Events of Project B09

07.11.2019 - 08.11.2019 Conference

Causal Mechanisms in the Analysis of Social Policy Dynamics

Teilprojekt B01: SFB 1342, Universität Bremen
Haus der Wissenschaft
Sandstraße 4/5
28195 Bremen
8.30 am - 5.00 pm
Contact Person

Recent theoretical and methodological developments in the social sciences converge into the approach of "mechanism-based explanation". Originating from different disciplines such as analytical sociology, political sociology, comparative historical analysis and qualitative research in political science, mechanism-based approaches stress that phenomena cannot fully be explained by correlations between variables: Causal mechanisms are the "cogs and wheels" that scholars come across when opening the "black box" of correlations.

Despite the expanding literature on this topic, two deficits have not been resolved so far:

  1. There is no convincing compilation of mechanisms that drive social and political processes. Previous proposals for a comprehensive list of mechanisms collect elements of very different scales and levels. There is no shared understanding on what level (micro, meso, macro) mechanisms should be allocated and what elements a mechanism should have to count as a mechanism.
  2. There is also a lack of systematic applications of mechanism-based approaches to an entire policy field. So far, mechanism-based approaches have primarily been used in single case studies or comparative case studies with a limited scope and range. Adopting a mechanism-based approach for studying the transnational dynamics of an entire policy field might be a decisive test for the fruitfulness of mechanism-based approaches.

This conference aims to stimulate discussion on the characteristics of causal mechanisms, and to establish a closer link between these concepts and the study of social policy dynamics.


Day 1

Registration and welcome coffee

Gary Goertz, University of Notre Dame
The veil of ignorance – causal mechanism – process tracing methodology

Session 1: Theorizing Mechanisms


Renate Mayntz, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
Promise and limits of mechanism-based explanation

Session 2: Mechanisms of Social Policy Dynamics – Comparative Approaches

James Mahoney, Northwestern University Causal mechanisms and theories of causality: Three approaches

Session 3: Mechanisms of Social Policy Dynamics – Transnational Interdependencies

Day 2
Session 4: Mechanisms of Social Policy Dynamics – Single Case Studies

Plenary Session: Could we hope to compile a list of basic causal mechanisms?
Peter Starke, University of Southern Denmark Delia González de Reufels, Johanna Kuhlmann, Frank Nullmeier, Klaus Schlichte, University of Bremen


Session 5: Mechanisms of Social Policy Dynamics in Latin America

Armando Barrientos, University of Manchester The rise and fall of Bismarckian social policy in Latin America

Unicom Building
Room: 7.3280
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
2.15 pm - 3.45 pm
Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS); Institut für Interkulturelle und Internationale Studien (InIIS), Universität Bremen; Sonderforschungsbereich 1342 "Globale Entwicklungsdynamiken von Sozialpolitik", Universität Bremen

Alex Nadège Ouedraogo (InIIS) discusses her dissertation proposal:
Analysis of food social policies in Senegal

Unicom Building
Room: 7.4500
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
2.30 pm - 4 pm
Contact Person

Ndangwa Noyoo examines global social policy in the current global climate which is typified by, inter alia, increasing unilateralism, narrow nationalism and xenophobia. The former negative forces are not just confined within countries but are rapidly transcending nation-states and regions of the world, with far-reaching consequences. Global social policy is therefore juxtaposed against these cited trends whilst considering the progress that has been made in this area in past decades. Noyoo also advances his position which sees global social policy as a transformative force which needs to be harnessed and specifically directed by various role players in this era. Arguably, one major force that triggered the cited negative forces is the push factor of uncontrolled and illegal migrations of vulnerable groups from conflict and poverty-ridden parts of the world to the developed northern countries. Drawing on secondary literature and other empirical researches, Noyoo argues for a consolidation of global social policy, despite the deteriorating global situation, through the forging of stronger North – South networks. Also, he calls for a more robust global social policy as it could help to stem the tide of not only the cited migrations, but other social ills, at their source, by raising the quality of life of vulnerable groups in stressed countries. Nevertheless, the aforementioned needs to be predicated on a foundation of international solidarity which, at present, seems to be waning.

Room: 3.3380
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
2 p.m. until 4 p.m.

What were the consequences of the Arab Spring and the subsequent regime changes for Tunisia's and Egypt's social policy? What are the similarities and differences between the two countries? InIIS Managing Director Dr. Roy Karadag will address these questions in a lecture at the InIIS BIGSSS Colloquium.