Researchers propose method for analysing wicked political problems

In September, Peeter Selg, Professor of Political Theory at Tallinn University, and Andreas Ventsel, Senior Research Fellow in Semiotics at the University of Tartu, published a monograph synthesising the research on relational political analysis and political semiotics that the authors have been conducting over the past decade. The book provides a systematic basis to political semiotics as a discipline and proposes a method of political form analysis.  

According to the authors, the monograph has a dual objective. “First of all, we put forth a particular relational political theory, or a theoretical approach, which says that social-political phenomena do not exist separately but are expressed primarily via their mutual, changing relations. In addition, we propose a specific method – political form analysis –, which can be used, among other things, to analyse the so-called wicked political problems,” said one of the authors of the book, Professor of Political Theory of Tallinn University, Peeter Selg.

He says that wicked problems are those which cannot be unambiguously defined or definitively resolved. There are increasingly more of them in the world today. “Each attempt to solve a problem changes the nature of the problem and generates a number of new ones. In the book, we give a few examples of wicked problems – the European migrant crisis and the e-threat problems of Estonia — and use them to illustrate the use of our proposed method, the political form analysis,” Selg explained.

“In semiotics, politics has so far remained a secondary research direction, primarily limited to the analysis of political campaigns, visual symbols, rhetorical slogans etc. In our book, we give a systematic basis for political semiotics as an independent field of research,” said the second author of the book, Senior Research Fellow in Semiotics of the University of Tartu, Andreas Ventsel. This is the first monograph to present a thoroughly semiotic approach to politics both in terms of theoretical bases, methods and empirical applications, and dealing with the problems of power, governance and democracy primarily from the aspect of semiotics. Thereby the authors also attempt at building a bridge between the sociological and cultural-scientific approaches.

The book has already been acknowledged internationally: it has received endorsement from Professor Bob Jessop of Lancaster University, one of the most eminent state and governance theorists alive. In addition, it has been recognised by Professor Mark Bevir of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the most influential proponents of interpretive political science, and Academy Professor Pertti Alasuutari, the most highly cited sociologist in Finland.

The more than 300-page monograph Introducing Relational Political Analysis: Political Semiotics as a Theory and Method, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is a part of the project led by Peeter Selg “PUT1485 A Relational Approach to Governing Wicked Problems”. The project is funded by Estonian Research Council.   

Further information:
Peeter Selg, Professor of Political Theory, Tallinn University, +372 619 9586, 
Andreas Ventsel, Senior Research Fellow in Semiotics, University of Tartu, +372 737 5314,

Sandra Sommer Press Advisor Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820