Category Archives: Cosmopolitan Dimensions

Women’s Rights in the USA: The Influence of the Abortion Debate

Abortions are considered as a woman’s human right. However, in one of the most advanced countries, the USA, abortions were illegal in most States since 1973. The famous Supreme Court Decision, Roe v. Wade changed that. Nevertheless, the debate on abortions is still current and it has a serious impact on US politics. This year’s presidential race and especially the Republican primary election delegates gave a lot of emphasis on the debate, specifically after the new Birth Control Mandate by the Obama administration that requires all health care plans provide coverage at no cost for all contraceptive methods.

This mandate gave the opportunity to the Conservative Christian Right to influence even more the presidential race by attacking not only the Obama administration but also anyone who did not express a clear – pro – life – view on the debate. However, the main issue in the whole debate is that it undermines women’s human rights in the USA by not giving them the chance to defend their right to “decide independently in all matters related to reproduction” (Human Rights Watch). One example of that is that during the congressional hearing for the birth control mandate only male religious leaders were present.

This paper aims to introduce the audience to the abortion debate in the USA and its impact on US politics and women’s rights. First of all, it will examine the role the abortion debate has played on the 2012 presidential race with a special focus on the GOP Republican Primary elections. In addition, it will examine the way the conservative Christian Right has influenced the abortion discussion and the presidential race. Last but not least, the presentation will conclude that the debate on abortion rights during the presidential race has had a negative impact on women’s rights in the USA.

Marianthi Karakoulaki




The veil ban in Europe: A triumph of the far right

I propose a paper that examines the way far right ideas have infiltrated European mainstream politics and translated into concrete benchmark policies on the empirical basis of the ‘veil ban’ that has recently swept across Europe. The tone of this campaign corresponds to the common characteristic exhibited in far right’s platforms across Europe – the notorious preoccupation with immigration and especially immigrants of non-European Muslim origin that has framed their presence as a threat. To that end, the behaviour of the centre right has been instrumental in legitimizing aspects of the far-right agenda.

I follow the way the centre is engaging in the same discourse commonly used by the far right and explore the link between the far right’s position on the veil issue and the subsequent government initiatives using the empirical cases of four countries: France, Belgium, Italy & the Netherlands. The practical reach of the law is actually quite limited, as estimates in the countries reveal that a very small number of women are wearing a full veil in reality. Discussing the meaning of the veil as a social construction, the conception and implementation of the ban are considered a political statement of a far right character conveying a negative perception of the Muslim presence in Europe, running the risk of legitimizing in the eyes of the public a theme that is in essence part of a broader discriminatory, Islamophobic discursive practice. The law in focus here is highly significant for European political dynamics as it touches on the soft issue of culture, identity and values and thus indicates that the concept of immigrants as a threat is expanding its content and legitimacy under far right’s influence.

Dobryana Daskalova




”Women’s issues”: acknowledging reality or reinforcing hierarchy

The concept of “women’s issues” is prevalent in the mainstream-media and politics today, the prominence of policy discussions relating to childcare, education and maternity-rights is often regarded as a victory for feminism. This paper examines avenues of grassroots female contributions to public discourse, from “Mumsnet” to “Slutwalk”, and assesses whether such contemporary predominantly female groups enhance or inhibit the emancipation of women in the UK as compared to mixed groups. On a theoretical level it analyses whether “women’s issues” are a reflection of the priorities of women in today’s social world and a useful tool for politicising women, or whether implicit within the concept is the notion that women are primarily concerned with issues surrounding their traditionally assigned roles and that these are deemed comparatively unimportant. Also relevant is the extent to which areas not encompassed within “women’s issues” are viewed as the concern of the female-population, and the role of the media and political-system in endorsing prevailing attitudes.

This paper finds that the concept of “women’s issues” is destructive to the feminist cause; whilst targeting women specifically once served to politicise a gender it is now an out-dated tool, implicit in its current use is the concept that women are principally concerned with issues regarding the roles traditionally assigned to them by the patriarchal-capitalist system. It further argues that exclusively female groups contributing to public discourse often cater to a patriarchal view of women as defined by their sexuality and/or maternal instinct.
The paper concludes that the bourgeois-democratic system and the mainstream-media present “women’s issues” as secondary to the concerns of men and imply that the latter are more politically aware – focused on “human issues”. Such thinking relegates women to the position of “significant minority” and represents a barrier for female emancipation.

Laura J. Riley




Re-theorising Cameronism

The existing literature on Cameronism, despite its disputes, seems to generally draw on some combination of a core set of tenets: the perception of Cameronism as an electoral strategy, the noting of Cameronism’s occupation with deficit reduction, a debate over whether Cameronism is a brand of One-Nation or New Right conservatism, a focus on Cameronism’s employment of modernisation discourses, and finally, analysis of the ‘Big Society’ device. These are largely helpful and informative, but have some problems. This picture of Cameronism misconceptualises the relationship between structure and agency – overagentialising Cameronism – and misrepresents the pace and nature of political change.

This paper will review both the existing literature on Cameronism and some literature on these theoretical topics, before combining the two with empirical research to come to a new conception of Cameronism. It draws on the work of Hay (2006, 2010) and others to provide concepts with which to analyse Cameronism – borrowing from work on critical junctures, evolutionary change, structure and agency dialectics, and taking some ideas from institutional theory. Ultimately, Cameron is reconceptualised as a nodal point in the complex interaction between a set of discursive, historical and geographical institutions, which result in a reactionary form of anti-Keynesian, which defines itself more in terms of what it isn’t than in terms of what it is.

Jon Robinson




Political structures through 3D Glasses – Tiered Pluralist-Elitism

When modelling British political structures, strict applications of either pluralist or elitist frameworks are fraught with problems. By contrast, Rhodes’ Differentiated Polity Model and Marsh’s Asymmetric Power Model provide fuller pictures of the landscape of power within British Politics; however, both suffer from short-comings when dealing with how deep ideational changes alter the political composition of Britain across time, such as the waning power of the old ‘Etonian/Oxbridge’ elite and the ideational penetration of ‘meritocracy’. In light of this, this paper seeks to imagine a new way of conceptualising British Politics: Tiered Pluralist-Elitism.

I argue that this approach wields greater explanatory power as it allows for the modelling of ideational shifts across time, evidence for which I provide in the form of two analyses: (i) an analysis of business and epistemic communities within liberal democratic political structures, drawing on the work of Lindblom (year needed); and (ii) an analysis of the role of social-Darwinist ideas within historic and contemporary discourses surrounding ‘social mobility’. I conclude that Tiered Pluralist-Elitism is able to provide a more complete framework through which to approach the changing British state.

James Bowker




New Directions for Social Critique after the Technocratic Idea of Excellence and its effects on Higher Education

This paper is part of the fruit of a reflexive critical observation of my own experience as a student of Cultural Studies. I was affected by the events that led to its final moments at the University of Birmingham and thereof mobilised to write. I later expanded the scope of my investigation to the contemporary idea of the University in more general terms; a University marked by: curriculums streamlined to match career requirements in the Culture Industry and the Market; increasing focus on employability skills; increasing stress and pressure on students to gather work experience, ultimately regulating individuals’ modes of life by selling them fabricated desires, career prospects, and lifetime aspirations.

In this paper, I specifically investigate alternatives to the idea of excellence as the guiding value of Higher Education. Bill Readings described the contemporary University as an institution which transformed from one devoted to the cultivation of national culture into one obsessed with the “pursuit of excellence”: the design and delivery of a technocratic control which orders the management and administration of the social production of knowledge in the University primarily in favour of the accumulation of capital. I begin by highlighting how the criteria of excellence hinder the development of Critical Theories whose object of study is a society that is increasingly homogenising difference. I then conduct an analysis of technology on campus to portray the transformation of the contemporary University.

Subsequently, I seek a Derridean alternative to an Adornian conceptualisation of technology and its role in the development of a theoretical framework for a “University Without Condition” from the influence of technocratic capitalism. I ultimately gesture towards the importance of advancing a new guiding value of the contemporary University, calling for the theoretical development of an interdisciplinarity modelled around Derrida’s thought, in the attempt to envision a University more open to difference and the production of social critique.

Elio di Muccio




Twenty First Century Circularity of Change

In his theory of justice, Michael Walzer states that power can only be acquired by those who possess the dominant good of the era. In contemporary society, where money is the current governing resource, those who understand the mechanisms of business and finance have formed an elite whose authority is based on their indispensability to the system. Progressively, these men have upgraded their area of expertise to such a complex level that governments are now dependent of their knowledge in order to maintain a grip on the economy. All this time, the masses are kept unaware of the phenomenon. Conveniently wrapped in terms like ‘decrease’ and ‘recession’, the global financial crisis of 2007/8 and the Euro crisis that followed still remain mysterious concepts to most people, who do not have the vaguest idea about what happens at the top of this new social hierarchy.

Although, recently, movements like ‘Occupy Wall Street’ have shown increased concern among citizens, their eagerness to raise awareness is highly unfocused. Very few people realise that our ambition for awareness does not entail a better degree of understanding. Given that the media floods its public with opinionated oversimplified information, the common man only lives under the impression of having clear views. Regardless of organisations like Anonymous and Wikileaks delivering the wish for transparency and revolution, the sources of manipulation will easily go undetected. Whomever we listen to, there is a risk we will engage in a misguided or illusory pursuit of happiness. Then why not take a step back and look at matters in perspective? Why not realize that, while we are all overthrowing each other, we are chasing after the same dominant good? We are in fact the products of our values and the change we are currently seeking is not radical enough to cancel this circularity.

Andreea Anghel




The securitization of HIV/AIDS: Its impact on norm setting through the provision of aid

Abstract: HIV/AIDS discourse is, to borrow a phrase from Treichler an “epidemic of signification”1. Such discourses construct the social meaning of HIV/AIDS, and the way in which they do so has a profound impact on the approach taken by those who work in the area, from the level of grass-roots activists to government departments. These discourses have created a social/political landscape in which the ‘securitization’2 of HIV/AIDS (the transformation of HIV/AIDS from a health issue to a security issue) is perpetuated (and in turn reinforces the discourses whence it came).

First, this paper examines these discourses, looking at the way in which they contribute to the ‘othering’3 and ‘worlding’4 of those who reside in third world countries, and arguing that the social meaning of HIV/AIDS thus constructed allows securitization to take place.
Second, this paper turns to securitization itself, and argues that it provides a justification for the use of aid to propagate the preferred norms and values of governments, (with a particular focus on the US ‘PEPFAR’ scheme, which Jones and Norton5 argue was used to further an agenda of abstinence, rather than the effective limitation of the spread of HIV/AIDS).

Finally, this paper shows the way in which the securitization of HIV/AIDS can be used to reinforce the very discourses that allow its existence, as it lies at a point of intersection between discourses surrounding race and sexuality, thus constituting a powerful biopolitical tool.

Amanda Moorghen




America: The Foundations of a Cultural Superpower

This paper uses a constructivist framework in order to examine America as a cultural superpower, exploring the dominance of an ‘American identity’ rather than state. In order to do this, the democratising foundations established by Wilson’s XIV Point Plan are determined as a turning point; a transition from isolationism to an active creation of a post-imperial world order, with the ‘American ideal’ as the defining normative principle. This shall be assessed as an evolved form of democratic peace theory in its attempt to establish not merely democratic government in Europe, but an international propagation of the American way of life. This shall act as the historical framework for a contemporary empirical analysis of the reified liberal-democratic ideals in which the ‘American identity’ becomes a collective ‘Western identity’.

The role of international institutions (particularly the World Bank and IMF) shall be used to examine the manner in which the liberalism’s normative spread is ‘encouraged’ in developing nations (e.g. SAPs) and perpetuated in developed nations (eg. the de facto imposition of austerity programs). This shall be used to extrapolate the manner in which ‘culturalisation’ can be deemed to occur through normative neo-liberalism.

Finally, the role of international corporations shall be examined in order to present the idea that the importance of ‘America’ has evolved beyond the boundaries of state to become a central part of Western socio-political culture. Through transnational companies (Apple, Coca-Cola, etc), the dominance of the American ideal is at the centre of Western society, and a normative desire within non-Westernised states (of which Apple’s position in China is ideally illustrative). This shall be used to conclude that notions of America’s national decline in the face of China, India, etc are not reflective of the socio-political reality: that the American ideal is more powerful now than at any other point in history.

Anthony Maher