Book Review on ‘The Second Machine Age’ in bullet points #futureofwork

I wrote a review on ‘The Second Machine Age’ by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. For the published version see here.

Here are some bullet points:

  • this is a pop-science version of the authors work on the economic consequences of digitalization and roboterization of production processes;
  • the authors argue that these processes lead to new productivity gains, especially if one also counts unpaid production such as the social value generated by companies like Google;
  • but that they also lead to new levels of inequality and winner-take-it-all markets.
  • This diagnosis part of the book, while somewhat bleak, makes for an interesting read.
  • The recommendations part lags a bit behind as the authors mainly focus on the usual 101 textbook recipes for economists while at the same time they argue for radical transformations in the economy.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Post in Political Economy and History of Capitalism

For details see here

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New blog post on interactive tests, test anxiety and learning in #highereducation

Recently, I have written a blogpost in German on use of interactive multiple choice test in evaluating students. Here are the bullet points in English:

  • interactive tests are tests that give students the possibility to solve questions, quizzes and exams interactively, usually based on computers.
  • they are a great way to make tests not only evaluation but also learning exercises. Students can get immediate feedback, can have multiple tries. Tests can even be adaptive in the sense that the subsequent questions react to the difficulties or degree of ease with which students answer the previous ones.
  • yet, new solutions also raise new problems. The most important of these is test anxiety. While MC tests already are a stressful experience for students, on-screen solutions can make matters worse.
  • I am currently doing a couple of trial runs, comparing different test designs to see which ones work better or worse. The paper & pencil version indeed seems to invoke a little less stress, but students nonetheless preferred the electronic version.
  • Hence, the task is to make simple design choices (visual, pedagogical) that allow to make best use of interactive tests while holding test anxiety to an acceptable level.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Climate Change and Underwhelming Policy Responses

In our project on excessive policy volatility we also look at cases in which either nothing substantial gets really done in policy making or in which even ‘progressive’ change often has feet of clay. In a recent article, Michael Howlett and I illustrate this logic of disproportionality in policy making with the case of climate change policies. We see that risk averse governments still have two main ways of justifying inaction (or even negative, anti-reactions): either denying the problem or fatalistically accepting it. In this we follow the recent literature on disproportionate policy responses and also the older literature on blame avoidance and risk averse governments.


Here is the link:

Send me an email, if you would like the ungated version.

Here is also our abstract:

We apply insights from the recent literature on disproportionate policy reactions to the case of climate change policy-making. We show when and why climate change exhibits features of a sustained under-reaction: Governments may react to concerns about climate change not through substantive change but by efforts to manage blame strategically. As long as they can avoid blame for potential negative policy outcomes policy-makers can act to deny problems, or implement only small-scale or symbolic reforms. While this pattern may change as climate change problems worsen and public recognition of the issue and what can be done about it alters, opportunities to manage blame will still exist. Governments will only revert to more substantive interventions when attempts to fatalistically frame the problem as unavoidable fail in the face of increased public visibility.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

PostDoc Position in IPE, Switzerland, Steffie Walter


The Institute for Political Science at the University of Zurich invites applications for a position as


Post-doctoral researcher („Oberassistenz“) 


at the Chair of International Relations and Political Economy (Prof. Dr. Stefanie Walter).



The Department of Political Science offers excellent research support in a vibrant research community and is committed to advancing young scholars’ careers.


The post-doctoral researcher will pursue his or her own research agenda in the fields of international relations and international political economy and produce scholarship with the potential for publication in top outlets. He or she will contribute to teaching in the fields of international relations and political economy (3 hours per week, which translates into a 1-2 teaching load), advising of students and doctoral candidates, and some administrative tasks. Collaboration in research projects running at the Chair and the Department is encouraged.


The successful candidate

  • demonstrates a strong interest in research and the potential to develop an internationally recognized research track record in international political economy, proven through peer-reviewed publications, third-party funding, and/or related research activities.
  • holds a PhD in political science or international relations (or is close to completion).
  • possesses strong methodological skills.
  • demonstrates the willingness and ability to engage in high-quality teaching, proven through teaching evaluations, didactical training etc.
  • is motivated to pursue an academic career.
  • is able to work both independently and in a team.
  • has a strong command of English and good working knowledge of German.

The starting date for the position is 1 September 2017. A minimum of two-year commitment is requested; renewal up to six years is possible and contingent on research productivity, teaching quality, and continued substantive fit. The salary is 80.000 CHF/year. Limited funding for conference travel etc. is available.


Further enquiries can be directed to Prof. Stefanie Walter ( Information about the research and teaching activities at the Chair of International Relations and Political Economy is available at



Please send your application electronically as one pdf-file comprising your motivation letter, CV, publication list, brief proposal for a postdoctoral project (1 page), transcripts, teaching evaluations (if available), and the names of two references to the secretariat of the Institute for Political Science ( Deadline for applications is 31 May 2017.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Forget about the Money: Why Hungary is much more worrisome than Brexit or Greece

The recent struggle about the fate of CEU in Hungary is just the latest installment of a move towards what the Hungarian government calls ‘illiberal democracy’.  In real terms, this is a misnomer as Hungary has become a democracy only in the sense of an (not really fairly) elected government, whereas most of the other institutions have been gradually dismantled: checks and balances, independent judiciary, independent press, academic freedom are all severely damaged.

I am not alone in this assessment: Just look at the recent relative performance of Hungary in the Bertelsmann Democracy Status Index. It not only tanks, it also tanks in a region with a declining trend (recent events in Poland might also drag the region average down, though).



The only positive aspect of the Hungarian lex specialis against CEU is however, that it gives salience to an issue which is much more worrisome than BREXIT or the debt crisis in Southern Europe: it is the question, whether the EU can continue to exist if some of its members cease to be democracies.

Historically, the European Communities were founded as a zone of economic integration and cooperation to stabilize the partly nascent democracies in Western Europe. One might argue that ironically, the economic integration has contributed to a destabilization of these democracies. And yet, in many respects the current resentment against the EU is just a typical example of scapegoating: the debt crisis, the integration in a global economy could perhaps have been mitigated without the deep European economic integration, but they would have happened nonetheless.

Forget about the money for a second. The fog of economic turbulences has clouded our eyes when it comes to the original idea: creating a mutually stabilizing club of democracies. The legitimacy of the European Union itself is at stake, if it transforms into a mixed bag of democracies, semi-democracies, and outright autocracies in the near future. Like the United Nations such an EU would suffer tremendously from the most basic disagreements on fundamental human norms. Just think of the fact that Saudia Arabia gets to chair the UN Human Rights Council panel. However, unlike the United Nations, the EU would still consist of a much deeper level of political integration, of shared areas of competences and common institutions.

Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to think that the current crisis in Hungary and in several other European countries poses the most existential threat to the EU since its existence. Forget about the money, this is about basic freedom, democracy and rule of law. This is about the reason why the EU was called into existence.



Filed under Uncategorized

Offener Brief an EVP Chef bezüglich FIDESZ

This is an open letter (in German) to the chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP). It is written by one of my former colleagues, Dorothee Bohle, who know works at the European University Institute. It asks the chairman to quit FIDESZ membership in the EPP in light of recent events in Hungary and the continuing abolition of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Hungary.

It is important to highlight, that the issue at stake here goes far beyond the location of a private university, but touches the foundation of the European idea. The events happening in Hungary are far from trivial and should concern all European citizens, not just Hungarians. It is also not simply a question of meddeling in the national politics of a sovereign country, as the Hungarian prime minister claims, but a question of what type of fundamental norms and institutions should govern the relationship of countries within Europe.

Pls. also consider signing this petition.


Hier ein Offener Brief von Professor Dorothee Bohle an den Vorsitzenden der Europäischen Volkspartei


Sehr geehrter Herr Weber,

Ich wende ich mich heute an Sie als Vorsitzender der EVP. Ich weiss, dass Ihre Stimme großes Gewicht hat, und ich ersuche Sie, in der EVP den Antrag auf Ausschluss der Fidesz zu stellen.

Bis vor kurzem habe ich an der Central European University in Ungarn gelehrt, deren Existenz nun aufgrund des Gesetzentwurfes der ungarischen Regierung akut gefährdet ist. Die Central European University steht für akademische Exzellenz, Integrität und Internationalität. Viele ihrer Fakultäten nehmen in internationalen Rankings europäische Spitzenpositionen ein, und dort lehrende Professoren haben sich sehr erfolgreich um europäische Forschungsgelder beworben. Die Universität wurde vor über 25 Jahren in Ungarn etabliert, sie hat eine ungarische und amerikanische Akkreditierung, und viele ihrer Programme sind ebenfalls in Ungarn akkreditiert. Der Gesetzesentwurf zielt bewußt auf ein Aus dieser Universität. Akademische Freiheit, Exzellenz und Internatioanalität sind in einem zunehmend nationalistisch und autoritärem Ungarn nicht mehr erwünscht. Es wird Sie sicherlich interessieren, dass selbst das amerikansiche State Department sich explizit gegen eine Schließung der Universität gewendet hat. Gerade in diesem Kontext ist es schwer verständlich, dass Europa sich nicht zu einem klaren Signal durchringen kann.
Ich habe in den letzten Jahren sehr genau beobachten können, wie die europäischen und demokratischen Werte durch den ungarischen Premierminister zunehmend unterminiert wurden. Die Regierung Orban hätte jedoch nie so weit gehen können wie sie konnte, wenn Ihre Fraktion den Ministerpräsidenten nicht über die ganzen Jahre unterstützt hätte. Es ist mir als Politikwissenschaftlerin durchaus bewusst, dass eine Verringerung der Fraktionsstärke durch Verlust der Fidesz Mandate für die EVP schmerzlich wäre. Aber ich hoffe sehr, dass Sie bei nüchterner Abwägung zum Schluss kommen werden, dass eine Partei, die einen solchen frontalen Angriff auf die Freiheit der akademischen Forschung und Lehre startet und dabei auch noch auf antisemitische Ressentiments in der Bevölkerung schielt, in Ihrer Fraktion keinen Platz haben kann. Der Nutzen der Fidesz Mandate kann den Schaden, den die systematischen Anschläge dieser Regierungspartei auf demokratische Werte und europäische Solidarität dem Ruf der EVP zufügen, nicht aufwiegen.

Ich würde mich über ein persönliche Antwort oder eine öffentliche Stellungnahme von Ihnen freuen.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Dorothee Bohle

Dorothee Bohle
Professor of Political Science
European University Institute
Badia Fiesolana
Via delle Roccettini 9
I-50014 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized