News from Project B01

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
In an interview Johanna Kuhlmann, who moved from TU Braunschweig to the CRC 1342, explains why social policy combines the small things with the big picture and why it appeals to her to discover something new in the familiar.

You're a political scientist. When did you know this was the right job for you?

At least not when I started studying. I studied political science and German language and literature and at the beginning I had no concrete idea of what I wanted to become. Journalism was an idea, but that was very vague. I then did several internships related to political science and German literature.

What exactly?

I have worked in a ministry and with a member of the Bundestag, but also in a literature research institute. I knew I wanted to work in political science when I had my first job as a student assistant at university.

That was still in Münster, right?

Yes, I really liked that, because my professor at the time directly involved the student assistants in his research. I was involved in many discussions and could participate in research. I quickly got a comprehensive insight. So I thought: This mitght be it.

What are you interested in social policy?

When I started studying social policy, I was particularly interested in strategic aspects, specifically: Why do political actors cut social benefits that are essential for many people voting fir them? That was a few years after the Agenda 2010 reforms. My dissertation then focused more on the content dimension of social policy, i.e. how exactly does the provision of social policy services actually change? And how can this be explained - beyond strategic aspects? Even if social policy is incredibly small-scale and one can deal for a long time with paragraphs of individual social laws: Changes in social policy always make statements about the basic principles of social coexistence and about the question of what role the state is prepared to take in providing welfare for citizens.

Why did you swap your post-doc position in Braunschweig for your new position in the CRC?

Because I was very interested in the conceptual design of the CRC as a whole and the project in which I am now working. The project aims to bundle the results of the other case study centred projects and to explain the causal mechanisms that lead to the dissemination of social policy. In this way, an independent theoretical contribution is to be made. That's what attracted me. I am not a pure theorist and have also worked empirically during my doctoral thesis. But I do have a "weakness" for theoretical questions. I have also focused on European welfare states so far. One starting point of the CRC is: We know a great deal about OECD welfare systems, but far less about other welfare systems. That's a lot like me.

And you didn't find that discouraging, but appealing?

Absolutely. That's what scientific work is all about, namely uncovering blind spots. I am familiar with the fundamental debates and theoretical points of reference of the CRC, which will initially be the focus of my work in the project. But the social policies of many non-OECD countries, especially in detail, are new territory for me. Because in our project, which has no empirical element of its own, we will look a lot into the other projects, I expect a lot from it.


Contact:
Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574
E-Mail: johanna.kuhlmann@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier and Dr. Dieter Wolf
Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier and Dr. Dieter Wolf
Sven Beckert's work on the history of the global cotton trade inspires Frank Nullmeier to reflect on future social policy research.

As part of the lecture series "Global Cotton. One University - one Book - one City" Frank Nullmeier and Dieter Wolf presented their thoughts on what social policy research can learn from Sven Beckert's book "Empire of Cotton".

Based on years of research, historian Beckert tells the story of global capitalism using one product as an example: cotton. Through production, processing and trade, the natural fibre has linked the most diverse regions of the world.

After Dieter Wolf had discussed two of Beckert's key points (1, "The triangular trade between Europe, Africa and Latin America was based on violence and a manifestation of war capitalism" and 2, "The British banned slavery when industrial production based on wage labour became more profitable than the old model"), Frank Nullmeier raised the question of what modern social policy research can learn from Sven Beckert's approach and methodology. Nullmeier named three main points:

1) Transnationality. National historiography is no longer sufficient to explain the dynamics of social policy decisions. Due to the integration into the global economic and financial system, the effects of migration and global communication systems, decisions on social policy no longer result solely from national factors. Social policy research must therefore be expanded into a history of transnational links across continents, similar to Beckert's history of cotton cultivation and trade and its effects.

2) Political economy. Beckert did not see global cotton trade purely as a result of the interplay between supply and demand. It results (to this day) to a considerable extent from the balance of power and violence between the participating countries and empires. The same applies to social policy: the economy as a central influencing factor cannot be adequately explained without the political sphere, including the balance of law, regulations, power and violence.

3) Analysis of causal chains: In his book, Beckert uses many examples to show how an entire cascade of events and reactions to them had many different effects in different places around the world. Social policy research should also pursue such long causal chains and reconstruct complex causal networks in order to understand the emergence and change of social policies.

The lecture series "Global Cotton. One university - one book - one city" runs until the end of the year.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58576
E-Mail: frank.nullmeier@uni-bremen.de