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The junior research group, which is headed by Nikolas Dörr, receives over half a million euros from the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs through the Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research Network (FIS).

Over the next three years, the interdisciplinary research group will work with national and international partners to analyze the origins and development of the “activating welfare state”.

Since the 1990s, the “activating welfare state” has become the new paradigm of social policy in Germany and large parts of Europe. The public debate in Germany has focused on the reforms of the Agenda 2010 and particularly on “Hartz IV” (a reform of unemployment benefits). While the socio-economic causes of this change (especially oil crises, mass unemployment, government debt, demographic trends) have already been well researched, social and international factors have so far been largely ignored. However, focusing solely on the socioeconomic situation is not enough to comprehensively explain this transformation.

Rather than understanding the “activating welfare state” as a sum of social policy laws, the Junior Research Group will define the concept much broader as a socio-political reaction to a fundamental, long-term societal change and the transformation of international welfare paradigms since the late 1970s. The former includes, among other things, processes of individualization, pluralization (especially through migration) and the popularization of the principle of "promote and demand" (“Foerdern und Fordern”). The latter refers to the transnational reception of new welfare paradigms (Thatcherism, Workfare, “New Labour”, Flexicurity).

The junior research group consists of Wanda Schwarze-Wippern, Christof Wittmaack and Dr. Nikolas Dörr. Divided into three subprojects, the group will focus on the influence of a) international transfers of ideas and policies in the field of social policy since 1979, b) changes in attitudes towards social policy (caused, among other things, by the asylum debates since the 1980s and the different welfare state socializations in West and East Germany), and c) changes in the public and media discourse on social policy and its influence on the policy decision-making process.

Further information
Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research Network, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

Dr. Nikolas Dörr
SOCIUM - Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Strasse 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58645

Herbert Obinger Co-Editor of the New Standard Reference Work

If one is interested in comprehensive information on the history, theories and methods, details of various policies and their effects in the area of (internationally comparative) social policy research the new source to go to is the some 900 pages strong “Handbuch Sozialpolitik” edited by Herbert Obinger and the Heidelberg Emeritus Manfred G. Schmidt. The German book market offers nothing comparable. Recent surveys only deal with various parts of the subject, for example social law.

The new handbook comprises of seven parts with altogether 41 chapters written by the leading experts in the field (with different disciplinary backgrounds). Ten of the chapters come from members of SOCIUM. Part I covers the history of social policy, part II the theories explaining social policy. Part III deals with the different national welfare state systems and its typologies while part IV gives an overview on the methodologies of social policy research. Part V analyzes current challenges while part VI offers a broad overview on the various complex details of different fields of social policy. The final part VI looks at the effects of social policy.

More Information:
Obinger, Herbert/Schmidt, Manfred G. (Hrsg.) 2019: Handbuch Sozialpolitik, Wiesbaden: Springer VS

Prof. Dr. Herbert Obinger
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58567

Universities of Bremen and Zurich compare election outcomes / AfD-supporters not "victims of modernization".

Right-wing populism is on the rise. Everywhere? Until recently, the resilience of the German party system to such a party has been an exception to this general trend. The establishment of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the wake of the Eurozone crisis put an end to this German exceptionalism.

This paper tests the 'losers of modernization'-thesis, one of the most dominant explanations for right-wing populist voting, for the case of the AfD. Based on district level data from the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development and official data on electoral outcomes at the district level, we examine whether the socio-economic characteristics of a district yield any explanatory power for the AfD’s electoral success in the federal elections of 2013 and the elections to the European Parliament in 2014. With this data, we avoid problems of representativeness and reliability of survey data with respect to socio-economically marginalized groups and their voting behavior. Our findings suggest that the modernization thesis bears little relevance for the success of the populist right in Germany. By contrast, we find a strong correlation between the AfD’s electoral success in a district and the success of radical right parties in previous elections in the same district. We explain this intriguing finding with a "tradition of radical right voting" and a specific political culture on which the AfD has been able to draw once the broader political and social context allowed for the creation of a right-wing populist party in Germany.

More information:
Study: It’s not the economy, stupid! Explaining the electoral success of the German right-wing populist AfD

Prof. Dr. Philip Manow
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58580

Prof. Dr. Carina SchmittProf. Dr. Carina Schmitt
1.5 Million Euros from the European Research Council for Research on "The Legacy of Colonialism: Origins and Outcome of Social Protection".

Great news at SOCIUM: Carina Schmitt, Professor of Global Social Policy at the University of Bremen has received a prestigious award. She acquired one of the coveted ERC Starting Grants. The European Research Council (ERC) now funds her research with nearly 1.5 million Euros. Carina Schmitt explores the legacy of colonialism with regard to the origins and outcomes of social security. She examines the influence of the colonial past of former colonies on the effectiveness of social policy to combat poverty and inequality. Moreover, together with colleagues, she is building a database containing information on social policies from a global and historical perspective.

Carina Schmitt: "I am very glad about receiving this award, as it allows me to implement an exciting research project in a great research environment here at the University of Bremen. This is not to be taken for granted."

This year, the ERC Starting Grant is being awarded to 406 young top researchers across Europe. Overall, the European Research Council is supporting scientists with 605 million Euros. The funding is intended to enable the recipients to independently implement their own research ideas with their teams. For this prestigious award, 3085 proposals had been submitted.

More information: Working Group "Global Social Policy"

Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58603

International Conference, University of Bremen, September 13-15 2017

Dr. Teresa Huhle & Prof. Dr. Delia Gonzalez de Reufels, Latin American History (History Department, Faculty 8), University of Bremen, in cooperation with the SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy, University of Bremen

The conference aims to bring together an international group of junior and senior scholars from history and related fields who are working on the history of social policies and the welfare state in the Global South from a transnational, entangled or global history perspective.

Together, we would like to discuss current trends of research as well as map out open questions of the field. During the last ten years, the historiography on social policies and the welfare state has started to participate in the transnational turn. However, the exchanges of knowledge, ideas and institutions have been predominantly studied among countries and regions of the Global North, also highlighting transfers from north to south. The way European powers have intervened within their colonial domains in Africa and Asia in social policy issues can serve as an example.

We attempt to broaden these perspectives on the directions of transfer and communication. We are especially interested in research that focuses on exchanges and processes of transfer which have worked in the south-south and south-north direction. These can include questions on the effects that colonial contestations of welfare measures had on the policies in the respective ¡¥motherlands¡¦, on regional exchanges during moments of crisis (e.g. in Latin America during the Great Depression) or on how delegates from the Global South shaped the social policies of international bodies like the International Labor Organization (ILO) or the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

In this context, we consider it promising to use a broad concept of the welfare state and its policies, including not only the classical domains of labor security and public health, but also encompassing fields like nutrition, reproduction, education, recreation and other emerging research perspectives.

The integration of a cultural history perspective will further enable us to look at representations and constructions of social problems in diverse spatial configurations. We consider these as directly intertwined with the policies directed at them and want to highlight that 'welfare problems' and their underlying social and moral assumptions traveled just as much.

We are furthermore particularly interested in discussing the role of policies and welfare measures in the processes of nation building, which both on an institutional and an identity level must be conceptualized as a global phenomena and transnational endeavor. At the same time, we consider it important to look at the formation and exchange of social policy ideas and institutions beyond the national level, highlighting both exchanges on the communal and provincial level and within regional cooperation and international organizations.

In sum, we are particularly interested in case studies which fit into this general framework. We invited contributions which pay particular attention to the following methodological and thematic aspects:

  • Transnational networks and actors who promoted and conceptualized social policies and their mobility, especially beyond the realm of policy makers and experts, highlighting the role of social movements, labor unions and health activists among others

  • The development and transfer of visual and graphic depictions of social problems and social policies

  • The gendered dimensions of social policies and political demands

  • Colonial and imperial social policies and their possible afterlives during nationhood

  • Cross-border struggles for the recognition of social rights

The discussion will be stimulated by keynote lectures, including Prof. Dr. Christoph Conrad (University of Geneva).

If you wish to participate in the conference, please send in an abstract (maximum length 300 words) and a short CV by October 31st, 2016 to
Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by mid-November 2016. A small travel allowance may be granted but funds are limited.

For further information please contact:

Download: Call for Papers

Laura SeelkopfLaura Seelkopf
1.106 applications for 47 fellowships.

The European University Institute is one of the most coveted Social Science research facilities in the world; and that not only for questions of European integration or European Union politics. Rather, over the last four decades the institute developed into one of the leading centers for comparative research on societies and political systems. Not surprisingly its positions are much sought after, whether it is a job offer for a professorship or a place in a fellowship program. One of the most coveted is a fellowship in the Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies. For the eleventh cohort for the year 2016/2017 more than 1.100 applications for somewhat less than 50 scholarships arrived in Florence. And now it is official: Laura Seelkopf is one of the 47 successful postdocs who are invited for a year of exciting research in Florence starting September 2016.

The Max Weber Programme of the European University Institute is widely considered to be a renowned interim stage for excellent postdocs on their way to a professorship. Florence not only offers outstanding research facilities but also an interdisciplinary research community which allows the fellows to extend their views beyond their immediate focus of studies and to expand their academic network globally. The research project, which Laura Seelkopf will pursue in Florence, deals with the comparative political economy of national tax policies and their effects on economic inequality.

  • How can we explain the different national decisions concerning direct taxation?
  • And what effects do these different systems of direct taxation have on economic inequality?

The aim of the research is to find out under which conditions direct taxation is used to reduce economic inequalities.

Prof. Dr. Laura Seelkopf
Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
Oettingenstraße 67
80538 München
Phone: +49 89 2180-9086

Prof. Dr. Herbert ObingerProf. Dr. Herbert Obinger
Nearly one million euros for research on "Draft, Military and the Development of the Welfare State in Europe".

According to the call for applications of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG German Research Foundation) Reinhart Koselleck Grants are supposed to enable innovative and high-risk research projects. Herbert Obinger, Professor of Comparative Politics and Comparative Social Policy Research, has now received one of these prestigious grants for his innovative research. The political scientist of the University of Bremen will compare European states on the question of whether and to what extent military and compulsory military service contributed to the development of welfare states. With this grant, the University of Bremen, once again, received a prestigious award of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

The US debate on the development of welfare states already recognizes the contribution of the support for veterans as one crucial element of the development of the particular social security system of the USA. In Europe, however, industrialization, proletarianization and the rise of both trade unions and social democratic parties still dominate the debate on the development of welfare states. And this, although Europe itself was once the major location of two World Wars. The preparations for war, total mobilization, the dreadful course of the wars and their catastrophic consequences all offer multiple options for research on the question whether and to what extent military and compulsory military service interfered with the social and education policies of the European countries: demands for healthier and better educated conscripts, the attempts to prevent another "turnip winter" or the (more often than missing) support for war invalids, surviving dependents, displaced persons, slave laborers, prisoners, bombed-out inhabitants - to name just a few of all the people who were left damaged by the war as regards their lives, health or opportunities.

This Koselleck Grant focuses on two aims: On the one hand to systematize beyond the multitude of diverse individual stories the comparative influences of military and conscription on the development of European welfare states. And on the other hand to analyze to what extent military and conscription are responsible for the differences in the national education and social policies.

More information:
Reinhart Koselleck-Projects - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG German Research Foundation)

Prof. Dr. Herbert Obinger
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58567

Hannah Zagel: Understanding Differences in Labour Market Attachment of Single Mothers in Great Britain and West Germany

This paper investigates the relationships between single mothers’ demographic and socio-economic circumstances and differences in their labour market attachment in Great Britain and West Germany. Single mothers’ employment is a key issue in current policy debates in both countries, as well as in research on the major challenges of contemporary welfare states. The heterogeneity of the group of women who experience single motherhood poses a challenge to social policy. To complicate the matter, single motherhood is not static but a result of family life dynamics.

This paper provides an empirical insight into differences in labour market attachment of single mothers, investigating the demographic and socio-economic factors that distinguish careers dominated by full-time, part-time or non-employment. Women in the British and German contexts are considered in order to explore potential differences between two welfare state settings. Data from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-2008) and the German Socio-Economic Panel (1991-2008) are used for regression analysis.

The findings suggest that, in both countries, entering single motherhood at a young age is associated with longer periods of non-employment; vocational qualifications go together with careers dominated by part-time employment; and single motherhood with school-age children allows for full-time employment careers, which are also facilitated by high education attainments. The analyses also suggest that, compared to German mothers, part-time employment is a less common track for British single mothers.

Download: ZeS Working Paper 03/2015

Peter Starke: Krisen und Krisenbewältigung im deutschen Sozialstaat: Von der Ölkrise zur Finanzkrise von 2008

This working paper analyses the German social policy reactions to the 2008 Financial Crisis in light of the historical development and findings of comparative welfare state research. Four subsequent fiscal stimulus packages contained several important social policy elements, most importantly short-time work. By international standards, Germany’s social policy response to the crisis was not uncommon, given its economic performance and existing welfare state institutions. What was surprising was the important role trade unions and employers had in formulating these policies. Representatives of the German export-oriented sectors, in particular, were able to leave their mark in 2008/09.

Download: ZeS Working Paper 02/2015

Edited by Stephan Leibfried, Evelyne Huber, Matthew Lange, Jonah D. Levy, Frank Nullmeier, and John D. Stephens.

This Handbook offers a comprehensive treatment of transformations of the state, from its origins in different parts of the world and different time periods to its transformations since World War II in the advanced industrial countries, the post-Communist world, and the Global South.

Leading experts in their fields, from Europe and North America, discuss conceptualizations and theories of the state and the transformations of the state in its engagement with a changing international environment as well as with changing domestic economic, social, and political challenges. The Handbook covers different types of states in the Global South (from failed to predatory, rentier and developmental), in different kinds of advanced industrial political economies (corporatist, statist, liberal, import substitution industrialization), and in various post-Communist countries (Russia, China, successor states to the USSR, and Eastern Europe). It also addresses crucial challenges in different areas of state intervention, from security to financial regulation, migration, welfare states, democratization and quality of democracy, ethno-nationalism, and human development.

The volume makes a compelling case that far from losing its relevance in the face of globalization, the state remains a key actor in all areas of social and economic life, changing its areas of intervention, its modes of operation, and its structures in adaption to new international and domestic challenges.

Table of Contents

More information:
Oxford University Press

Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58576

Prof. Dr. Stephan Leibfried (verstorben)