Fakulta sociálnych
a ekonomických vied
Univerzita Komenského v Bratislave

The Jean Monnet Project - EUPOLSOC

The Jean Monnet project -EUPOLSOC

Chair holder: Professor Steven Saxonberg

Institute of European Studies and International Relations,
Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences
Comenius University, Bratislava

Univerzita Komenského v Bratislave
Fakulta Sociálnych a ekonomických vied
Ústav európskych štúdií a medzinárodných vzťahov
Mlynské Luhy 4, 821 05 Bratislava


Programs in European studies generally focus on EU institutions; however, the EU is influenced both by the political developments within each member state and by the social developments, such social movements and civil society organizations. The EU itself influences the policies of the member states. A comparative, political-sociological perspective emphasizes that the EU is not just a collection of certain institutions; it is also a collection of its member states. To understand how the EU is developing, we need to understand the political and social dynamics among the member states. This is particularly obvious now with Brexit, the emergence of populist movements, etc. A political-sociological perspective is especially unusual within Slovakia. Our department will become the center for political sociology and it is already the highest ranked program in the country for European studies according to the ministry evaluation.

Jean Monnet Lecture Series

All lecture are in room B122 at 13:30
Fall 2019

Lecture 7: Wednesday, April 29

Olga Pietruchova, head of gender equality dept. at ministry of social affairs
"Gender and the Slovak Populist Movements"

Lecture 6: Thursday, April 16

Prof. Bo Peterson, Professor of Political Science, Malmö University Sweden
"Putin´s Populism in Russia"

Lecture 5: Wednesday, March 18

Radovan Geist, co-funder of the European Policy and news portal EURACTIV Slovakia
"The rise of illiberal populism in Visegrad countries"

Lecture 4: Thursday, March 5

Prof. Iveta Radičová, Former Prime Minister and Professor at Paneurópska univerzita/BISLA
"Liberalism in the Populist Era"

Lecture 3: Thursday, December 5

Dr. Lenka Buštíková, Arizona State University
"Extreme Reactions: How anger and resentment towards minorities is being utilized in politics"

Lecture 2: Wednesday, October 30:

prof. PhDr. Tomáš Sirovátka, Masaryk University in Brno
"Welfare State Attitudes and Support for Political Populism"

Lecture 1: Thursday, October 24:

Roman Hlatky, University of Texas
"EU Funding and Euroskeptic Vote Choice"


Blog Aliaksei Kazharski, November 13, 2020

Aliaksei Kazharski

Belarus Awakening: a point of no return

November 13, 2020

As of the time of writing, it is difficult to predict how the events might unfold in Belarus. There is a number of possible scenarios. Some of them look quite grim. They include state terror on a truly massive scale, escalation of violence, or a Russian invasion in response to the collapse of the authoritarian regime in Minsk.

However, as of today, we can say one thing with certainty. The situation in Belarus has passed the point of no return and there is no coming back to the old days. We can think of this in terms of shifts that have happened in the past months.

First, there has been a huge shift in perception of politics. The anti-regime protestors have seen that they are a majority. For many years the regime built its strategy on marginalizing the opposition through both repression and propaganda. If you were against the government, it made sure you felt that you were alone or almost alone. People around you seemed to be either indifferent to politics or passively supporting the government. In 2020, the street protests created a very powerful image of a political majority. There have also been fascinating examples of local, grassroot solidarity. People met next to their apartment buildings to listen to lectures or music, drink tea, and share the things they baked, or decorate their yards with flags, street art, and white-red-white ribbons.  There are new networks of horizontal ties established, a civil society in the making. This is not something you can erase easily, even if you manage to suppress the street rallies.

Second, in terms of political symbolism, there has been a massive return of independent national symbols. The historical white-red-white flag and the Pahonia (“Chase”) coat of arms are back, white-red-white colors dominate the street rallies and the practices of aesthetic resistance in the urban landscape. Previously, these historical symbols could be associated with selected political actors above all, with the Belarusian Popular Front, whose agenda was heavily influenced by culturalist and ethnonationalist demands. Now, on the other hand, the symbols came to represent a mass protest movement which puts forth very broad civic and ethical demands for rule of law, free and fair elections, and an end to terror. This is a crucial point in Belarus’ nation building process.

Third, there seems to be a change in the perception of Russia. Many Belarusians tended to somehow instinctively trust Moscow, even to look up to it. They readily consumed Russian media content produced by Russia’s state TV channels. Some may have perceived Russia even as more democratic than their own authoritarian regime. Now, many seem disappointed by how the Kremlin state propaganda is lying about the events in Belarus. I have witnessed online discussions between pro-Russian Belarusians and Russians where one could feel a sense of bitter disappointment and outrage. With Putin’s continued public support of Lukashenka’s regime, this is likely to become another turning point. For many Belarusians, Moscow will no longer be their point of reference. The illusions are vanishing.

For the EU, which is the second most important player in the game, it is important to understand that the Belarus Awakening is not a one-time media event. It is a process of building a new national identity and civil society, and Belarusians must not be abandoned in the midst of this process. There is an argument that is often used both by propaganda mouthpieces and by ordinary people who are skeptical of the West. “No one in Europe is waiting for you, nobody needs Belarusians there”. Europe needs to demonstrate that this is false, and that it has a realistic plan for Belarus - also as a kind of reward for the courage the people have been demonstrating in their fight for civil rights. A good place to start would be offering Belarusians visa-free travel, for instance. The Eastern Partnership from its very inception, was built on the principle of competition between participants. Countries would get “more for more”, more rewards from the EU for more successful reform. The government of Belarus did not get very far on this track. However, its people did. They have literally paid the price in blood and, unfortunately will, most likely, continue to be paying it in the coming weeks or months. This takes much more courage than reform, and courage should be rewarded.

Blog Eduard Csudai, November 3, 2020

The mass testing of Covid-19 of almost all of Slovakia’s population took place between 31 October and 1 November 2020. During the previous weekend, an initial 3-day pilot testing scheme in four regions in the north of the country that has become infection hotspots began on 23 October 2020. 

The Slovak government declared that the testing was voluntary and recommended all persons in Slovakia between 10 and 65 years of age to take the test. Persons placed in the social service utilities and hospitalized persons in hospitals took the test in such utilities. Three million people took the test with 1% of tested persons were positive of COVID-19. The committee of experts does not recommend the second round of testing planned on the following weekend. However, was the testing indeed voluntary? What can now people do with the certificate proving the negative outcome of the testing? If somebody did not take the test, can his/her child go to school? How was the medical and administrative staff prepared for the testing? These and many more questions arose from the irregularities connected with the testing. Besides, the changes in the decision-making of the prime minister are frequent. 

So, was the testing indeed voluntary? Well, not really. People felt a threat of losing money, or even job. A lot of people went to the testing only because of their employment. They are some exceptions regarding persons who declined to go on mass testing – to visit a doctor, nearest groceries, to go on a gas station or to go on a funeral. In this regard, people most likely took the test if they wanted to work on 2nd November 2020. Zuzana Čaputová, the President of the Slovak Republic, and the opposition questioned the voluntary nature of the mass testing. Also, some of the employers declared that they will not pay to those who did not go to mass testing, even though these persons can work from home. So, the risk was high for those without a certificate proving negative results on COVID-19. Indeed, the government never answered the question regarding the voluntary concept of mass testing.  

On the other hand, what can people now do with a certificate proving negative results of COVID-19? First, they can go to work and earn money in these harsh times. Secondly, they can enter the borders of other districts, they can enjoy a beer or a good meal, but only at a terrace of the bar/restaurant, or to see the doctor. They have more options in freedom of movement, employment, money or services in comparison with those who did not go to testing. 

A big question was also, whether a child of a person who did not go to mass testing, can go to school. The journalists asked this question last week, but the Prime Minister did not know the answer. Now, it is clear that the child can go to school, but then, what if the person who did not go to the mass testing is positive and infected the child? Huge issues occurred before the testing itself. The mayors of cities and villages did not have all the equipment, and the government asked the medical personnel to help on last days before the mass testing. Medical staff from Austria, Hungary or Ukraine also provided help because of lack of human resources in the health sector of Slovakia. 

The last question is the Prime Minister himself. Is he able to lead this country with a clear goal, with no changing of rules every second day, and is he capable of listening to the experts? As mentioned, the committee of experts does not recommend the planned second round of testing. The answer is complicated, as is the world of Igor Matovič because in his world, nobody guarantees the rules and they can change every day. Also, without the quick and professional response of the local government, his idea would be a fiasco. 

Blog Steven Saxonberg, September 14, 2020


Blog by Steven Saxonberg, holder of Jean Monnet Chair

Back in March, I planned to write a blog about the American presidential primaries that was to be entitled Hillary 2.0? I feared that Biden’s nomination did not bode well for the Democrats, as at the time, he appeared to me to be the weakest of the democratic candidates. Similar to Hillary Clinton, he was a mainstream, establishment figure at a time in which an anti-establishment atmosphere seemed to dominate the population. He seemed to be even worse than Clinton in that he was a lackluster campaigner and even older than her. I thought the democrats need new blood – younger, more dynamic candidates, so it was ironic that Biden’s biggest opponent, in the end, was somebody who was even older than him.

I thought that Sanders would have done better than Biden, because his economic views would appeal to some of the angry, white men, who voted for Trump. These men often have “leftist” economic views, but “conservative” views on social issues like gay rights and immigration. Clinton and Biden would not appeal to them on either the economic or the social side, while Trump appeals to them on the social side, and Sanders would appeal to them on the economic side and thus win some of their votes. Even if I thought Sanders would have done better than Biden, I thought the Democrats would have been better off with a younger candidate, such as Harris, Booker, or Buttigieg. Thus, I feared the Democrats were doomed by Biden’s sudden comeback and victory in the primaries, and the world would have to endure another 4-years of an incompetent, pathologically lying bully.

However, suddenly something happened to change EVERYTHING and it is a word with a number. Yes, Covid-19. With the onslaught of the pandemic, it became much more difficult for Trump and his supporters (such as Fox Fake News) to continue their philosophy of seeing truth, reality and science as the main enemies. Lies and deceptions do not work well during a pandemic. Given the fear that many people feel when their country is being run by an incompetent, pathologically lying bully, Biden provides a calming effect. When there is an anti-establishment atmosphere, father figures are not in high demand, but when people live in fear, then a father (or maybe granddad) from the establishment provides a sense of security. He might be lacking in vigor and vision, but at least he is competent and knows how things work, which is the kind of person that many people want during a pandemic.

Consequently, the pandemic has tilted the game in Biden’s favor; yet, ironically, the pandemic also provides the greatest obstacle for a Biden victory. The reason being the important issue of voter turnout. Rather than try and recruit voters from the middle, it has been Trump’s strategy to appeal to his base and hope for a high voter turnout. He must know that he has not chance of getting the support of the majority of the population, but he could still win if there is a high voter turnout among his base and a low voter turnout among his non-supporters. This is why one of the main political battles now concerns the issue of voting by mail.  Many voters are afraid of voting in person because they could catch Corvid-19, so they want to vote by mail. If they cannot vote by mail they might stay at home rather than risk their lives by voting in person. Since Trump has mocked people for wearing masks, his supporters are less afraid of voting in person. Thus, this election will be determined by the issue of whether the majority, who oppose Trump, is able to vote or not. For this reason, Trump has tried to make cutbacks in the postal service and take other measures to prevent voting by mail.

Recently, Trump quoted Roosevelt’s famous speech that we have nothing to fear but fear itself; for Trump the truth seems to be rather, he has nothing to fear by the voters themselves.

Blog Oľga Gyárfášová, March 17, 2020

Matovič – the cleaner

Slovakia´s general election led to a short article in the Economist. Under the headline  “A different kind of populism,” the leader of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities" (OĽaNO) Igor Matovič is depicted as an “anti-corruption campaigner”, leader of a movement  which “vows to clean up politics”. Yes, the winning formula of this election was fight against corruption which really grew in Slovakia into unprecedented depth and width. Seven out of ten OľaNO voters said corruption was the most important issue for their vote. But, why is the fight against corruption so closely linked to populism? In recent years, the literature on populism has developed a new term; anti-corruptism (for more details see the study by P. Frič and O. Gyárfášová here: http://www.politickevedy.fpvmv.umb.sk/archiv-vydani/2019/4-2019/pavol-fric-olga-gyarfasova.html). At first glance, it sounds inconsistent: political corruption is an unacceptable sin, and the efforts to diminish it have the highest moral justification. So, why is there a negative undertone? Looking closer, we see that the new wave of populism in post-communist Central Europe largely took the form of the fight against corruption and ended with semi-authoritative rulers  – Orbán is a good example. The struggle against corruption can be abused in a struggle for power; it can become an instrument, a vehicle for obtaining power and somehow forgotten after gaining power. Anti-corruptism is political free-riding in the fight against corruption; it is not intended to defeat it, but to politicize it and to discredit political rivals. Of course, the political rivals presented a huge opportunity to do so – Smer-SD definitely, but let’s think also of Gyurcsány (in Hungary) or Nečas (in the Czech Republic).

Evidence of the existence of anti-corruptism is the apparent weakening of the anti-corruption initiative of the originally anti-corruption political parties. Furthermore, the politicians, who came to power, are becoming involved in their own cases and problems of conflict of interest.  Andrej Babiš’s political trajectory is an example of this. Of course,  populism is not guilty for this development, but rather the extensive and deeply devoured political corruption which we face in many countries.

What could be done? Since we know the genesis of OĽaNO’s phenomenal victory, we should even watch the steps of the future government and to put all anti-corruption measures and initiatives under very rigorous scrutiny in order to prevent that the fight against corruption and the cleaning up the politics turn to be just anti-corruptism.

Blog Karen Henderson, 18.12.2019

The British Leap into the Unknown

The result of the UK election on 12 December meant that for the first time it was certain that the country really would leave the European Union. The Conservative Party under Boris Johnson gained a majority of 80 members of parliament more than all the other parties together, thereby guaranteeing Brexit legislation being passed before Christmas and the UK leaving the EU on 31 January 2020. Beyond this certainty, however, there are far more unanswered questions than usual at the beginning of a parliamentary session. These can be split into two areas: EU/foreign policy and domestic politics.


As a child, Johnson famously told his siblings that he wanted to be world king. While naked ambition and a lust for power are not uncommon among politicians, in Johnson’s case the relentless pursuit of the top office has been so marked that unclarity remains about what he actually intends to do with his new-found power. With a sound parliamentary majority and the gratitude of his party for having ended the Brexit stalemate, he has a relatively free hand in deciding policy. But what does he really want?

It is uncertain whether he even wanted Brexit as he was not a known Eurosceptic and only decided to back the Vote Leave campaign four months before the referendum. In the days immediately after the referendum victory, he was notably silent, reinforcing the common assumption that he had only backed Brexit as a means of gaining Eurosceptic support in a future party leadership contest, in the belief that he would become a noble loser. When he won he knew not what to do.

The first unknown, therefore, is what sort of Brexit policy he will pursue as a strong prime minister. Although his election slogan was ‘Get Brexit Done’, in real life formally leaving the EU is only the first step in negotiating relations with the EU and the rest of the world – a point which the opposition Labour Party was lacklustre in pointing out. Johnson’s first move was to commit himself in law to ending the transition period – where the UK acts in many areas as if it were still an EU member – on 31 December 2020, and not taking advantage of the possibility of a one or two year extension if no trade agreement has been agreed with the EU. This fulfilled a promise to the Brexit Party, which had agreed not to stand in the election in seats that had been won by the Conservatives in 2017. However, laws can be changed and trade negotiations in general will last many years.

The second unknown is what economic problems the UK will face. Brexit supporters claim that ‘project fear’ – concern that Brexit would cause economic devastation – has been proved wrong as the country is currently enjoying record high levels of employment and the pound leapt up when the Conservatives won the election. However, this ignores the fact that Brexit has not actually happened yet and unemployment – particularly outside London and the south of England – may rise dangerously as companies move out of the UK. The pound dropped again when Johnson insisted he would leave the EU at the end of 2020 even without a trade deal, and this might cause a further flurry of companies relocating from the UK.

On this will depend whether any of Johnson’s domestic policy promises can be financed.

Domestic policy

UK domestic politics will cease to be a major concern for the EU from 2020 onwards, but it will nevertheless be interesting to discover whether, as some fear, the UK will become a neoliberal bastion leading a ‘race to the bottom’ on standards or whether, on the contrary, Johnson’s premiership is a prelude to the UK becoming a socialist beacon on the edge of Europe under a radical left Labour government.

First of all, it should be noted that although Johnson has in recent years collaborated with colleagues on the right of the Conservative Party who were hostile to the EU, his former major office was as mayor of London where, as in many capital cities, more liberal policies are necessary. Johnson himself is a cosmopolitan: he was born in New York (only renouncing US citizenship in 2016), lived in Brussels as a child and speaks several languages. His colourful love life also precludes his adopting conservative moral stances. He refuses to confirm in public how many children he has, and is the first prime minister to move his mistress into Downing Street. Furthermore, in the run-up to the election he was critical of his Conservative predecessors’ austerity policies and made a number of fairly extravagant promises in the run-up to the election, targeted mainly at seats in the north of England which were held by the Labour Party but had a majority of voters who supported ‘Leave’. This policy, coupled with the marked public distrust of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was successful. The Conservatives captured some seats that had been Labour bastions since the First World War, and on the weekend after the election Johnson gleefully visited Sedgefield, a northern constituency that had been represented by three-times Labour prime minister Tony Blair but which had switched to the Conservatives on 12 December.

Consequently, it is hard to tell where Johnson will end up politically. His domestic policies are likely to contain elements of originality and it will be interesting to track at what point his popularity begins to fade with his Conservative colleagues.  It is not inconceivable that he will fall flat on his face early on in his term of office if confronted by economic crisis. Most of his pre-election spending promises were based on financing through a ‘Brexit bonus’ which is unlikely to materialize.

The second major problem Johnson will face is open conflict with the Scottish Government. When the exit poll was announced at 10pm on election night, my first reaction was ‘end of the UK’, since it indicated not only a clear Conservative victory and hence Brexit, but also a marked increase in the number of Scottish National Party members of parliament. Johnson is adamant that there should not be another independence referendum in Scotland since the one held in 2014 was supposed to be a ‘once in a generation’ decision. However, since the British government had campaigned in that referendum with the argument that independence would eject Scotland from the EU and only staying in the UK guaranteed continuous EU membership, the Scottish had clearly been betrayed by the 2016 EU referendum. Nevertheless, although 62% of Scottish voters had supported continued EU membership in 2016, the result of a future Scottish independence referendum is far from certain. The Scottish National Party first became an electoral force in the 1970s, after the UK had joined the EU, and the notion of Scottish independence has always been tacitly predicated on both England and Scotland being in the EU so that borders and customs tariffs were simply not a problem. With the UK leaving the EU, and the EU requiring new member states, like an independent Scotland, to join the Schengen Zone, independence would appear to entail a hard border between England and Scotland of the sort that has been rejected in Ireland.

It should be noted that the Irish border is less problematic than a hypothetical future Scottish border as Ireland, like the UK, has never been in the Schengen Zone: their common travel zone meant that Ireland chose to stay outside Schengen to match the UK. But new member states like an independent Scotland do not enjoy the choices that existing member states have when treaty innovations are first negotiated.

Ireland will, however, be another problem for Johnson. His agreement with the EU will create a bureaucratic nightmare in Northern Ireland, which is in any case vulnerable to a post-Brexit economic downturn, and Northern Ireland has a right in international law to hold a referendum on Irish reunification if there appears to be a majority in support of this. 2019 was the first UK election where the protestant Unionist parties gained less than half the province’s 18 Westminster seats, and although the distortions of the British electoral system mean that this does not indicate a republican majority, it is part of a broader long-term shift in opinion about Ireland’s destiny.

But would the disintegration of the UK hurt Johnson? Although the Conservatives claim to be the party of the Union, some opinion polls indicated that the English as a whole are not so concerned with remaining in a United Kingdom with Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Brexiteers were far more worried about getting Brexit done.

Finally, the good news for the Johnson government relates to the opposition Labour Party. Having allowed the membership to elect Jeremy Corbyn – a token far left candidate on the leadership election ballot paper – in 2015, the party had doomed itself to electoral failure. It also doomed the UK to Brexit as Corbyn’s almost farcically indecisive leadership on the issue allowed the Conservatives to dominate political discourse on the matter while civil society, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats and anti-Corbyn dissenters in the Labour Party put up the most effective resistance they could in the absence of a Leader of the Opposition who knew how to do his job. Corbyn’s devoted fan following mistook their fairly narrow loss in the 2017 election, where they were saved by despairing anti-Brexit voters deciding the Labour Party was the only machine big enough to attack the Conservatives, as an indication that the public liked his left-wing policies (which to some extent they did). After the disastrous failure in 2019, which left them with fewer seats than in any election since 1935, the party might correct course. Early indications suggest, however, that the members will again put their own left-wing dreams above the views of their voters and replace Corbyn with some of the young women members of parliament that Corbyn had brought into his shadow cabinet. So as in the entire Brexit period, Johnson could in this respect have an easier ride than he might have expected or deserved. But he may not. A Labour leader on the left of the party who has sharper political instincts and ambition than Corbyn might just manage to turn a post-Brexit economic collapse to their political advantage and create a socialist flagship on the EU’s western border.

Looking to the future

Political mistakes, both by Johnson, the Labour Party, and politicians in Scotland and Northern Ireland, matter. But what matters most of all in determining the future of the UK is the economic fate of the country once it leaves the UK. Governments are never helped by economic recession, and in a case where the recession is so clearly of the government’s own making, the reaction may be more intense. However, older people are less likely to protest. They have got used to the idea that there will be economic problems after Brexit and after the dire scenarios predicted for the case that the UK had left the EU without any withdrawal agreement at all, the reality may not seem so bad to them.

The young, however, are a different matter. Surveys at the time of the referendum indicated that over 70% of 18 – 24-year-olds had voted to remain in the EU, while over 60% of those 65 years old or above had voted to leave. More crucially, however, this fault line is also visible in election voting. Britain is no longer divided by class or occupation, or between rural and urban voters or north and south. It is divided by age. A post-election survey found that 56% of 18 – 24-year-olds voted Labour and just 21% Conservative, while among 60 – 69-year-olds some 57% voted Conservative and only 22% Labour.

Should Brexit cause economic hardship and unemployment it will be the young who suffer. They already have numerous grievances against the older generation – the unaffordability of house purchase, high university fees and the prospect of lower pensions - apart from the looming threat of climate change catastrophe. A further deterioration of their life chances caused purely by the folly of their elders may well pose the risk of serious unrest.

Blog Oľga Gyárfášová, 18.12.2019

Zvolebnieva sa …

Je pár dní do Vianoc a niekoľko týždňov do volieb. Vo verejnom priestore na nás útočia dva kľúčové motívy – vianočná idylka a politika. Kým ten prvý je obohratá, každoročne sa opakujúca pesnička, druhý je ouvertúrou k politickej dráme. Tak čo pre nás pripravili politické strany? Kto sa na nás usmieva z bilbordov a akými slovami nás presviedča o svojej jedinečnosti?

Najskôr sa pozrime na stále ešte najsilnejšiu stranu Smer-SD. Kým nemala jasne vytýčenú komunikačnú stratégiu, prišla s motívom šťastnej rodinky a hedlajnom „Ochránime sociálny štát“. To je hra na istotu. Nie je síce taký dobrý slogan ako „Ľudia si zaslúžia istoty“ z volieb 2012, ale niečo na ten spôsob. Pre veľa ľudí je politika len o vlastnej ekonomickej situácii a sociálnych témach, a keď sa ešte niekto postaví do pozície „ochrancu“, čo je v  Smer-SD obľúbené, niet čo pokaziť. Symptomatické pre túto fázu komunikácie Smeru bolo, že strana nezobrazovala konkrétnych politikov, veď priveľa z nich sa spája s kauzami, na ktoré ľudia ešte nestihli zabudnúť. V ďalšom kroku sme videli mega-re-branding Smeru: portrét mierne zarasteného sympaťáka, premiéra Petra Pellegriniho + Nový Smer + Zodpovedná zmena. Marketéri vládnej strany správne odčítali, že v spoločnosti je obrovský dopyt po zmene. Potrebujú ju však prerámcovať vo svoj prospech a najmä pre-smerovať zodpovednosť za súčasný stav spoločnosti. Nový Smer využíva slová zmena a novosť, však

V koalícii PS/Spolu konečne prestali so „starou“ a „novou“ politikou a prišli s bilbordom „Za férové a hrdé Slovensko“ + štvorica top-predstaviteľov koalície. Po formálnej stránke pomerne štandardná bilbordová komunikácia, ktorá vizuálne aj slovami hovorí, že za politickou stranou stojí sebavedomá mladšia stredná generácia, ľudia, ktorí už niečo aj mimo politiky dokázali. Komunikácia je pripravená so znalosťou cieľovej skupiny – voličiek a voličov, ktorí patria socioštruktúrne i hodnotovo do podobnej „krvnej skupiny“ ako štvorica na bilborde.

Strana Za ľudí ústami svojich predstaviteľov sľubuje: „K lekárovi bez zbytočného čakania“ (bilbord s Andrejom Kiskom); „Vezmeme podvodníkom nelegálny majetok“ (bilbord s Veronikou Remišovou). Už aj v tomto „nábehovom“ období kampane sa strana snaží spájať jednotlivé verejné politiky s konkrétnymi tvárami. Zámerom je ukázať široké odborné zázemie, ktorým strana disponuje. Mieri pritom najmä na témy, ktoré verejnosť vníma ako najpálčivejšie – zdravotníctvo, korupcia, právny štát, regionálna politika. Komunikované prísľuby však nepôsobia veľmi reálne a uskutočniteľne.

ĽSNS stále ťaží z obľúbenej hry na obeť: „Milan Mazurek vyhodený z parlamentu za vyslovenie názoru! Slováci, nedajme sa umlčať!“ Alebo: „Chceme Slovensko národné a kresťanské! A čo ty?“ Použitie priameho oslovenia vytvára dojem istej autenticity. Národné, kresťanské, prípadne sociálne – to sú tradičné a už riadne „ošúchané“ prívlastky Slovenska. Pripomína to nezmyslenú „duchaplnosť“ prezidenta Gašparoviča: „myslím národne, cítim sociálne“.

Hnutie OĽaNO stavilo na odvahu: „Odvážne už 10 rokov“. Igorovi Matovičovi naozaj nechýba, je to jeho nesporná výhoda oproti iným opozičným politikom. Je teda dobrý ťah „predávať“ odvahu ako svoj brand.

SaS ponúka: „Lepšie školstvo! Aby sa na Slovensku oplatilo pracovať, podnikať a žiť! Menej štátu, nižšie dane! Nepôjdeme so Smerom.“ Sulíkovci idú v línii svojich doterajších programových priorít. Prísľub „Nepôjdeme so Smerom“ v prípade tejto strany vnímam ako redundantné posolstvo. Z toho by ich snáď naozaj nikto nepodozrieval. SaS tiež apeluje na „zdravý rozum“ a Boris Kollár celkom priamo uvádza „Myslím srdcom“, aby bolo jasné, že politika je o emóciách!

Nad hranicou 5 % je dlhodobo aj aktuálne mimoparlamentné Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie. Ponúka program s názvom: „Reštart – Nádej pre Slovensko“. Nádej je silná pozitívna emócia, reštart KDH s novým vedením sa zatiaľ voličsky celkom osvedčil (komunálne voľby, eurovoľby). Je to jedna z najdlhšie pôsobiacich strán na Slovensku a jej vedenie si uvedomuje, že napriek personálnej zmene vedenia chce ponúknuť kontinuitu obsahu a hodnôt, pre takúto kombináciu je „reštart“ dobrý mém. 

Menší koaliční partneri Slovenská národná strana a Most-Híd nemajú miesto v budúcom parlamente úplne isté. SNS bojuje „Za rodinu – za národ“, čo je klasický repertoár nacionalistických strán – za Boha, za národ, za rodinu, za vlasť... Zaujímavé, že nikomu neprekáža odkaz na obsah i syntax hesiel Hlinkovej slovenskej ľudovej strany – alebo žeby práve naopak? A Most - Híd

sa prezentuje heslom „Most do budúcnosti“. Snaha o slovnú hračku, ktorá síce dobre znie, ale mám obavy, že Most už má svoju budúcnosť za sebou.

Pozrime sa ešte na ďalších nováčikov, ktorí stoja na štarte. Dobrá voľba, ktorú založil Tomáš Drucker chce „Reálne riešenia pre Slovensko“. Profil tejto strany je zatiaľ dosť nejasný, z výskumov tiež ťažko zistiť, kto vlastne je jej cieľová skupina a koho kampaňou oslovuje. Spojenie „reálne riešenia“ korešponduje s manažérskym imidžom zakladateľa Dobrej voľby. Uvidíme, či ide o zárodok „podnikateľského populizmu“, ako sa zvykne označovať politický štýl Andreja Babiša.

Štefan Harabin, zakladateľ a top kandidát strany Vlasť, si ukradol „vlasť“. Nie, neukradol; veď nikto o ňu nestál. Pre väčšinu dizajnérov názvov strán a tvorcov kampaní je to asi príliš patetický pojem.

Komunisti vypadli zo súťaže ešte skôr, ako sa začala. Stihli však celkom originálne prispieť ku kontaminácii verejného priestoru. Gustáv Husák sa priamo z bilbordu pýtal: „Ako sa vám darí, deti moje 30 rokov po prevrate? Je váš život teraz lepší? Nie? Tak to zmeňte!“ Alebo druhý slogan: „Bez ľútosti: Odovzdáme všetky Gorily trestnej zodpovednosti! Staré, aj tie nové. Vrátime a rozvinieme hodnoty socializmu.“ Komunisti celkom explicitne, bez pretvárok, hrajú na nostalgiu – nielen Husákových detí, ale najmä tých ešte skôr narodených – za bývalým režimom. Ešte aj zvolený slovník – ako napríklad „prevrat“, „hodnoty socializmu”“ – je v dikcii rokov normalizácie.

Bilbord je ťažký žáner – pretlmočiť veľa komplexných obsahov pár slovami a nebyť pritom banálny, je zložité. Niekomu sa to darí lepšie, inému poslabšie. Politická komunikácia formou bilbordov vo verejnom priestore je nevyžiadaná, nevieme ju vypnúť ani nevidieť. Konštruktívne riešenie je brať ju so zdravým odstupom a poprípade trochu analyzovať :-)

Saxonberg Blog, December 13, 2019

Today is the day that it became rather clear that Brexit will likely become a reality, as the Tories under the leadership of their populist leader Boris Johnson won a victory in the British elections. Thus, for many people this Friday the thirteenth really does signify bad luck! The entire Brexit debate has been very divisive for the UK and Europe and has led to a lot of resentment.
Thus, today is a good day for me to write a brief blog about Dr. Lenka Buštíková’s excellent presentation on the politics of resentment which she gave as part of our Jean Monnet lecture series on Thursday, December 5. She came to promote her new book Extreme Reactions: Radical Right Mobilization in Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press). She argues that far right parties mobilize against politically ascendant minorities based on the politics of resentment. That is, people do not vote for far right parties necessarily because they are racist, anti-Gay, anti-immigrant, etc,, but rather because they feel resentment toward these groups, which they feel have benefitted from recent changes in policies in their society.

Our research project on emotions and populism has been highly influenced by Buštíková’s work. While she uses macro-level data, we decided that we wanted to test her ideas about resentment at the micro level, so we included questions about resentment in our resent questionnaire that we carried out in Slovakia. In addition, hearing her lecture about why support for far-right parties increases when “outgroups” appear to be gaining in benefits, I wondered why only SOME people vote for these far-right parties. Why doesn’t everyone vote for them? In other words, she offers an intriguing explanation as to why support for these parties increases under certain circumstances, but without micro-level data we cannot ascertain why some people still refuse to vote for these parties – in fact the vast majority in the post-communist countries does not vote for such parties. Consequently, her lecture gave me further food for thought for the analysis of our survey data that will begin in January.

Saxonberg Blog December 8, 2019

I am very thrilled and honored to have received a Jean Monnet Chair for our project on the EU from a political sociological perspective. It seems to me that most European Studies programs focus on the EU as an institution. However, I think it is also important to look at the countries that comprise the European Union.

To take an obvious example, the wave of populism that has spread throughout Europe obviously influences the EU. The clearest example is the Brexit issue, but that is not the only case where populism has influenced the EU. In Central Europe rightwing populist parties have come to power in both Poland and Hungary and are both moving in the direction of “illiberal democracies,” where elections are no longer fair, the mass media is no longer free and the legal system is no longer independent. Hungary has gone farther in this direction that Poland, but the mere existence of an illiberal, populist party in power in Poland makes it difficult for the EU to sanction the Orban regime in Hungary, since Poland will usually block such moves, which require unanimous approval. In addition, the ruling ANO party in the Czech Republic could be considered a centrist-populist party and the president Zeman a leftwing populist. Meanwhile the ruling party in Slovakia – Smer – is clearly a populist party, which in common with rightwing populist parties runs anti-Roma and anti-immigrant campaigns; yet the party labels itself “social democratic” and belongs to the socialist group in the EU parliament. In a situation in which much of Central Europe is being ruled by populist parties of various shades, it is not surprising that these governments refused to accept the EU quotas for taking in refugees from Syria, which in turn prevented the EU from developing a cohesive strategy for dealing with the refugee situation.

But if the EU is influenced by changes in the policies of the member states, it is necessary to investigate why some of the member states are changing their policies. In order to conduct such an analysis, it is necessary to look at the relationship between state and society in these countries, hence the need for a political-sociological approach. A political-sociological approach allows us to inquire as to why different kinds of movements (such as populist ones) arise, why people support such policies and how the policies of these movements when in power influence society.

Luckily, we also have a research project on populism and emotions, so now were are investigating many of these themes, which allows us to link our research project to the Jean Monnet Chair, as the Chair is mostly for teaching innovations rather than research. In addition, part of teh Jean Monnet project is to invite guest lecturers and to show films in our EUROCINE film series. Thus, we are combining research and teaching with outreach events such as public lectures and films with panel discussions after the films.

Eurocine film series

All films are in the Auditorium of the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences at 5:30 pm on Tuesdays

October 8, 2019 bude EUROCINE premietať dokumentárnu novinku "Skutok sa stal", režisérky Barbory Bereznakovej. Po filme bude diskusia s režisérkou a novinárkou Ľubou Lesnou, moderuje Andrej Findor. Možno ste v Denníku N zachytili rozhovor s režisérkou a aj reakciu Ľuby Lesnej, to všetko je prísľubom zaujímavého eventu.

November 19, 2019: "SPÝTAJ SA VAŠICH 89"
premietanie dokumentárneho filmu a diskusia s režisérkou Barborou Berezňákovou a výskumníčkou Zuzanou Maďarovou (ÚEŠMV), autorkou knihy Ako odvrávať novembru 1989: rodové aspekty pamäte.
Screening of the documentary film "Ask at Home 89" with English subtitles.

December 12, 2019 at 16:30: "MEČIAR". Screening of documentaryfilm
Lust for Power (with English subtitles). Premietanie dokumentárnehe filmu Mečiar a diskusia s publicistom a analytikom Mariánom LEŠKOM reprezentantmi Dokumentu nakolesách Matejom SOTNÍKOM a Adamom STRAKOM. Možno príde aj režisérka Tereza NVOTOVÁ

Publications for 2019

Steven Saxonberg: Pre-Modernity, Totalitarianism and the Non-Banality of Evil: A comparism of Germany, Spain, Sweden and France

Steven Saxonberg "Premodern Totalitarianism: the Case of Spain Compared to France"

Religion & Ideology, vol. 20, no.1, 2019, pp. 21-41.


Tomáš Sirovátka, Martin Guzi and Steven Saxonberg: Satisfaction with Democracy and Perceived Performance of the Welfafe State in Europe

Journal of European Social Policy Vol. 29, No. 2, 2019, 241–256.