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Nicos Komninos, Anastasia Panori and Christina Kakderi

Smart cities emerge from collaboration technologies (IoT, social media, blockchain), data science and AI. The algorithmic logic, under which these technologies operate, can be much more effective if combined with other sources of intelligence available in cities, such as human intelligence, creativity and innovation, collective and collaborative intelligence within institutions or over platforms. Along this line of thought, the first part of the book brings together authors that discuss the academic establishment of the smart city paradigm as outcome of collaborative endeavour rather than algorithms and automation. The second part focuses on major technologies that allow collaborative initiatives to develop at large scale. Smart cities are a technological construct driven by information technologies and embedded smart objects, but also a complex cyber-physical system in which cities, knowledge processes, and digital technologies are blended to generate new solutions. The third part of the book looks into the governance of smart cities, and mainly how technologies and digital platforms allow for citizen engagement and the setting of collaboration networks that generate innovations for better cities.

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Pieter Van den Broeck, Abid Mehmood, Angeliki Paidakaki and Constanza Parra

This chapter introduces the edited book ‘Social Innovation as Political Transformation. Thoughts for a Better World’, which covers the work of a collective of academics on social innovation and socio-political transformation. The book offers a critique to the dominance of market-based logics and extractivism in the age of ‘caring neo-liberalism’. Calling for systemic change, the authors invite the reader to engage in the analysis and practice of socially innovative initiatives and, by doing so, contribute to the co-construction of a sustainable, solidarity based and re-generative society. As such, the book intends to offer various interpretations of the interconnectedness of social innovation and socio-political transformation, which are part of a more or less coherent socio-scientific project expressed in shared publications, pedagogies, research projects, training through workshops and summer schools, exchange visits, action-research, and pro-activist practices.

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Edited by Pieter Van den Broeck, Abid Mehmood, Angeliki Paidakaki and Constanza Parra

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Jane Mulderrig, Nicolina Montesano Montessori and Michael Farrelly

This chapter makes a case for the added value of integrating Critical Discourse Analysis with Critical Policy Studies, producing a theoretical and methodological synergy we term ‘Critical Policy Discourse Analysis’ (CPDA). It lays the groundwork for the highly practical and method-focused chapters which follow. The intellectual origins and key theoretical assumptions of Critical Policy Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis are reviewed in order to reveal the conceptual underpinnings and complementarities which lead us to propose this integrated approach to policy research. The chapter examines some of the key concerns of post-positivist approaches to policy research, and demonstrates how CPDA is ideally suited to address them. It offers definitions of core concepts like text, discourse and interdiscursivity, before outlining how the remaining empirical chapters fit into this CPDA approach.

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Michael Hechter

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Sakari Hänninen, Kirsi-Marja Lehtelä and Paula Saikkonen

The Nordic welfare states are examined as states of civilisation characterised by their high quality of societal relations. The normative core of these societies is relationally constituted around equality and trust. Sentiments of reciprocity and trust serve in balancing opposite interests and forces in society. The balancing of equality and difference is the topical issue of today. The relational Nordic welfare state is closely analysed in the different chapters of this book from the dynamic perspectives of autonomy, participation, inclusion and sustainability.

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Sanford F. Schram

Sanford F. Scharm’s article is about neoliberalism and poverty. The chapter scrutinizes the relationship of the poor to those who are more fortunate and are in a position to affect their life chances. Among those in relation to the poor are state actors who are assigned responsibility to monitor, manage, survey and discipline welfare recipients to ensure that they are market-compliant actors. These neoliberal relations of poverty become subject to closer scrutiny as the welfare state comes under pressure to integrate recipients into the market economy, thereby overcoming their social exclusion while simultaneously reducing the state’s burden for sustaining them. A comparative analysis between countries of these shifts in relations between the poor and their state managers points to the variegated ways nations are enacting neoliberal welfare policy reforms.

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Edited by Sakari Hänninen, Kirsi-Marja Lehtelä and Paula Saikkonen

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Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa

Although rational choice theory has made considerable advances in other social sciences, its progress in sociology has been limited. Some sociologists’ reservations about rational choice arise from a misunderstanding of the theory. The first part of this essay therefore introduces rational choice as a general theoretical perspective, or family of theories, which explains social outcomes by constructing models of individual action and social context. “Thin” models of individual action are mute about actors’ motivations, while “thick” models specify them ex ante. Other sociologists’ reservations, however, stem from doubts about the empirical adequacy of rational choice explanations. To this end, the bulk of the essay reviews a sample of recent studies that provide empirical support for particular rational choice explanations in a broad spectrum of substantive areas in sociology. Particular attention is paid to studies on the family, gender, and religion, for these subareas often are considered least amenable to understanding in terms of rational choice logic.

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Stephen Elstub and Oliver Escobar

This chapter is based on a scoping review, which finds that there is little agreement about what should be classified as ‘democratic innovations’ and a general lack of clarity and precision in the use of the term, which is causing concept stretching and hindering understanding and analysis. This is in part due to the limitations of the existing definitions and typologies. To overcome this, a morphological analysis is conducted to develop a set of ineliminable, quasi-contingent, and contextual features of democratic innovations. It is argued that democratic innovations can be seen as ‘families’ of conceptual clusters that include spaces and processes that have certain resemblance but, also differences determined by context. We argue that the new definition and typology that we offer enables a degree of consistency to be achieved in the development, understanding and analysis of ‘democratic innovations’ independent of specific contexts.