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Research Field 1: Institutionalization, De-Institutionalization, Re-Institutionalization

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Within this research field , the IOS investigates the goals, characteristics, functions, and effects of processes of institutionalization, de-institutionalization, and re-institutionalization in Eastern and Southeast Europe in the long term. The research in this area is based on a broad understanding of institutions as formal and informal frameworks and regulatory systems for social, political, and economic action. In this context, institutions can also take on the role of actors themselves. Based on this concept of institutions, the study of processes of institutionalization, which vary over time, opens up numerous possibilities for the analysis of social and political stability and ruptures in Eastern and Southeast Europe, both in the past and in the present. It also enables the analysis of the cultural factors influencing the validity of institutions.

This research field aims to make use of the analytical relevance of institutions and processes of institutionalization, de-institutionalization, and re-institutionalization in various academic disciplines (History, Political Sciences, Economics, and others) for the multi and interdisciplinary study of Eastern and Southeast Europe at the IOS. The conceptual triad places the analytical focus of the research field on the process character of the emergence, functioning, and existence of institutions, as well as their erosion and re-formation and the factors determining each of these. Thus, a perspective that combines historical and contemporary approaches is inherent in the nature of the subject matter. We are interested in both formal and informal, social and political systems of control, and their interaction.

From a historical perspective, the analytical potential of the research field lies in the fact that it opens up nuanced perspectives on the study of political ruptures, social and political stability, and the production and legitimacy of political and social orders (and their erosion) in Eastern and Southeast Europe from the early modern period to the present day. Historical research can examine the three processes of institutionalization, de-institutionalization, and re-institutionalization separately as well as in the context of their interdependence at different levels and in different domains: for example, at the level of cities, regions/provinces, the state administration, and at the supranational level, or for corporations, political parties, or social and cultural institutions. But historical research can also explore the significance of institutional (dis)continuities beyond political ruptures, as well as the mental legacies of institutions, for instance in the form of specific memory cultures. This results in diverse research perspectives for different subfields of historical research.

From the political science perspective, the topic opens up new angles on a central concept and subject of research in various subfields of the discipline, including political theory, comparative politics, and international relations. With regard to Eastern and Southeast Europe, research in political science since the end of the Cold War has focused, among other things, on institutional change and the dynamics of political cooperation and conflict at the local, domestic, regional, and international levels in various subfields, including transformation and democracy studies. In addition to the debates on the emergence, transformation, and also the collapse of institutions in these subfields, there are also comparative regional and supraregional analyses of authoritarian systems and populist challenges in Eastern and Southeast Europe. Last but not least, this research field also offers the potential to make use of the knowledge and insights relating to these complex processes of change in political institutions in intra and interregional comparison; for example, with regard to the rise of (transnational) populism.

A focus on institutionalization, de-institutionalization, and re-institutionalization allows IOS to integrate its economic research into the field of New Comparative Economics, which investigates the causes and consequences of formal and informal institutional development and variation. Within this framework, we can paint a coherent and comparative picture of the socioeconomic consequences of transformation and the subsequent (re)integration of the region into the world economy against the background of globalization, including the interdependencies and feedback on changes in economic as well as political institutions and their resulting efficiency. In particular, questions about the distinction between institutional and technological causes and consequences of the globalization of production can be analyzed against the background of their historical contexts.

Historical, economic, and political science perspectives on processes of institutionalization, de-institutionalization, and re-institutionalization in Eastern and Southeast Europe thus provide an opportunity for novel, consolidated, multidisciplinary and comparative research of such processes at the IOS. The research field also offers other academic disciplines a wide range of opportunities for connection and exchange as well as closer cooperation with subareas of the Leibniz ScienceCampus “Europe and America in the Modern World. Transformations and Frictions of Globality and Present,” thus paving the way for a comparative and interconnected understanding of area studies.

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