Current Research Projects

Decentralization in the Arab World: Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan from a comparative perspective


Since the early 1990s we have been witnessing the emergence of government-led decentralization strategies in the Arab world, which vary considerably with regard to timing, depth, success, reach and results. Despite these empirical findings, the scholarly literature remains vague when discussing causes and consequences of governments’ decisions to further decentralize the body politic.

This is the point of departure of our research project. It focuses on experiences with strategies of administrative decentralization. Our research is embedded in the generally accepted finding of a persistence of neopatrimonial networks of patronage and clientelism in the region. We assume that policies of decentralization are guided, inspired and instrumentalized by clear-cut identifiable personal networks. They interlock the central, regional and local levels of government. The emergence and the function of decentralization processes are hence more than only the result of modifications within the constitutional architecture. The reason for political change by decentralization is a re-configuration of neopatrimonial networks, which causes a modified territorialization of power whenever the central government transfers competences down to the regions. In our project we ask, to what extent and with which social and political consequences decentralization processes shape governability in the four countries under study, and how these processes produce legitimacy beyond the traditional aim of regime survival through institutional reform. In order to investigate the consequences of decentralization for governability we use as indicator and analytical tool the governance of budgets and financial transfers to the subnational level.

Our country sample comprises Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. These cases were selected because they vary significantly with regard to forms, functions and consequences of decentralization, but are at the same time structurally very similar (tradition of centralized statehood, similar pathways of state-building and persistence of neopatrimonial networks). Our project will provide a conceptual and empirical contribution to the still fairly underresearched questions of decentralization and its consequences in the Arab world. We aim at the identification of a middle range theoretical approach that allows us to tease out the inner logic of decentralization policies in the Arab world and which locates our research results in the existing literature of comparative research on the workings of statehood.


Funded by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (German Research Foundation)

Duration: 2017 – 2020 (project start date: 1 August 2017)
Grant:  EUR 450,000
Project team: Prof. Dr. Thomas DemmelhuberProf. Dr. Roland Sturm, Erik Vollmann, M.A., Miriam Bohn, M.A., Katharina Griethe

Party Politics in the German Bundesrat. Voting behaviour in the Bundesrat Committees


The party politicization of the Bundesrat, which is evident in the voting behaviour of the representatives of the Länder, and in the consequential down-grading of interests of individual Länder, though not intended by the founders of the Basic Law (Lehmbruch hypothesis), is an important topic of research on the political institutions of the Federal Republic. So far, however, it has remained difficult to pinpoint the exact degree of the dominance of party politics. The protocol of the plenary sessions of the Bundesrat does not register individual votes of the Länder. To test the degree of party politicization, research relied on data based on the party political composition of Land governments, and indirect evidence, such as the role of the reconciliation committee (Vermittlungsausschuss), statistical estimates, or case studies, and anecdotal evidence. Insights won in this way remain, however, remote from the locus of decision-making, the plenary sessions and the Bundesrat committees. The aim of the project is to bridge this gap by concentrating on the voting behaviour in the Bundesrat committees. Our analysis will be based on committee protocols accessible to the public. We focus on three periods, the 1950s, the 1970s, and the 2000 years. This allows us an in depth and at the same time panoramic view of party political influence on Bundesrat decisions. We test the results in a limited way for robustness by comparisons with the few cases where we know, how the Länder voted individually in the Bundesrat. We will also do some case studies and interviews for clarification.

Supported by: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Time frame: 2017 – 2019
Funding amount:  € 242.900
Project team: Prof. Dr. Roland Sturm, Hon.-Prof. Dr. Markus M. Müller, Patrick Finke, M.A., Antonios Souris, M.A., Richard Zensen

The Cultural Political Economy of Austerity in Germany and the United Kingdom in the Long Era of Neoliberalism.


Austerity is hotly debated topic within the social sciences. It cannot be reduced to spending cuts, but has to be understood as a complex social phenomenon with consequences for mental health and well-being, social equality, politics and everyday life. Some observers therefore, speak of an “age of austerity”. Although the relevance of austerity is without doubt, the understandings of this phenomenon diverge dramatically. Whereas supports argue that austerity is a rational recipe for indebted societies back to fiscal sustainability and economic growth, critics see in austerity a dangerous neoliberal idea that threatens human growth. As social reality is always mediated, media play a central role within the struggle between different evaluations and constructions of austerity. Not only language, but also images play an important role within this genre. But despite radical social constructivists assertions an analysis of austerity cannot be reduced to the form of texts and images alone. On the contrary, we have to think about the role of material conditions as well because they to a large extent help us to understand the forces behind semiotic forms. The philosophical underlabourer of Critical Realism in general of the Cultural Political Economy (CPE) approach in particular try to decode this relationship between semiotic forms and material forces that is also prominently discussed these days under the heading of “new materialism”. By incorporating the material social psychology of Erich Fromm as well as the work on multimodality from a theoretical and a methodological perspective, CPE shall be developed further so that an elaborated corpus assisted critical realist discourse analysis enables a deeper understanding of austerity in the United Kingdom and Germany during the era of neoliberalism.

Supported by: Emerging Talents Initiative (ETI)UniversitätsbundVisiting Professorship Programme, Innovationsfonds Lehre

Time frame: 2017-2018

Funding amount:  € 34.248

Project team: Dr. Tim GriebelProf. Dr. Stefan Evert, Fabian Fischer, Rebecca Henle, Sophie Marie Himmler, Karolina Kohl