My research explores the connections between political systems, nationality, and democracy from a comparative perspective across time and space.
I’m interested in particular in how and why political systems are formed, structured, restructured, and dissolved.
Some of the core questions I have addressed in my research include: Does European integration fuel state restructuring? Why have some federations become more centralised over time while others have not? What are the connections between nationality and democracy?
(please see Works for a full list)
European Integration, Party Strategies, and State Restructuring: a Comparative Analysis – Appendix. European Political Science Review 6/2: 213-36 (© Cambridge University Press)
To what extent and in what way does European integration fuel state restructuring? This is a long-standing but still not a fully answered question. While the theoretical literature suggests a positive link between the two, previous empirical studies have reached contrasting conclusions. The article offers an alternative testing of the proposition, centred on the role of party strategies as a causal mechanism, analysed across space and time. On the cross-sectional axis, it focusses on parties in Flanders and Wallonia (Belgium), Lombardy and Sicily (Italy), Catalonia and Andalusia (Spain), and Scotland and Wales (United Kingdom). On the cross-temporal axis, it focuses on four critical junctures connecting integration and state restructuring. It analyses the degree to which ‘Europe’ has been strategically used in connection to state restructuring and which conditions have been necessary and/or sufficient to that outcome. The analysis has been conducted on the basis of a Qualitative Comparative Analysis methodology. Five main results emerge: (1) overall, parties have generally exploited ‘Europe’ in connection with state restructuring to a limited extent only but in a few cases exploitation has been very intense and intimately linked to strategic turning points; (2) ‘Europe’ has overwhelmingly been used to support state restructuring; (3) the most intense use has been made by regional parties with a secessionist position and positive attitude to the EU; (4) ‘use of Europe’ is a product of a complex conjunctural effect of several conditions; (5) it has increased over time but is not a linear product of integration, a sharp drop can be observed between the two most recent time points. These findings show that European integration can indeed exercise causal influence upon state restructuring via party strategies but that this is highly contingent on the complex interaction of multiple factors.
Between Two Unions: Europeanisation and Scottish Devolution. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005.
This book is the first in-depth comparative study of Scottish devolution and the first to analyse the impact of the European dimension. With focus on the periods leading up to the referendums in 1979 and 1997, it investigates positions and strategies of political parties and interest groups and how these influenced constitutional preferences at mass level and ultimately the referendum results. Based on rigorous analysis of an extensive body of quantitative and qualitative sources, it builds a ground-breaking argument that challenges the widespread thesis that support for devolution was a consequence of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997. It shows that the decisive factors were changing attitudes to independence and the role of the European dimension in shaping them.
Europeanization as Heresthetics: Party Competition over Self-Government for Scotland, 1974-97. Party Politics 15/1: 49-68.
This article is a theoretical and empirical contribution to the study of the Europeanization of political parties. On the theoretical side, it draws on the concepts of heresthetics and two-level games to conceptualize a Europeanization mechanism that has so far been overlooked in the literature. It shows that Europeanization can be a heresthetic tool in party competition, notably in terms of opening up a new dimension that may result in a realignment of alliances able to turn losers into winners. It then applies this conceptualization to party competition over the issue of self-government for Scotland from 1974 to 1997 and shows how it can to a large extent account for a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the anti- and pro-devolution camps between 1979 and 1997. It concludes by relating these theoretical and empirical findings back to the debate on the Europeanization of political parties and identifies avenues for further research.
Democratic Deficit or the Europeanisation of Secession? Explaining the Devolution Referendums in Scotland. Political Studies 53/2: 320-42.
This article deals with the variation in the demand for self-government in Scotland – as measured by the vote in the two referendums – between 1979, when devolution was rejected, and 1997, when devolution was endorsed. The existing literature mainly deals with each of the two referendums in isolation and does not offer an explicitly comparative analysis of them. However, implicit comparisons contained in analyses of the 1997 referendum tend to identify as the main cause of the variation the ‘democratic deficit’ created by Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997, which was consistently rejected in Scotland. I take issue with this explanation on theoretical and empirical grounds and advances an alternative account grounded in an explicit comparison of the two referendums. Based on a rationalist approach, the analysis presented here identifies three key elements in the voting dynamics at the two points in time – a gap between support for self-government and the actual vote in the referendum; an interaction effect between attitudes to devolution and to independence; and the role of the European context in shaping perceptions of independence. I argue that significant change in these three variables (rather than a ‘democratic deficit’) appear to have been the most important determinants of the different results of the two referendums.
Multi-lingual but Mono-national – Exploring and Explaining Switzerland’s Exceptionalism. In Ferran Requejo and Miquel Caminal (eds), Federalism, Plurinationality, and Democratic Constitutionalism – Theory and Cases. Abingdon: Routledge, 2011.
This chapter explores how statehood and patterns of collective identity have historically evolved in Switzerland and how they are interacting in the contemporary Swiss system. It shows that a sense of Swiss nationhood emerged before the creation of a Swiss federal state in 1848 and that it survived the pressures of ‘linguistic nationalism’ in the latter part of the ‘long’ XIX century to become fully consolidated in the XX century. While many features of the Swiss system today reflect the multi-lingual nature of its society, they also show rather clearly that Switzerland is not a multi-national federation. Subsequently, the chapter offers an explanation of why Switzerland, despite being multi-lingual and multi-cultural, has not become multinational, by arguing that this is best explained by a complex interaction over a long period of time of a unique set of factors, both internal and external. The chapter then considers the challenges likely to face the Swiss system in the mid-term and concludes by arguing that the characteristics of Swiss society and the strengths of its federal political architecture will likely enable it to remain mono-national in the foreseeable future.
The Acid Test? Competing Theses on the Nationality-Democracy Nexus and the Case of Switzerland. Nations and Nationalism 17/2: 357-76 (with Nenad Stojanović).
This article deals with the connection between nationality and democracy and explores the role Switzerland plays in the scholarly debate on this question. It identifies three main theses – liberal-nationalist, liberal-multinationalist and liberal-postnationalist – and shows that each of them uses the Swiss case to claim empirical support. It then analyses the connections between nationality and democracy in Switzerland and demonstrates that the country is neither multinational nor postnational, but is best characterised as a mononational state. These findings expose the fallacy of using Switzerland to claim support for either the multinational or the postnational thesis and call for a reconsideration of them. Additionally, they show that “civic nationalism” and “civic republicanism” can be conflated and that a predominantly civic nation is viable and sustainable and is not necessarily an ethnic nation in disguise. The Swiss case thus provides qualified empirical support for the liberal-nationalist thesis.
Main funded projects
Why Centralisation and Decentralisation in Federations?
This project measures dynamic de/centralisation across 22 policy and five fiscal categories in six major federations – Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the United States – since their foundation. It aims to explain why some federations become more centralised over time while others become more decentralised. I am Project Manager and joint PI for this project, the rest of the team includes Professor John Kincaid (co-PI, Lafayette College, USA), Professor Alan Fenna (Curtin University, Australia), Professor André Kaiser (University of Cologne, Germany), Professor André Lecours (University of Ottawa, Canada), Professor Ajay Kumar Singh (Hamdard University, India), Dr Sean Mueller (University of Berne, Switzerland), and Stephan Vogel (University of Cologne, Germany). It is funded by the Leverhulme Trust (grant no. IN-2013-044), the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant no. IZK0Z1_155030), and the Forum of Federations.
European Integration and State Restructuring
This project investigated the causal connections between European integration and processes of state restructuring in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, from 1950 to today. It was funded by the James Madison Trust.
Federalism, Nationality, and Democracy in Switzerland
This project investigated the nature and evolution of Swiss federalism from a comparative perspective. It dealt with a number of aspects, including its relevance for the evolving confederalism of the EU, the degree to which it is challenged by Europeanisation, its connections with democracy and with national identity. It was funded by Presence Switzerland, the Institut d’Estudis Autonòmics (now Institut d’Estudis de l’Autogovern), and the British Academy (grant no. OCG-44396).
European Integration and the Politics of Devolution in Scotland
This project investigated whether and to what extent European integration influenced the demand for self-government in Scotland between the 1970s and the 1990s. It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the London School of Economics.