Among the most significant questions confronting the discipline of political science in the 21st century is the future of the democratic constitutional and welfare state and the future of liberal orders in the European and global context. Its claim to being the only legitimate model of political order in the modern world in the long run appeared to be strengthened by the 20th century. Many uprisings against authoritarian dictatorships have not produced consolidated democracies, however, but rather autocratic regimes. Authoritarian regimes such as China, for instance, would appear to have found the right solutions to development challenges. At any rate, a counter-model to the liberal constitutional order is emerging and increasingly gaining in attractiveness. At the dawn of the 21st century, liberal orders are not only being challenged from outside, but also internally by populist movements and parties. There is a dearth of comparative studies comparing European experience with that of other regions of the world.

The question as to how the democratic constitutional and welfare state is to meet the new challenges which it now faces or will face in the future remains unanswered. What possibilities - if not the control of social developments, then at least the possibility of influencing them - do democratic constitutional states have in the globalised world of the 21st century? How, for instance, should they deal with growing pressure from the environmental crisis and multi-layered economic and financial crises? How will they cope with the extreme acceleration as well as intensity with which the processes of social change are taking place - from dramatic demographic developments to changing value systems? And how do these processes affect the framework within which politics operate, or the ability of policy-makers to act? Equally urgent is the question as to how political systems are to cope with the waning importance of territorial borders, for example in the European Union. Simply put, how can territories without boundaries and frontiers be governed in a democratic manner? There is a paucity of studies comparing European experience with other world regions here as well. At the same time, there is a need for empirical research from a comparative perspective; the conditions upon which the legitimacy of democratic politics is founded in normative terms also need to be constantly explored and analysed in terms of political theory.

The problem of governing when borders are losing significance also indicates that domestic, foreign and international politics can hardly be separated from one another in a systematic manner in the 21st century, and that policies are increasingly shaped by transnational and non-governmental actors. The activities of international and transnational organisations have a direct impact on political developments within countries - not only in Europe, but worldwide. Vice versa, it is not possible to explain a country's foreign policy or the politics of inter- and transnational organisations without analysing domestic politics. Here as well, there is a need for comparative studies, not only with a view to European and trans-Atlantic experience, but also with respect to new emerging powers and problems relating to the Global South.

The Fritz Thyssen Foundation is interested in supporting research by political science scholars on this whole range of issues.