Commenting on the landslide victory of the SPD in Saarland

The social democrats have won a landslide in the state of Saarland. For the TV station “Saarländischer Rundfunk”, part of the ARD consortium, Georg Wenzelburger has been invited as expert to comment on the outcomes on election evening. The interviews can be watched in the ARD Mediathek (see the links below).

Visiting fellow Dr. Carola Fricke in Kaiserslautern

Dr. Carola Fricke

From 21 to 23 March, we welcomed Dr. Carola Fricke from Freiburg University as visiting fellow in Kaiserslautern as part of the project Linking Borderlands. Carola Fricke has studied political science, geography and public law and has published her dissertation on the European dimension of metropolitan policies. Since then, she conducted research on topics related to cross-border cooperation, policy learning and regional planning, among others.

With her interdisciplinary background, she could offer a distinctive perspective that was particularly helpful for our subproject Policy Borderlands which is concerned with policy learning in cross-border regions. Carola Fricke offered valuable insights on theoretical as well as empirical questions which we are currently concerned with in the project. Among others, we discussed an analytical framework on policy learning in cross-border contexts that we developed in the course of 2021 and that will be published in 2022. We also spoke about methodological approaches to trace policy learning and explored the possibilities of methods such as focus groups and planning games. Carola’s stay was completed by a meeting with Benjamin Blaser und Nino Pfundstein, both researchers at the department of spatial and environmental planning from TU Kaiserslautern who work in the subproject Planning Borderlands. Carola’s multi-disciplinary perspective has helped to further pursue intersections between the two subprojects which we are looking to expand in the upcoming months.

Stefanie Thurm

New Volume on the Middle East Co-Edited by Hakan Akbulut

A new volume titled “Umbruch, Zerfall und Restauration − Der Nahe Osten im Spannungsfeld regionaler Akteure und externer Mächte” jointly edited by Hakan Akbulut, Steffen Hagemann and Anja Opitz appeared with Nomos in February 2022. The volume examines the causes, the current state and prospects of upheavals and changes in the MENA region in the past 10 years focusing on the objectives and strategies of selected actors from the region (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel) as well as of external powers (USA, EU, Russia, Turkey), while Syria and Iran represent cross-cutting issues. The focus is on uncovering the interplay of internal and external factors of influence. The contributions show, on the one hand, how external factors affect both the region and individual states while domestic factors, on the other hand, impact regional and global networks of relationships and developments.

Hakan Akbulut contributed two chapters to the volume. In his first article, he explores why former US President Donald J. Trump (along with Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen as well as the former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, among others) rejected the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, what the declared objectives of the “strategy of maximum pressure” were, how this strategy was implemented and which results it produced both in terms of Iran’s nuclear capabilities as well as pertaining to regional security and stability. In his second contribution, Hakan Akbulut shows how the war in Syria has been adversely affecting the relationship between the two NATO allies Turkey and the United States. While arguing that relations between Turkey and the United States have usually been volatile and thus seldom free of friction, he makes the case for considering the peculiarities of the Syrian case in order to understand the downturn in relations in recent years and the severity of the current crisis. He shows how diverging threat perceptions and priorities moved the two NATO countries toward partnering with different actors afield viewed as posing a threat by the respective other party.

The volume is available at Nomos’ eLibrary.

For the table of contents, click here, please! You can download the flyer here!

Workshop on network analysis by Professor Volker Schneider

On Friday, 03 December, we had the opportunity to learn about the theory and methods of social network analysis from Professor Volker Schneider, University of Konstanz. Volker Schneider is a known expert of network analysis and has contributed strongly to the development of the field as well as published a large array of works in this area. The workshop was organized jointly with the TUK Nachwuchsring, an organization that supports young scientists from TU Kaiserslautern.

In the first half of the workshop, Volker Schneider spoke about the theoretical and conceptual background of social and policy network analysis. Afterwards, the participants had the chance to apply the learned knowledge by creating data matrices and network diagrams, using the software Visone. In the upcoming second part of the workshop which will take place in January, we are going to learn about further applications of network analysis, including the analysis and visualization of two-mode networks.

Stefanie Thurm

Prof. Dr. Peter Starke talks about diffusion mechanisms at TUK

As part of the project “Linking Borderlands”, Prof. Dr. Peter Starke who teaches at the University of Southern Denmark held a presentation on diffusion mechanisms at TU Kaiserslautern. Participants were able to join in presence as well as on Zoom on Friday, October 15th.

Diffusion research focuses on how and why policies spread between states, regions, and cities. In doing so, researchers differentiate mainly between the mechanisms learning, emulation and competition. For example, a state can be interested in solving domestic problems by looking for solutions abroad, thus learning from others. However, states can also be inclined to engage in competition with others, for example by adjusting their tax levels. While theoretically, this distinction is shared by most researchers, the operationalization proves difficult: Looking at past studies, different mechanisms are often measured with the same indicators, while different indicators are used to measure the same mechanism. For example, geographical proximity and structural similarity have been used as indicators for all three mechanisms.

Hence, Peter Starke proposes a different strategy by employing the mechanistic philosophy of science by Machamer, Darden and Craver. In this perspective, causality is no longer operationalized by a set of independent and dependent variables but in a more organic way. The focus here lies on ‘causally productive’ entities and activities which lead to a certain outcome. Empirically, this implies a shift towards paying closer attention to the actions of actors which engage in policy diffusion processes. One possible strategy lies in using text analytical methods to extract those activities – are political actors drawing lessons, observing, and learning or are they improving a country’s international position, developing an advantage, and competing?

While research is only just now starting to think about such alternative ways to classify and measure diffusion mechanisms, it surely is a promising start to exit the methodological impasse it has entered long ago.

Stefanie Thurm

John Peterson Best Paper Award


We are happy to announce that the article “Bomb or Build – How party ideologies affect foreign aid and defence spending”, published last year in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations has earned the John Peterson Best Article Award for the best article published in BJPIR in 2020. The paper has been written jointly by Georg Wenzelburger and Florian Böller, our colleague from the TUK political science department. To read the paper, just click here.

Georg Wenzelburger

New article explains the introduction and termination of algorithm-based university admission in France

In their newest article published in the journal Policy Studies, Georg Wenzelburger and Kathrin Hartmann analyze why an algorithm-based university admission system in France, Admission Post Bac (APB), was introduced in 2008 but already has been abolished ten years later without having a proper alternative at hand. In order to study both, the rise and the fall of APB, they combine the theoretical assumptions of the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) with the literature on policy formation.

The base of the empirical analysis is formed by the use of process tracing, developing an “event history map” (see figure below) in order to connect empirical evidence from the case study with the theoretical assumptions. The empirical evidence in this case was delivered through primary documents (official ministerial reports, different publications of auditing boards and parliamentary documents), confidential documents and the conduction of ten semi-structured expert interviews with actors being involved in the policy process.

The results of the analysis show that the problem stream and the political stream were ripe and facilitated policy change in both cases, a policy entrepreneur coupling a policy solution with the open window could only be found for the introduction of APB. Termination was instead characterized mainly by enormous problem pressure.

These findings do not only contribute to the theoretical refinement of the MSF but also to the scarce empirical literature on political dynamics in the field of algorithmic governance.

Kathrin Hartmann