The welfare societies of the Western world are faced with an increasing number of challenges. Many observers diagnose a growing number of instabilities in the institutional fabric of these societies, which is shaped by a fundamental functional antagonism between the capitalist market economy on the one hand and the welfare state on the other. The Cluster aims to work out a new empirically based theory of contemporary welfare societies. Our three-step analytical approach comprises three general research questions and spells out the corresponding theoretical concepts:
|1.||What is the nature of these institutional instabilities? Here we develop the concept of multiple pressures weighing on actors at the micro, meso, and macro level of society.|
|2.||How do actors react to these pressures? A sociological concept of coping is used to characterize these reactions.|
|3.||What kinds of effects does this coping have on the institutions of welfare societies? Here we elaborate a concept of three-level (micro, meso, and macro) constellations of coping whose dynamics stabilize or change institutional structures.|
Our approach as a whole represents a full-blown theory of social and political change in welfare societies. The theoretical and empirical challenges of our research grow as we work from the first through the third question. Correspondingly, the innovative character of our research work will increase as we successfully master each of these challenges.
With the joint work and the structural strategies of the Cluster and together with their cooperation partners, the social sciences at the University of Bremen and the University of Oldenburg aim to become part of the top tier of worldwide research institutions in the field of welfare societies.