Citizens have growing ability to participate in public life, whilst, at the same time there is a parallel evidence of disconnection and even dissatisfaction with traditional mechanism of political participation. Issues of accessibility, accountability and transparency dominate the agenda of the relationship between citizens and elites. Then, a changing international environment, new citizens’ demands and process of devolution and transference of competences to the supranational level pose new challenges which states tackle through the creation and redesign of institutions (which are, at the same time, the result and the origin of some of the citizens’ dynamics). Finally, globalization, migration and other sociodemographic changes, the so-called New Social Risks, pose a major challenge for contemporary democracies that affects primarily the definition of Western polities as Welfare States. Social policies have changed fundamentally over time but in spite of similar pressures, the kind of change varies across welfares regimes in important respects. The role of ideas, the existing policies, the political and economic institutions and citizens' attitudes are some of the most crucial factors to account for the variation in Welfare State reform trajectories and are the main focus of this field of inquiry. The research of the Line will focus on the following four axes which are among the most dynamic research domains in the field of comparative politics:

1 – Design and change of political institutions The design of political institutions and its comparative performance have been historically at the centre of comparative politics and new approaches have reclaimed their exam. Consequently, the origins and changes (and their effects) in political institutions in different contexts are strategic research objects. Key questions are: What factors determine institutional choices in democracies? Why and how institutions such as territorial structures, electoral systems or constitutions change in consolidate democracies? What factors do explain democratic consolidation in new democracies? Research will examine the effects of political institutions on the functioning of governments (efficacy, efficiency); their survival and the outbreak and resolution of violent manifestations (ethnic conflict, political violence, civil wars).

2 – Assessing citizens’ democratic competence Having citizens as the unit of analysis, this axis studies their attitudes and actions guided by the following questions: Is there any kind of connection among citizens’ attitudes and behaviours and governments’ actions? Are rulers held accountable for their action in front of citizens? What are citizens’ minimum qualifications for controlling government actions through voting? Are traditional participation mechanisms declining? Are new repertories for participation consolidating? Which are the windows of opportunity for these new forms of participation? Research also aims at clarifying what are the levels of political knowledge of average citizens? Which is their comprehension of “politics”? Are they satisfied with working of democracy?

3.- Comparative study of welfare state and social policies in contemporary democracy Two questions have dominated research on comparative social policy in the last 40 years. The first refers to the effects of social policies on individual and social conditions, such as inequality and poverty, and whether different welfare regimes do produce different results on social welfare. The second is: what are the driven factors behind the development of welfare state (since its inception to the current transition). Also, what are the variables explaining variation in social policies and welfare state? This question must be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective: since the 1960s, different approaches, such as modernization theories, power resources; the ruling class approach, the new pluralist theory, the statist approach have tried to respond this question. However, the political science approach has dominated since the 1990s in debates on the evolution of welfare state, focusing the available options and limits for policy makers in a context in which social change and economic crisis demand, on the one hand, the reform of principal social policies whilst, on the other, the inertia of existing policies and institutions, plus civil society pressures in favour of welfare state condition the extent of these reforms

4. Integration, Europeanization and multilevel governance: Europe and beyond Challenges of regional integration in Europe (and Latin America) crowd research agendas in political science and comparative politics. Traditional questions informing research focus on the reasons for the creation of supranational organizations (why states decide to yield partially their sovereignty and normative capability in favour of supranational organizations?), their capacity for change (What are the difficulties for adaptative transformation of the EU?) and their diffusion in other geographical areas (How can be explained the drive towards regional integration in Latin America and what are the explanations for success failure?). Questions such as: what are the reasons for institutional change in the EU? How do citizens react to opportunities for political participation in the EU? Or how does the EU affect the welfare state? prove this connection. The solid track of research and publications together with the international connections established secure an optimum performance in this domain.

Centro / Institutos: 
Institute of Public Goods and Policies (IPP)