These processes of change also put in question what had previously been considered self-evident truths – truths which in many disciplines had played an important role in reaching new insights. When, for instance, national economies increasingly merge with the global economy, when national law is limited and impinged upon by international law, when national states unite to form larger units and thus give up their sovereignty, then academic fields which deal with the economy, law and the state cannot remain unaffected.
In the field of support entitled “State, Economy, and Society”, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation is especially interested in supporting projects which investigate the preconditions leading to and the results arising from this process of change in modern societies. Emphasis is placed on projects which can be assigned to the fields of economics, law, politics, sociology and ethnology, but research in other areas can also be considered. The Foundation supports projects which make productive use of a variety of methods and which have a comparative orientation, as well as projects which deal with Europe or which include Europe in a more comprehensive view. Of special interest are projects which lie at the meeting point of several disciplines.
The Foundation supports projects with a clearly empirical focus as well as those with a primarily theoretical approach.
Economic outcome measures such as value added or employment figures are the reflection of countless individual decisions by a large number of actors operating in numerous realms of life. Economics has the principal tasks of revealing the conditions, impulses and mechanisms underlying these decisions and the corresponding outcome measures, and of explaining their dynamics to help design rational economic policy.
These tasks pose a considerable challenge since the circumstances in which both economic choices are taken and their analysis has to be conducted are subject to inexorable, incessant change. We are still far from completely understanding phenomena such as digitalisation and globalisation as well as their economic and societal consequences. Nevertheless, especially in the face of such major societal challenges, rational economic policy requires the guidance and support provided by scientific insight. Of particular importance are improvements in the understanding of the actual impact of economic policy and of other targeted measures.
Due to the complex interactions between variegated individual choices and other factors, the identification of causal relations is particularly challenging. Most importantly, in the social sciences empirical research on causes and effects is frequently only able to employ a non-experimental study design. State-of-the-art methods of empirical economic research, econometrics and, not least, experimental economics offer a wide spectrum of tools, however, to confront these severe identification problems.
Against this background, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation supports the analysis of economic relations that are not yet sufficiently understood as well as their consequences for the economy, society and political system. At the heart of support are empirical projects with convincing strategies for identifying causal relationships. Here, equal support is devoted to the investigation of fundamental economic questions as well as to the evaluation of specific individual measures. Crucial aspects include relevance to society and the novelty of insights generated by funded research.
Economic research frequently addresses areas which are also treated in neighbouring disciplines such as other social sciences or law. Interdisciplinary research is therefore assigned equal eligibility for support on par with distinctly economic research projects.
The field of jurisprudence is today faced with a number of barely compatible responsibilities. Classical, systematic-dogmatic work on legal texts continues to have, in the light of the flood of laws and the profusion of judgements in states where law and legal action prevail, enormous practical as well as theoretical importance. The role of law in shaping societal development is increasingly moving to the forefront, however. How can lawmakers effectively achieve their purpose? Where is there a need for regulation in the first place? To what extent are deregulation and self-regulation needed? What sanctions, within and without the legal system, are likely to be successful?
The answer to these and other questions can nowadays only be sought in theoretical terms and answered in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary discourse. Involved in this discourse are in particular the jurisprudence sciences, political science, philosophy and sociology.
At the same time, European law is gaining increasing influence in Europe’s multiple-level legal system. The European Union is a community of states, constitutional, administrative and judicial systems that is constantly reinvigorated and, indeed, must be reinvigorated by a complex interaction between various actors, associational techniques and instruments. In addition to European law, both international and transnational law, embodied in numerous agreements and in the work of international organisations of which Germany is a member, are more important than ever. The WTO, to take one example, represents an important step in the direction of a global economic order. Both developments require intensive support from the jurisprudence sciences and in particular comparative legal research.
Finally, institutions are undergoing change and transformation, not only in central and eastern European countries, but also in Germany and the western industrialised countries, and above all in the USA, hence confronting jurisprudence science with completely new challenges.
The Fritz Thyssen Foundation favours projects which go beyond classical, inner-German, systematic-dogmatic investigation; in other words, it favours projects which go beyond studies of particular laws, legal fields, disciplines or national borders. Whether such investigations deal largely with private or public law, substantive or procedural law is not important. This does not mean that only research into European law, comparative or interdisciplinary studies can be supported. Projects which undertake a functional investigation of law are given preference, however: the Foundation would like to make a contribution to the investigation of law in modern, industrial societies – societies linked in manifold ways to a host of other countries.
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.
From its very beginnings, sociology considered itself a key discipline to explore the modern industrial society. The changes in society have therefore been a special challenge for this discipline. In the present period of radical change, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation would in particular like to support research projects in the social sciences which treat the theme of the transition from an industrial society to a ‚knowledge society‘ and which throw light on the future development of Western societies in the global context. All the consequences of this transition need to be examined; not only the world of work is affected, but also, for instance, biographical careers and family structures are altered, dramatic changes in mentality occur, and new lifestyle patterns and modes of conduct appear. Investigations of new forms of earning a living and new vocational paths, as well as of changes in traditional biographic patterns, leisure-time activities, gender relations and public debates all belong to this complex. Of particular importance at present are relations between the economic, political, legal, scientific, educational, technical and cultural logics of societies, whose complexities are making them increasingly unmanageable and facing them with new challenges. For this reason, the foundation welcomes studies dealing with the shift from traditional industrial society to the knowledge society, the transformation from autarchic societies whose “reach” was subject to the constraints of the nation-state into transnational, global actors as well as the changing skillsets required to guide and shape them, in which the creation of new knowledge and its intelligent and speedy application are of the utmost importance. New ways of teaching and learning which will bring about changes in the traditional agents of socialization, from the school to the university, deserve attention; significant revisions of teaching methods and curricula are to be expected in the near future.
In the field of sociology the Fritz Thyssen Foundation gives high priority to projects which can contribute to our understanding of present-day social changes in the light of possible future developments.