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Political sociologist Eefje Steenvoorden wins Jaarprijs Politicologie for Best Doctoral Dissertation
Political sociologist dr. Eefje Steenvoorden of Erasmus University Rotterdam won the Jaarprijs Politicologie ‘Best Doctoral Dissertation’ for her dissertation Societal Pessimism: A study of its conceptualization, causes, correlates and consequences. The Jaarprijs Politicologie is a joint initiative of the Dutch political science association and the political science association in Belgium. She defended her dissertation at the University of Amsterdam in 2016.
All of the nominated dissertations formulate an original research question and explore this question in a theoretically, methodologically and empirically profound manner. Nevertheless, one dissertation stood out for scoring particularly high on all three relevant criteria: theoretical depth, empirical solidity and making an important contribution to the discipline.
Steenvoordens’ dissertation draws not only on modern classics in political science but also on a broad range of political philosophers such as Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck and Charles Taylor to conceptualize its core concept: societal pessimism. For the empirical analysis, various datasets are used: Eurobarometer and the European Social Survey in particular. In addition, the author has designed own questions for the Citizens’ Outlooks Barometer and thus gathered data herself. The empirical analysis is spotless. What is more, it makes use of a broad range of methods, including factor analysis, content analysis and various types of regression analyses. Finally, the winning dissertation makes a major contribution to the field of political science. Its topic, societal pessimism, had been understudied, and the dissertation addresses it very comprehensively: societal pessimism is first conceptualized, then operationalized and finally, its causes and consequences are studied empirically.
In contemporary developed liberal societies, societal pessimism is conceptualized as societal unease, composed of “distrust in human capability, loss of ideology, decline of political power, decline of community and increasing socioeconomic vulnerability”
The dissertation finds that political factors such as instability and perceived corruption, best explain differences between countries, while economic factors such as recession and unemployment best explain differences within countries over time.
About Eefje Steenvoorden
Eefje Steenvoorden is Assistant Professor of Political Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research focuses on social divisions in political attitudes, such as societal pessimism, political trust and political identification, and political behaviour, such as voting behaviour and political participation. She obtained her PhD at the University of Amsterdam (2016), in cooperation with The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP).
Release copied partly from Rood Vlees