Political Studies Review (PSR) provides a unique intellectual space for rigorous high-quality peer-reviewed original research across political science and the study of politics in related fields that aims at stimulating wide-ranging debate and cutting edge discussion of current disputes and issues in the discipline within the UK and internationally.
Anti-politics (and its intellectual roots) and populism as “an absolute delegitimation of politics and existing political authority.”Matteo Truffelli and Lorenzo Zambernardi (using the voice of Micòl Beseghi) claim that “the ambiguity of anti-politics comes from its being a kind of shadow of modern politics: it emerges with and from modernity, mirroring its many forms. And this is what explains the many identities anti-politics has assumed throughout modern history.”
Matteo Truffelli is Associate Professor of History of Political Thought at the University of Parma. He is the author of La “questione partito” dal fascismo alla Repubblica. Culture politiche nella transizione (2003) and L’ombra della politica. Saggio sulla storia del pensiero antipolitico (2008). He also introduced and edited the Italian translation of Bolingbroke’s Dissertation Upon Parties (2013).
Lorenzo Zambernardi is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna. He is the author of the monograph I limiti della potenza. Etica e politica nella teoria internazionale di Hans J. Morgenthau (2010). His work has been published in the European Journal of International Relations, History of European Ideas, International Political Sociology, Review of International Studies, and the Washington Quarterly.
In this article, we wanted to explore how people build academic careers in political science, with a particular focus on those at the start of their careers, early-career academics. Because we also know that women are underrepresented in the discipline at all levels of seniority (Pflaeger-Young et al., 2021), we were particularly interested to see whether we would find any gender differences in experiences of career development.
As part of our research, we carried out a survey, which was sent to the Political Studies Association’s Early Career Network. We also did eight interviews with individuals who indicated they would be interested in speaking further on the topic. We asked respondents their thoughts on the job market, training, support for career development at their universities, mentoring, and networking – all activities important in building and strengthening skills, as well as reputation and membership in an academic community. We also asked more generally about experiences of isolation and discrimination, as our previous research has shown that these are some reasons people struggle to progress in an academic career (Mattocks and Briscoe-Palmer, 2016).
With regards to the job market, the top three concerns looked similar for men and women: lack of job opportunities, a competitive job market, and financial challenges (this ranking was 1/3/2 for women). But a greater percentage of women were concerned about those factors than man. There were also other differences: combining a career with family life was identified as a worry by 63% of women and 42% of men, for example.
In general, we found that men were both more likely to have a mentor (60% of women and 71% of men) and to report positive experiences of mentoring relationships. One finding that emerged is many women would prefer a mentor who is also a woman. With regards to networking, 51% of women and 50% of men said that they participated in networking. However, gender disparities became evident when we asked about why people did not participate in networking: 74% of women and 46% of men reported that a lack of confidence was a reason that they did not participate in networking events. So, overall, we find that while men and women ECAs participate in networking at the same rate, men reported greater confidence in doing so.
Women reported more instances of discrimination from students, colleagues, and institutions. Nearly one-fifth of women (20%) and 4% of men reported discrimination from students. Interestingly, these men were from outside of the UK, meaning no British men reported discrimination from their students. Women were much more likely to report difficulties based on ethnicity and geographical origin (for example, not being a native English speaker).
Ultimately our findings showed a gendered effect of some aspects of professional development, in particular a disparity between concerns about academic careers, as well as experiences of mentoring, networking, and teaching (specifically discrimination from students). We found no gendered differences in experiences of training offered by universities and in the rate of networking.
Women reported more instances of discrimination from students, colleagues, and institutions. Nearly one-fifth of women and 4% of men reported discrimination from students.
These findings are not an explanation for the underrepresentation of women in the profession, but they do add to the evidence base of challenges that women can face. On their own, each experience we describe might seem trivial. Taken together, they paint a picture of a system in which some people have more
access than others. We argue that we need to continue to study and highlight structural inequalities and wider cultures of sexism, racism and other types of discrimination in academia. More work is necessary on this topic to understand representation in the discipline in more detail (Emejulu, 2019). Most urgently, we need to have a deeper understanding of career development and progression from an intersectional perspective, and also take into account other gender identities, disability, and socio-economic factors.
This is even more important given that Covid-19 has made existing inequalities even stronger (Bhala et al. 2020). Women have borne the brunt of caring responsibilities (Andrew et al., 2020). The pandemic has had a drastic impact on recruitment in political science, and job prospects are bleak (McKay, 2020), meaning less stability and more competition, and an even more challenging future for early career academics.
Bhala N, Curry G, Martineau AR (2020) Sharpening the global focus on ethnicity and race in the time of COVID-19.The Lancet 395 (10238):1673-1676.
Emejulu A (2019) Can Political Science Decolonise? A Response to Neema Begum and Rima Saini. Political Studies Review 17(2): 202–206.
Mattocks K and Briscoe-Palmer S (2016) Challenges Facing Minority Politics PhD Students in the United Kingdom: Women, People of Black and Ethnic Minority Origin, and Disabled Persons. European Political Science 15(4): 476–492.
Pflaeger Young Z, Amery F, Holden Bates S, et al. (2021) Women in the Profession: An Update on the Gendered Composition of the Discipline and Political Science Departments in the UK. Political Studies Review 19(1): 12-36.
Shardia Briscoe-Palmer is an Early Career Academic at De Montfort University. She researches gender, race and social (in)justice. Shardia is also a doctoral researcher in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham.
Kate Mattocksis a Lecturer in Politics at the University of East Anglia. She researches cultural policy, particularly as it relates to issues of cultural identity and cultural diversity, and academic labour.
Has Political Science as a discipline, as well as Political Science departments in the UK made significant progress in terms of gender equality? “Given the higher profile of gender issues and the increase in measures and initiatives aimed at addressing gender inequalities, we might expect to see considerable progress in the presence and status of women, especially among those universities that have put active policies in place” – says Dr Zoe Pflaeger Young. “However, our survey conducted in 2018 shows that there has only been incremental rather than transformative change” – she adds.
The article is a part of a special issue: Gender in the Profession-wide analysis of #gendered composition of the Political Science departments in the UK.
Zoe Pflaeger Youngis a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at De Montfort University. Her current research concentrates on the crisis of social reproduction and family policy in the context of austerity, with a particular interest in shared parental leave and childcare.
“Research suggests that, if current trends persist in Germany and France, there will be one retired person for every two working people by 2050. In Japan, we already reached a 2 to 1 ratio, and by 2050 it will eventually reach 1:1. This is, of course, unsustainable, unless we give extremely low pensions to retirees, or ask extremely high contributions from workers” – claim Prof. Vincenzo Alfano and Prof. Pietro Maffettone. In this interview, they highlight major challenges related with modern pension systems, describe specifics of the Italian case, and sketch proposals to create a fairer pension system in the future. A fuller analysis of these issues can be found in Prof. Alfano’s and Prof. Maffettone’s PSR article: No Country for Old (Poor) Men: Fairness and Public Pensions.
Political Studies Review: What are the major functions of the welfare state? How would you define it?
Prof. Vincenzo Alfano, Prof. Pietro Maffettone: The welfare state is the product of a historical process. In part, it was dictated by the recognition that some of the risks that people faced in a market economy were predictable and widely dispersed (e.g. unemployment). At the same time, there was also a strong political element, namely, making market capitalism less exposed to revolutionary pressures and more able to compete, as a social model, with the Soviet block.
Does it work? Much will depend on the kind of benchmark one is inclined to use. Compared to a world without any kind of welfare state, one that features some kind of welfare state in an otherwise capitalist market economy is certainly progress. At the same time, the welfare state as an institution has also been prone to be abused and to inefficiency. Nonetheless, what we can say is that, as all kinds of human creations, the welfare state has costs and benefits and those need to be balanced.
Can a ‘pay-as-you-go’ (PAYG) system be efficient considering recent demographic trends? What are the major flaws?
Luckily enough, life expectancy greatly expanded in recent years, for most people, and in most countries, especially in Western ones and in many countries in East Asia. This means that we live longer, and this is great news. However, in many rich countries, fertility is going down dramatically (Italy and Japan are the poster child for this kind of predicament). These two trends, taken together, suggest that the working base, those who are supposed to pay pensions to those currently (at any point in time) retired, gets thinner and thinner, while the set of retirees grows. There is no need for complex actuarial calculations to understand that this trend is unsustainable. Actuarial calculations will tell us ‘when’ not ‘if’.
The major political flaw in the system is that people are extremely averse to loss: it is extremely hard to withdraw existing benefits to a large class of citizens. What’s the upshot? Sadly, some pain to come, all other things being equal (for example, massive immigration might make other things not equal). Research suggests that, if current trends persist in Germany and France, there will be one retired person for every two working people by 2050. In Japan, we already reached a 2 to 1 ratio, and by 2050 it will eventually reach 1:1. This is, of course, unsustainable, unless we give extremely low pensions to retirees, or ask extremely high contributions from workers.
Would you say that ‘personal pension system’ (PPS) is a good alternative to PAYG? Is intragenerational fairness possible using this system?
It is of course, a potential alternative, as you highlight in the question, but it is especially hard to ensure intragenerational fairness through this kind of system. We also need to recognize that most people in most countries, don’t save enough over the course of their lives to actually derive a sustainable pension from their saving pool. Of course, what is a sustainable pension is debatable. But one thing seems clear, if we all had to rely on our efforts alone, then, we would have to strongly alter our lifestyles, and perhaps even the way in which picture some of the major financial decisions we take over the course of our lives. For example, homes would not be bought to pass them on to one’s children, but to be able to survive after retirement by selling the asset.
What about the Italian case study? What are the major lessons we can learn from it?
Italy represents a good case study, since it has one of the oldest populations in the world, and thus all the pension-related issues are amplified in the Italian context. We can learn mainly two lessons: the first is that a pension reform that would make the system sustainable over time is hugely unpopular. All Italian politicians that shrunk pension benefits paid an important personal cost in terms of their popularity and their political careers.
The major political flaw in the system is that people are extremely averse to loss: it is extremely hard to withdraw existing benefits to a large class of citizens.
Yet, it is also important to highlight that pension system reform is not the kind of issue that a government can push back into the future indefinitely. At some point, the pressure on the public purse becomes too hard and tough decisions have to be made. In fact, many would argue that, at least for Italy, we have long passed that particular moment.
Who will benefit from the PPS system in Italy, and who will be negatively affected?
If we talk about people receiving a pension over their contribution, there would mainly be affected people who live on average less than the country-wide life-expectancy, thus people from the Southern regions, especially males. Of course, the other half of the coin is that women and Northenerns would be negatively affected. It is anyhow important to highlight that many people benefit of a pensione sociale, which despite the name is not actually a pension but a form of welfare for the elderly who are unable to claim a proper pension. These are mostly located in the South – the South being poorer and featuring a wider proportion of underground economic activity. Of course, a PPS reform that would change this ‘pension’ would affect them dramatically.
What approach, or what changes to existing approaches should be considered to reduce negative outcomes of such a pension system?
Our idea is to define better the likelihood of reaching a certain age that each person has and to modulate the contribution over this variable. Pensions are paid as long as someone dies. The key variable here is how long one lives. We know that life expectancy depends on a number of factors, such as gender, residence, habits, marriage status, and so on. To base a pension system on a much more detailed estimation of one’s expected lifespan, as the private system already does, is the first step toward a more (actuarially) fair pension system.
What are the key contributions your article brings to the field?
We offer a point of view that reverses the usual narrative on who ‘contributes the most’. Often, richer regions in the country are seen as net contributors to welfare payments, while the poorer regions are seen as getting disproportionate benefits from this equalization. Yet, and this is what we have tried to show in our paper if we look at how long people benefit from a given welfare measure (something that is connected to life expectancy for pension), it turns out that the poorer regions, on average, contribute more than the richer regions. The sustainability of the pension system in Italy, to the extent that it is sustainable (not for long!), is aided not worsened by pension benefits granted to citizens of poorer (southern) regions.
Prof. Vincenzo Alfano – is Adjunct Professor in Political Economy in the Department of Humanities (University of Napoli Federico II) . He received his PHD from Parthenope University and cooperates with the Institute for the Mediterranean of the Italian National Research Council.
Prof. Pietro Maffetone – is Assistant Professor in Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Sciences (University of Napoli Federico II). He received his PhD from the LSE. Before joining Federico II he taught at the LSE and Durham University.