state, a process that began in the 1980s in all rich capitalist democracies. Consolidation is the contemporary response to the “fiscal crisis of the state” envisaged as early as the late 1960s, when postwar growth had come to an end. Both the long-term increase in public debt and the current global attempts to bring it under control were intertwined with the “financialization” of advanced capitalism and its complex functions and dysfunctions. The ongoing shift towards a consolidation state involves a deep rebuilding of the political institutions of postwar democratic capitalism and its international order. This is the case in particular in Europe where consolidation coincides with an unprecedented increase in the scale of political rule under European Monetary Union and with the transformation of the latter into an asymmetric fiscal stabilization regime. The paper focuses on the developing structure of the new consolidation regime and its consequences for the relationship between capitalism and democracy.
  • Topic: Debt, Monetary Policy, Democracy, Capitalism, Financial Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Barbara Fulda
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: How can we understand subnational differences in fertility rates? The most common explanations see the key to these differences in the socio-structural composition of a region’s population and its structural conditions. However, such explanations fail to account for fertility rate differences in regions with similar populations and structures. This paper analyzes two social milieus in southern Germany and argues that variations in their fertility rates can only be understood through their cultural differences. Family extension patterns as well as opportunity structures (such as the availability of childcare facilities) are substantially influenced by the regionally differing cultural norms formed and held by social milieu members. To better explain differences in fertility rates and to understand the regionally differing effects of family policy measures, demographic research therefore needs to include culture in its understanding of demographic behavior.
  • Topic: Demographics, Sociology, Culture, Children, Research
  • Political Geography: Germany, Global Focus