Monday, 24 September 2012


A press release announcing the launch of Defectors and the Liberal Party 1910 to 2010, by Dr Alun Wyburn-Powell, University of Leicester. 

 A new study on political defections from Manchester University Press has identified an ‘archetype’ for someone who is likely to break political ranks. The research, published in the week of Lord Stevens’ defection to UKIP, charts a history of defections over a century.

Dr. Alun Wyburn-Powell, from the School of Historical Studies at the University of Leicester, said: “Virtually every week there are defections among local councillors and also less frequently among MEPs, MPs and Lords. Defections grab headlines, worry party leaders and can change the dynamics of Parliament. Defections have never been comprehensively studied before and are not well understood by party leaders or commentators.”

“Over the last century the most likely individuals to defect were male, wealthy, divorced, Eton-educated, from a minority religion, former senior army officers and those who entered politics early.”

“There is a pattern to defections. It is not just a random group of individuals taking one-off decisions. Among defectors, 53% defected for better prospects, 43% over policy and 3% because of personalities. Defection, on average, is a career-enhancing move – chances of ministerial office and honours are higher for defectors than for loyalists.”

“A political defection is an expert opinion on the state of the party at a particular point in time. My findings are based on a study of all 707 people who sat as a Liberal or LibDem MPs from 1910 to 2010. Of all these MPs 16% (about one in six) defected. I also studied the smaller number of MPs and former MPs who defected into the Liberals/LibDems and investigated the cases of other defectors who went straight from Labour to the Conservatives and vice-versa. Virtually all Liberal defectors to the Conservatives were happy with their move, but over half of Liberal defectors to Labour were dissatisfied.”

 Looking at the most recent defections of sitting MPs, Dr. Wyburn-Powell said: “It is the Conservatives who are suffering the most defections. This is a turn-around - for most of the last century the Conservatives were the most cohesive party and the Liberals the most likely to suffer defections.” “This pattern may well continue, if the actions of Lord Stevens and departing Conservative councillors are an indication of things to come. Some Conservative MPs are uncomfortable with the coalition and disillusioned about their own career prospects, with many Liberal Democrats occupying ministerial jobs. The coalition government’s attitude towards Europe has alienated many Conservatives and they see UKIP posing a serious threat in some constituencies. Conversely, few Liberal Democrats are defecting, which signals a change from past examples set by the party. Given the rare chance that the coalitions has presented, most Liberal Democrats find that they prefer being unpopular but in power, to being liked but ignored as a forgotten third party.”

Dr Wyburn-Powell added: “I set out to explore the reasons for defections from the Liberal Party in order to discover their role in the party’s near collapse and recovery. The reasons for, and timing of, the decline of the Liberal Party is still contested by historians. My research pinned more of the blame for outward defections on Lloyd George than on Asquith or any other leader. I suspected that there were undiscovered patterns in past defections and that they were not just a random collection of individual decisions.”

"My research reveals a long-term social compatibility between the Liberals and the Conservatives, which was not the case between the Liberals and Labour. However, in terms of policy, Labour and the LibDems are fairly compatible. It is in the interests of both these parties to work on their relationship, as they may need to form a coalition after the next election.”

“Investigating past relationships between parties can lead to a better mutual understanding and respect, which can help in the formation of a future coalition. Studying the reasons for past defections can help parties to avoid losing future defectors.”

• Dr. Wyburn-Powell’s, ‘Defectors and the Liberal Party 1910 to 2010 – A Study of Inter-party Relationships’ was released this week through Manchester University Press.

The foreword is written by Lord Adonis.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: You can interview Dr Wyburn-Powell on 01926 885520 or

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Happy freshers' week

Happy freshers' week to all the newbie students out there. We're offering a special 10% discount on all MUP titles to help with the start of term cash flow.

To take advantage of this one-off deal, contact our distributors on +44 (0)1752 202301, or email your details to, quoting the discount code OTH308. But hurry, this discount is only available until the end 26th September.

Our new website makes it even easier to browse through our catalogue of titles, you can choose to search through specific subject areas, or our new releases.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Citizenship classes can still help restore young people's faith in politics

A decade on since citizenship lessons became compulsory in English secondary schools, work by a University of Lincoln academic suggests the under-threat subject could still help to address young people’s dwindling faith in formal politics.

Dr Ben Kisby, lecturer in Politics at the University of Lincoln, analyses why and how the previous Labour government introduced citizenship into the National Curriculum in 2002 in his recent book The Labour Party and Citizenship Education.

Based on interviews with the key figures behind this landmark policy change, including former Education Secretary David Blunkett MP and Chair of the Advisory Group on Citizenship, the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick, plus a wide range of primary and secondary sources, the book describes how citizenship lessons were introduced principally because of concerns held within and beyond the Labour government about levels of ‘social capital’ in Britain; worries about levels of civic cohesion and social trust amongst citizens.

Dr Kisby draws parallels between the Labour government’s policy agenda on social inclusion between 1997 and 2010 and the current Conservative-led Coalition’s Big Society initiative, with its core themes of empowering communities, redistributing power and promoting a culture of volunteering.

Despite these similarities, the future of citizenship education in England is currently uncertain. The Curriculum Review Panel set up by the Coalition government has recommended that citizenship is removed as a core Foundation Subject of the National Curriculum.

Dr Kisby argues that removing Citizenship as a compulsory National Curriculum subject would be a mistake.

He said: “‘Whilst citizenship education is certainly not a panacea to address the problem of political disengagement in the UK, there is good evidence that citizenship lessons do have a positive impact on pupil engagement in society, in terms of increased civic and political participation. As such, far from removing Citizenship as a compulsory subject in the National Curriculum, what is instead needed is a strengthening of the role of Citizenship education, through a greater focus on political literacy. It should be accorded a higher status, and given more resources and greater numbers of specialist staff to teach it.”

Dr Kisby commented that disengagement from mainstream politics in the UK, such as low levels of turnout in elections, membership of political parties and trust in the political class, are very pronounced in historic terms, particularly amongst young people.

He added: “It is important that such disengagement is not seen solely in terms of a problem of citizens’ attitudes. It also relates to the kinds of politics on offer by parties. There is too much mudslinging by politicians, despite or perhaps because of the fact that there has been a substantial degree of policy convergence between the major parties over the past couple of decades.
“The evidence suggests that young people are not politically apathetic; they have their own views and engage in democratic politics in various ways. However, they have become increasingly alienated from electoral politics.
“Many young people have very negative attitudes towards politicians, have been disappointed by their experiences of formal politics and have only moderate levels of political efficacy.
“This can be addressed by both changes to the way formal politics is practiced, with a greater focus by politicians on engaging with young people and their concerns, and through strengthening provision of citizenship education so as to help young people make sense of a complex political world.”

Readers of the MUP blog can purchase copies of The Labour party and citizenship education at a special 15% discount. To take advantage of this offer, contact NBN International on +44 (0)1752 202301, or email (Expires 31/12/2012)

Editorial notes
Ian Richards - PR Officer, The University of Lincoln
Telephone: 01522 886042

Monday, 17 September 2012

Author celebrates launch of History, heritage and tradition in contemporary British politics

Emily Robinson was joined by a host of eminent figures, including Jon Cruddas MP and Prof. Patrick Wright, to launch her new title History, heritageand tradition in contemporary British politics at The House of Lords last week.

Both Jon Cruddas MP and Prof. Patrick Wright (Kings College London) gave speeches to mark the launch of this groundbreaking title, while Mary Riddell from the Daily Telegraph acted as an excellent chair to proceedings.

We’re also grateful to The Primrose Hill Bookshop, who set up a bookstand at the event selling copies of the book to guests.

Mary Riddell chairs the launch

Prof Patrick Wright speaks to the gathered audience

Jon Cruddas MP and author Emily Robinson

Emily Robinson speaking at the launch

Guests gathering at the The House of Lords


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Rachelle H. Saltzman's 'A lark for the sake of their country' wins prestigious US prize

The History and Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society announced recipients of the Wayland D. Hand Prize for an outstanding book published between June 2010 and June 2012 that combines historical and folkloristic perspectives. The prize established in 2004 honors the eminent folklorist and historian Wayland D. Hand (1907-1986), who in his teaching and scholarship encouraged historical methodology in folklore research.

Although the custom of bestowing the prize has been to have a single winner, the evaluation committee felt that among the many submissions this year, two books deserved equal merit. This is the second time the committee has co-recipients of the prize. The committee recommended sharing the prize between the following two authors because they produced different forms of work integrating historical and folkloristic perspectives in an appealing and sophisticated way. The committee also lauds the presses publishing these works—Princeton University Press and Manchester University Press--for superior production and design quality and impressive packaging of these books. The joint recipients are:

Jack Zipes, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre.  Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Rachelle Hope Saltzman, A Lark for the Sake of Their Country: The 1926 General Strike Volunteers in Folklore and Memory. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2012.

Rachelle Hope Saltzman draws an array of important ramifications for the understanding of British identity, collective memory, and cultural formation from a specific event—the 1926 General Strike from May 3 to May 12 called by the council of the Trades Union Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to prevent wage reduction and improve working conditions for coal miners.  She finds significance in folk cultural displays—including pranks, dress, festivity, and jokes-- of over half a million registered volunteers in support of the strikers.  Judges found convincing her use of this evidence as central features of the rising group’s communication and creation of symbols that would have a lasting effect on British self-consciousness. Also praiseworthy in the judges’ view is the author’s integration of multiple methodologies including oral history, ethnographic analysis, rhetorical criticism, and social evaluation to offer a cohesive and persuasive argument for the symbol-building functions of historical events that groups embrace to achieve a cooperative society out of conflict.

The next Wayland Hand Prize competition is scheduled for July 2014.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Ethnography symposia plays host to the launch of An ethnography of English football fans

By Geoff Pearson

The launch date for An Ethnography of Football Fans: Cans, Cops and Carnivals coincided with the 7th Annual Ethnography Symposium held at the University of Liverpool’s Management School 29-31 August. Organised by the Ethnography at Liverpool and Keele group, the symposium is a cross-discipline forum for ethnographers from all over the world. The 2012 symposium’s title was Ethnographic Horizons in Times of Turbulence and attracted around 100 delegates and 60 papers, with keynotes delivered by Karen Ho, Simon Down, John Weeks and Gideon Kunda. The symposium finished with a lively debate on the topic of conducting ethnography in the age of ethical approval: a panel session involving Heather Hopfl, John van Maanen and representatives of Liverpool University’s Ethics Committee. The 2013 Symposium will take place in Amsterdam in August, and more details can be found here.

The book launch itself gave the series editor Dr Alex Smith an opportunity to showcase the New Ethnographies series and attracted considerable interest from the delegates in terms of both existing publications and potential new projects. Dr Smith commented,

‘It was a pleasure to meet so many scholars engaged with ethnographic research and the interest of Symposium delegates in our books was very encouraging. The feedback on our series was superb: everyone was delighted to learn of Manchester’s renewed commitment to ethnographic publishing in a challenging climate for academic publishing.'

It was also fantastic to see one of my research participants attending; one of my beliefs about ethnography is that it is important to make our work as accessible as possible to those we are researching as this is an important way to demonstrate authenticity and accuracy. Dr Smith believes the New Ethnographies series will encourage further quality research in this field,

‘Ethnography is capable of attracting academics across a wide variety of disciplines. It is now clear that the ‘New Ethnographies’ series is well placed to promote interdisciplinary debate on ethnographic methods, both here in the UK and abroad. We look forward to engaging further with scholars and students through the Ethnography Symposium as we continue to solicit and publish some of the very best new ethnographic monographs. We also welcome the support of all those who are passionate about ethnography in helping us establish our book series as one of the world’s leading lists in publishing innovative and original ethnographic research.’

While An Ethnography of Football Fans obviously has to be written in a style that contributes in a meaningful way to the academic understanding of football fan behaviour (as well as engaging in debate about the principles and value of ethnography), I have tried to keep it as accessible as possible, and a number of my former research participants have already read all or part of the book. So far the feedback from them has been positive!

MUP blog readers can take advantage of a special 15% discount on all titles in the New Ethnographies series. Simply contact our distributors on +44 (0)1752 202301, or email your details to, quoting the discount code OTH306 (offer expires 31/10/2012).

Visit our website for a full list of titles in the New Ethnographies series. Highlights include,

The British in Rural France: Lifestyle migration and the ongoing quest for a better way of life

Devolution and the Scottish Conservatives: Banal activism, electioneering and the politics of irrelevance
Chagos Islanders in Mauritius and the UK: Forced displacement and onward migration

Monday, 3 September 2012

The varieties of Enlightenment

Pope Benedict XVI, Jürgen Habermas, and
the ‘cognitive substance’ of religion
The period known as ‘The Enlightenment’ is usually taken to have ushered in an intensely secular phase of modernity, in which faith in religion was displaced by a naturalistic, scientific approach to life and living.

However, whereas latter day proponents of Enlightenment, such as Richard Dawkins, tend to place science and reason on one side against religious faith and authority on the other, such an opposition was not one shared by many of the key Enlightenment thinkers. One need only mention the deism of the likes of Voltaire and Jefferson. Rather than an attack on religious faith, Enlightenment thinkers tended more towards a questioning of religious authority. A key element of deist thinking was that God could be known by rational, and perhaps even scientific, means. Voltaire was adamant in his denunciation of religious authority, but advocated a rationally justified belief in God.

What the Enlightenment insisted on was not so much scientific materialism — although this tendency was very much present in thinkers such as La Mettrie — but rather on the public presentation of good reasons for any belief whatsoever whether that of church, science, state, or tradition.

It is the materialist, mechanistic strand of Enlightenment thinking that has drawn the greatest fire but also the most passionate support. However, simply to divide the legacy of the Enlightenment into a materialist, scientific rationalism on the one hand, as opposed to a religious obscurantism on the other is to ignore the varieties of Enlightenment thinking that not only existed historically but which still promise a creative engagement between science, reason, and religion.

The Enlightenment project of scientific, universal rationality has also had its fair share of non-religious critics. Theodore Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, of Frankfurt school fame, argued, variously, that science was a form of instrumental (or means-ends) rationality that had its roots in the philosophy of Francis Bacon. For Bacon, the acquisition of knowledge about the natural order was intimately connected to increasing our power to control nature — nature’s secrets were to be wrested from it in order that we might make it our servant. Their charge against the Enlightenment was that it brought about a new historical form of scientific social domination. Once human beings were seen as the creations of nature alone then a Baconian imperative of domination through scientific knowledge would follow. Furthermore, economic life became the domain in which the domination of scientific rationality was realised and justified: human-beings became enmeshed in a system of things in which they also became a thing.

The Frankfurt school philosopher Jürgen Habermas has attempted to develop the anti-authoritarian social and political role of reason, inherited from Enlightenment thought, whilst overcoming the instrumental use of science as a means of dominating human-beings. As an advocate of rational secular interests, it is significant then that Habermas has recently engaged with Pope Benedict XVI in dialogue — they are the co-authors of short book titled ‘The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion’. For Habermas, not only is a rapproachment between rationality and religion feasible, but furthermore he uses the evocative phrase ‘the cognitive substance of religion is not yet exhausted’.

Whilst Habermas argues that the constitutional basis of the state must be grounded in public, secular processes of rational deliberation, he also argues that,

When secularized citizens act in their role as citizens of the state, they must not deny in principle that religious images of the world have the potential to express truth. Nor must they refuse their believing fellow citizens the right to make contributions in a religious language to public debates.

It seems that Habermas and Pope Benedict XVI are seeking, through such public dialogue, to find a way beyond the increasingly stagnant debates between scientific, materialist conceptions of reason and those of faith that are offered without rational warrant.

 But what of the ‘cognitive substance’ of which Habermas speaks?

One might suggest that the cognitive substance of religion is expressed through, at least, three aspects: the ethical, the intangible value of religious signs, and the concept of God — this latter without reference, necessarily, to arguments about whether God exists or not. Given that the ethical is a well-trodden path in both secular and religious contexts, let's concentrate on these other two aspects.

The intangible value of religious signs. Whereas it is easy to see the value of tangible things such as everyday objects, it is much harder to understand the value of intangible signs such as images, words, and rituals. One might say that whereas the value of tangible things may be exhausted — the value of food is exhausted once it is eaten and digested — the value of certain intangible signs appears to increase the more they are used, and seems to be inexhaustible.

Religious imagery is an example of inexhaustible, intangible value. Think of the image of the risen Christ from Grünewald's Isenheim alterpiece. The exact meaning of this image is hard to pin down. However, in attempting to grasp its meaning it continues to evoke not only further thought but also a sense of the numinous. It stimulates cognitive effort whilst also shaping that effort — but we are never done with it.

The cloaking of religious thought and experience in artistic form tells us a great deal about the particularity of religions and their cultural background. In practice, religious images, words, and rituals are interwoven with other aspects of cultural life – think, for example, of the great many people who carry and use rosary beads. It is the particularity of religious images, such as Grünewald’s, that provoke the mental effort that in turn generates cognitive value or substance. In attempting to make this value explicit we are in the realm both of reason (cognition) and religion (the numinous).

The concept of God. A great deal of effort has been expended by both religious and non-religious thinkers to determine whether we ought to believe that God exists or not. The question of whether there is evidence or not for the existence of God, what might constitute such evidence, whether this is a matter of faith, or rational inquiry, or is open to scientific investigation, are all questions that have been deeply debated. However, one might consider the concept of God in distinction to the question of whether God does or does not exist. That is, not as a matter of faith or belief, but rather as a wider question concerning concept acquisition and use.

In thinking about God, one also thinks about a great many other things. One might ask, for example, what God would have to be like in order to possess powers such as omniscience or omnipotence. But then one must conceptualise the nature of omniscience. What does omniscience actually entail? And if such a power is available to God, how does God know all things at once? Further questions such as the relation between time, knowing and causation immediately arise. The theologians of old asked such questions within a faith-based context. However, if we bring both philosophical and scientific reasoning to our questions, we may then think about our concepts of knowledge and time, and so on, relative to our concept of God. We do not have to believe in God as such, to find the deployment of the concept of God of great cognitive value.

Following such a conceptualist approach, reason, science, and religion are taken then to be complementary aspects of a broader search for Enlightenment. Pope Benedict XVI and Jürgen Habermas seem to propose that such a variety of Enlightenment thinking has an intellectual force and a cultural value that is consonant with both religious and secular interests. The cognitive substance of religion is not yet exhausted because reason is still not done with it.

Shivdeep Singh Grewal is the author of Habermas and European integration, which was recently published by Manchester University Press. Until the end of October 2012, MUP blog readers can purchase a copy of Grewal's title with at a special 15% discount.  Simply contact our distributors on +44 (0)1752 202301, or, quoting the discount code OTH304.