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The Social Psychology of Political Elites

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This project formed one strand of Meg Russell's 3-year ESRC-funded Fellowship.

This is the most exploratory, and the most innovative, element of the Fellowship. It sought to build interdisciplinary links to see whether new and more accurate theories can be developed to explain the behaviour of political elites, and parliamentarians in particular. At present "behaviouralism" in legislative studies, and in political science more broadly, is heavily influenced by "rational choice". But rational choice models often bear little resemblance to the understanding of the world held by those who have been close to the policy process, and their predictive powers can be weak. Meanwhile, since behavioralism developed in the mid-20th century, social psychologists have built and refined their own explanations of human behaviour. Their findings demonstrate that human beings do not always act "rationally", and indeed when in social situations may behave more as group members than as individuals. As politics is innately a collective pursuit, and generally structured through groups, these results could bring important insights into the study of political institutions.

The project sought to develop new theoretical approaches, by drawing from the literature on social/political psychology and related disciplines. It also sought to build links with academics working in these disciplines with a view to future publications and joint research.

Any academics working in related fields who are interested in this work, and in building research collaborations, are invited to contact the researchers (see below).

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Concerns about the Steel/Byles Lords reform bill: a summary

Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:01:07 +0000

David Steel’s Lords reform bill (previously sponsored in the Commons by Dan Byles) had its second reading in the chamber on Friday. Last night the Constitution Unit and Constitution Society jointly hosted a meeting in the Lords to discuss concerns about the bill. Its main provisions – allowing peers to retire, and for the expulsion of serious criminals - have […]

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Does Commons “financial privilege” on Lords amendments need reform?

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:18:22 +0000

During its initial passage through the House of Lords in 2011-12, the government suffered seven defeats on amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill. The defeats concerned highly contentious policies, including changes to housing support (the “bedroom tax”), the introduction of a benefit cap, disability benefits, and the reform of the child maintenance system. When the […]

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The Byles/Steel bill – unless amended – holds grave dangers for the Lords

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 18:06:28 +0000

On Friday 28 February Dan Byles’ Private Member’s Bill on Lords reform completed its Commons passage. It is now in the Lords, and will be sponsored by David Steel. The bill, which allows retirement from the Lords and expulsion of non-attendees and serious criminals, has been presented as a small, uncontroversial “housekeeping” measure. But as […]

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Meg Russell's new book, The Contemporary House of Lords:
Lords book cover - png file

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