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Summer Term 2023

Graduate course: Cleavage Politics and Group Appels [30210]

Monday 2 - 4 pm | Endre Borbáth

Under pressure from increasing political instability and societal challenges, there is a renewed interest in the social basis of contemporary politics. The declining electoral support of mainstream political parties, like the Social -, and Christian Democrats, and the rise of new parties, such as the greens and the radical right, indicate a fundamental shift in the makeup of the post-war electoral coalitions. Class-based mobilization and conflict over welfare state policies are less influential in driving political behavior. Preferences over immigration, Europe, or climate change form new, group-based alliances that crosscut economic considerations and realign the social basis of politics. Others disagree and consider the contemporary dynamics a result of individualization that, although it leads to the crumbling and de-alignment of traditional political identities, does not give rise to a new, cohesive social force to re-structure political behavior.
The seminar focuses on cleavage politics: conflict stemming from deep and lasting divides between social groups. Among others, we examine cleavage formation, the social forces driving electoral support, historical legacies, the role of crisis and critical junctures, the dimensional alignment of political issues, the sociological basis of traditional and new cleavages, mobilization in party and protest politics, the role of agency in cleavage formation, and the use of group appeals by political entrepreneurs. Next to theories on cleavage politics and group appeals, the seminar emphasizes the methodological approaches applied in empirical studies, highlighting their potential to be used by students during their research for their MA thesis. We rely on literature primarily focused on Western Europe, but we also review studies on the political dynamics in Eastern Europe, North America, and South America.

Graduate course: Citizens and Politcs - A disconnected link? [30218]

Monday 2 - 4 pm | Mirjam Dageförde

The concept of political representation is among the most important topics in the analysis of the idea and practice of modern democracy and a constitutive pattern of modern large-scale democracy. In recent years the legitimacy of representative logic has been called into question due to several factors: the erroneous notions of democracy often offered by the media and opinion polls, the idea of power being confiscated by a caste of politicians, further enhanced by processes of European integration, globalization and a rise of populism. Meanwhile, Western democracies face a presumed “crisis of representation”, a loss of confidence in politicians, political parties and institutions which leads to growing gaps between society and the political sphere. Hence, the analysis of the process of representation, approaches to judge about its quality and the identification of defects become more and more relevant for political scientist as well as for practitioners.

Recurring to Pitkin’s famous description of representation as the making present something that is literally absent which occurs if politicians act in the interest of the represented, the schedule of this seminar is as follows: First, we discuss the presumed crisis of representation through investigating indicators for it. Second, we examine the concept of representation and classify the main actors and institutions in this process. Third, the approaches for (a) analysing actor’s behaviour and (b) judging about the quality of representation are discussed. This will lead to an examination of factors that influence actor’s behaviour and elements that might affect the quality of representation. We address furthermore current developments and challenges to representative democracy by analysing the rise of populism, challenger parties and the radical right. Finally, we critically reflect our findings and discuss the future of representative democracy.

The readings are a mix of classics and current literature on the given topic.

The seminar addresses the following questions:

  • What is political representation and how can we address the relation between citizens and the political sphere?
  • Which aspects concern political representation?
  • What are the most important actors and institutions in the process of representation?
  • How can we judge about the quality of representation?
  • What influences the quality of representation?
  • How does populism and the rise of radical parties influence representation and its functioning?
  • What is the meaning of these findings for the (prospective) functioning of representative democracy?


  • Dalton, Russell J., David M. Farrell & Ian McAllister 2011: Political Parties and Democratic Linkage. How Parties Organize Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kriesi, Hanspeter, Edgar Grande & Martin Dolezal 2012: Political Conflict in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Norris, Pippa 2011: Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pitkin, Hanna 1967: The concept of representation. Berkley: University of California.
  • Rohrschneider, Robert & Stephen Whitefield 2012: The Strain of Representation: How Parties Represent diverse Voters in Western and Eastern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Graduate course: Advanced Research Desing and Methods  [30234]

Tuesday 2 - 4 pm | Mirjam Dageförde

This course serves as a preparation or training for crucial aspects of students’ master thesis or internships at research institutes. If there is one thing you should have learned in the master's program, it should be how to identify and conduct excellent academic research. You should be able to assess the state of the existing literature, identify research questions of interest, formulate strategies to answer them, know the methodological tools with which to conduct the research, and write up the results so that they can contribute to existing knowledge.

The target group of this class are MA Students who are about to register for their master thesis or who are in the process of writing them. The aims of the course are to strengthen students’ research design, to sharpen research question and hypotheses and to improve methodological approaches for diverging research questions. The class will use examples from social sciences and discuss current research of students, the course will familiarize you with current standards of research in social sciences. Although the course is not in itself a lecture on statistical methods, it also refers to quantitative methods.

Course Objectives

  • Knowledge of the elements and relevance of a research design
  • Produce a rigorous and precise research design
  • Formulate research questions & hypotheses
  • Individual and collective components

Academic Integrity
This course is based on the principles of academic integrity established by Freie Universität Berlin. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. All documents submitted must be your own work and sources must be properly cited


  • Paul Kellstedt and Guy Whitten (2018): The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dimiter Toshkov (2016): Research Design. London: Palgrave Macmillan.