Around 1989/1991, the transition paradigm that forecasted Western models of state and economy becoming globally universal, proved to be mainstream among research, government and policy-making communities (Carothers 2002). Roughly 25 years later and under the impact of the Ukraine Crisis, the relevance of the once powerful paradigm has been contested. Obviously, the perception of Western democracy, welfare state models, civil society, constitutions and multilevel governance approaches across Eastern Europe varies on an imagined continuum between acceptance, assimilation and opposition (and denial), whereas various types of selective adoption lay in-between. The spreading of new ideas, institutions, policies, models, or repertoires of behaviour from their point of origin to new sites (Lauth/Pickel 2009) and Europeanisation as derivatives of broader processes of globalisation have impacted Eastern Europe – but not in the same manner, form, and with the same outcomes everywhere. Eastern European countries decide and choose actively to a certain point, but they are at the same time passively exposed to global processes. Increasing cultural, political, and social differentiation reflect the intertwining of these processes. Processes of diffusion and Europeanisation have become a challenge impacting both overall development and identities.
Democratisation has become one of the key arenas reflecting the impact and the limitations of diffusion. Many countries in Eastern Europe, particularly the ones accessing the EU have become democracies. Others have remained autocracies. Another group resembles features of hybrid regimes as a regression of once installed democratic measures. Developing new and unique features associated with »democracies with adjectives« (Collier/Levitsky 1997). A crucial question for the region’s political development is how processes of diffusion and Europeanisation influence political culture, and along with it, political systems. This question is intertwined with the effects of multi-level governance and the impact of the EU and other European and global actors in influencing policy-making on the national and subnational levels.
The emergence of new economic and welfare state models after 1989/1991 also is the result of a complex game of historic legacies, path-dependencies and external influence. Both European and Asian approaches (Chinese and to a lesser extent Malaysian and Korean) have served not exactly as blueprints, but as models in reorganising the relationship between economy and the state; and the idea of welfare after the end of state-socialism.
In the sphere of culture, religion proves as an indicator of the interplay of processes of diffusion and cultural legacies. New relationships between states and churches and politics and religion in general effect national and religious identities (Pollack et. al. 2012). Discourses on the role of religion in society and conflict as well as on secularisation resemble debates elsewhere on the globe, but at the same time, in their historical depths and meaning for the region, remain unique.
This research area will explore actors in Eastern Europe between »uniqueness« and »normality« within Europe and the globalised world, addressing the following fields:
Effects of globalisation and Europeanisation on the development of political cultures (Gert Pickel):
How do political cultures in Eastern Europe develop – and why? What opportunities do political actors on different levels have? Do specific political cultures hinder the spread of Western ideas of democracy? How strong are external influences in the process of establishing democracy? How do civil societies develop?
Effects of EU multilevel-governance on political development and policy-decisions at the national level (Miriam Hartlapp):
How do EU policies directly and indirectly shape the relationship of state and markets in Eastern Europe? What are the political conditions of re-regulating markets? What is the role of administrations, their cooperation and diffusion of their practices in implementing re-regulation across Eastern member States of the EU?
Interconnections between constitutions and political decision-making (Astrid Lorenz):
How do the national constitutional settings affect the patterns of general political decision-making and Europeanisation? Are the key conflicts concerning the type of the political system really solved? How does the low public interest in politics influence the political decision-making and maintenance or rebuilding of political institutions, e.g. in Hungary?
Development of welfare state models and their acceptance in populations in comparative perspective (Holger Lengfeld):
Which recent changes of the institutional structure and the extent of social spending in countries in Eastern Europe can be observed, and what preferences do citizens from these countries have towards their national welfare states? To what degree is the ongoing out-migration from Eastern to Western European welfare systems challenged by resistance of the resident population, and how do the EU could support intra-EU migration of the workforce from Eastern Europe without endangering the legitimacy of the free movement rule?
The role of religion in the (political) cultural debates in Eastern Europe (Gert Pickel, Alexander Yendell):
What developments of religion and in the relationships between religion and politics are there in Eastern Europe? Why are different developments of religiosity and secularisation visible? Does modernisation also lead to secularisation in the long run? Are there new forms of identity building employing religion, e.g. in the Former Yugoslavia?