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Department of Political Science

Social Mobility and Electoral Change

The third edition of the UZH TOPIQ – Zurich Talks on the Politics of Inequality will take place in October and November 2023. The third round of talks focuses on social mobility and electoral change. All talks in the fall semester 2023 will take place online via Zoom. Recordings will be made available on this page. UZH TOPIQ will return with a new program in Fall 2024. 

Talk Schedule

October 10 | 5pm (CET)
Torben Iversen | Harvard
Aspirations and Fears in the Transition to the Knowledge Economy: Substitutes or Complements?
The ICT revolution has led to rapid structural changes from industry to services, causing a sharp increase in economic uncertainty and giving rise to a new politics of status defense, which has been linked to the rise of rightwing populism. Yet high economic uncertainty also characterized the first postwar decades and drove much of the support for the political center-left and the universal welfare state. Why does economic uncertainty sometimes cause political shifts to the left and sometimes to the right? And why does the turn to the right sometimes take on illiberal forms when democracy is commonly seen as a guarantor for the less fortunate?  I argue that the divergence reflects two distinct equilibria of voter preferences and government policies – one in which fear of downward mobility complements aspiration for upward mobility, and one in which fear substitutes for aspiration. The transition to the new knowledge economy has increased the size of constituencies where the latter holds, albeit with considerable cross-national variation.

October 24 | 5pm (CET)
Isabel Martinez | ETH Zurich
Intergenerational Mobility in Multiple Dimensions

November 7 | 5pm (CET)
Andrew McNeil | University College London
Social Mobility and Anti-System Support
I examine the effects of intergenerational social mobility on anti-system support, and more broadly political discontent. First, I show how intergenerationally mobile voters’ positions in the Brexit referendum differ from their non-mobile counterparts. Second, I extend this analysis to European anti-system voting, finding that parental educational origin and mobility are important predictors of anti-system right support. Third, beyond one’s own mobility, I investigate how historic levels of social mobility in local areas influences political attitudes and voting behaviour. Finally, I take a backward step – to analyse the part that societal social mobility plays in voters’ overall perceptions of economic success.

November 21 | 5pm (CET)
Tabea Palmtag | University of Zurich
The Long Shadow of Economic Opportunity