The team published its first article titled ‘Truth Commissions after Economic Crises: Political Learning or Blame Game?’ in Political Studies. The paper co-authored by Iosif Kovras, Shaun McDaid, and Ragnar Hjalmarsson, examines the truth-seeking strategies that political elites in three European countries chose to deal with the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008. In particular, the authors explore the significance of the truth commissions (TCs) that three countries – Iceland, Greece, and Ireland – undertook following the crisis.
The paper addresses two puzzles. The first concerns the timing of the truth commissions. The Icelandic TC was initiated much earlier in the unfolding of the crisis than the respective TCs in either Greece or Ireland. The second, related puzzle is that the Icelandic TC was successful in its capacity as a learning instrument, whereas the Greek and Irish TCs became too politicised to play a role in shaping reforms that would help to prevent future crises. The authors develop the distinction between an ‘institutional’ logic of learning and an ‘instrumental’ logic, and find that existing levels of trust in institutions influence political elites’ capacity to establish TCs. Countries with higher levels of trust in institutions can establish TCs using ‘institutional logic’, and thus can create a body whose legitimacy permits genuine political learning. However, in countries with lower levels of trust, elites tend to use ‘instrumental logic’ when establishing TCs, resulting in more politicised outcomes and ‘blame games’.