Articles by John Paul Belk Prats

The ‘incomplete’ failure of political Islam: The Justice and Development Party and the Freedom and Justice Party as case studies

The article entitled, The ‘Incomplete’ Failure of Political Islam: The Justice and Development Party and Freedom and Justice Party as Case Studies, addresses a central debate in Islamists’ political activism in autocratic countries by shedding light on reasons behind variations in the outcome of their political rule. Unlike scholarly writings addressing Islamists’ political integration side by side towards secular parties, this contribution highlights their uniqueness in political success and failure. Relying on extensive fieldwork studies conducted by the author in two leading Middle Eastern countries with a deep history of Islamists’ political engagement, Turkey and Egypt, this contribution elucidates the lacuna behind the ‘embedded uncertainties’ in Islamists’ rule. Through the formulation of a comprehensive formula rallying individual scholarly attempts in examining parcels of Islamists’ political experiences in the Middle East, this contribution presents a three-legged strategy, involving identification, differentiation, and alliance formulation, as the key to rule sustainability. Dwelling on Post Islamism’s probe about Islamists’ political banality and inability to capitalize on ideological affinities in developing a unique program of Islamic governance, this study contends that, while Islamists forego Islamization as a vision for ruling, they mobilize religious idioms for satisfying the three pillars of rule sustainability. In an attempt to stand out from rivals, Islamists invest their religious reference in developing a coherent strategy for identifying themselves as pious, distinguishing themselves from their predecessors’ failures, and attracting more support among influential constituencies on the national level. Although this study defies Roy’s thesis about the failure of Political Islam due to Islamists’ lack of normative originality vis-à-vis secular candidates, it brings to the fore the centrality of religion’s instrumentalization as a unique political rhetoric that does not only satisfy the three-legged conditionality for rule sustainability but also overshadows Islamists’ intellectual and normative deficiencies in the formulation of original political programs and visions for governance. In doing so, the article focuses on two leading Islamists’ political experiences, namely the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood-MB (2011/2012-2013) and the Turkish Justice and Development Party-AKP (2002-2021). While both groups aimed for satisfying the three pillars of rule sustainability, they manifested diverse results in incorporating and mobilizing their religious rhetoric vis-à-vis their allies and rivals. The AKP capitalized on foreign and national allies in reversing power balance in its favor vis-à-vis the state establishment, notably the army. The party’s long commitment toward accession to the EU and conclusion of tight business alliances with bourgeoning conservative groups under the slogan of the formulation of a conciliatory and inclusive political center of power has underlined its tactical unicity vis-à-vis the precedent fragile coalitions and originality in building solid interest- based networks that solidified its rule. On the other hand, the MB’s religious rhetoric and system of identification have underlined their Islamic reference and ideological singularity vis-à-vis rivals. Yet, the group was not able to formulate successful national alliances. The absence of diversity in the Egyptian political arena and the army’s domination as the main ruler behind candidates with strong military backgrounds have impeded the crystallization of ideologically and politically experienced cadres and civil society with clear agendas, which prevented the Brothers from developing interest-based alliances.

Shaimaa Magued

No more Stress with Politics: Direct Democracy, Personality and Political Interest in Comparative Perspective

Political interest is seen as a key antecedent of civic engagement, effective self-governance and thus as the lifeblood of democracy. If we accept a citizen’s degree of attention and curiosity towards politics as that important, it is necessary to know how and why it is generated and under what political circumstances it flourishes and subsides. Direct democracy actively involves citizens in the decision-making process of a country and should thus influence their interest in politics. While some studies have already shown a positive impact of the contextual degree of direct democracy on an individual’s level of political interest other studies find no significant correlation whatsoever. Some literature even assumes a negative relationship between direct democracy and political interest that could be explained by an increase in democratic fatigue as direct democracy increases. Altogether, it has to be noted that empirical findings on the effects of direct democracy on political interest remain rather inconclusive.

This is the starting point of our investigation. We argue this inconclusiveness can be partly attributed to the diverse effects direct democracy has on each individual. In particular, and looking to political psychological approaches, it is more realistic to suggest that people react differently to environmental stimuli depending on their personality. People process information differently and therefore may have diverse reactions to the signals and stimuli environmental factors send. Accordingly, the way a person perceives the frequency of popular votes may influence his or her level of political interest. We use the Big Five model as a broad framework to portray individual-level personality attributes and then deliver evidence on the function and value of this framework for understanding the impact of personality on political interest.

Empirically, we focus on the cases of Switzerland and the United States, two countries with the most advanced forms of direct democracy worldwide. Both the United States and the Swiss cantons present an excellent opportunity to assess the relevance of direct democracy. While this unique institutional arrangement is almost impossible to study comparatively at the national level because the range of variation is so limited, all of the 26 Swiss cantons allow for some form of referenda and initiatives and in the United States about half the states have either referenda or initiatives as direct democratic measures.

Using data of 6800 respondents in Switzerland in 2015 and of 15,400 U.S. citizens in 2009, we document three findings: First, we show that the number of popular votes is not directly related to political interest. Second, we reveal that the Big Five personality traits are linked to political interest. Third, neuroticism in particular alters the relationship between direct democracy and political interest, thereby suggesting that a certain personality type is likely to be more sensitive to popular votes, and that a highly democratic environment can help to inspire interest in politics for people who, because of their personality, tend to be detached from it. Quite intriguingly, these relationships hold irrespective of the country and research period.


Markus Freitag & Alina Zumbrunn, University of Bern

On Economic Development, Corruption, and Income Inequality: The Role of the Informal Sector

What explains the trends of income inequality in the process of economic
development? A classic explanation is the Kuznets curve, which predicts an inverted-
U relationship between development and inequality. Inequality is low at low levels of
development as the majority of the population is poor. As industrialization
progresses inequality rises, before it decreases with state redistribution and the
spread of education. In other words, inequality is expected to be highest in mid-level
income countries. Of course, such a model leaves many nuances unexplained, and a
recent study, to be published in Politics, Mathew Y. H. Wong examines how
corruption and the informal sector might condition the effect of economic
development on inequality.
Corruption is traditionally believed to be detrimental to inequality since it
concentrates income in the hands of those powerful. However, a recent branch of
literature challenges this assumption by suggesting that the relationship might be
conditional, and the existence of an informal sector might be pivotal. While many
consider the informal sector to be a stagnant part of the economy, on the flip side it
is also an efficient sector for those otherwise have little opportunity in the formal
economy. The same argument can be applied on corruption: it provides ways for
businessmen to bypass cumbersome regulations. In short, the gains of economic
development can be more evenly shared by more people when corruption and the
informal sector are viable. If not, economic gains would be concentrated on big
businesses with good connections to the government, and the income gains would
be exclusive to those in the formal employment.
With a statistical analysis of 127 countries spanning about 40 years, the study finds
evidence in favor of the hypotheses. Economic development (measured as GDP per
capita) would increase inequality at low levels of corruption/when the informal
sector is small, and the reverse is true when corruption is rampant/the informal
sector is large. While the study relies mainly on the statistical testing of the
arguments, it is also noted that it fits with the patterns of the Asian Newly
Industrializing Economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan) in the
past quite well. Having all enjoyed decades of double digits GDP growth, they all
transformed from third world economies to some of the richest within a generation.
Interestingly, although Hong Kong and Singapore have always been critically
acclaimed for their low levels of corruption, they are also notorious for their high
levels of income inequality. On the contrary, the other three economies are
relatively more corrupt, but with a more egalitarian income distribution. The findings
of this study argues that this pattern might not be a mere coincidence.


Dr WONG Yee Hang Mathew


‘Politics’ Special Issue 2024

The Editors of Politics seek proposals for special issues of the journal to be published in 2024.

We invite proposals for special issues on any political topic, covering any part of the world, using any epistemological or methodological approach. Our priorities include work from and about the Global South, Political Economy and political theory.

We are keen to make Politics more representative of the global field of political research, so submissions from colleagues working outside of the Global North are especially welcome. We are also keen to support special issue proposals which include a mix of early, mid-career and senior scholars. As is the case with all submissions to Politics, special issue articles should be addressed to scholars working across the different sub-fields of political studies. While they may address niche topics and employ specialist methods, every article should explain clearly and simply what its contribution is.

Special issues should consist of up to eight original research articles, each of 8,000 words in length, together with an introductory article by the special issue lead author explaining to topic addressed, the questions asked, and the contributions made by each of the component papers. The best special issues often build on successful workshop sessions or conference panels, but this is not a requirement. We are interested, however, in coherent proposals in which all papers address a common theme in some way.

Special issue proposals should include the following:

A brief statement explaining the topic addressed by the special issue, identifying questions to be answered by the contributing authors and explaining how the proposed special issue advances the field of political studies as a whole.
Details of the contributing authors and a short (200 words) abstract for each proposed contributing article, including an explanation of how each article contributes to the broader objectives of the special issue, and the specific questions and cases it considers.
A realistic timeline for the submission of papers. We suggest allowing at least six months from submission to publication, to allow for peer review and author revisions to take place. We are interested in proposals based on workshops or conferences that have not yet taken place, but we ask that you be realistic about how long it might take to turn conference presentations into finished articles.
The Editors-in-Chief will consider all special issue proposals received by 1st February and will endeavor to make a decision about which proposals to accept within four weeks of that date. Lead authors should note that individual articles will still be subject to blinded peer-review and will need to meet the same standards set for all submissions to Politics in order to be accepted. We therefore recommend that lead authors allow time to review individual submissions themselves ahead of submission to Politics, in order to maximize each paper’s prospects at the peer review stage.

Please direct any questions and submissions to the Editor-in-Chief Prof Elizabeth Evans

Oppressive pines: Uprooting Israeli green colonialism and implanting Palestinian A’wna

This article charts Israel’s cooption of environmentalism to discreetly colonize Palestine, focusing on the complicity of protected areas. I identify this manipulative strategy as Israeli green colonialism, tracing it back to the emergence of Western environmentalism and Zionism, in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively. After all, national parks, nature reserves, and other protected areas are colonial inventions. Their exclusionary design is based on the Western construction of humans – especially poor, racialized, and feminine communities – and non-human nature as inherently incompatible. Effectively, the human/nature dichotomy was fabricated to justify land grab, Indigenous dispossession, and the introduction of coercive population control measures, across the Global South, under the banner of ecological stewardship. Meanwhile, Zionism is the European ideology and movement that promotes the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and appropriation of its land for the creation of a Jewish state. Emulating other settler colonies, Israel produces national parks, forests, and nature reserves to: (a) rationalize the expulsion of Palestinians and annexation of their lands; (b) obstruct their return as refugees; (c) dehistoricize, Judaize, and Europeanize Palestine; and (d) greenwash its genocidal operations worldwide. First, I underline that Israeli national parks and nature reserves are advantageously concentrated in the most coveted regions and where most Natives live. These include the North and South of “Israel” or 1948 Palestine, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, which remains sought-after by Israel as its future capital. I explain that when Israel creates a nature reserve or national park, Palestinians are prohibited from building or cultivating in it, dispossessing them of their territory. In the same space, Israeli colonizers are allowed to not only develop, but also pollute. Additionally, quotes are provided from directors of Israeli afforestation, corroborating its colonial, rather than environmental, purpose. Second, many Israeli protected areas are, literally or metaphorically, planted over destroyed Palestinian villages, and on the border between 1948 Palestine and the West Bank, to impede the ability of forcibly displaced Natives to reclaim their homes. Third, I argue that Israel’s preference for planting invasive pines and erasure of Palestinian history in the publications of its parks, fulfill its plan to dehistoricize, Judaize, and Europeanize the Holy Land. I emphasize that this process of memoricide erodes the identity of Palestinians and suppresses their resistance. Fourth, I center the role of the Jewish National Fund – a globally recognized environmental charity, whose underlying goal, since its founding, is the depopulation of Palestine on behalf of Israel – in afforesting Palestine and administering Israeli protected areas. I argue that its self-contrived environmental image greenwashes its reputation globally, enabled by Orientalism – or the racist view of Palestinians as backward, unsustainable, and violent nomads, as opposed to civilized, sedentary, and progressive European Jews. Then, I explore various paths of resistance, pursued by both Palestinians and their land. Outlining their values of sumud (steadfastness), a’wna (solidarity), and a’wda (return), in addition to the Islamic tenet of tawhid (unity), I present an anti-oppressive and scientific environmentalism as an alternative to its Western counterpart. Meanwhile, I reject the trope of the ecological savage, which seeks to dehumanize Indigenous people as closer to non-human nature, as I highlight their prioritization of their self-interests, akin to the rest of humanity, even if they deeply unsettle the human/nature dichotomy.

Ghada Sasa

“Reacting to Black Lives Matter: The discursive construction of racism in UK newspapers”

Racism is a term that is used a lot of different ways by a lot of different people. It is often seen as an aberration, something on the fringes, characterised by the irrational prejudices and racist attitudes of a minority. However, racism is about social hierarchy and a social system in which expressions of prejudice by individuals are symptoms of larger power structures. It is important to note that the way that racism is defined is not neutral. If it tends to be seen as a systemic problem, solutions will be centred around a fundamental restructuring of social institutions, but if it tends to be individualised, solutions will be focused on changing the attitudes of prejudiced people, which, while not a bad thing, will not change the system, which will keep reproducing itself. My recent article in Politics analyses how four UK newspapers (the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Mirror) discuss racism before and after the uprisings which took place in 2020 in response to the police killing of George Floyd. The main takeaway from the newspaper articles I collected before the protests began is that journalists tended to create a ‘good’ in-group which includes themselves, the sources they cite, and the reader. This in group is not only not-racist, but stands against racism and racist people, who are placed in the corresponding ‘bad’ out-group. The ‘good’ people in the in-group were those identified as being in the reasonable ‘mainstream’, and racism was characterised as a disease or poison infiltrating this mainstream. But this ‘disease’ metaphor misses that racism is built into our society and is not an outside agent. The types of racism that were written about the most were overtly racist language or racist violence, with little mention of systemic forms of racism. Racism was stripped of a structural analysis and seen as mostly about the individual behaviour of outsiders. By defining the in-group through disassociation with an out- group which exists on the margins, this leads to the assumption that the mainstream in-group, being ‘good’ and innocent, don’t require scrutiny, since they condemn racism and make an effort to distance themselves from racists. After the protests began, systemic racism began to be written about more frequently. The phrase ‘systemic racism’ appeared about 80 times in the five months between January and May 2020, compared to about 800 times in June 2020 alone. The in-group/out-group dynamics remained alongside discussions of systemic racism, which came to be represented as a ‘bad’ abstract entity which becomes easy to disidentify from because it is so abstracted. This allowed right-leaning newspapers in particular to acknowledge and oppose systemic racism while also negatively portraying protesters as ‘anarchists and vandals’. Across all the newspapers, the proposed solutions to racism rarely advocated for systemic changes and instead appealed to the values of peace and acceptance. Rather than denying and debating systemic racism, as they did before, journalists openly discussed the problem of racism but only recommend sanitized forms of anti-racism. This, alongside journalists’ continued use of positive self presentation strategies, allowed them to continue to place themselves in opposition to racism in the abstract while not actually supporting structural change.

Flo Bremner

Politics Call for Papers | Debating the Global South

The category of the Global South has emerged as a widely accepted part of our political vocabularies and the study of international politics. As the collective product of the era of national liberation struggles, tricontinental anti-colonial militancy, dependency and World-Systems Theory, it outlined both an emancipatory political project and global web of exploitative social relations confronting the peoples of the colonised and decolonising world. In the famous words of Fanon, ‘Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples.’ In this Call for Papers, we invite contributors to reflect on the history and genealogy of the category of the ‘Global South’, as well as its continued relevance to understanding world politics in the present. With the ‘rise’ of China and the emergence of the BRICS more broadly, does the Global South still retain the moral and political force it once possessed? Does the category remain analytically useful for debates around global inequality and climate debt? What is the status of contemporary theories of neocolonialism and notions like core and periphery? What of inequalities within the Global South itself and the challenges of neoliberalism and sub-imperialism? Which transnational social movements can be said to have inherited the legacy of Third World liberation in the 21 st century? The editors hope that this call will encourage researchers working on these questions, themes, and issues to submit their articles to Politics. The call for papers does not pertain to a Special Issue of the journal but comprises part of an ongoing and open-ended commitment to these questions by the editorial team.

While the editors are open to a wide range of perspectives and topics on the question of the Global South, we strongly encourage submissions which explore:

• Political theories and theorists of the Global South
• Legacies of “Third Worldism”, Afro-Asian solidarity, and the Tricontinental movement
• Non-Alignment: Past, Present, Future
• The politics of knowledge from within and about the Global South
• The Global South, theories of decolonisation, anti-colonialism, and decoloniality
• Global South from Above, Global South from Below
• Approaches in Critical Political Economy and the Global South
• The Legacies and Futures of Dependency Theory
• Transnational social movements and networks of solidarity within the Global South
• Climate Debt, Ecocide, and the Global South
• Feminist perspectives on the Global South
• Nationalism, Cultural Imperialism, and the Global South
• Contemporary theories of imperialism, neocolonialism, and the Global South
• Sub-imperialism, super-exploitation, and the Global South
• Neoliberalism and extractivism in the Global South
• The evolving institutions of Global Governance and the Global South
• Critiques of the “Global South” as a politico-economic category
• Categories which explicitly provide an alternative conceptualization to that of the Global South
• Class politics, the international division of labour, and the Global South
• Indigenous social movements within the Global South
• The BRICS and the Global South
• China in/and the Global South

Please visit the journal’s submission site to upload your manuscript.

Please note that manuscripts not conforming to these guidelines may be returned.

For further details please contact our Editor-in-Chief, Dr Elizabeth Evans at or Associate Editor, Dr Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi at