Research Group Democracy and Statehood

The research group is engaged in developing new perspectives on the relationship between democracy and statehood in Europe. We are utilizing approaches grounded in historical, sociological, and political theory to conduct comparative studies of regions in Europe, particularly its southern periphery, and to reconsider old questions. Which forms of democracy have been historically successful in Europe? Which model of statehood has established itself with these democracies? What is the relationship between democracy and statehood, and what is the role of notions of nation and the market economy in this relationship? How do different models of democracy and statehood interact in the supranational European context?

Theoretically and methodologically, work at the Institute is open to a broad range of standpoints. In current projects, we are investigating the effects of tax collection and tax regimes on state legitimation from the perspective of the sociology of domination; with a view to corporatist traditions, we are scrutinizing the idea of a positive connection between market economy and democracy; we are examining path dependencies based on the history of ideas about the rule of law in Europe; and we are probing the influence of changing body regimes on the emergence of democratic imaginations and practices. The main focus of work is on the twentieth century but developments in the nineteenth century, as a key period in the formation of national statehood, are also addressed.

In these discussions about Europe, the state plays a decisive role as a collective term for modes of the political self-conditioning of society. In the context of current crises in the eurozone and the European Union, the national state has again emerged as an important site of political intervention, despite forecasts to the contrary. But this context has also highlighted the desiderata of political analysis and historical research focusing on the state. Precisely these debates on Europe’s political crises show that the question of democratic legitimacy and the possibly threatened scope of options for actual self-government cannot be addressed in an abstract way. The old categories of domination, legitimation, and statehood remain central here, because they lead to the core of fundamental questions: whether and how political representation is possible in modern societies, whether there have been crucial changes in representation in recent times, and which twists and turns may be expected in the future.

Our research group’s analyses aim to renegotiate the relationship between statehood and democracy in specific contexts. The comparative study of different regions over the course of two centuries heightens awareness of diverse national traditions with respect to the state and the legal system and the ability to recognize historically evolved and variable interrelationships between economics and politics. What emerges in the course of this work is a complex picture of democratic practices and legitimatory strategies. Such an approach establishes a more stable base for increasingly heated public debate on purported “Sonderwege” and “failures” in some regions of Europe. With our work, we thus contribute to opening up a space for debate informed by history and sociology on the context in which European politics emerged and the conditions that will permit its continued existence.


Members of the Research Group Democracy and Statehood

Lars Döpking M.A.

Taxes, Democracy and Statehood. EA Case Study on the Transformation of Italy's Tax Regime

Prof. Dr. Philipp Müller

Margins of Democracy. Coordinated Capitalism in Western and Southern Europe


Pablo Schmelzer

In the Name of the People. Right-wing violence and discourses of a threatened order in Germany between 1970 and 1993