Jonathan White

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Political Science
Associate Professor of European Politics, London School of Economics and Political Science

Research project

Democracy's Rhythm: on the Temporal Preconditions of Legitimate Opposition


Periodicity is central to the well-functioning modern democracy. Electoral cycles express the capacity of citizens to cast judgement at regular intervals and revise their political priorities. Parliamentary timetables enable ordered debates and the recurrent interrogation of ministers. Often the pulse of these events extends over months or years, as though meaningful deliberation requires both regularity and an unhurried pace. Yet while modern democracy has been closely tied to a certain temporality, the link has seldom been analysed in democratic theory. My project develops a systematic appreciation of the role of institutional time structures in making representative democracy possible. I look at how periodicity has functioned as a facilitator of organised and legitimate dissent, contributing thereby to modern democracy's characteristic dynamic of government/opposition.


Why study democracy's time structures now? Because arguably they are under threat: one sees tendencies towards a destructuring of the temporality of modern politics. This finds expression in the rise of irregular forms of decision-making in which executives are weakly constrained, leading to the marginalisation of the institutional rhythms of debate and scrutiny. Though arguably a global trend, nothing displays the tendencies towards executive discretion more clearly than contemporary responses to the Euro crisis. Discretionary politics arguably tends towards a politics without rhythm: weakly bound by rules and norms, it typically features snap decisions, arbitrary ultimatums, indefinite mandates and policy regimes of unknown duration.

The forward-looking task is therefore to imagine ways of maintaining democracy's core temporal prerequisites while adapting to changed conditions. In my project I shall be looking at two lines of response: moves to strengthen the familiar time structures of parliamentary politics, and efforts to imagine forms of democracy less reliant on the rhythms that discretion subverts.



Jonathan White is an Associate Professor (Reader) of European Politics in London School of Economics and Political Science.  Previous to this he was at the Humboldt University in Berlin as an Alexander von Humboldt research fellow. He holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. He has been a visiting scholar at University College London, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Sciences Po in Paris, and the Australian National University.


His research interests lie in the fields of political sociology and applied political theory, with a particular focus on contemporary European democracy and EU integration. Themes of special interest are political engagement and public opinion, models of citizenship under conditions of transnational integration, and the nature of social bonds.  His work draws on democratic theory, interpretative social theory, and qualitative research methods.

Selected publications


‘Thinking Generations’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 64, no. 2, 2013, pp. 216-247.

‘Left and Right in the Economic Crisis’, Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 18, no. 2, 2013, pp. 150-170.


'Community, Transnationalism and the Left-Right Metaphor', European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 15, no. 2, 2012, pp. 197-219.


Political Allegiance after European Integration, Palgrave Macmillan, London/New York, 2011.


'On Partisan Political Justification', with L. Ypi, American Political Science Review, vol. 105, no. 2, 2011, pp. 381-396. 

'Left and Right as Political Resources', Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 16, no. 2, 2011, pp. 123-144.

'Rethinking the Modern Prince: Partisanship and the Democratic Ethos', with L. Ypi, Political Studies, vol. 58, no. 4, 2010, pp. 809-828.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Biology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Linguistics
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Cultural Studies
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline History