The ESPOL-LAB Research Centre for European and International Politics, is composed of a team of researchers who actively contribute to the development of knowledge in political science. In their research they analyse public decision-making processes and contemporary transformations in the political sphere. Questioning the boundaries of politics and the relationship between politics and society is at the heart of ESPOL-LAB’s scientific project. What is the actual impact of political decision-making? What are its drivers? To what extent do policies still refer to the regulation of society?
The apparent fragility of the contemporary state, in conjunction with the fragmentation of identities, growing globalisation of economies, and the emergence of new forms of violence highlight the difficulty of organising social relations and giving meaning to societal life. Yet, while the modern state may no longer be seen as the exclusive framework within which common rules are developed and transformed, it nevertheless retains an unparalleled appeal and ability to guide and organise societies.
In this context, ESPOL-LAB research aims to help inform political decision-making processes, their normative underpinnings and the constraints they face, also including their continuously transforming relations to territory and violence. Our research team is composed of specialists in various political science fields, such as public policies, international relations, comparative politics, history of political ideas, and political theory.
1) The quality of democracy
Representative democracy has been put to the test for several decades, in Europe as in the rest of the world. Understanding the multifaceted causes of this crisis is one of the major challenges of social sciences and, more particularly, of contemporary political science. The role of political parties and governments is changing. In a globalized world, the position of nation states, including in the European Union is evolving. The forms and arenas of political participation are diversifying. The rise of so-called ‘populist’ movements challenges the political elites.
Based on a reflection of the fundamental principles of democracy, this thematic research area aims to analyse the formal and procedural conditions of democracy, the capacity of political institutions to meet these criteria as well as the causes and consequences of democratic transformation. The research conducted on these issues goes beyond a strictly legalistic reading of democratic rules to include a theoretical reflection on the criteria of good governance with an empirical analysis of political processes.
Using the tools of political philosophy, political sociology and public policy analysis, the work of this research area focuses specifically on:
– political representation, such as elections, parties and parliaments,
– new spaces of democracy, especially economic democracy,
2) Regulation and governance
This research area of ESPOL-LAB focusses on the transformation of the regulation of society. Adopting a broad definition, this term refers to the production and implementation of standards and action programmes in a given territory by institutions holding a certain legitimacy. In this sense, regulation includes both government activity and private norms aimed at organising a sector of society or social relations. Far from being a neutral or purely functional activity, regulation basically implies material and ideational conflicts which are underlying this development and/or result from it, which need to be analysed.
Questioning politics by regulation implies a triple interrogation in terms of players, arenas of regulation, and finally, instruments. Regarding the stakeholders, the question is Robert Dahl’s famous “who governs?” , questioning the players influencing the production of standards and their implementation. These new players are also pushing regulation to change the arenas of government and governance, with the growing importance of infra-, supra- and transnational levels, and the development of public-private or private standards alongside national or international regulations. Public regulation at the national level, which has prevailed for a long time, is challenged by the importance of new global issues (for example, international conflicts, migration, environmental change, economic globalisation, etc.).
The research carried out at ESPOL-LAB focuses on this evolution of governance to analyse how the players themselves bring in and pursue their issues, but also to analyse the consequences of these public-private stakeholder constellations.
Finally, the form and nature of regulation depends on the issues at stake. Consequently, the modes of coordination between players as well as the instruments of regulation evolve. Among the sources of change, our research analyses the role of certain norms, such as neoliberalism or participative democracy, in changing these regulations. The fields of application are diverse: Security and defense, economy, environment and agriculture are all areas of regulation studied in ESPOL-LAB.
The work of this axis focusses in particular on:
– advances and limits of governance: in emerging areas (e.g. the environment) as in sovereign areas (e.g. as security and defense),
– reconfigurations of international law,
– the role of cultural policies in internationalization, especially in the construction of Europe,
– the legitimacy of international regulations.
3) Reconfigurations of the International
This research theme of ESPOL-LAB explores the contemporary transformations of the International stage. The latter is traditionally understood as an abstract space without an own territory where political and social phenomena would evolve either completely outside the state or between states. The International can however also be understood as a certain regime of limits, historically contingent, articulated around the spatial division between the internal and the external. From this, a whole series of normative and structuring distinctions of political practice and the very understanding of politics could be elaborated: a distinction between the citizen and the foreigner, between domestic and foreign policy, between crime and war, between the criminal and the enemy, between internal security and national defense, between the police and the armed forces etc.
The International has always been put to the test and also has continuously been transformed in the process of global integration, as suggested in the literature about the advent of a ‘global and borderless world’. Yet, the International has never totally dissolved in ‘world politics’ that would disregard or override the states. Rather than disappearing, the State is being transformed and, in this context, the International is also undergoing a transformation.
The third research theme analyses the contemporary reconfigurations of the International.
In a critical and reflexive perspective, these research works particularly question the reorientation of the historical construction of the modern state, the evolving notions of space, borders and the enemy, the contested (and yet continually reaffirmed) procedures of legitimising state sovereign authority and the transformation of the conditions for the exercise of violence.
Among the themes that drive the work of this theme, we will mention in particular:
– international security and regional and international security organisations,
– armed conflicts, war and military strategy,
– terrorism and anti-terrorism.
ESPOL-LAB is a partner in the RECONNECT (Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and the Rule of Law) project. This 4-year multi-disciplinary project funded by the European Union under the framework programme H2020. The project brings together a consortium of 18 academic partner institutions from 14 countries, coordinated by KU Leuven. RECONNECT aims at understanding and providing solutions to the recent challenges faced by the European Union. With an explicit focus on strengthening the EU’s legitimacy through democracy and the rule of law, RECONNECT seeks to build a new narrative for Europe, enabling the EU to become more attuned to the expectations of its citizens. A special focus is on EU economic and fiscal policy, on terrorism, international commerce and on migration. Members of ESPOL-LAB contribute particularly to work package 6 ‘Practices of democracy’ and in work package 11 ‘Counter-terrorism’. Read more
JUSTCONSERVATION is a 3-year research project led by ESPOL and funded by the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB) of the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB). The project involves colleagues from 9 research institutions, based in 7 different countries, and aims at theories and practices of justice in the conservation of biodiversity.The project will fill a critical gap in current efforts to significantly advance the knowledge on ways to achieve both the social and ecological objectives associated with the conservation of biodiversity.
ESPOL-LAB participates in the ‘Collaborative Observatory on Terrorism, Anti-Terrorism and Violence’ (O.C.T.A.V.). This is an initiative of scientists from various disciplinary backgrounds, supported and funded by LabToP-CRESPPA-Paris8-CNRS, ESPOL-ICL, REPI-ULB and CERI-SciencesPo/CNRS. Its members address issues related to “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism” by questioning their relationship to the contemporary transformations of violence and politics. To this end, O.C.T.A.V.’s activities are carried out in two formats: a university research seminar and a series of “practitioner meetings” (under Chatham House Rules) with professionals from the fields of security, defence, intelligence, justice and social work. The sessions of the research seminar and the practitioner meetings alternate around the same theme.
The working group emerged from the observation that there have never been as many episodes of so-called “terrorist” violence as there have been since the 1970s and the gradual institutionalisation, in France, Europe and the United States notably, of what we have come to call “anti-terrorism”. Far from suggesting that “anti-terrorism” would generate “terrorist” violence, it rather means to reject the terrorism/anti-terrorism opposition that has structured political, media and expert discourse ever since. From the 1970s onwards, largely fuelled by experts and the media, the political discourse has constantly pitted “terrorism” against “anti-terrorism”, exclusively presenting the latter as the state’s response to “terrorist” violence. In so doing, the political discourse ignores the mimicry of practices which, since that time, is at the heart of the emergence of anti-terrorism: the more “terrorism” has been described as a new form of violence whose entrepreneurs would act as a network, the more security, defence and intelligence actors have been called upon to organise themselves in turn as a network, via increased use of computing tools, and to develop a renewed form of state intervention against the violence labelled as “terrorist”. It is this renewed form of state intervention against so-called terrorist violence that is now called anti-terrorism.
This diagnosis of a transformation of exclusively non-state violence, to which the security and defence apparatuses of modern states would only respond to by adapting to it, is wrong. In addition to locking so-called terrorists and modern states’ security, defence and intelligence apparatus in a worrying escalation of violence and repression, it also blocks the reflection about alternative public policies that could provide a different treatment of violence. Their transformation does not only affect non-state violence, but also state violence, as evidenced by the most recent proposals in France or the United States to increase anti-terrorist capabilities.
Through a three-year programme (2017-2020), the O.C.T.A.V. sessions intend to explore the broad hypothesis according to which “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism” refer to the complex transformations of the way in which the general phenomenon of violence has been problematized and categorized under modernity, in order to allow its treatment by state authorities whose legitimisation process has been described and analysed by a Weberian-Eliasian historical sociology. Under this hypothesis, it is accepted that the analysis of the violence involved in the terrorism/antiterrorism cycle can no longer rest upon the series of oppositions historically accredited and yet often misleading between individual violence and state violence, between “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism”, between democracy and barbarism, between modernity and Islam, between the West and the Middle East, etc. Such an analysis implies a reflexive gesture of distancing such categories of thought that structure the entire political and expertise discourse.
To subscribe to the O.C.T.A.V. information list (in French), please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project “Reviving democratic participation in Europe: lessons from the crisis”
Professor Michael Holmes (Liverpool Hope University) completed a research stay at ESPOL-LAB, funded by the Regional Council Nord-Pas de Calais under their ‘Invited researchers’ programme. During his stay in Lille throughout the year 2017, Michael Holmes pursued a project on the impact of the Euro crisis on political parties as agents of democratic participation. Results of this work is an edited volume (to be published by Manchester University Press) to which Julien Navarro and Antonella Seddone contributed, and to the organisation of an international conference on Brexit in November 2017. Michael Holmes continues to collaborate with ESPOL-LAB as associate researcher.
Project “Between personalization and democratization”
From September 2015 to August 2017, ESPOL-LAB hosted a post-doctoral researcher, Antonella Seddone, to conduct her research project ‘Between personalization and democratization: the changing role of members within political parties’. As part of the ESPOL-LAB research theme ‘Quality of democracy’, this project was funded under the programme ‘Accueil de Jeunes Chercheurs 2015’ by the Conseil Régional Nord – Pas de Calais. During her stay at ESPOL, the post-doctoral researcher published widely in collaboration with members of the research unit, especially with Giulia Sandri. Antonella Seddone continues to work with several colleagues as an associate researcher of ESPOL-LAB.
The ESPOL-LAB team consists of 16 faculty members working on the transformation of European and global politics: twelve Associate professors, a Professor (HDR), a Lecturer, a Post-doctoral researchers, and a Doctoral researcher. ESPOL-LAB is headed by Sabine Weiland (Director) and Thierry Chopin (Deputy Director).
ESPOL has also five associate researchers. We welcome applications of interested researchers to become associated with ESPOL.
ESPOL-LAB is member of the ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research), the principal political science research network in Europe. The ESPOL-LAB team supports the Revue Internationale de Politique Comparée and the Politique européenne journal.
ESPOL welcomes researchers to become associated with the School and, more specifically, with ESPOL-LAB, our Research Centre. The association of researchers serves the purpose of enriching the academic and intellectual life at ESPOL. We invite researchers with a scientific profile matching the research topics pursued at ESPOL to join us as associate researchers.
More information can be found below