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Completed research programsCivil Society and Transnational Networks

Completed research programs

Research Unit
Civil Society and Transnational Networks

The research unit was closed on 30th. September 2005

Focus of Research

The Unit studies the dynamics and performance of non-governmental, cooperative procedures of political governance, and conflict resolution. Such procedures can be interpreted as a reaction to the limited efficiency of governmental regulation, which is possibly diminishing even further in the face of growing globalization. Civil society actors and networks play an important role in these procedures. They seek to resolve problems of social integration and coordination through societal self-organization without relying on market processes. How and under which conditions does such "governance without government" function and what can it achieve?

The research program of the Unit focuses on procedural aspects, generally dealing, with procedures operating in transnational contexts. It investigates both the internal structures of procedures (types of communication and cooperation) and their governance performance. Four areas are currently under investigation.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang van den Daele



1. Conflict Management in the Global Intellectual Property Regime
This project deals with a dialogue procedure organized by the project group and the World Business Council, where internationally operating firms and non-governmental organizations discuss controversial issues of intellectual property in terms of utilizing modern biotechnology. The researchers, on the one hand, address the discursive dynamics of the procedure, asking how value conflicts are framed/rationalized under the pressure of argumentation. What types of cooperation are accepted by conflicting parties who tend to rely on mobilization and confrontation in public arenas? On the other hand, they investigate the policies pertaining to these procedures (what kind of flexibility - and what limitations to flexibility - do conflicting parties see in bio-patents? What degree of politicization/moralization of economic strategies do global players accept in the pharma field?).


2. Environmental Cooperation - Civil Society Problem-Solving Strategies in Sustainability Policy
This project examines the performance and limitations of civil society arrangements in environmental and sustainability policy. The focus is on transnational negotiating systems (stakeholder procedures) where, by bypassing the government level, solutions are sought between business companies and non-governmental organizations for environmental problems that are of transnational or global importance. Examples of such environmental cooperation can be found in the Mining and Minerals Sustainable Development Project of the World Business Council or in the projects by the World Commission on Dams. In all of these cases, massive political and economic interests are at stake and actors with strongly divergent value systems and preferences conflict one another. Considerable power asymmetries between parties exist, and, generally speaking, solutions to problems not entailing redistributive effects are not reached.

The analysis of such intricate cases is particularly appropriate in determining the potential of civil society for transnational governance and in assessing its performance in comparison to governmental capabilities for problem-solving (including international regimes). The project will investigate not only the problem-solving discourse between those involved in negotiating systems, but also will investigate the impact of the solutions reached "on the spot," namely in the implementation phase.


3. Interactional Structures and Effects of Discourses in the Internet.
The subjects of interest in this project area are the processes and effects of Internet-based public discourses. The use of the Internet in the context of discourse procedures is increasingly becoming a routine; it has proven to be indispensable in transnational interactions. The project concentrates on moderated procedures, focusing in particular on applications of a software program developed specifically for "online mediation." The project team collaborates with computer scientists from the Frauenhofergesellschaft (Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems and Focus Institute), who deal with the further development of software and e-government.

The study uses a social psychology approach. It addresses online-specific interactional dynamics and their effects. Methodologically, it draws equally on field observations (real cases of Internet-based public discourses) and experimental studies.


4. Transnational City Networks in Europe
Transnational city networks achieve new forms of political governance beyond the nation-state. The networks imply not only growth in the importance of the subnational level (regions, cities), they also affect institutional arrangements at the national, European, and international level. They exemplify the interlinkage of the local and global levels of governance ("glocal governance").

The aim of the project is to study the effectiveness of "glocal governance" and show how it relates to governance at the national and the European level. To this end, four transnational networks relevant for sustainability policy in Europe are being compared systematically: Eurocities, Union of the Baltic Cities, the Climate Alliance, and the community network "Alliance in the Alps." Research examines both the "internal governance" and the "foreign policy" of the networks. Why have the networks developed? What competitive and/or cooperative relations exist between them? What is their relationship to national and European institutions? Do individual countries and the EU act as network creators?


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Last change: 2005-03-22 13:35