Current research in Political Science
Political Science research at Karlstad University mainly concerns two areas of interest: political procedures and processes at the local and regional levels, and social science education.
Political procedures and processes at the local and regional levels
European societies in general and the Nordic ones, including Sweden, in particular have undergone changes which entail an increased political and executive role for regional and local agents. The regional level has been relatively poorly manned and in charge of few tasks compared to the local and national levels, but its tasks and obligations are now multiplying.
The changes pertain to both form and content in politics. They are often discussed as a shift from government to governance, which has necessitated a greater focus on more flexible forms of political organisation (in terms of multi-level governance, network, and partnership) and new agents, not least market ones, exerting increased influence on policy. As a result, the traditional boundaries of politics have dissolved, both between politics and economy/markets and between levels, as nation states have taken a different and in many cases less prominent role, while regions and various EU organs have moved into a stronger position. Significantly, the shift from politics to markets means that the logic of the market has increasingly replaced earlier forms of political governance. As a consequence, there are also changes in the conceptions of and conditions for the liberal model of democracy that has constituted the starting point for modern political science analysis.
These changes challenge the way in which we understand and use important political science analyses and concepts, and call for new ways of theorising such concepts. In our research, we aim to study shifts/changes of this kind in terms of three central political science concepts –democracy, politics, and power. The empirical focus of our research is the transformed position and role of regions in the political system.
Social Science Education
What are students in school and at university supposed to learn? Why are they supposed to learn exactly that? And what do learning processes entail? These basic educational questions serve as a starting point for research projects in this area. Another point of departure is the idea that learning processes can be more successful if teachers both possess knowledge of their subject and develop an understanding of its specificity.
Completed and ongoing projects deal with, among other things, European citizen education, the autonomy of social science teachers, methods for developing an interest in societal issues among upper secondary school students in vocational programmes, and grading and assessment in the school subject of social sciences. Research is conducted as part of the Centre for Social Science Education (CSD), where Political Science collaborates with four other social science subjects, and in the graduate school for teachers of History and Social Studies (CSD-FL).
Apart from research and education, collaboration with society at large is important to us. For this reason, political scientists often appear in the media as commentators and experts. We collaborate regularly with Region Värmland, the county administrative board, the county council, municipalities, and other public institutions. A special reference group which includes representatives for public employers alongside teachers and students has been appointed to help us improve.