All posts by Henrieta Serban

About Henrieta Serban

Henrieta Serban is Scientific Researcher II, PhD Hab. in Philosophy, at the Institute of Political Science and International Relations “Ion I. C. Brãtianu” of the Romanian Academy. In addition, she is: Scientific Researcher III at the Institute of Philosophy and Psychology “Constantin Rãdulescu-Motru” of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest; correspondent member of the Academy of Romanian Scientists; and title member of the Romanian Committee for the History of the Philosophy of Science and Technology. Her recently authored books include: Symbolical Forms and Representations of the Social and Political Phenomena (in Romanian, 2017); Lucian Blaga – Selected Philosophical Extracts (co-edited, in English, Vernon Press, 2018); Neopragmatism and Postliberalism: A Contemporary Weltanschauung (in Romanian and English, 2021).

Emmanuel Lazega, Bureaucracy, Collegiality and Social Change. Redefining Organizations with Multilevel Relational Infrastructures (Cheltenham: E. Elgar, 2020)

Bureaucracy, Collegiality and Social Change. Redefining Organizations with Multilevel Relational Infrastructures is a topical research providing a new theoretical perspective on the socio-political aspects of organizations. Methodologically, the book presents a novelty as it is conceived starting from two structuring logics in the analysis of the contemporary organizations, namely, bureaucracy and collegiality.

A very important part in capturing the a main aspects of reform, change and transitions in relation to the agency and functioning of the contemporary organizations is redefining them and identifying the best approach to their present-day realities: their multilevel structure and their cyclical network dynamics.

The book demonstrates a profound understanding of the changes taking place as well in the body of knowledge constituted around organizations, taking into account a complex context given by the newer phenomena shaping both the socio-political realities and our perception regarding organizational characteristics and transformations. in this respect, besides the dynamics implied by the digitalization of society, researcher Emmanuel Lazega, the author of the book, approaches organizations as multilevel networks influenced by the particularities of the relation between markets and societies, the impact of new institutions in political economy, the self-segregation of the elites, or the higher competition in matters of specialized theorization and science in relation to societies, markets and government. As the author notes: „Any book on the sociology of organizations must rely on the theory of bureaucracy, its characteristics and its twentieth century critique. This theory starts with Max Weber and Taylorian industrial bureaucracy, focusing on the main features of this ideal type: routine work, hierarchy, impersonal interactions between members and many others discussed by this plethoric literature, including the fact that bureaucratic routinization of production began with deskilling craftspeople and social Darwinist ideology.” (p. 7)

The roots of this investigation are represented by the emphasis of the crucial connection between the development of bureaucracy, the rise of the modern state and the constitution of modern corporations, as well as the relations with the context of the promotion of mass production and consumption and the critique of the Weberian and Taylorian views of bureaucracy. Mainly, the criticism of workers as automatons or “atomized robots”, or that employees work better in groups (which may happen, but not necessarily), the vision of organizations as static; the idea that the leaders and managers are rational. Instead, power, participation and coalition building are fluid, or in motion, or in course of development.

Social capital may or may be not identic with the relationships capital. Reciprocity and solidarity are experienced as varied “goods” and they may be distributed in various ways. In neo-structural sociology the matters resulting from individual confrontation of collective actions, as well as social interests, social claims and social discipline, at individual and at collective levels, are also important. In this respect, workplace relationships are “mobilized processes of generalized exchange; at the boundaries that the group has established for itself, based, for example, on exclusion(s) – among other manner of relating with others, our observation – and at the norms that its members are called upon to define and apply”. (p. 23)

Along with social networks and new forms of virtual, organized collective agency, bureaucracy attains therefore new sophistication levels, and they can be parameterized and managed digitally, while they are not depersonalized, organizing the very perception of work relations in a more nuanced and organized manner (p. 35, 96, 121). The organization depends on the accurate image and management of an organizational scheme of partners, contractors, subcontractors, clients, and employees, with specific interests and needs that can be always better described and better understood. New theories of stratification and “dynamic configuring fields” are involved in the explanation of organizational structuring and functioning, leading the author toward the metaphor of the multilevel spinning top for the multilevel, superimposed forms of collective agency, combining upper and lower organizational levels in order to accomplish a kind of synchronization correction for the relative oligarchical character driven by closed and collegial elites.

This multispin uses circular movements and trajectories of members – for example, mobilities in loops and revolving doors from public responsibilities to private jobs and back to public positions – to create an informal pecking order (metaphorically: the shaft of the rotating spinning top) that enables the most central among these institutional entrepreneurs to obtain formal foothold positions. They can then act as vertical linchpins and brokers between conflicting sides with different political definitions of the institution. The main idea of this mechanism is that when such oligarchic and dynamic positions of institutional entrepreneurs moving up and down (top-down collegiality) are stabilized by a supportive inter-organizational network (hence the crucial dynamics of multilevel dimension of the process), these entrepreneurs are able to maintain their centrality and interactions long enough to surf on – if not to avoid altogether – the unpredictable and conflictual politics of an electoral process. This mechanism thus helps them succeed in their institutionalization efforts in spite of being a small collegial oligarchy (…)” (p. 97) capitalizing upon collective, interpersonal and inter-organizational types of agency.

An important consequential aspect is the expansion of the entrepreneurial and organizational network with beneficial implications on performance and innovation levels. Another aspect is the organizational culture and the importance of “weak culture”, defined as “banal, non-instrumental, non-demanding, non-exclusive” (p. 142), crucial in relating otherwise scattered individuals and social groups in a wider community, more susceptible to entertain an open attitude, shaping the attitudes  about values in a more sophisticated and democratic way.

A fascinating discussion concerns the correlation among bounded solidarity, social niches and status competition, bringing up interest for “oppositional solidarities” and “top-down collegiality” within the relational infrastructures activated by various strategies. Often, a successful business means also maintaining a good reputation, that is, social status, within the interplay between social control and conflict resolution. In France, “consular” commercial courts have exactly this role. (p. 257) Individual judicial entrepreneurs are sponsored to ensure and to exert social control. The study of the multilevel dimension of markets emphasized a related effect, namely, “the strong link between the ways in which cooperation among competitors works as a ‘forth factor’ of production and the creation/reproduction of social inequalities in contemporary capitalist societies”. (p.177) Neo-structural economic sociology opens the perspective of markets behaving like organizational “tools with a life of their own” perpetuating and increasing inequality, mainly by mechanisms of cooperation among similar level competitors and against smaller, lower lever organizations, reinforcing the power of stronger companies, building up opportunities and resources and desolidarizing smaller players.

Organizations and their bureaucracies become more and more like collegial bogies, with bottom-up collegial bureaucracy and specific understanding of collective actions, freedoms, innovation, learning and responsibility; therefore aiming to be more and more closer to the template of swarms, both vertically and horizontally organized, self-organized, highly adaptable and efficient in their collective action. These models are now brought closer by digitalization, big data and social network data. The military image of the swarm is ready to be impressed into organizational and bureaucratic life. The danger brought by the indisputable benefices found in developing artificial intelligence algorithms that will further bureaucratize agency via the reification of multilevel relational infrastructures that minimize change and contestation, while weakening the regulation of inequality, autonomy and autonomous innovation in exchange for a predictable, more profitable and truly effective collective action. The model might be undertaken to reshape public space, political regimes and entire societies. The Weberian image of the “polar night of icy darkness” seems highly appropriate.

Bureaucracy, Collegiality and Social Change. Redefining Organizations with Multilevel Relational Infrastructures is therefore a remarkable synthesis of research associated to the latest achievements of the anthropological and sociological social networks and relational data knowledge. However, first and foremost the book is a lucid vision of the sensitivity of relational data, of the necessity to regulate private exclusive access to data, social engineering and defend a public and democratic national state and international power to guarantee and enforce the principles of open science and safeguard the autonomy of social sciences and their right to investigate, to critique and to tell the truth to power from unsubordinated, autonomous positions. These crucial ideas, which are also well-founded warnings, are convincingly based on a serious and impressive social networks and relational data knowledge.

Finn Laursen, The Development of the EU as a Sea-Policy Actor (Cheltenman: E. Elgar, 2020)

The Development of the EU as a Sea-Policy Actor represents an important work within the body of contemporary studies dedicated to EU as a fully developed player in international relations. The metaphor of Blue Europe is beneficial in pragmatic terms, too, for the mapping and the investigation of the treaties sustaining the marine and maritime policies of the European Union (EU). This multi-layered analysis is complex and especially important in understanding the achievements and the potential of the EU as an actor of the seas.

Not only the history of Europe after the EEC, but also different theories are revisited to argue that the understanding of the European maritime policies, the so-called Blue Europe can be understood only with a competent theoretical background illuminating the structure induced, the agency, the process and the hypothesis orienting the policies sustained. The exceptional synthetic table (p. 22-23) dedicated to such analytical and theoretical considerations regarding policy development in the EU might be useful for the analysis of other policy achievements in other domains, too. A clear view upon contemporary theories regarding policy making and collaborative bargaining over diverse interests – international relations theories (realism and liberalism), classical integration theories (liberal intergovernmentalism and neo-functionalism), neo-institutionalist theories (historical institutionalism and sociological institutionalism), and the models based on domestic policies granting a great influence of the sub-national interests is allowing for a complex and nuanced perspective on policy-making.

Finn Laursen emphasizes: “Developing the treaty basis of Blue Europe has been an incremental process including several small steps when the member states concluded that it was necessary to take another step. Often the process was pushed by developments in international politics and political economy, including especially the Law of the Sea” (p. 42). There is a “constitutional” basis of Blue Europe. This investigation approaches both treaties and sea-policies concerning fisheries, maritime transport, maritime environment and maritime safety policies, describing a complete picture of the EU as a sea-policy actor and its particularities, internally and externally. These particularities are defined „from mare liberum to UNCLOS”, via the extension of the coastal state sovereignty stated by the Third UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III, 1982) and the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNLOSC) regarding the off-shore marine resources. At the same time, an important role is granted to the special interest to assess the initiation and development of sea policies in the EU, the existing conceptual frameworks and their relevance and the potential reforms in terms of EU’s sea policies.

The EU’s sea policies developed initially as common environmental policies and the book  analyzes the Single European Act (SEA), the efforts of EEC to be recognized as part of UNCLOS III with an equivalent standing as the member states, in order to clarify the scope and the functionality of Blue Europe. However, “The EU now coordinates LOS activities through the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) Working Party on the Law of the Sea known by its French acronym COMAR, composed of experts from member states, the Commission and the Council Secretariat. It has also become more of an international leader in the LOS areas, for instance by supporting the development of legislation for the promotion of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, by showing the way in an EU regulation in 2008.” (p.62)

Discussing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the book presents the equal access principle in the 1970s and its changes until the establishing of the specific (200-nautical mile) fishery zone in the North Sea and North Atlantic Ocean in 1977. International interdependence, “complex interdependence” (Keohane and Nye) as well as the policy consequences of Custom Union, Common Agricultural Policy, the Commission, domestic policies and the demands of the fishermen, all played a role in CFP. The conservation and management policy was adopted in 1983 and several reforms were adopted until more recent reforms (2013), provided that new wider international changes and development imposed renewed attention to environmental agreements, or to new needs and interests or even new actors, such as NGOs and the European Parliament (entitled by the Lisbon Treaty, pp. 104-105).

Common Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP) along with other Blue Europe achievements are ultimately a proof of European and international cooperation and of common concerns (standards, equity, environment safety, pollution etc.) in front of diverse interests. Based on the international conventions, but going further than those the EU developed a body of law regulating fishery maritime transport, the protection of the quality of the environment, the prudent and rational use of resources, the protection of human health. The book captures the legislative developments the explanation of changes, the impact of the recent pro-environment discourse on the attitudes of the laggard member states.

The architecture of internal and external competences of the EU is also explained. EU has exclusive competence for the conclusion of international agreements enabling the Union to act as a whole and to enforce upon these internal common rules, as well as in “conservation of marine biological resources under CFP” (p. 165).  The EU has become an important international actor, it has “normative power” and “market power”, but also “environment power”, however, remaining solely a potential agent, just a part in the “coalitions of the willing”, not a military actor, in the full meaning of the term.  Eventually, as the author indicates in different occasions, the nature of the European policy, its enforcement, sustainability and future depend on the political will and administrative capacity of the member states, and especially on the forms undertaken by the European collective action and its force.

Johanna Hiitola, Kati Turtiainen, Sabine Gruber, Marja Tiilikainen (eds.), Family Life in Transition: Borders, Transnational Mobility, and Welfare Society in Nordic Countries (London: Routledge, 2020)

The sociology of family represents a growing branch of contemporary sociological knowledge. Investigating the realities pertaining to family life in relation to aspects of transnational mobility, welfare, gender and race, this collective volume succeeds to offer a realistic image of the situation in Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Family life faces new opportunities and obstacles within transitional settings, in terms of citizenship status and welfare.

The editors of the volume are sociologists with various competences and perspectives of investigation, with the experience of various collaborative projects that constituted the preliminary stage of the book: Social Empowerment in Rural Areas (Interreg Baltic Sea Region, 2016–2019 at Chydenius) and Family Separation, Migration Status and Everyday Security: Experiences and Strategies of Vulnerable Migrants (Academy of Finland, 2018–2021 at the Migration Institute of Finland). In the Introduction the editors approach the transformation of the welfare state generated mainly by the world economic crisis of 2008 and the increase in asylum applications in the Nordic countries since 2015.

The guiding keyword of the analysis is „border” a location of transition and negotiation, bringing people together and separating people, potentially and actually, generating either marginalisation or belonging. Border appears as a reality testing the practices of societies, the legislation and policies alike. The phenomena of deterritorialization of European internal and external borders reveal in relation to the hierarchies of migrants transposed into the chances of access to social welfare, advantageous legal status and work, which in turn has a specific impact on family life. The editors of the volume emphasize an important and intriguing fact: „Thus, borders can also be seen as institutions that produce social relations and hierarchies, far from the actual geographical borders” (p. 2). As well, in the Introduction, in the second chapter, Valtteri Vähä-Savo  evaluates the problem of „Decoupling spheres of belonging in the Nordic welfare states” (p. 10) emphasizing the importance of the confluence among nation, citizenship, and population; three crucial spheres of belonging which were at the same time the legitimation base of Nordic welfare states, precisely, via their successful confluence. When decoupled, these spheres of influence start to present deficient functioning and the welfare state become far less efficient.

On the one hand, there is social and economic legitimation of the practices sustaining the welfare state, and there is on the other hand a moral type of legitimation sanctioning the social practices the functioning and the efficiency of the welfare state. When investigating the moral legitimation, there is a degree of change that might be estimated empirically. The specialists assessed empirically the change following the aspects related to the bordering practices of welfare services emphasizing the extent to which they construct in everyday environments a series of (newer) norms of parenthood, family, and citizenship. Authors Beret Bråten, Kristina Gustafsson, and Silje Sønsterudbråten, in „Guiding migrant parents in Nordic welfare states – cases from Norway and Sweden”, investigate the empirical data gathered from three parenting programmes in Norway and Sweden for migrant parents. The research questions were why are migrant families targeted, what kind of transitions do the programmes promote, and how are transitions expected to be achieved? The investigators also approach the exercising of governing authority through these programmes, informing and influencing other people’s views of reality, especially their aspirations and motivations, in order to influence their practices, inducing good parental practices. The socialisation of parents via such programmes faces strong and unexamined views about cultural differences (in my opinion, on both sides). The implicit in the operation of such programmes is that migrant parents are not perceived by the states as equal peers to the national parents. However, since the participation in the parenting programmes is voluntary, the governing intervention is legitimate by the mutual interest to avoid the formation of parallel communities and ghettos. This motivation sustains the implementation of other programmes, which are compulsory and more debatable.

In the part two of the volume, investigating the quality of life and the welfare services for the Sámi community outside the Finnish territories called Sámi homeland, Tuuli Miettunen discusses a research based on a community-based, dialogical method, involving the Sámi concept of gulahallan (communicating for mutual understanding). The networks Sámi families pass on their culture and language to their children outside their traditional Sámi homeland via specific networks formed to sustain the vitality of their indigenous culture, in Finland. The chapter signed by Sabine Gruber approaches foster families and the placement of children in foster care, with a special attention to the manner in which Swedish values for family life and parenthood and their associated practices are constructed, along with their influence on the procedures for getting assigned as a foster home. The research conducted by Marit Aure and Darius Daukšas brings to the fore the experiences of fear and insecurity faced by the Lithuanian parents living in Norway and having to interact with the Norwegian Child Protective Services (NCWS). This is an experience developed upon the “us” versus “them” thinking, with the consequence of empowering the otherwise invisible borders between the Norwegian services and the Lithuanian migrants. The core of the investigation regards the „out-of-home placements” by the NCWS, contrasting with the official idealistic stand that a social democratic welfare regime (the Norwegian one in this case) “provides extensive and wide-ranging family support” and „enjoys a high level of trust” and in consequence „people do not see as repressive”. This is rather wishful thinking and in fact, many people, even Norwegians oppose and feel anxiety and suspicion in front of the government practice characterized by a high threshold for intervention legitimated by the prevention of harm. For the Lithuanian parents these practices recall the Soviet practices they resent. Also, on the top of marginalisation they feel object to “epistemic injustice” (Haga, 2019, quoted by the authors) from the NCWS. Thus the relationship to the Norwegian state is at best one described by mistrust, which is neither beneficial to society at large nor to the children in question.

The second part of the volume includes also a study entitled „Representations of mothering of migrant Finns”, by Minna Zechner and Tiina Tiilikka, a topic approached within the framework of the contrast between a (rather ideal) representation of the (Nordic) welfare state as a normative project of shared moral conceptions, values, and social goals and a reality in which the welfare practices are lacking for the most part precisely these shared conceptions, values and goals. Everyday practices are conveyed in a great variety of materials. The study selects for investigation blog texts authored by Finnish migrant mothers living outside Finland, to emphasize a certain image of mothering as reflected by the notions of good mothering, described by the Finnish “migrant” and “mommy” blogging. The authors conclude that “The discomfort and incompatibility of the differing norms across countries are visible in the blog texts. This is shown in the decision-making processes that were presented in the texts. The bloggers wanted to make their own choices that conformed to the norms of one or the other country, understandable and acceptable to the blog’s readers. Especially, they are able to see, combine, and explain the variation of good parenthood in different cultures and contexts. This is part of the concept of representational mothering, and they make implicit comparisons between the ideology of intensive mothering and the realities of actual mothering in a transnational context. The often ironic style of the blog texts can be seen as a textual style to attract and amuse readers, but this can also be seen as an acceptable way to handle differences and difficulties in a transnational everyday life that takes place across and between two countries and cultures. Despite the egalitarian ethos that the Finnish welfare state emphasizes, the division of labour seems to be traditional, and this was shown when searching for data for this study: blogs written by fathers were not to be found. In their texts, the mother bloggers are not giving fathers central roles in parenting. Thus, the analysed texts represent the ideas of heterosexual intimate relationships and nuclear families, which can be seen as a norm of the ‘ideal family’”. (p. 78)

Part three of the volume investigates the goals and the practises of parenting across state border. In this respect, the care strategies are identified and studied considering the challenges triggered by the practises entertained by the intergenerational networks of migrant parents. The interesting aspects are revealed by approaching the masculine perceptions, practises and strategies of parenting. “The network migration of younger relatives, especially sons, gives the older generation a chance to spend more time with them (…) finding a job for a relative can be seen as a masculine caregiving pattern, and even the men in transnational families can be involved in the upbringing of their younger relatives”, thus inducing “the development and maintenance of a traditional male role in the Estonian society” (p. 92), while perpetuating the necessity to commute between two countries in order to achieve  a decent lifestyle. At the same time, this strategy of commuting between the countries becomes an aspirational model for the young boys, despite the loneliness and missing family members, perpetuating an imperfect but functional situation.

Charlotte Melander, Oksana Shmulyar Gréen, and Ingrid Höjer investigate the role of trust and reciprocity in relational flows which forces the parents in the mobile families to organize children care transnationally. Transnational children care in Sweden, in the case of migrant parents originating from Central and Eastern Europe is faced with the challenges presented by newer family dynamics drawn by gender issues and intergenerational interactions. Perceiving mothers, grandmothers, and other female relatives as the responsible ones for the hands-on care of the children, this is the situation perpetuated in the new contexts brought about by migration. Grandmothers remain essential resources of care and support either in the home country or in the country of adoption, in either situation involving to a significant extent the digital media. The study shows how the perpetuation of these familial relations perpetuates the safety of “care triangles” of love, trust, and reciprocity. (p. 104)

Olga Davydova-Minguet and Pirjo Pöllänen approach the situation of the intergenerational care practices among Russian-born migrants in rural North Karelia in Finland as an example for the social construction of a transnational familyhood. The key is intergenerational interdependency via stories with an inclusive role which maintain as a “reality” the concept of an extended intergenerational family, with shared affectionate care responsibilities, as well as moral and legal obligations. Although this particular lived experience gives substance to a sort of “caring from a distance” it also produces anxieties emphasizing a fragile state of the transnational family life (p. 115).

Approaching the topic of the anxiety generated by the passage of time apart in the case of family separation, Johanna Leinonen and Saara Pellander investigate the case of the refugees in Finland who are longing for the reunion with their families, which becomes a factor organizing their lives and social practise. While refugees were not only passive recipients of administrative decisions, manifesting in their anticipation of the future the will and resourcefulness to actively structure their practices and everyday routines, their agency was limited and their experiences often faced administrative reactions generating more anxiety, increased alienation and more violence in their harsh lives (pp. 126-127).

The last section gathers research described by the phrase “enacting citizenship and respectable parenthood in racialized minority families”. Marja Tiilikainen studies the  respectability of Finnish Somali fathers through an investigation oriented by the changing social-gendered roles between men and women, on the one hand, and the increased unemployment among Somalis in Finland. Within the transnational space recognition for fatherhood comes from achievements such as a having a paid job or meaningful volunteer work, from educational background and skills, from all the sources of respectability that make a father a role model for their children. Fathers engaged in transnational activities may be de facto absent but they are an embodiment of commitment to children within their families. The negotiation of the status of fatherhood is engaging the Finnish values and ideals as well as their traditional values associated to an ideal image of the Somali heritage of values and perceptions (p. 139).

Marta Padovan-Özdemir and Barbara Noel Day study participatory methods and production of shared knowledge within the Danish educational system and show the implications of shared knowledge in empowerment and pro-active citizenship. This community approach to creating shared knowledge brings together parents and educators in a common effort.  Within this joint effort the educators are to a certain extent the gate-keepers of the pre-existing order of things and leave very little room for the critical input of the migrant parents, who feel marginalized. The study calls for a larger room for negotiation in the context of school-home collaboration and for diversification of the understanding of the forms of valuable parenting.

“Iranian migrant parents struggling for respectability”, by Zeinab Karimi, discusses the Finnish-Iranian construct of parental respectability, within a situational socio-symbolical approach, considering factors related to gender class and personal understanding of migratory translocation. The author concludes: “The social construction of khanevadehye mohtaram (respectable family) among the Iranian families is not only connected to class recognition but also to the ways in which the family maintains solidarity, and children learn to establish themselves as mohtaram (respectable) members of the society and their ethnic communities. To be distinguished as a mohtaram parent, the participants in this study invested in their children’s achievements. Thus, their parenting and specifically the mothering practices (due to the social construction of mothering) is not only to build respectable selves but also to change the boundaries of respectability for the next generation, and claim their recognition by encouraging children to have class mobility” (p. 162).

 Camilla Nordberg investigates the migrant perceptions of the process of becoming a citizen, which is interesting especially in the case of the stay-at-home mothers who are newcomers in Finland. In these cases, the “sufficient self” is complemented by negotiations toward approaching paths to citizenship, which emphasizes political mothering and mothering as a citizenship practice (p. 174). The following empirical research conducted by Johanna Hiitola, Kati Turtiainen, and Jaana Vuori analyses the difficult situation of the Afghan families in Finland against the threat of deportation (most of the times, for the father). The subjects of the investigation were mothers and children which arrived in Finland as refugees resettled by UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) without the fathers, who are not granted asylum and find themselves under the threat of deportation. The migrant status was accompanied by several gendered types of suffering and aloneness.

The epilogue signed by Johanna Hiitola emphasizes once more, in a synthetic manner, the contribution of each investigation. Studying the contexts in which the racialized families attempt to pursue their aspirations abroad, borders become a special type of social spheres. They are constructed, negotiated, and organized by the specific interactions between the welfare services and the migrant family members, nuancing in various ways the enactment of citizenship through the agency of racialized families in the Nordic welfare states.

Franziska Ehnert, Climate Policy in Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Poland, Ideas, Discourses and Institutions (Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2019)

The book of Franziska Ehnert, entitled Climate Policy in Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Poland, Ideas, Discourses and Institutions approaches climate change in terms of interaction of institutional, policy and discourse aspects that form the path from reality to political priority, policy and solution. This topic is part of current political debates that began in the 1980s, despite climate scepticism or climate change denial, and despite the resistance to the transformation of lifestyles and infrastructures. Environmental movements succeeded in bringing science and policy together, to sustain a climate change critique of the status quo and to promote ecologist alternative values and solutions via environmental policy.

Climate policy analyses are paramount to assess the manner in which the “ministerial administrations” implement or change a policy to answer environmental issues, redefine problems and maintain the adequacy and efficiency of climate change policy.

Considering that previous studies have shown the tension between the expert public officials and the politicians, the research conducted by Franziska Ehnert argues that “policy change will be better understood by studying the actors formulating these policies, namely ministerial administrations. It captures, not merely party politics and interest group politics, but the departmental politics of policy change. The book therefore focuses on the coordinative discourses within governmental institutions (…) among the actors participating in the construction of a policy, which stand in contrast to the communicative discourses through which politicians communicate and justify their policies vis-à-vis the public”. (p. 5)

Thus, the investigation follows the factors and aspects involved in the continuation or change of a policy; how is policy shaped, how coordinative discourses, policy frames, institutional contexts and particular identities relate and evolve; and how can one assess the reframing of values, the redefinition of interests or the reinterpretation of the guiding ideas.

Methodologically the study combines ontological, epistemological and methodological characteristics of the positivist and interpretative research paradigms in a comparative research with qualitative and quantitative dimensions based on the singularities and not on the similarities of the cases. Literature reviews, document analyses and expert interviews are also combined. Moreover, state and non-state actors are taken into consideration via expert interviews. Interpretation plays an important role as well following the data-generation stage: meaning-focused methods are used to analyse empirical data (p. 15). The investigation has as its own particularity the fact that the researchers acknowledge the characteristics of the cases only in the process of data generation, which increases objectivity. The countries compared are similar enough as regards institutional democracy, rule of law and market economy, and, as EU members, they share similar political commitments to EU climate and energy policy. Having under investigation older and younger democracies, varied indicators such as historical backgrounds, territory, economic, political, military and financial power or population size, differences in policy styles and discourses are to be expected.

The analytic framework introduced in the second chapter investigates the causes and means for the continuation of policies, provided that ideas and narratives shape and do not merely reflect the field of action. Political power has an important dimension in the power of ideas. The agents have an activity expressing the “following of the rules” and the “reproduction of the institution”, but also one that indicates the meta-level of discourse, for they think about and outside their institutions too. In terms of “ideal types”, the entrepreneurial-style bureaucrats are more likely to perform as “policy brokers”, while servant-style bureaucrats are more likely to “refrain from mediation and brokerage” and be, more likely, policy followers. (pp. 21-31)

In contrast, the following chapters approach the empirical data and associated analyses and interpretations concerning the making of climate policy in two Western European countries (Denmark and Germany) and in two Central Eastern European countries (Estonia and Poland). The researcher finds that Denmark is performing an important role in climate policy (“a small, green state”) due to a consensus-seeking policy style, a coordination apparatus among cabinet committees, and extensive specialization of the ministerial administration on climate policy. (p. 36)

These aspects, next to the policy ideals, objectives and instruments that are investigated, indicate a multitude of actors sustaining and opposing climate policy, but at the same time a resulting strong societal support for climate policy arising from this polyphonic conversation. However, Denmark is not and does not aim to be a “green Leviathan”, but a green democracy and market economy, with a policy orientation towards consensus, openness and inclusiveness. (p. 61)

The coordinative and consensus-seeking discourses are the most important in this respect. In the case of Germany, the size of the country induces different consequences to the similar reality of the multitude of actors involved in the climate policy “conversation”. Political acceptance might be the result of the “early participation of stakeholders in policy deliberation” in improving policy implementation. In this respect, even if lobbying may be seen as a risk factor, it could be also a democratic-openness enhancement factor. (p. 94) The main climate policy discourse in Germany has become that of increased “participation and transparency in policy deliberation processes”, calling more attention to institutional policy aiming at a more consensus-seeking attitude.

The “small state” discourse is central to Estonian identity, influencing both politics and policies. The EU was the agenda setter in Estonian climate policy and in Estonian energy efficiency policy. Fighting the communist heritage of authoritarian rule, a paradoxical weakness of the culture of coordination, the institutional fragmentation, the limited resources, the poor interministerial  consultations, the weak citizen participation and the low professionalization of the environmental NGOs, the situation was improved slightly by the planning for the European Structural Funds (2014-2020), by the design and continuation of the National Development Plan of the Energy Sector until 2030, and by the academic expertise, making the discourse of the technocrats and departmental politics officials prevalent, to the detriment of other actors. (pp. 120-123)

Central to Polish identity is the idea of catching up with Western development and requirements. On the one hand, the “relationships between state and society were fluid and fragmented” and, on the other, we have the communist heritage of authoritarian rule “undermining parliamentary independence” and weakening the institutionalized character of the “informal practices of interministerial and public consultations” (p. 151) Environmental NGOs are professionalized in Poland, but they remain marginalized. Their discourse attempted to sustain a core idea of ecological modernization, which has gained more adepts with the support of the Ministry of Economy, academic experts and environmental NGOs (keeping the white certificate system in the EEA).

The volume advances a very interesting methodology approaching the climate policies in the EU and it emphasizes an important and original evolving perspective in assessing climate policy. Both environment issues and political “landscapes” are changing, inducing more debate over competing ideas and ideals, values, facts and interests. As a consequence, discursiveness becomes more important in the lives of the institutions, states and societies. At the same time, interpretive analysis emphasizes potential improvement on scientific arguments and agendas as a result of the improvement of the deliberation processes on climate change.

Katy Fox, Peasants into European Farmers? EU Integration in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (Zurich: LIT Verlag, 2011)

 

This phrase is used as a motto also by the author, Kathy Fox, in her investigation (p. 39) and I consider it most appropriate for numerous reasons. It applies also to the tremendously slow pace of change, seeming to remain ‘frozen in the project’, within the Romanian countryside. 

 

This volume takes the term ‘peasant’ seriously as a ‘source of significant economic difference’ (p. 41) and investigates how far the Romanian peasant, caught in transition, is from this status. This book is the result of a year-and-a-half ethnographical research into the European agricultural integration in the Southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania. The study succeeds to discuss the European agricultural policies, while identifying interesting correlations between practices and personhood.  EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is analysed in terms of policies, elites, but mainly livelihood possibilities of the peasants. The realities of Romanian peasantry’s life (related to the subsistence farms and peasant households) are confronted with the “intelligible, efficient, standardized and commensurable” profile of the EU model.

 

The effort to surprise the local colour and to reach the essence is substantial: quickly going through the “Glossary” one can easily understand the varieties and the depth of the conversations with the local peasants. The list of acronyms, measurements and the schematics of the Agricultural Institutions in Romania are indicators of the analysis with the consciousness of the policy and local particularities, within households and inter-households, following cooperation, exchange and kinship.

 

Relating ‘modernity’, ‘progress’ and ‘civilisation’ with ‘transition’, the complexity of the status of peasant and the threat of marginalisation are unveiled. EU integration is seen also as Enlightenment epistemology and as a neo-liberal process of social and economic alignment in the implementation of common legislation. The analytic direction is to assess what persons are produced by the neoliberal project and how resilient are the manoeuvres of resistance (or compliance) in the long run. “Through the [modernization] project, an epistemology of colonisation is deployed: the expert subject creates an object of transformation, the peasant, which is diagnosed to be in need to change.” (p. 97) But within the particular Romanian context, this change intended by the elites is undermined by the weakness of the information vector – the “object of transformation” is not object of information too. “Generally, the institutions in formation in charge of CAP implementation were not well versed on how to get the ‘information’ to their ‘target audience’. The Ministry of Agriculture, it was often said, was one of the most ‘closed’ ministries in Romania, where little ‘reform’ had happened during the 1990s, and where procedures were very slow to be adapted to the new European framework.” (p. 97-98) Even the specialists have sometime a hard time dealing with the confusion and secrecy surrounding the details of the policies and regulations. Indeed, Romanian agricultural bureaucracy in charge with this modernisation lives off secrecy and manages ignorance very well to its own advantage (cf. Weber).

 

The study addressed also the orientation and effects of CAP in Romania. Kathy Fox notices four aspects of disjuncture “between integration and participation, information and institutions in formation, training and work opportunities on the countryside and welfare and the good life.” (p.111) Progress is related to real, material conditions that sustain or not the developments of this progress. When material infrastructure is absent or deficient, the progress policies are not founded. Originally CAP’s policies were designed for countries without the experience of state socialism. In post-communist states they might function as neoliberal rather than welfare measures, as they were originally intended. People experience closure and ”make do with what they have feeling both the constraints and the potential in their lives as they unfolded along a ‘margin of manoeuvrability’ and possibility”. (p.135) Human affairs emphasize the tension between means and ends and evolve unpredictably. The author identifies the male-centred organisation of the economic activity, especially the bounded character and closure status of women in the household. Their work is devalued and their life projects especially challenged. 

 

From the perspective of ‘restructuring’, within Romanian agriculture and animal husbandry the import and imposition of standards was not accompanied by the necessary accumulation of capital, with the exception of the large-venture entrepreneurs. The Western profit logic was thus impaired in Romania and led to a situation where animal welfare seem to value more than human welfare. Kathy Fox discusses the small improvement brought about by the EU’s Direct Payments (DP) policy (implemented for the first time in 2007). Thus, the implementation of DP gave in fact another boost to the bureaucratic systems, installing a reality of misunderstood and incomplete implementation. As a consequence, the idea of ‘partial’ implementation became the norm. Another aspect under investigation is here the paradoxical trait of the reform that disembeds local food production and shows that EU legislation and processes of branding further marginalized Romanian peasantry and did not bring much benefice through EU’s ‘certified traditional produce’ policy. (p.231)

 

Philosophy, sociology and ethnography come together to present the peasant as a homo economicus, who sought self-interest in a quest for improved positioning, while he understood when to cooperate and when to manoeuvre, despite the shaken trust in others both by state socialism and aggressive capitalism. The very idea of progress seems conquered by a dispiriting perpetual transition. The valuable perspective of the author is to relate to EU legislation as visions of social order and frameworks for ‘thinking forward’, and not just technical regulations. People are to learn not merely legislation and procedures, but the wider lesson that dichotomies, incomplete stages and partial success are part of the modernist vision that modern economic and political projects share. The key element is not the elite and expert benevolent action addressed to the immature and knowledge-deprived peasantry, but rather the transparent dissemination of information and the construction of material conditions and the infrastructure crucial for the successful implementation of the EU policies and reforms.

 

 

Viorella Manolache (ed.), Centru si margine la Marea Mediterana. Filosofie politica si realitate internationala (Bucharest: Editura ISPRI, 2009)

This journal has proven a wide opening to a great diversity of recurrent themes present now within political sciences. Certain “marginal” areas of interdisciplinary investigation are also present, included in this same broad philosophical view. The volume maintains precisely this type of innovative ambitions and the manner of relating to contemporary tendencies as the journal, hence approaching through its several original studies select newer theoretical concepts adequate to the complexities associated with the research of the chosen theme. These studies are coming from different scientific areas. Estimating the present geo-political research of the Mediterranean community, it endeavours to enter into a dialogue within the Mediterranean scientific community. Center-Margin at the Mediterranean Sea (Political Philosophy and International Reality) accesses scientific contributions from seven countries (Romania, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Brazil, USA, Italy) providing a rich mix of theoretical and philosophical comparative, international and transnational issues, addressed to all who are interested in the contemporary political Mediterranean phenomena. The three constant investigated dimensions are placed into a dynamic formula described by the three parts of the volume: Political philosophy of Mediterranean Centre and Margin; Cultural approaches on the Mediterranean Margin and International Reality at the Mediterranean Sea.

 

The volume is integrated within a theoretical landscape and is justified by the anticipative answer offered by the authors to a series of variables with which the imperative of the current European politics operates, of the “maps projecting the macro regions” – a decentralized space of cooperation. The volume anticipates the conclusions of the European Council (June 24, 2011) which counts especially on the coincidence of culture and creative industries, on the capitalization of historical, linguistic and, in general, cultural diversity, and also on the application of a macro-regional strategy. All these dimensions illustrate the potential of catalyst of the “Union for the Mediterranean area”.

 

The volume’s approach indicates significant insights, pre-figurations of the European imperatives correlated with the analysed theme, with a double effect: the analysis of the international implications of the Mediterranean space and of the considerations concerning soft power; and a withdrawal within the philosophical, theoretical and political framework that configure the dimensions of this profile. The approach is explained in the introductory chapter – Political Philosophy of Mediterranean Centre and Margin.

 

According to Abderrazzak Essrhir, the idea of the centre is the indicative of the systematic invention of a peripheral space – racial, geographical, religious, cultural – resulting in a binary opposition that is the outcome of reciprocal experiences between the centre and its assumed periphery. It is in this very context that the relations between the East and the West can rightly be appreciated to have always been conducted, marked by conquest, demystification, subjection, or colonial confinement. The centre assumes in this perspective a position wherein it perceives itself as the nucleus of authority and power, the source of emanation of knowledge, the cradle of high culture and civilisation. The margin, as a consequence, turns out to be a mere indication of that “positioning is best defined in terms of the limitations of a subject’s access to power.” It is, in this respect, perceived, and indeed made to be, as the consumer, the dependent, the subaltern, or the anarchic space. This type of centre-margin binary opposition is multi-dimensional in the sense that the centre, conscious of its identity, systematically locates and confines its margin by devising a set of strategic practices such as othering, ethnic categorisation, subjugation, and discrimination (Abderrazzak Essrhir).

 

For Abdenbi Sarroukh, the question that arises is whether the new U.N partnership will contribute to the blossoming of at least a positive Mediterranean pluralism that goes beyond the borders of the nationalism that is still recast in ethnic identities, so as to reshape them to conform to the new cultural exigencies. The author refers to the universal values that tend to homogenise specificities and the spirit of communities that are irreducible and resist being explained away by the power of discourse from the point of view of the dominating centre.

 

The historical registration appears as architecture and even as a film of the Mediterranean space diving into the discourse of postmodernity as post-tradition, either rebuilding the cultural referential of the marginal discourse of the Mediterranean space – a system of indexes, emblems, constituents of a typical language that asks for deciphering, first and foremost politically speaking, in order to deserve to be termed of a Mediterranean polis  (Viorella Manolache), or the investigation of the communicational ethical and political implications of this fascination of the interlocutor via Richard Rorty, Jean Baudrillard or Simon Critchley (Henrieta ?erban).

 

The chapter Cultural Approaches on the Mediterranean Margin reaffirms the dependence of the imaginary on the mise-en-place of a very special Mediterranean syntax. The relationships between the “full and signifying forms” and the “determinations” of symbolical images, conferring them a “particularizing function” are emphasized (Gheorghe Manolache), within an analysis that employs essential (proto)types (present in the works of Eugen Lovinescu, Anton Naum – e.g. the Don Juanic character, Ulysses –, or Vasco da Gama). These profiles express the metaphoric idea that the waters of the Mediterranean space have a vocation of refrain: they are always the ones which bring boats, and invite the analyst to imagine Ulysses abandoned on the rocky shores of Portugal in distress; one sees Vasco da Gama directing his ships and people on the warm and quiet waters of the Mediterranean Sea, with an impact on the symbolic-cultural map of the countries washed by the Mediterranean waters. What remains behind is precisely what should happen: a silent revolt of the water and then, the numerous endless tides, the tides which charmed the sovereigns and awarded gold and glory, the waters of the bereaved bride named melancholy (Diana Adamek).

 

The philosophical and metaphorical level is completed by a more investigative and practical level in International Reality at the Mediterranean Sea that assesses the Mediterranean space as one of the important geopolitical and geostrategic pivots in world history. The geopolitical and geostrategic significance of the Mediterranean realm is not quite constant along the entire history of the region. For a while, the geopolitical and geostrategic significance of the Mediterranean decreased, because the “center” of the world gradually glided to the Atlantic. But, starting with the opening stages of the Cold War, the geostrategic importance of the Mediterranean realm grew again, a trend which is still maintained to a certain extent nowadays as well, in the context of the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’ and of the global war against terror. Other important events, connected with the war in the Caucasus region, prove again – similarly to the era of the Cold War – how important is for the West to control the Mediterranean Sea, and how ambitious post-communist Russia already is on the international arena (Florin Diaconu).

 

In this analytical key, the international realities operating in the Mediterranean space raise the question of how culture and identity contribute to the lasting peace, facing the geopolitical context and the efforts of a generation of intellectuals who have implemented this idea by building a unique and successful structure such as the European Union. It is thus important to examine the possibility of designing a community of security in the Mediterranean region through economic growth, with the contribution of this regional culture, without which any construction will be only short-lived and deprived of depth (Lucian Jora).

 

Beyond this snapshot of the main dimensions of the volume Center-Margin at the Mediterranean Sea (Political Philosophy and International Reality), one can easily identify the need to re-evaluate in a more complex light the Mediterranean space, accepting a cultural and reconciliatory mental map – a matrix where the Mediterranean space does not cease to provide to an equal extent, both philosophies and realities.

 

Oana M. Oprean, Romania’s Accession to the European Union and Its Impact on the Roma Minority (Saarbrücken: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012)

The present book proposes an inventory – historical and from an international legislative point of view – of the social inclusion and fundamental rights of Roma populations. The author notices: “the main problem concerning Roma minority rights is the strong anti-Roma prejudice prevailing in all European countries” (p.6). Since the eastward enlargement of the European Union, the social inclusion of the Roma population and the policies aimed at preventing discrimination became a European imperative. The recommendation was not left without an echo in Romania, although, beyond the European integration and the legislative prerogatives, mentalities and minority status are to be reconsidered. The book is structured in six parts: Introduction, History/Origins of the Roma, A Historically Discriminated Group, EU and the Roma, Accession Criteria and Policy and Conclusion.

 

Without entering into an in-depth analysis of some concepts defining the operational terms, the author establishes that the history of the Roma is full of oppression, segregation and discrimination (p.8). The affirmation is sustained by an inventory of historical, linguistic, literary, religious arguments, not excluding the short effervescence witnessed through elements of self-organization (the 1930’s establishment of the journal Neamul Tiganesc – The Gypsy Clan, the General Association of Roma in Romania, Glasul Romilor – The Voice of the Roma, the newspaper O Rom). While the explanation of the etymology of the term “gypsy” is present, incidentally, the label of “Roma” itself is not addressed. A possible recommendation in this respect is the analysis of the changes of these references to this specific population outside the linguistic realm. Old and new labels operate now simultaneously, some are more manifestly cultural and, in this respect, have their international resistant prejudicial shadows (such as the “gypsies”), and others are more political and limited as “Roma” (although they do not succeed at all to escape the prejudicial realm). The complex social and political implications of this naming game are numerous (for example, is the Stabor a “Roma” or a traditional “gypsy” institution?)

 

The Second War World ended the rise of Roma self-organization throughout Europe. Nazi and communist policies alike strongly substantiate the affirmation according to which the Roma can be considered a historically discriminated group (p.24), and yet, it must be noted, the author does not operate any comparative analysis of minority oppression, in order to establish general or particular historical forms, frequently left out in such case studies.

 

The succession and sensitivity of terms envisions the difference between a first “gypsy / non-Roma” model, resistant to a certain mainstream cultural models with positive or negative stereotypes already implemented (in terms of occupation, life-style, ritual), and a new one, “Roma”, the only one sustaining transformations at the political, social and cultural levels, attempting to function as an integrative mechanism, and representing more than a strategy of survival in interpretation (Rostas, 2000). Capitalizing these theoretical interpretations the author captures well the intensity of the terminological tempest, especially when she refers to the marginalisation, oppression, subjection to forced assimilation, discrimination, and the difference between Roma and non-Roma models of realigning with the “other”.

 

The author shows the Roma populations gliding between an a-national status and the newer national one that “instead of finding a better life, the Roma found a continent, Europe, which at first seemed inviting, but it, within a short period of time, turned the Roma into a much hated and discriminated-against group of people” (p.53). This is a questionable affirmation from a historical standpoint and brings to the fore, in fact, the status of nomadic, a term reduced by the author merely to a vestment code and artistic abilities: “The colorful clothing that the Roma wear, the fact that they move around (nomads) and their rich culture of traditional folk songs and dancing, all run antithetical to the political life of the modern sovereignty of Romania”. (p.53)

 

The book is organised didactically. The Romanian historical events after 1989 are discussed in it and follow the general destiny of minorities and in particular that of the Roma population, indicated correctly as the weaker member of Romanian society, in a fair characterization of the period 1990-1995 as one of community violence against Roma, which was a feature of life in Romania, on the basis of the identification of incidents remained unknown to the general public. The author explains that among the most important events in the history of violence against the Roma, there was the strange riot of February 1990, when the coal miners from Valea Jiului of Romania were called to Bucharest to defend the newly elected democratic government. “A large number of miners attacked the Roma minorities, an act of violence which was by no means provoked by the Roma.” (p.25) Oana Oprean states that this case gained a lot of international attention and was covered in newspapers all over Europe, but there were no reaction from the international political community. The events of March of 1990 in Targu Mures are presented in the same light, yet including the Roma into the equation of the Romanian–Hungarian ethnic conflict.

 

Bringing again the attention onto the situation of Roma populations in March 1990, Oana Oprean established that the lack of action taken by authorities since 1990 in order to mitigate the threats and violence against the Roma has proven the actual stance that the authorities have taken with regard to this minority. According to the author, between 1990 and 1995, there have been numerous instances where attacks were sparked by a crime committed by a Roma against a non-Roma person. As numerous examples are shown throughout the book, a small aggression can turn very quickly the non-Roma population onto the local Roma population (as happened in H?d?reni and in several other cities and villages in Romania).

 

The affirmations of the author are not always sustained by documents, NGO analyses, statistics or declarations of the authorities; for instance when she claims that non-Roma individuals are rarely, if ever, brought to justice for these attacks, even in cases where Roma have been fatally injured or even killed. In Romania, it is said in the book, the Roma population suffers from a broad spectrum of social disadvantages, and the population is subjected to social exclusion and marginalization as a result of racial discrimination, said to be three times higher than the national average. But how is that measured? The book offers no adequate substantiation. Apparently, the misperceptions from the non-Roma population towards the Roma in both Romania and Europe are simply denied and opposed by means of personal impressions concerning the Romanian and European authorities.

The conclusion of Oana Oprean is that despite some positive changes, such as the recognition of minority status, establishment of political parties and cultural organisations, and the publication of books and newspapers in their language, the Roma’s problems in Romania have been particularly severe since the fall of communism, and the ascension to the EU has not done much to mitigate the problems or elevate the status of the Roma minority. However, one can easily illustrate though several political, cultural and social policies the efforts made for inclusion in Romania: the efforts to enrol Roma children into the pre-university school system; the efforts to raise awareness concerning the situation of Roma young women, forcefully married at a very young age and retired from school, if ever registered; the guaranteed places for the Roma students within the state university system; the high visibility of the Roma artists – there are movies about and with Roma (see also the activity of Gadjo Dijlo);  the promotion of various types of Roma music (from jazz and fiddle music to “manele”); the Roma poetry  anthologies, etc. As a further token of the efforts of inclusion, there are also Roma–Romanian dictionaries and the possibility for Roma children to learn in primary school in their maternal language.

 

It is worth mentioning that Roma inclusion is still on the EU’s agenda, both political and moral, with effects on the direct and opportunity costs measured in public budgets. The first European Summit concerning the Roma, underlined the EU’s role in implementing Roma public policies based on structural funds and on their involvement in the management of EU Roma, a network of management authorities – sustaining also good governance.

 

Still, Oana Oprean correctly indentifies some of the weak points of the European construction, recommending that if the EU wants to be a true vehicle for social change, it should focus more upon persuading the Romanian government and exerting pressure on local governments to implement and follow through with their initiatives. But the truth of the matter is also that these modern initiatives might just not have the support and understanding of the majority of the Roma population, but just of a minority elite. The mentality of opportunity is not the modern mentality of rights and duties and it has, rather often, a short-circuiting effect on the inclusion initiatives, especially within the complex equation of migration, globalization, plus economic and financial crises.

 

There is still a romanticised view of the Roma population in Romanian culture, and there has been an analogous tradition in Europe too. Isabel Fonseca wrote in 1996 the marvellous book entitled Bury Me Standing, a reportage of the romantic journey of the European Roma population (“gypsy” she said, as it was accepted to say at the time) through history: holocaust, communism and post-communism included. The book was part of the genuine European effort to fight for minority rights and had the merit of inquiring into realities with both sensitivity and realism. The author tells the story of a girl burned because the locals decided to burn down some houses. She does not shy away from child prostitution or children sniffing glue, while she keeps the human and romantic vibe of her story alive.

 

Nowadays this is endangered. The fledgling European anti-racism institutions have been silenced by more pressing “economic” concerns. We still remember Roma houses burned down in Italy, of all European countries. This kind of hideous racism is indeed increased by the on-going economic and financial crisis, while any good will is down to a lower level. Under these circumstances, the contribution of social sciences should attempt to better meet the expectations of the NGOs that should in turn network and cooperate more intensively.