In Memoriam, Dr. Sabina Avdagic

The current and previous coordinators of the SASE Network on Industrial Relations and Welfare were profoundly shocked to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of our dear friend and esteemed colleague, Sabina Avdagic. 

Sabina, a Reader in Political Economy at the University of Sussex, was an eminent scholar in the field of comparative political economy and an active member of SASE, having coordinated the network since its inception. As a kind, thorough, and versatile scholar, her absence will be deeply felt by us all, and her passing represents a huge loss to the discipline of political economy.

Sabina’s wide-ranging research interests and contributions encompassed labor relations, labor market institutions, trade-union-party relations, the political economy of Central and Eastern Europe, social pacts and social dialogue, the welfare state and immigration, and more recently, the role of media framing in welfare and political attitudes. A thorough and innovative scholar, she specialized in labor politics and employed a remarkable variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze the governance of labor markets and welfare institutions.

Sabina completed her BA in Economics at the University of Zagreb before pursuing an MA and PhD at Central European University in Budapest. Her PhD, defended in 2003, examined the trajectories of labor incorporation in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Sabina’s thesis, later presented in an article in the Socio-Economic Review, advanced our understanding of institutional change and highlighted the role of government-union ties in shaping post-communist pathways. 

Building on this foundation, Sabina’s research expanded to include the determinants of social pacts and the resurgence of tripartism in Europe in the 1990s and 2000s. While much research in this area focused on specific cases and employed case studies, Sabina, alongside Martin Rhodes and Jelle Visser, was among the few to systematically identify determinants across many countries and over time, using innovative methods. This effort culminated in a landmark book, “Social Pacts in Europe,” published by Oxford University Press in 2011 (edited with Rhodes and Visser) and a highly cited article in Comparative Political Studies. The article used qualitative-comparative analysis (QCA) to unravel the determinants of social pacts in Europe, focusing on the interplay between government weakness and labor market institutions.

Later, Sabina concentrated on the impact of labor market institutions on economic outcomes, particularly employment protection legislation. In her articles in the British Journal of Industrial Relations and Socio-Economic Review (with P. Salardi), she notably demonstrated that government efforts to deregulate the labor market by loosening hire-and-fire legislation had little to no clear effect on (youth) unemployment, and that the deregulatory agenda pursued by many governments and international institutions at the time was based on a shaky empirical foundation. More recently, Sabina turned her attention to the role of perceptions and framing in political economy, especially in the relationship between immigration and support for redistribution. Her groundbreaking article in the British Journal of Political Science, co-authored with Lee Savage and based on an impressive survey of 9,000 respondents in the UK, Germany, and Sweden, found that while negative frames about immigration significantly and negatively affected support for welfare, positive frames had no notable positive impact. 

Throughout her career, Sabina not only greatly enriched our understanding of modern capitalism but also demonstrated how to successfully employ a broad range of methods, from comparative-historical qualitative case studies to time-series cross-section analysis, to qualitative-comparative analysis, to survey experiments. Achieving this level of methodological diversity is exceedingly rare.

Sabina was a highly esteemed scholar with an international career. While she joined the University of Sussex in 2006 and remained there throughout, she also held prestigious research positions at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, the European University Institute in Florence, the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst, and a DAAD visiting professorship at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences. She played a variety of leadership roles within SASE and was a pillar of our network, deeply engaged in organizing the annual conference, selecting panels, and roundtables. She was extremely supportive of early stage scholars and always willing to support and give to others. The vibrant community of political economists within SASE owes much to Sabina.

She will be remembered as a person who was full of generosity, integrity, loyalty and kindness. We will miss her immensely. Our deepest sympathies go to her family, her partner Uli, and daughters during this difficult time.

Current and former coordinators of Network E (Comparative Capitalisms)

Chiara Benassi, Aidan Regan, Alexandre Afonso, Lucio Baccaro