Public PhD defence of Kats Kivistik
On 6 November, Kats Kivistik is defending her doctoral dissertation entitled "Relevance, content and effects of left-right identification in countries with different regime trajectories". The public defence takes place at 16.15 at the Senate Hall of the University of Tartu (Ülikooli 18-204).
The supervisors of the dissertation are Dr. Piret Ehin (University of Tartu) and Prof. André Freire (ISCTE-IUL, University Institute of Lisbon). The opponent is Prof. Oddbjørn Knutsen from the University of Oslo.
Synopsis of the dissertation:
Left and Right are widely-used labels to describe government policies, parties, ideologies and political attitudes the world over. However, despite their popularity, the usefulness of the terms is frequently challenged in the context of the large number of extreme rightist parties, the more diverse identities of citizens, populism-oriented political competition and newly-emerged democracies. New democracies do not fit neatly into Western conceptual categories, especially in Eastern Europe where, unlike in Western Europe, liberal views and support for reforms were associated with the Right, and not with the Left. In order to clarify the reasons for such deviations, my dissertation focuses on new democracies, their authoritarian past and their democratic experience in explaining people’s Left-Right Identification (LRI). This study, based on survey data from the last few decades, demonstrates several trends. First, that the division between Left and Right makes sense the world over – residents in less-developed societies are able to locate themselves on the Left-Right scale but the ability to identify oneself ideologically increases with the democratic and social development of a society and with the evolution of political competition. Second, values that are associated with LRI vary considerably by country. In addition to common attitudes (in favour of economic equality and social liberalism), other attitudes, like attitudes towards normality of conflict, multiculturalism and state paternalism are related to LRI in less developed societies in non-Western regions. Third, at the same time there is also a clear trend that LRI develops and changes, which is especially well observable in new democracies. After a democratic turn, the terms Left and Right might indicate quite a diverse variety of values. In a country’s path from authoritarian regime to democracy, the Left-Right divide manifests itself in the conflict between pro-democratic and anti democratic values, but the effect of this conflict vanishes within a few decades of the country’s democratic experience. With economic and social progress post-materialist values begin to affect the content of Left and Right. In former left-authoritarian countries the contrary association between social liberalism and LRI disappears and thus the conflicting understandings of the value content of LRI are rather temporary and the trend is towards greater uniformity and consistency. The essence of Left and Right can be summed up by Seymour Martin Lipset et al (1954): “By Left we shall mean advocating social change in the direction of greater equality – political, economic, or social; by Right we shall mean supporting a traditional, more or less hierarchical social order, and opposing change toward greater equality” (p. 1135)
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