This seminar examines the growing literature on identity-based politics and its implications for institutional change in advanced democracies. The course is motivated by recognition that the twin processes of globalization and demographic change have significantly heightened the place of identity-driven cleavages and coalitions in all parts of the world, particularly Western Europe.
The syllabus begins by examining the key conceptual tensions between a focus on identity and a focus on institutional change. We will review some of the classic studies of identity (e.g, Benedict Anderson, Ernst Gellner) as well as more recent contributions to the conceptual literature on institutional change. (e.g., Hall and Taylor, Mahoney, Pierson, Streeck, Thelen). We then assess some of the most insightful recent efforts to bring identity studies within the purview of different institutional approaches, e.g., Neil Fligstein, Mark Beissinger, David Laitin, Iain Johnston, Rawi Abdelal and others. After this conceptual introduction, the course turns to a series of substantive policy areas – such as citizenship, immigration, labor-market regulation, education, religion – where the new identity-based cleavages are taking European politics in unanticipated directions.
Requirements will include periodic class reports, two short “think-piece” memoranda, and a research paper. For the paper, participants are encouraged to write an extended proposal for further research, though a critical literature review will also be acceptable. In all cases, students will be expected to present their work for critical discussion by the rest of the group during the last month of the semester.