Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Political Sociology and Social Policy


Final Thesis (MA/BA)

The chair supervises theses in the field of political sociology and social policy (see the chair’s subject areas). It is recommended that topic and questions should be developed and prepared in the courses taught by the chair’s team. The research topic should be agreed upon at an early stage and concretized in a short synopsis. The development of the synopsis is a condition for participation in the research colloquium. Regular participation and presentation of a research design in the research colloquium are expected.


Courses in Summer Semester 2022

530062 VS (BA) Demokratie in Zeiten von Ungleichheiten: Strukturen, Konflikte und politische Auswirkungen

Instructors: Hanna Schwander, Luke Shuttleworth

Ungleichheit ist zu einer der zentralen globalen Herausforderungen geworden. Ökonomische, geschlechtsspezifische oder ethnifizierte Ungleichheiten stellen nicht nur Wohlstand, Verteilungsgerechtigkeit und soziale Stabilität unserer Gesellschaften in Frage, sondern wirken sich auch direkt auf den demokratischen Prozess aus. Dies ist das Thema dieses Vertiefungsseminars. Welche Arten von Ungleichheit gibt es in den fortgeschrittenen Demokratien der OECD-Staaten und wie werden sie definiert? Was sind die politischen Folgen steigender Ungleichheiten? Vertreten Politiker*innen wirklich hauptsächlich die Interessen der privilegierten sozialen Gruppen? Wie sind marginalisierte Gruppen von strukturellen Ungleichheiten in demokratischen Institutionen betroffen? Neben diesen Fragen werden wir die verschiedenen Formen sozialer, ökonomischer und politischer Ungleichheit analysieren sowie wie sich diese strukturell manifestieren und welche politischen Konsequenzen sie haben. Das Seminar umfasst hauptsächlich Texte und Daten aus OECD-Ländern.  

Es handelt sich um ein leseintensives Seminar (siehe Leistungsanforderungen), wobei die Belastung je nach Sitzung variiert. Für die Abschlussarbeiten können die Studierenden zwischen einem quantitativen oder einem mixed-methods Design (quantitative Analyse und qualitative Triangulation) wählen. Reine qualitative Arbeiten sind in diesem Seminar also nicht möglich. Wir erwarten Grundkenntnisse in statistischen Analyseverfahren (Stata) oder die Bereitschaft sich diese anzueignen. Neben theoretischen Beiträgen und kritischen Auseinandersetzungen mit der Literatur, wird es entsprechend auch methodische Inputs und Übungen von quantitativen Analyseverfahren geben.


530132 PS (MA) The Urban-Rural Divide - a New Cleavage? (pt. 1/2)

Instructor: Hanna Schwander

This course studies the emergence of a new "rural-urban divide" in contemporary politics. The idea of an growing gap between ‘cosmopolitan cities’ and the ‘nationalist countryside’ seems to be vindicated by recent elections across the globe, which saw nationalist parties and candidates flourish in rural areas but not in metropolitan areas. It has even been suggested that “urban-rural splits have become the great global divider” (Rachman, 2018). We study this development from a
cleavage perspective asking whether the rural urban divide has the making of a full-fledged cleavage, with its three defining element of a distinct socio-structural basis, a normative element and an organizational expression. The first term is dedicated to getting familiar with the relevant theoretical concepts and arguments as well as the empirical evidence. First, we will seek to understand what parties are, their function in the democratic system, how they form party systems and how
they can be grouped in different families. Second, we will get familiar with the cleavage approach as our the basis of our theoretical framework and the old rural-urban divide in the 19th century. Third, we will study the changing . Forth, we investigate one of the dominant political phenomena of our times: The rise of populism.
The second term is dedicated to the writing of an original term paper (60 000 letters without spaces) on a question pertaining to the core question of the course and the discussion of the paper in several stages. As such, students will write and discuss a research design that outlines their
research question, the main argument and empirical approach and situates the paper within the relevant literature. They will also comment on a fellow student’s research design with constructive remarks. This involves presenting the design and moderating the discussion. It is a comparative course and as such compares political phenomena across countries and over time. The focus is generally on advanced industrial democracies, e.g., democracies in North America and Western Europe with Germany being of special interest. The themes are taught by combining lectures, discussion of readings in groups and class, group assignments, and the writing of a final term paper in the second term. This is a reading intense course (particularly the first term) but note that the intensity does vary from session to session.
Readings might be subject to change.The seminar’s main proof of achievement represents an empirical term paper (60 000 letters, 6 SP) as Modulabschlussprüfung. During the term, each student will prepare a research design that outlines the research question, the main argument(s), expectations and empirical approach of the term paper. The research design will be presented and subsequently discussed in class.


530178 SE (MA) Advanced Theories of Policy Making

Instructor: Hanna Schwander

Public policies are governmental activities to address societal problems. The process of problem solving, however, is situated in a political setting shaped by divergent interests, structural changes and inherent uncertainty about the future. How public policies are designed and implemented is therefore shaped by the interaction of a variety of actors pursuing their specific interests which in term are shaped by the institutional and economic context. There is ample evidence in the policy literature that there is no “one size fits all” toolbox but rather different pathways and policy tools that can work towards the same goals.

This course for Master and PhD students introduces analytical perspectives to systematically discuss the process of policy making under these conditions using a highly influential body of theory in the comparative political economy field on “Varieties of Capitalism”, “Welfare Capitalism” and “Growth models”. A particular emphasis is put on the challenge of institutional change for policy-maker, exemplified by the example of welfare state and climate change. We will discuss in detail the role of interest groups and why institutional change is likely to be politically costly for policy-makers. We also discuss strategies actors have to overcome the status-quo bias of existing institutions.

The course is organized around four themed blocks, to be discussed bi-weekly:

I           The theoretical foundation: The classics of comparative policy analysis

II          Policymaking in context and changing conditions

III         Reforms: Actors, challenges and strategies

IV        Outcomes

It is a comparative course and as such compares political phenomena across countries and over time. The focus is generally on advanced industrial democracies, e.g., democracies in North America and Western Europe, but students are welcome to apply the material to developing countries.


530439 CO (BA/MA) BA-, MA- und DoktorandInnen-Kolloquium

Instructor: Hanna Schwander

Das Forschungskolloquium folgt einem zweistufigen Verfahren: In einem ersten Schritt reichen Studierende eine einseitige Ideenskizze (siehe Kurzexposé) ein. Nach Diskussion der Skizze wird ein ausführlicheres Research Design erarbeitet und im Kolloquium diskutiert.  Die Entwicklung und Einreichung des Kurzexposés bis spätestens 05.05.22 ist Bedingung für die Teilnahme am Forschungskolloquium. In einem zweiten Schritt entwickeln Sie ein Forschungsdesign (FD), welches Sie im Kolloquium präsentieren.

Die regelmäße Teilnahme am Kolloquium, die Präsentation Ihres FD sowie ein Koreferat zu einem Design einer:m Ihrer Kommiliton:innen werden erwartet.


530186 VS (BA) Growth, Inequality and Poverty

Instructor: Leire Rincón García

This course is largely about income in three guises: growth (changes in average income per head in countries); inequality (the dispersion of income between and within countries); and poverty (insufficient income). For sure, income is not all that there is, but it is a fundamental component of human development. This course is not an economics course but is rather focused on the politics or the political economy aspects of economic growth, poverty, and inequality. During this course we will touch upon the key debates, measurement issues of each topic, learning how to critically evaluate and understand the open questions within the research in this field.

Why should we study income? The ranking of countries according to the UN Human Development Index is broadly in line with that based on income per capita; and the developed economies are also at the top of achievements in human development, while the low-income countries in most cases show a poor record. Moreover, disparities in life expectancy across countries and within countries tend also to be correlated with income gaps. Therefore, focusing on economic growth – or the lack of it – and the disparities in income between countries and within countries is well justified if one wants to understand the potential of politics to improve their living standards. The course introduces the participants into key debates and issues in the field.

This seminar has also a practical line of contents. Students will learn how to analyse the relevant data using R software. Basic knowledge on statistics is strongly recommended as well as the willingness to learn R (see course prerequisites later in this document). However, the contents will be adapted to the students’ background, and students will have all the necessary material to work from. They will not be tested in their practical abilities to analyse data, but nevertheless the final practical module will strongly benefit them to understand how research is performed.




Winter Semester 20221/22

Summer Semester 2021

Winter Semester 2020/21