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Title [en]
Policy Advice in Electoral democracies – Think Tanks in Hungary and Poland
Abstract [en]
Recent accounts of the state of democracy in the world report an increasing trend of democratic backsliding. The autocratization trend has also taken root in the Western world (e.g. in the US) and in Central Europe (e.g. Poland, Hungary). While significant scholarship exists on why democracies break down, much less is known about how they backslide and how these regimes consolidate. We aim to study how expert bodies such as think tanks have contributed to and partake both in the formation of and the resistance to the autocratization trend in Central Europe. We focus on think tanks in the interest of conceptualizing the dynamic interplay between governments and policy advice in the construction of political knowledge production in electoral democracies, i.e., countries where elections are reasonably free and fair but constitutional guarantees such as rule of law, and civil liberties such as freedom of association or freedom of expression are circumvented. We ask: 1. How and in what capacities was institutional policy advice drawn upon in the turn towards electoral democracy (in Hungary after 2010, in Poland after 2015)? 2. How are policy advisors – both those supporting and resisting the changes – relating to governments in pursue of electoral democracy? These questions will be addressed within a mixed-method research design including comparative, historical and normative dimensions. We will conduct a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews and document analysis of think tanks in these two selected countries. To ensure a targeted investigation, we will single out examples of policy advice in three fields which were both characteristic of both countries’ authoritarian turn and in which policy advice was in high demand: family politics, judicial reform and public media regulations.
Publications (4 of 4) Show all publications
Sörbom, A. & Jezierska, K. (2023). Social capital and polarization: The case of Polish think tanks. Journal of Civil Society, 19(4), 347-365
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social capital and polarization: The case of Polish think tanks
2023 (English)In: Journal of Civil Society, ISSN 1744-8689, E-ISSN 1744-8697, Vol. 19, no 4, p. 347-365Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article, we study polarization within civil society. While earlier research on civil society has shown that civil society organizations can be divisive, research on polarization has only paid scant attention to the role of civil society. We bring these two aspects of the literature together to develop a framework for analyzing social capital in a polarized context. The framework helps identify practices that organizations may engage in when shaping social capital and working with others: facilitating the flow of information; providing credentials for actors; influencing agents; and reinforcing identity and recognition. Importantly, while originally developed for a fundamentally positive analysis of the mechanics of social capital, this framework includes inverted practices. In our analysis, we observe a bifurcation of actions depending on what role they play in the polarization dynamic - integrating relations within the poles or separating relations between the poles. In this sense, social capital contributes to intensified polarization. Empirically, the article is based on a dataset of 30 interviews with 24 policy-oriented civil society organizations (CSOs), here termed think tanks, in Poland.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
Civil society organizations, think tanks, polarization, social capital, Poland
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Baltic and East European studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-52278 (URN)10.1080/17448689.2023.2242517 (DOI)001050478200001 ()2-s2.0-85168349159 (Scopus ID)
Funder
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 6/2019
Available from: 2023-09-04 Created: 2023-09-04 Last updated: 2023-11-24Bibliographically approved
Sörbom, A. & Jezierska, K. (2021). Bridging or Bonding?: Think Tanks in a Polarized Context. In: Swedish Political Science Association Annual Conference: . Paper presented at Swedish Political Science Association Annual Conference, Mittuniversitetet, 29 september - 1 october 2021.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bridging or Bonding?: Think Tanks in a Polarized Context
2021 (English)In: Swedish Political Science Association Annual Conference, 2021Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Social capital is still often presumed as having positive consequences for societies and communities, less benign aspects are frequently overlooked. Nevertheless, scholarship distinguishes between bridging and bonding social capital to mark that social ties might have very different effects. In this paper, we study the “darker sides” of social capital, arguing that to understand the mechanisms that may propel benign and less benign formations of social capital we need to analyze these variations in context. We focus on think tanks, i.e., policy advice institutions, who are often described as organizations bridging various social fields and brokering contacts between various individuals. We argue, however, that a sharply polarized context turns think tanks to bonding, rather than bridging institutions. Our data consists of 40 interviews with representatives from Polish think tanks, collected in two waves (in 2013 and in 2020/2021), which allows us to trace changes over time. Since the radical right wing Law and Justice came to power in 2015, Polish politics and society are deeply polarized along the axis of the socio-cultural dimension (for or against liberal democracy). The analysis indicates that the networks Polish think tanks use for their activities have transformed from bridging between various groups of organizations, to bonding between similar types of organizations.

Keywords
Think tank Polarization Social Capital Poland
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Politics, Economy and the Organization of Society
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-47804 (URN)
Conference
Swedish Political Science Association Annual Conference, Mittuniversitetet, 29 september - 1 october 2021
Funder
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 6-19
Available from: 2021-12-13 Created: 2021-12-13 Last updated: 2021-12-13Bibliographically approved
Jezierska, K. & Sörbom, A. (2021). Proximity and distance: Think tanks handling the independence paradox. Governance. An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions, 34(2), 395-411
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Proximity and distance: Think tanks handling the independence paradox
2021 (English)In: Governance. An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions, ISSN 0952-1895, E-ISSN 1468-0491, Vol. 34, no 2, p. 395-411Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The credibility of think tanks is grounded in their image as independent experts. In order to gain authority to act, think tanks must be seen as independent, but in order to exert influence and gain funding, think tanks are forced to compromise this independent image. We focus on how think tanks handle this independence paradox. How do think tanks use different resources to construct an independent image? The aim of the article is conceptual, as we develop a theoretical model of the independence paradox. This conceptual work is based on empirical analysis of attempts by think tanks in Poland and Sweden to create independence while maintaining influence. The two desirables central for think tanks, independence and influence, force them to make strategic choices about their relations with various actors. We conclude that the processes of keeping distance and arranging proximity are at the core of the independence paradox.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley-Blackwell, 2021
Keywords
Think tank independence, Poland, Sweden, Distance, Proximity
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Baltic and East European studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-40929 (URN)10.1111/gove.12503 (DOI)000536719000001 ()2-s2.0-85085709558 (Scopus ID)
Funder
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 6/2019The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 2/2016
Available from: 2020-06-11 Created: 2020-06-11 Last updated: 2023-07-11Bibliographically approved
Jezierska, K., Krizsan, A. & Sörbom, A. (2021). Think Tanks In De-Democratizing Contexts: A Framework For Analysis. In: Workshop on Policy Advice in De-democratizing and Undemocratic Contexts: . Paper presented at Workshop on Policy Advice in De-democratizing and Undemocratic Contexts Hjortviken, Gothenburg 18-19 November 2021.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Think Tanks In De-Democratizing Contexts: A Framework For Analysis
2021 (English)In: Workshop on Policy Advice in De-democratizing and Undemocratic Contexts, 2021Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The last decade is marked by tendencies of de-democratization and autocratization (Lührmann & Lindberg 2019), often characterized by polarization of politics and society, by undermining facts- and expertise-based policymaking, and by decreasing transparency and accountability of political and policy processes. As part of these democratic erosion processes, civil society has also been increasingly under attack, particularly if critical of the incumbent government.

Think tanks stand at the crossroads ofseveral ofthese tendencies, for several reasons. First, think tanks are members of civil society, and actors in this increasingly polarized political arena. Second, they are organizations that commonly contribute to policy processes with policy knowledge and expertise, which in de-democratizing and polarizing contexts appears to be increasingly troublesome. Third, think tanks are actors that traditionally claim independence beyond party and political lines in their activities. This position may be difficult to uphold in a context where governmental and specific party allegiance is of accelerating importance.

Our research aims to bring together scholarship on de-democratization and polarization seen from the vantage point of think tanks, in an attempt to improve our understanding of the specificities of political knowledge production in the context of democratic backsliding. The context for the paper is a research project funded by the Baltic Sea Foundation on policy advice in electoral regimes. In the project we are focusing on how think tanks as knowledge producers, providers of policy advice and advocacy are relating to the broader processes of de- democratization We propose to do this through a comparison of two extreme cases of de- democratizing countries in Europe: Poland (classified by https://www.v-dem.net/en/ as electoral democracy) and Hungary (classified as electoral autocracy), both of which were downgraded from relatively high and solid democracy prior to 2010 and 2015 respectively. 

National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Politics, Economy and the Organization of Society
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-47806 (URN)
Conference
Workshop on Policy Advice in De-democratizing and Undemocratic Contexts Hjortviken, Gothenburg 18-19 November 2021
Available from: 2021-12-13 Created: 2021-12-13 Last updated: 2021-12-15Bibliographically approved
Principal InvestigatorSörbom, Adrienne
Co-InvestigatorJezierska, Katarzyna
Co-InvestigatorKrizsan, Andrea
Coordinating organisation
Södertörn University
Funder
Period
2020-01-01 - 2022-12-31
Keywords [sv]
Östersjö- och Östeuropaforskning
Keywords [en]
Baltic and East European studies
National Category
SociologyPolitical Science
Identifiers
DiVA, id: project:2040Project, id: 6/2019_OSS

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