ECPR General Conference
Universität Hamburg, Hamburg
22 - 25 August 2018

Plenary Lecture and Roundtables



Plenary Lecture

Time: 18:15-19:00 Thursday 23 August

Location: Audi Max

Professor Rainer Forst

Normativity and Reality. Thinking Politically About Politics


Rainer Forst studied with Jürgen Habermas in Frankfurt and with John Rawls at Harvard. Forst received his PhD in Philosophy from Goethe University in 1993 with his Kontexte der Gerechtigkeit (Suhrkamp, 1994; Engl. Contexts of Justice, University of California Press, 2002). Thereafter, he taught at the Free University Berlin, and in 1995/96 and in 1999 he was Visiting Professor at the New School for Social Research in New York City. From 1996 to 2002, he taught in Frankfurt and received his “Habilitation” with Toleranz im Konflikt (Suhrkamp, 2003, Engl. Toleration in Conflict, Cambridge University Press 2013). In 2003, he received a Heisenberg Fellowship from the German Research Foundation. In 2005/06 he was the Theodor Heuss-Professor at the New School and since 2004 is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy in Frankfurt. Since 2007, he is co-director of the Research Cluster “The Formation of Normative Orders,” a major interdisciplinary research centre funded by the German Excellence Initiative. In addition, he has been a member of the founding directorate of the new Institute for Advanced Studies of Goethe-University at Bad Homburg near Frankfurt (where he is a Permanent Fellow) and is Director of the Research Center “Justitia Amplificata” based in Frankfurt. He is also Research Professor at the Berlin Social Science Center.

His Das Recht auf Rechtfertigung (Suhrkamp) appeared in 2007, published in 2012 as The Right to Justification (Columbia University Press). In 2009, he was Harris Distinguished Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College. In 2011, Kritik der Rechtfertigungsverhältnisse (Suhrkamp) appeared (Engl. 2013 from Polity Press as Justification and Critique). In 2013, he was a Noël Fellow at New York University. His Normativität und Macht (Suhrkamp 2015) just came out with Oxford University Press as Normativity and Power. Rainer Forst serves as Associate Editor of Ethics, is part of the Executive Editorial Committee of Political Theory and is on the board of numerous international journals such as European Journal of Political Theory and Contemporary Political Theory. In addition, he co-edits the series Theorie und Gesellschaft and Normative Orders (both with Campus Verlag). In 2012, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation, the highest honour awarded to German researchers. He is a Member of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.





Cosmopolitan Metropolis and Parochial Hinterlands: A New Social Cleavage?

Time: 14:00-15:30 Thursday 23 August

Location: Lecture Hall, VMP 9


Chair: Catherine de Vries, University of Essex

Rising support for populist parties has disrupted the politics of many democratic societies. The Brexit vote and the electoral success of Donald Trump are the most visible consequences of this development. The retrogression of Turkish democracy looms large as well. But even if populists, most of the time right wing, are not successful at the ballot box, they heavily impact on national and international politics and have the power to shift politics in a more illiberal as well as isolationist direction. This is true of Marine le Pen as well as Gerd Wilders, to name just the latest right-wing non-winners of elections. In both countries, France and the Netherlands alike, we can easily observe, how for example national values became more important in the political discourse and how immigration policy clearly shifted to the right. And even Germany, that was free of a right-wing populist movement or party for a very long period of time, with the rise of the AfD has a successful newcomer in this corner of the political field.

The question of course is: What explains the successful establishment and in many cases persistence of those parties? What explains the push towards populism and the phenomena of ‘democratic regression’? And are the explanations all the same for Poland and France, Great Britain and Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, for the United States of America and for countries like Turkey? Several theories attempt to give answers to this question. Some talk about economic insecurity as the main driver of the electoral success of right wing populists. Others broach the idea of a cultural backlash, entertaining the following line of thought: Some socio-cultural groups like white middle-aged men in the United States have the feeling to have been neglected in political discourse and practice for too long. They now raise their voice and try to regain lost social and political ground. Another interpretation, close to the self-perception of those right-wing groups, asks whether this upheaval is due to a deep dissatisfaction with the ruling political elites. From a sociological perspective one may ask, whether we actually see the consequences of a new socio-structural cleavage. Throughout the post-world-war-II era the cosmopolitan metropolises economically as well as culturally separated more and more from the rather parochially inclined Hinterlands. The metropolises are not only open to alternative life styles and the cohabitation of different cultures. Based on service and knowledge industries their social fabric shifted away from traditional occupations towards social strata which thrive with and profit from globalization. On the other hand the Hinterlands are more and more detached from progressive economic developments and at least to some extent jeopardized by the economic forces of globalization. As a consequence, people there seem to develop attitudes that are very conservative socially and culturally, more isolationist, nationalistic and even antidemocratic.

This roundtable seeks to explore this topic further, pitting against each other different interpretations of what we currently observe in elections and referenda throughout the established democracies, not to speak of the more recent democratic transformations. It will ask as well, whether we are observing the beginning of a structurally based comprehensive democratic regression, or whether we see normal swings of attitudes in democracies that we need to learn to accept and live with.


  • Sarah de Lange, University of Amsterdam
  • Reinhard Heinisch, Universität Salzburg
  • Selim Erdem Aytaç, Koç University
  • Radek Markowski, Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences



Multilateralism in Crisis: The Re-Nationalization of Governance and the Emergence of a Neo-Westphalian Order 

Time: 16:00-17:30 Friday 24 August

Location: Lecture Hall A, VMP 5

Chair: Andreas von Staden, Universität Hamburg

Expanding in both numbers and competences for most of the post-Cold-War era, multilateral governance institutions at the regional and global level have come under stress in recent years as member states and political movements within them increasingly seek to redefine their jurisdictions, to repatriate some or all regulatory competences to the nation-state, or to recalibrate the exercise of their decision-making authority. The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union may be the most prominent example of this development, but similar trends are observable across regions, institutions, and issue areas: The current US administration has thrown into doubt the United States’ commitment to various governance arrangements, including NAFTA the WTO, and the UN; Latin American states have been assembling under the roof of UNASUR, an organization that makes even less pretensions to becoming a supranational organization than did its precursors in the region; several African states are withdrawing from the International Criminal Court while members of the South African Development Community have significantly curtailed the jurisdiction of the SADC tribunal after it had forayed into sensitive political territory in one of its very first cases; and with respect to the European Court of Human Rights, member states have moved to enshrine the principle of the margin of appreciation that foregrounds state discretion formally in the European Convention on Human Rights. Last but not least, nationalist parties and political movements that are at best critical, at worst hostile to existing forms of governance beyond the state have been in ascendance across countries and continents.

Some adjustments of the design and operation of international regimes as well as some fluctuation in the membership of international organizations has always taken place and is not per se inimical to global governance, but the cumulation of political positions the world over that express a preference for building back the existing governance architecture to unshackle nation-states, at least in part, from what are perceived as undue interferences with national sovereignty and interests is a development that has become particularly noticeably over the last ten or so years. This Roundtable will address the causes and consequences of this move away from multilateralism and towards greater emphasis again on the role of the nation-state as the principal unit of decision-making both for problems arising within states as well as for externalities that affect neighboring states and possibly the globe.


  • Laurence R. Helfer, Duke University
  • Marlene Wind, University of Copenhagen
  • Amrita Narlikar, GIGA Hamburg



When Does Teaching Matter in Academic (Career) Development?

Time: tbc

Location: tbc

Chair: Heidi Maurer, London School of Economics and Political Science

This Roundtable is being organised in conjunction with the ECPR Standing Group on Teaching and Learning. Further information about the Standing Group can be found on the ECPR website here and also on their own website, which you can find here. An outline of this Roundtable, and confirmation of the speakers, will be uploaded here in due course.


Speakers: tbc


Political Communication in a Post-truth era: Much Ado About Nothing?

Time: tbc

Location: tbc

Chair: Dr Katjana Gattermann, University of Amsterdam

This Roundtable is being organised in conjunction with the ECPR Reserach Network on Political Communication. Further information about the Research Network can be found on the ECPR website here and also on their own website, which you can find here. An outline of this Roundtable, and confirmation of the speakers, will be uploaded here in due course.

Speakers: tbc




"History is past politics, and politics is past history" - E.A. Freeman

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