Femke Bakker wins 2019 Jean Blondel PhD Prize
Political scientist Femke Bakker (Leiden University) has won the 2019 Jean Blondel PhD Prize. According to the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), her ‘Hawks and Doves: Democratic Peace Theory Revisited’ is past year’s best thesis in politics.
Bakker, who now is an assistant professor at Leiden University’s Institute of Political Science, investigated Democratic Peace, the phenomenon that democratic states do not wage war against one another. Political Science offers several explanations for this, but usually these explanations are not empirically grounded. Political scientists also tend to overlook the role of the individual in conflicts. Bakker addressed both hiatuses. And, according to ECPR, made a valuable contribution to the discipline.
In her dissertation Bakker addressed the question why, in case of a serious inter-state conflict, some countries keep the peace, while others go to war. Could this be explained by the dynamics of the international system of states? Do national political institutions determine the choice for war or peace? Bakker demonstrated that empirically these usual explanations fall short. Confronted with conflict, decision makers are led by their specific beliefs about conflict resolution.
Innovative and ambitious mixed-methods research design
The jury was impressed by the ‘innovative and ambitious’ mixed-methods research design of the Leiden based political scientist. Bakker based her conclusions on experiments with approximately 250 students in China, Russia, and the United States. In addition, she did an extensive analysis of data on liberal norms in these three countries of the World Values Survey, complemented with a case study of the Falklands conflict. Thus, Bakker delivered an ‘interesting and potentially influential contribution to the field, [...] opening a range of options for further empirical investigations using methodologically innovative approaches’, according to the jury.
ECPR was founded in 1970 as an independent association. The consortium has about 350 institutional members from approximately 50 countries worldwide, representing the main universities, students and scholars working in the field of political science.
The Jean Blondel PhD Prize, named after the famous French comparativist, was established in 2003 and is awarded annually for the best dissertation in politics (broadly conceived to include International Relations, Political Theory and Public Administration).