Deadline Extension: Come Work with me @brandtschool

The new deadline is now July 15th, 2019. Expected starting date 1st of September or later.

 

Vacancy: PhD Research Associate at the Brandt School

We are seeking a PhD Research Associate (wissenschaftlicher MitarbeiterIn) for Prof. Kemmerling‘s chair in International Development and Public Policy. The position is part-time, i.e. 20h per week and limited to a maximum of four years. Payment follows the German collective bargaining agreement for public services (TV-L E13(50%)).

You can download an English translation of the official call for applications (190527 PhD position at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy new) and the legally binding German version (STELLENAUSSCHREIBUNG Kennziffer 48).

Here is the full text of the job description:

PhD position at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, University of Erfurt

 

What? We are seeking a PhD Research Associate (wissenschaftlicher MitarbeiterIn). The position is part-time, i.e. 20h per week and limited to a maximum of four years. Payment follows the German collective bargaining agreement for public services (TV-L 13(50%)). The University of Erfurt aims to improve equality opportunities. People of all gender identities may apply, and we especially encourage women to apply. The same holds for people with disabilities.

 

When? The anticipated starting date is 1st of August 2019. The deadline for applications is June 15th, 2019.

 

Where? The Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt is the oldest Policy School in Germany. It has one of the most diverse student bodies of all degrees in Germany, with students from all world regions. The Brandt School focusses on interdisciplinary education and research in the fields of development, entrepreneurship, conflict studies and international and global public policy. It brings together academics and practitioners and acts as ‘petri dish’ for exploring new ideas in policymaking. As a PhD Research Associate, you will work with Prof. Achim Kemmerling, currently the director of Willy Brandt School and Gerhard Haniel Chair in International Development and Public Policy.

 

What will I have to do?

  • Collaborate in the field of public policy, specifically labour market, social and fiscal policies, as well as international efforts to fight poverty and inequality such as official development assistance (no specific regional focus)
  • Research, teaching (one seminar per semester) and administration: contributing to ongoing research projects and new research proposals, organizing classes and evaluating students, supervising MA theses, participating in administrative meetings.
  • While you are employed at the University of Erfurt you will be expected to develop and defend your own PhD thesis.

What conditions do I need to fulfil?

  • MA degree or equivalent in social sciences, public policy or economics with excellent grades
  • Knowledge of social science research methods and design, especially in the fields of (quantitative) content analysis, statistics, mixed methods or the willingness to acquire this type of knowledge.
  • Applicants need to fulfil all prerequisites defined in German employment law (specifically, Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz) and the general conditions as detailed in paragraph 5 of the Thüringer Hochschulgesetz.
  • German is not a prerequisite, but a willingness to acquire some basic language skills is.

 

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Come Work with Me @BrandtSchool

Vacancy: PhD Research Associate at the Brandt School

We are seeking a PhD Research Associate (wissenschaftlicher MitarbeiterIn) for Prof. Kemmerling‘s chair in International Development and Public Policy. The position is part-time, i.e. 20h per week and limited to a maximum of four years. Payment follows the German collective bargaining agreement for public services (TV-L E13(50%)).

You can download an English translation of the official call for applications here and the legally binding German version here.

Here is the full text of the job description:

PhD position at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, University of Erfurt

 

What? We are seeking a PhD Research Associate (wissenschaftlicher MitarbeiterIn). The position is part-time, i.e. 20h per week and limited to a maximum of four years. Payment follows the German collective bargaining agreement for public services (TV-L 13(50%)). The University of Erfurt aims to improve equality opportunities. People of all gender identities may apply, and we especially encourage women to apply. The same holds for people with disabilities.

 

When? The anticipated starting date is 1st of August 2019. The deadline for applications is June 15th, 2019.

 

Where? The Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt is the oldest Policy School in Germany. It has one of the most diverse student bodies of all degrees in Germany, with students from all world regions. The Brandt School focusses on interdisciplinary education and research in the fields of development, entrepreneurship, conflict studies and international and global public policy. It brings together academics and practitioners and acts as ‘petri dish’ for exploring new ideas in policymaking. As a PhD Research Associate, you will work with Prof. Achim Kemmerling, currently the director of Willy Brandt School and Gerhard Haniel Chair in International Development and Public Policy.

 

What will I have to do?

  • Collaborate in the field of public policy, specifically labour market, social and fiscal policies, as well as international efforts to fight poverty and inequality such as official development assistance (no specific regional focus)
  • Research, teaching (one seminar per semester) and administration: contributing to ongoing research projects and new research proposals, organizing classes and evaluating students, supervising MA theses, participating in administrative meetings.
  • While you are employed at the University of Erfurt you will be expected to develop and defend your own PhD thesis.

What conditions do I need to fulfil?

  • MA degree or equivalent in social sciences, public policy or economics with excellent grades
  • Knowledge of social science research methods and design, especially in the fields of (quantitative) content analysis, statistics, mixed methods or the willingness to acquire this type of knowledge.
  • Applicants need to fulfil all prerequisites defined in German employment law (specifically, Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz) and the general conditions as detailed in paragraph 5 of the Thüringer Hochschulgesetz.
  • German is not a prerequisite, but a willingness to acquire some basic language skills is.

 

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Interessiert an Armut, Ungleichheit und was man dagegen tun kann? DoktorandIn gesucht

Interessiert an Armut, Ungleichheit und was man dagegen tun kann?

Ich suche einen Doktorand, eine Doktorandin ab Sommer 2019. Hier ist die formale Stellenausschreibung: 48-2019_WiMa_WBS_Kemmerling-1. Die englische Version kommt bald möglichst.

Mehr zu meinem Forschungsprofil gibt es auf der WBS website, research gate, oder google scholar.

Schwerpunktthemen für die Stelle sind:

  • Entwicklung, Armut und Ungleichheit
  • Politiken, die damit in Verbindung stehen (Arbeitsmarkt-, Sozial- und Steuerpolitik, aber auch nationale und internationale Transfers)
  • gerne auch Verbindung mit Zukunftsthemen wie Digitalisierung, technologischem Wandel
  • gerne auch mit methodischen Kenntnissen oder der Bereitschaft solche zu erwerben im Bereich der quantitativen Inhaltsanalyse, Evaluationstechniken und allgemein gemischter quantitativer und qualitativer Forschungsdesign

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Article on the Political Economy of Redistributive Pensions

Together with Michael Neugart, University of Darmstadt, I published an article in Review of Development Economics (early view) on the political economy of redistributive pensions in ‘developing’ countries. We use the recent rise in so-called social pension systems (see figure below), that is minimum pensions for the elderly that are entirely tax-financed, to motivate why many poor countries increasingly seem to switch (back) to redistributive forms for old age provision. As an example, take the case of the Chinese rural pension scheme of 2009 which, in a matter of few years, almost doubled old-age coverage in pension systems from 30 to 55% of the elderly population.

figure1new

We (that is mainly Michael) develop a formal model based on the fact that many of these programs were initially designed for rural sectors and against the backdrop of constant urbanization processes. We argue that the rising gap in wages between rural and urban sectors adds to the erosion of traditional, nonformal family schemes and creates more demand/ need for public pension provision. We show some analytic results and some stylized facts to back up this claim. The model also has interesting applications for other dimensions such as the gap between the formal and informal sector in such economies.

 

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Book Review on David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs

Blogpost on David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs

bullshitjobs

Recently I had the pleasure to discuss David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs with the author. https://www.herbstlese.de/de/veranstaltungen/herbstlese-2018/2018/09/21/david-graeber-bullshit-jobs/000970/

Here is my five cents about his book.

In all his books Prof Graeber manages to hit a nerve in the tense muscles of public opinion. Was it the arbitrariness and political power play of who owns what to whom in international debt crises exposed in ‘Debt – Its First Five Thousand Years’, or the mindless and at times cruel hoops the rise of bureaucracy makes citizens jump through in ‘Utopia of Rules’, David Graeber always finds original ways in exposing some structural pathology in the politics of modern life. ‘Bullshit Jobs’ is no exception to this.

The key thesis of the erstwhile essay in Strike! Magazine and now extended book version is that myriads of people suffer from jobs which they a) don’t like, b) which don’t seem to add any form of value to the society, and often not even to the organization which hired them, but c) about which they still have to pretend to be happy and useful employees. There are many, at times depressing, at times outright hilarious descriptions of such activities: the woman working at a reception for a company which never has any visitors; the guy who works for a subcontractor of a subcontractor charging hundreds of Euros each time he moves around one cardbox from one office to the one right next to it.

This simple idea about the rise of a ‘reserve army’ of often white collar, often not too badly paid, but utterly senseless jobs created so much resonance that David Graeber started collecting responses of people describing their personal bullshit jobs and converting this material into this book. Both in its material and its main punchline in sometimes reminds me of reading Scott Adams’ Dilbert books (no criticism implied, to the contrary).

The book starts with some principle characteristics of bullshit jobs as well as some variants of such jobs. One variant, for instance, is ‘task masters’ who do not do any work themselves, but just distribute the real work among other employees. Mr. Graeber puts a lot of emphasis in the fact that this is not the typical public-sector bashing. As a matter of fact, bullshit jobs have flourished in the private sector, a sector usually thought to weed out any kind of organizational slack and inefficient staffing like an ambitious gardener would recklessly fight real weed among his prize-winning rose trees. One (private) sector which has particularly taken off in the last decades seems to concentrate a lot of bullshit jobs harbours all kinds of services related to information: marketing, lobbying, lawyering and related activities are those sectors that receive a lot of punches from Mr. Graeber. In a deeper, political-economy sense the reason for the growth of these jobs is the increasing importance of the financial sector in the economy, which is the pinnacle of this new type of pretentious and power-driven information society.

Bullshit jobs are somehow useful for society by keeping a lot of people busy and hiding away the fact that there might be too few useful jobs around. Having these kinds of jobs also papers over the problem that a lot of jobs that create huge social value such as being a nurse or a teacher or often badly paid, whereas a lot of jobs which enjoy tremendous financial remuneration create little or sometimes even negative social value. Given this remarkable fact, which find a lot of corroboration from other scholars, David Graeber proceeds to delve more deeply into the human psychology of work and the historical evolution of work as a value.

Mr. Graeber painfully exposes what is one of the most interesting human paradoxes when it comes to work ethic: many people love working, but they hate their jobs. They love the idea to be productive, contribute to society, connect with people, but they do not see how their own everyday paid routines would help them fulfilling either of these goals. Yet, perversely enough, it seems that the sheer fact that the work is sometimes so meaningless makes people being drawn to it in a masochistic manner. Precisely through this horrible activity people earn their right of being a member of society – life needs to be painful to be worth living.

According to ‘Bullshit Jobs’ this in many ways weird work ethic is not something that has followed humankind through all its history. To the contrary, it is the product of a relative recent shift in the valuation of work from being either a stepping stone to acquire full adhulthood or a necessary evil for social classes without means. If this diagnosis is correct, modern work ethic can and should be changed to allow people to realize their lives and to end a lot of contemporary human suffering. While Mr. Graeber, being the scholarly anarchist he is, eschews concrete policy solutions, especially those that could be related to government initiatives, he sees universal basic income as a potential antidote to this masochistic fixation.

There is a lot to praise in this remarkable book. The relentless exposition of the human condition which finds increasingly sophisticated ways to torture itself is a painful diagnosis to read. The creative knitting together ideas from different research such as anthropology, history, philosophy and psychology gives illuminating and new perspective on important problems such as underemployment and the golden calf of ‘job creation’. Most importantly, it is often a very funny read.

To be honest, there is much to agree for me in the book. I also believe that modern societies suffer from chronic shortage of meaningful jobs, and that there are alarming discrepancies in the way how the market values certain types of activities vs. society’s needs, whatever the latter really means. I also think that modern welfare states couple too tightly benefits to the readiness to work, however meaningless and shallow the work itself is. I even agree that in the long run a universal basic income might be the solution to such problems.

But here is also where I part ways or at least, I am not so sure. Humans are animals of habits, so take away jobs from them, are they really feeling better? Some parternalists would say they look for surrogate drugs such as watching television or youtube videos. Rebuilding the welfare state and the labour market in such ways takes a long-term, gradual and very careful project. At least it needs some preparation to make people ‘buy into’ such fundamental transformations.

Another issue I have is the question whether the situation is really that bad. David Graeber uses a subjective definition of bullshit jobs: whatever people themselves define as bullshit. This is a fair strategy, after all mental states are closely related to these subjective evaluations. But it is also a bit of a one-size-fits-it-all category of all resentments people have against their own way of life. You do not like your boss? You have a bullshit job. You do not see value in what you are doing? You have a bullshit job. You think you sell products to people who do not need them? You have a bullshit job. All these instances perhaps merit the label ‘bullshit’, but for very different reasons and they follow very different, not necessarily compatible logics.

In a basic sense, conflating these very different critiques also risks inflating the problem. For instance, as an academic, I like to moan about my administrative burden and, in particular, the endless hours of academic meetings which numb my brain and strain my hind quarters. But unlike Graeber, I do not think that these meetings come out of an overall drive towards competitiveness, financialization or bureaucratization, at least not only and not necessarily in the German case. What they rather illustrate is the complexity of a university as a feudal stake-holder society. Many different voices have to be reconciled in university meetings, sometimes in consensual fashion, from professors, students to the university leadership, but also including equal opportunity officers, representatives from staff etc. If anything, the long meetings illustrate the downsides of building an ever-increasing inclusive and deliberative society (albeit, in the University case, quite horribly constructed). As such, this trend is not necessarily bad, although quite painful to endure.

This, in my mind, is also perhaps the most important weakness of the book. ‘Bullshit Jobs’ seems to imply that there is an overall rationale to the project which constitutes giving people senseless jobs. I am not against conspiracy theories, so perhaps yes, the political elites often prefer to maintain horrible jobs because the alternative of unemployment of large batches of middle class employees frightens them. But I do think that modern societies are governed by many different logics, even if some such as the financial capitalist logic rightfully take the stage light of critical inquiry.

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Socio-Economic Review Annual Prize 2017

I am very honored to have received SER’s annual best paper award for Left without choice? Economic ideas, frames and the party politics of value-added taxation

Many thanks to the editors, especially David Rueda and the reviewers. Also many thanks, of course, to the award giving committee.

You can find the article on the journal website here.

Abstract: This article investigates how different ideas about value-added taxation (VAT) frame the partisan politics of the welfare state. It employs a content analysis of German and British politicians’ motives in parliamentary debates on whether and why to increase VAT rates. A qualitative comparison reveals that there are remarkable differences between the two countries. In Germany, there is a clear and consistent shift in the efficiency frame from macroeconomic condemnation to microeconomic appraisal even among left politicians. This is not visible in British debates, where traditional partisan contestation prevails. The difference in efficiency frames is closely related to unemployment becoming a much more salient issue in Germany than in the UK. The quantitative analysis shows that speakers are indeed more likely to mention the efficiency frame when they are concerned about the labour market.

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How to Ask for a #LetterofRecommendation #LoR

Dear all,

in a previous post I tried to take the easy route, just recommend someone else’s blogs on how to ask for a letter of recommendation. Somehow this does not work as I expected, so here are my quick bullet points for students, ex-students or anyone else who thinks a letter of recommendation from myself or anyone like me can be useful. (No irony intended. Okay, yes, a little irony was intended.)

1.) Please be aware that there is an inflation of LoRs. Nowadays even a small workshop or summer school wants such things. This means that professors need to write dozens of LoRs each month. To make this easier please be prepared when you approach the professor.

2.) Who wants the LoR? What do you know about them?

3.) Why do you want it? What for? (job search, stipend, summer school etc.)

4.) What do you want your professor to put into the LoR? You can lift the burden by suggesting specific issues yourself (language, previous experience,…). Should you prepare whole sentences? Well, sometimes it can be handy for a professor to include bits and pieces. LoRs are challenging for students to write, so do not try it. Most professors anyway insist in using their own writing style to keep in charge.

5.) The more specific you are in what you think helps your LoR the better. Background info such as a CV or a proposal (research, work…) is helpful, but often a bit cumbersome. Better give some specific ideas what to highlight or mention.

6.) Don’t forget to mention the most basic but most important details: Who is the recipient, address, deadline, mode of submission. In very few cases you will receive the LoR directly. Hence, the clearer the instructions where to send and when the quicker the LoR will get to its destination.

As always, let me know if I am missing something.

Best

AK

 

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