Research



For more information on each project, please click on the project in the right  colum

"Welfare state politics under pressure: Identifying priorities, trade-offs and reform opportunities among citizens, political and economic elites"
ERC Starting Grand, 1,47 Mio Euros, PI

In times of austerity, the politics of the welfare state involve tough choices and even trade-offs: whose risks should benefit from social solidarity in a context of shrinking resources? Should the welfare state prioritize the needs of the elderly or those of the young? Those of people in the workforce or outside of the workforce? Of natives or of immigrants? How countries answer these key questions depends on the welfare state priorities of citizens, political elites and economic elites. However, we know still very little about these priorities and their determinants, and we know even less about the mechanisms that foster support for social solidarity – i.e. support for inclusive social security beyond self-interest. This project wants to make use of recent methodological advances to investigate precisely these priorities and mechanisms.

The project will have two phases: the goal of the first phase is to identify the most salient distributive conflicts and welfare trade-offs in eight European countries. It includes an original data collection on social policy priorities among citizens, politicians, employers and trade unions (based on conjoint survey and interviews), as well as content analysis of the actual welfare politics in these countries.The second phase builds on the findings of the first phase, but its objective is to go beyond conflict, towards coalitions. It will again combine conjoint surveys and content analysis to identify the factors that foster support for social policies among those social groups who are unlikely to benefit directly from these policies.The project is supposed to break new theoretical and methodological ground in comparative welfare state research. It conceptualizes and studies both the trade-offs and the potentials for coalitions, which will determine the fate of the European welfare state in the 21st century.



"Hard Choices. Preferences, trade-offs and reform opportunities in multidimensional welfare politics"
SNF Grant100017_159341; 348'553.-CHF, main applicant
Under what conditions can welfare states be reformed? More specifically: how can established social policy programmes be adapted to changing demographic, economic and social constraints? These are the key questions in today’s welfare state politics, and they have consequently become the key questions in political science research on the welfare state. In this research project, we make use of the exceptional conjunction of theoretical advances in the relevant literature, methodological innovation in public opinion research and the unfolding of the most ambitious and encompassing pension reform in Switzerland in decades to provide answers to precisely these questions
With regard to the literature on welfare state reforms, one of the key insights of research over the past decade has been that welfare politics are multidimensional. This means that individuals are not just “in favor or against social policy”, but they hold specific preferences for different aspects of social policy. One major difficulty - for researchers as well as policy-makers - is, however, that the relative importance that individuals or social groups attribute to these different dimensions is almost impossible to observe reliably in standard survey analysis. Conjoint analysis is an experimental survey method that allows to measure whether changes in the composition of a reform package lead to sizeable shifts in support among the public as a whole, or among specific groups. The current Swiss pension reform (“Altersvorsorge 2020”) is an ambitious attempt at reforming the entire system of old age income protection. It therefore provides the perfect opportunity to combine the insights in welfare state theory regarding multidimensionality with conjoint analysis. We conduct a panel study that goes along with the political reform process.


Crisis of democracy? Party politics and representation in times of austerity (with Denise Traber)
SNF Grant 100018_153140; 2014-2017; 176'717.-CHF, main applicant
The proposed research project analyses the European parties’ policy strategies during the recent economic crisis. The current crisis puts into question whether political parties are still able to provide voters with meaningful democratic choices. This research project will first investigate whether we find convergence or polarisation of the parties’ policy offerings with regard to macroeconomic policy, and second analyse the parties’ responsiveness to their voters’ demands. More specifically, we propose to study two aspects of parties’ policy strategies: the issues they emphasise and their macroeconomic policy positions shortly before and during the crisis. The research draws on a variety of different data sources from 25 European countries in the time period between 2005 and 2012.


Years of Turmoil. The Political Consequences of the Financial and Economic Crisis in Europe (with Dr. Bruno Wüest and Thomas Kurer)
SNF Grant 100017_146104; 2013-2017; 246'958.-CHF, main applicant
 This project is concerned with the political reactions of European citizens to the financial disaster and its harsh economic consequences that hit them since the late 2008. Starting from a political economy perspective, we ask how European citizens react towards the crisis and what implications these individual reactions have for the variation of protests at the societal level. By integrating previously separate research on social movements, economic voting and social risks,we offer an encompassing analytical argument to explain the variation in protest reactions across Europe.
 
Modernizing post-industrial care policies: conflict lines and coalitional dynamics (2012 -)
in this project, I investigate the coalitional dynamics and politics of family policy reform in continental Europe. This is a follow-up project on my book on pensions and develops this approach for family policy, as a typical "social investment" policy field. On this topic, I currently work with Christine Zollinger.
 
Apart from these major projects, I pursue a range of collaborative publication projects on social investment politics (with Bruno Palier) and dualization (with Achim Kemmerling and David Rueda).
 
More generally, my research interests lie at the intersection of comparative politics, comparative public policy and comparative political economy. I have worked extensively on the dynamics of welfare state reform and institutional change over the past few years. Previously, I have also done research on Europeanization and its impact on national politics and policy change.

 
Completed projects:

From elections to outputs: linking party system change and distributive policy change (with Dominik Geering)
SNF Grant 100018_153140; 2010-2014; 279'122.- CHF, co-applicant with Hanspeter Kriesi
This project dealt with the electoral transformations of political parties in advanced post-industrial democracies and investigates the consequences of electoral change on distributive politics. It linked recent research on the transformation of party systems and party competition with current theory and research on institutional change. d Dominik Geering has written a PhD thesis in the context of the project.


Winners and losers in post-industrial societies: the politics of dualization (with Hanna Schwander and Thomas Kurer)
We work on the dualization of labor markets and welfare states in Western democracies. We want to know to what extent, why and with which political and electoral consequences post-industrial societies become more and more divided in insiders and outsiders. Work in this project is situated in two institutional contexts:
a) The project was linked the the EU Network of Excellence "Reconciling Work and Welfare RECWOWE". From the collaborative research in this project, we published the book "The Age of Dualization. The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies" (2012, OUP). I am a co-editor, together with Profs. Patrick Emmenegger, Bruno Palier and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser. The book shows that dualization of labor markets and societies is not a mere structural trend, but rather the result of political decisions.
b)On dualization, I also work with Hanna Schwander (University of Bremen) and Thomas Kurer (UZH), on the SNF-project "Who is in and who is out? The political representation of insiders and outsiders in Western Europe" of which I am the main applicant (2011-2013, Grant number 100017_131994; 138'800.- CHF).

Modernization in Hard Times. Post-Industrial Pension Politics in France, Germany and Switzerland (2003-2008)
This project analyzed the conditions for successful pension reforms under the constraints of austerity and post-industrialization. It was my Ph.D. research project, which is out in articles and a book.

The Politics of the New Welfare State (2009-2011)
This international book project on the reform of post-industrial welfare states was directed by Profs. Giuliano Bonoli and David Natali. I contributed a chapter on new and old social policies, which is forthcoming in a book with Oxford University Press.

Switzerland in Europe (2009-2011)
This collective research project traced the development of the Swiss political economy in a EU-perspective. It was led by Christine Trampusch and André Mach. I contributed - together with Giuliano Bonoli - a chapter on Switzerland. It was published in a book by Routledge.

A long goodbye to Bismarck? The Politics of Reform in Bismarckian welfare systems (2006-2008)
This international research project investigated the transformation of continental "Bismarckian" welfare states over the last two decades (directed by Prof. Bruno Palier, Cevipof). I contributed a chapter on Switzerland, which is forthcoming in a book with Amsterdam University Press.

Value Change in Switzerland (2007-2008)
This project investigated the dynamics of value change in Switzerland on the basis of the World Value Survey. Directed by Profs. Hanspeter Kriesi and Simon Hug. I wrote a chapter on the transformation of welfare values in post-industrial labor markets (with Stefanie Walter), which is forthcoming in a book with Lexington.

Governance of supplementary pensions in Europe GOSPE (2007-2009)
For this international research project, I did research on Swiss occupational and private pension governance (together with Giuliano Bonoli). The project was funded by the DFG and directed by Prof. Dr. Bernhard Ebbinghaus, MZES, Mannheim. The results are forthcoming with OUP. Gospe-website.

Reshaping decision-making processes under external pressure (2000-2003)
This project analyzed how Europeanization and internationalization affected power relations and decision-making processes in Switzerland and in other small open economies. The project was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and directed by Prof. Yannis Papadopoulos.