GIGA Dossier: New Approaches in the Social Sciences

This year the GIGA celebrated its fiftieth anniversary by hosting an international conference that brought together leading scholars in the field of formal institutions and adaptive processes. The conference goal was to help establish the added value of comparative area studies (CAS). The inherent claim of CAS is that many social science disciplines would profit from the consistent application of systematic comparison and context sensitivity; most schools within these disciplines currently only use one at the expense of the other.

A multimedia dossier now provides an overview of the conference’s main findings – and of new approaches in the social sciences.


Adapting Institutions: A Comparative Area Studies Perspective

Institutions should regulate social life and prepare society for challenges. However, at times these functions remain promises rather than reality. An international conference organized by the GIGA examined the various roles of institutions using comparative methods.



Watch the videos of the conference on theGIGA You Tube channel


1. Welcome notes from Detlef Nolte and Andreas Mehler of the GIGA.


2. Opening Lecture: “Hybridity” of Contemporary Democratic Regimes in a Cross-regional Perspective – Laurence Whitehead, Oxford, Nuffield College

Video: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

3. CAS Award ceremony for the best article in the field of comparative area studies | The winners of this year’s award were Paul Chaisty, Nic Cheeseman and Timothy Power (all from Oxford University) for their article in Democratization:Rethinking the ‘Presidentialism Debate’: Conceptualizing Coalitional Politics in Cross-regional Perspective”.


4. Panel Discussion: What Can Comparative Area Studies Do for the Study of Institutional Change?

Discussants: Ariel Ahram, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Andreas Mehler, Claudia Pragua from the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Laurence Whitehead

Videos: Part 1 | Part 2


The West Has Had Its Day

Social scientists have to let go of old views of the world in order to understand global power relations. Affluence is in no way a necessary precondition for democracy, and federalism is not a panacea, writes Andreas Mehler and recommends comparative area studies to learn more about other perspectives.