A Jointventure of
Graduate Schools
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BIGSSS - Graduate School

Thematic Fields

Thematic Field A: Global Governance and Regional Integration

The field on global governance and regional integration addresses the relationships between political, social, legal, historical, and economic developments in the "post-national constellation", that is, after the demise of the nation state as container. It considers supranationalization (European integration) and globalization as part of "a continuum of internationalization" and studies the phenomenon of political integration, comparing processes and outcomes at different levels and in different regions. Traditional forms of intergovernmental politics are being complemented or superseded by international and supranational regulatory regimes. Private actors, such as NGOs and multinational enterprises, have also become more involved in the international sphere, generating what has become known as "transnational" governance. The result is the emergence of hybrid forms of governance that mix public, private, "hard" (legally binding) and "soft" (based on persuasion and advice) governance.

Research questions in Thematic Field A fall into three groups:

  1. The emergence of global or regional governance and the dynamics of decision-making
  2. The effectiveness of global and regional governance
  3. Conflict, contestation, and legitimacy in global and regional governance

Thematic Field B: Welfare State, Inequality, and Quality of Life

This field integrates macro, meso and micro level research, and focuses on the connection between social policies, patterns of inequality, and collective and individual well-being. Welfare state regimes are being transformed and the welfare state's central role in government has been called into question. Traditional social policies were designed to deal with social risks in an industrial society but as economies shift from manufacturing to knowledge-based, manual labor ceases to be the dominant form of employment, education moves center stage, and traditional industrial society class structures are altered. The result has been a resurgence of economic and social inequality and the emergence of new forms of insecurity in advanced industrial societies, with massive implications for collective and individual well-being.

Research questions in Thematic Field B fall into three groups:

  1. How are European welfare states being affected by globalization, Europeanization, labor market changes, labor market flexibilization, and new socio-economic and demographic patterns? What major transformations are underway? What new welfare state paradigms can we identify (e.g., activist social policy, welfare as social investment, welfare markets, recommodification, conditionality) and which policy objectives and instruments do they emphasize?
  2. What impacts have changes in social policy had on social integration and inequality affected by globalization? How have inequalities in income, health, living conditions, education and other spheres of life changed over time? Is the welfare state still able to perform its central role of alleviating inequality, poverty and deprivation? What effects does the marketization of welfare provision have on social inclusion? How does welfare-state reform affect living conditions and quality of life in different societies? And, how, in turn, do particular social groups and their preferences influence policy change?
  3. How are changing social structures and welfare state reform affecting the quality of life? Is the quality of life as determined by both objective and subjective indicators of wellbeing on the decrease among the inhabitants of OECD countries? Are low-income sectors of the population more susceptible than others so that inequities in living conditions and subjective well-being are also increasing, or are the middle classes equally affected? From a lifecourse perspective, does the traditional Ushaped curve for life satisfaction, where the youngest and the oldest are most satisfied, still hold true?

Thematic Field C: Changing Lives in Changing Socio-Cultural Contexts

This field examines the changing dynamics of individual lives against a backdrop of political and social integration, looking at the interplay of individual attitudes, capabilities, and behavior, with changing demographics, social structures, cultures, and institutions. The aim is to describe and explain how and why way of life, biographical status, and patterns of stability at different ages are being transformed and to determine the potential for individual variation, or "plasticity," in these transformations. Changes in gender relations, family dynamics, work, education, migration, and values will be considered.

The areas of concern in Field C include:

  1. How does globalization and the accordant increase in migration and contact between cultures impact individual lives and their cultural contexts? How are interactions between individuals affected? Culture plays an important role in determining an individual's self-concept, attitudes, behaviors, and values - all of which shape interactions between individuals. Likewise, culture is continuously produced and reproduced by the dynamic interaction between individuals acting within and between social and natural environments. Cognitive styles, identity (re)formation, deviant behavior, new forms of media, and religious systems all play a role here.
  2. How do the demographic trends of increasing life expectancy and low birth rates, changing labor markets, and changing social welfare regimes in modern societies affect individuals' educational and work biographies? Do changes in the structure of the labor market and work force create new opportunities for large sectors of the population? How are individuals dealing with longer lives? How is the last phase of life shaped by these demographic changes?
  3. Families are a fundamental building block of human collectives. How have families in modern societies changed? How are men and women adapting their unions and family formation strategies to the demands and opportunities in changing modern societies, with their multifarious cultural settings and institutional conditions? What are the consequences for the stability of family relationships? How does the transformation of family relationships affect, and how are they affected by changes in attitudes, gender related values, life priorities, and life plans?

Methods Center

A unique and fundamental feature of BIGSSS is the Methods Center. A broad spectrum of expertise in methods and methodology is represented here. Foci of the participating faculty from Jacobs and UB encompass fields such as non-parametric statistics and sampling strategies (Klaus Boehnke), panel and time-series analysis (Hilke Brockmann), multi-level structural equation modeling (Uwe Engel), survival analysis (Johannes Huinink), qualitative methods and triangulation (Margrit Schreier), graphical statistical analysis and data mining (Adalbert Wilhelm), qualitative and mixed methods (Özen Odag), qualitative content analysis (Andreas Witzel) and macro-quantitative and qualitative political-science methods and methodology (Bernhard Kittel, Herbert Obinger). All members of the Methods Center faculty have published extensively both methodical and substantive scientific work, documenting an emphasis on the inextricable intertwining of methods and substance in social-science research and training.