Kwan Woo Kim: Social Contexts of Political Belief Systems: The Roles of Welfare Institution and Party-System Polarization in 14 Western European Countries & Yibing Shen: Moving Money, Capitalizing Land: Politics, the Public and Economic Expertise in China


Monday, March 20, 2017, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


William James Hall 1550

Politics and Social Change Workshop/Transnational Studies Initiative Joint presentation by Kwan Woo Kim & Yibing Shen.


NOTE: Seminar participants are supposed to read the manuscripts in advance and come with prepared comments. If interested, please contact Yueran Zhang ( to get copies of the manuscripts. 



Presenter: Kwan Woo Kim, PhD candidate, Harvard Sociology



"Social Contexts of Political Belief Systems: The Roles of Welfare Institution and Party-System Polarization in 14 Western European Countries"


What are the existing ways to organize political opinions, and how do we explain their variations across individuals and societies? Past studies considered Left-Right ideology as a sufficient representation of how people think about politics, but recent political trends in Western democracies cast serious doubt on the validity of this consideration. Adopting a recent development in cultural analysis, I first demonstrate that there are three distinctive political belief systems present in Western Europe. Drawing on the theories of political engagement and party systems, I then argue that people are drawn to alternative political belief systems when they are less engaged in politics and live in countries with less polarized party systems. Lastly, drawing on the cognitive theories of economic uncertainties, I argue that personal economic uncertainty generates attitudinal biases against the ideological conception of politics, but those biases are alleviated under well-established welfare provision institutions. I examine these theories using a combined dataset of 14 Western European countries. The findings advance our understanding of the effects of the quality of political and economic institutions on how people with varied political and economic experiences mobilize their political beliefs.



Presenter: Yibing Shen, PhD candidate, Brown Sociology



"Moving Money, Capitalizing Land: Politics, the Public and Economic Expertise in China"




How does economic expertise influence the politics of reform? What explains the variation of intervening capacities of internationally recognized economic expertise? How do local political and cognitive legacies affect the capacity for internationally recognized forms of expertise to reshape politics? I will explore the variations within a state and how different issue areas such as land and finance create different settings for the articulation of the public, the state and professional economists in the transformation of property and goods. Adopting a method of “comparative reiterated problem-solving” to answer these questions, I will track the formation and transformation of the economic knowledge regime around different issue areas as well as the historical trajectories of the two policy arenas. Grounded in a variety of archival sources—yearbooks, memories, party meeting reports, policy proposals, editorials, economics publications—and oral histories of economic knowledge producers, this project invites a rethinking of the relationship between economic knowledge, the state and global capitalism in a rapid growing newly industrializing economy and rising global power like China.