Project B01

Mechanisms of social policy diffusion

Project B01 aims to extend the theoretical framework on the causal mechanisms underlying the dynamics of social policy. The project will ensure a comprehensive discussion of analytical propositions and theorems. From this basis it will make its own theoretical contribution to explaining the dissemination of social policy. Social policies are determined by complex causal paths of transnational interdependence and the actions of decision-relevant agents in the national political arena. In this project we will analyse more closely the causal paths that favour an expansion or restriction of social policy by identifying recurring mechanisms. In order to trace the modes of operation of the interdependencies, we distinguish between (1) perception and translation mechanisms, (2) cooperation and conflict mechanisms and (3) collective decision-making mechanisms. By alternating between empirical observation and conceptual-theoretical discussion, backed by internal workshops for Department B, empirically-supported models and theories will be developed.

In the theoretical work, we draw on concepts from political science, historical science and sociology. In addition to the debates on causal mechanisms and “process tracing”, the research literature includes works from comparative policy analysis on diffusion mechanisms, contributions from “actor-centred institutionalism”, transnational history and global history, as well as from international relations. In doing so, we want to overcome purely national analysis and thus opening up the perspective of state-internal effects of cross-border interdependencies. By consulting international experts in these fields and their participation in three conferences organised by project B01, we intend to further our internal theoretical work and create a “tool box” of possible causal mechanisms that supports empirical research of the projects of Department B. This will provide a better basis for developing a theoretically coherent and empirically saturated explanation of the spread of social policy.