Research concept
Research programme 2011-2014
Research programme 2003-2006
Project area
  Deutsche Version  

Research concept

Since 2003 the Collaborative Research Center 597 "Transformation of the State" ("TranState") analyzes the transformation of OECD countries of the ending 20th and the beginning 21st century. The theoretical basis and standard of comparison is the democratic constitutional and intervention state (abbreviated as DCIS) of the 1960's and 1970's.

The state of this time was characterized by a high concentration of decision, organization and ultimate responsibility for providing a broad portfolio of functions with a high normative rank. The state had the monopoly on the use of force and provided legal guarantee, and it was the central legitimating authority producer of growth and welfare. To secure safety and wealth manifold tasks by intervening economical processes and supplementing public goods were undertaken by the state. Non-state actors - international organizations, private companies, national and transnational alliances - were also involved in conduction of these operations; however, the general constellation was determined by the extraordinary position of the state.

The DCIS received its special position by realizing the following four normative goods to a historically unknown extend: rule of law, democratic legitimacy, welfare, and security. Retrospectively, many consider these two decades the "Golden-Age of the State". The Collaborative Research Center (CRC) examines how statehood has changed since then (1.phase), analyses the reasons for transformational processes (2. phase) and asks for their consequences (3. phase).

In the first phase of research (2003-2006) the transformation of state was described with the help of a consistent conception. In this conception four dimensions of statehood (dimension of law, legitimacy, welfare, and resource) were distinguished with regard to the four normative goods: rule of law, democratic legitimacy, welfare, and security. In each of these categories transformational processes were analyzed along two axes: the spatial (national-international) and the modal (public-private) axis. Therefore processes of internationalization, privatization and transnationalization (as double movement on both axes) were objects of investigation.

Based on this conception results from the projects could be combined: The overall picture unfolded a diffusion of statehood (Zürn & Leibfried 2005; Leibfried & Zürn 2006a; Hurrelmann u.a. 2007, 2008). Instead of a general transfer of tasks and competencies onto the international level resp. a general trend towards privatization, research of the CRS produced a much more complex picture. Extent and direction of transformation differed extensively according to dimension, political field, and country. Partially, maintenance of status quo was observed as well. And instead of a pure deflection from the state to new ordering authorities and rulers, new international and private institutions attach to the state in the new "post national colonization" (Habermas 1998). These institutions share the responsibility for the fulfillment of official duties and the provision of normative goods with the state. Not state instances alone but increasingly social and international institutions provide legal guarantee, appear as legitimating instances, producers of welfare and, controller of force. Subsequently the tight bundling of responsibility at state level, characteristic for its golden-age, dissolves.

Nevertheless the state still has formidable discretionary competences and organizational power. Furthermore, ultimate responsibility for the provision of normative goods is still ascribed to the state: In case of critical situations - such as the international financial system threatens to collapse, the Euro starts to become weak, or rivers burst their banks due to global climate change - the state is the first addressee for help and accusations. The state is expected to help and take remedial action - no matter whether the state was causatively involved in the deficiencies and crisis. Thus, the diffusion of state does not signal the end of statehood (against such diagnosis: Evans 1997; Weiss 1998; Sørensen 2004). It rather indicates that the state is better characterized as a governance manager than as a governance monopolist (Genschel & Zangel 2008).

The diffusion described in the first phase of research was to be explained in the second phase of research (2007-2010). For this purpose the consistent explanatory concept of the CRC was complemented by a CRC-wide explanatory heuristic, which is based on differentiation between driving forces and frame-giving forces of state transformation. Driving forces are defined as secular trends, which challenge existing structures of statehood and therefore can become a cause of change. This addresses in particular economical globalization, technical progress, demographic developments, the change of values, and increasingly the shortage of natural resources. A frame-giving force addresses all those factors which give transformation its distinct imprint, steer it into a certain direction, accelerate or decelerate, or entirely impede it.

The concerted explanatory scheme facilitates the comparison of single explanations developed in the projects with regard to specific aspects of state transformation. Similarities and differences can be analyzed and integrated into a concerted explanation for the diffusion of statehood. Detailed research on the interaction between driving forces and frame-giving forces shows that transformation can neither be solely interpreted as a reaction to external shocks, nor as a pure institutional change (c.p: Mahoney & Thelen 2010). States rather effect their transformation by enhancing those forces (such as economic globalization), which question their statehood. With the power remaining they subsequently try to master, decelerate as well as alleviate the consequences of challenges following their own dynamic.

The diffusion of statehood is not merely caused by exogenous forces, quasi compelling the state to transform from the outside. Certainly the state is challenged by economic, demographic, technical and social developments, and often urged to bring change. Nevertheless, the transformation of state is co-determined by endogenous factors, i.e. actions conducted by the state. Hence the transformation of state is a combination of self-transformation and released momenta following their own dynamic. According to dimension, political field and country the effect of the frame-giving forces and among these governmental actions, are differentially shaped, which adds to the overall picture of a diffused statehood.

In the third phase (2011-2014) the impacts of state diffusion shall be empirically examined and normatively evaluated. Thereby we distinguish two types of consequences in the new constellation: outcomes and reactions.

Successful provision of normative goods was constitutional for the DCIS. In terms of outcomes we examine if and how supplementation of normative goods has changed in the new constellation. Effects on the standard, distribution and structure of goods are distinguished. The thesis to be tested is that the new constellation of statehood increases welfare and security through effectiveness and efficiency by means of privatization and internationalization. At the same time, deficits regarding the rule of law and democratic legitimacy emerge, which addresses the hypothesis of pressure to address a problem.

For analysis of the reactions to the new constellation by societal, economical and political actors we affiliate to Albert Hirschmans (1970) famous differentiation between "exit, voice and loyalty". The main focus lies on the question whether the new ordering authorities and rulers organizations in charge are being increasingly confronted with political demands, which used to be solely directed towards the nation state. This question addresses the "hypothesis of claim transfer "

The examination of outcomes and reactions leads to the question, whether the new constellation is as stable as the DCIS or whether it forms an instable transitional stage. Are there plausible reasons to assume the new constellation can exist for a longer period of time without fundamental transformation? It needs to be considered whether fractions and collisions between different levels of rule, political fields and stakeholders lead to new instabilities in the situation of diffusion, which addresses the "collision thesis".