Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS), Cluster of Excellence / FU Berlin

Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS), Cluster of Excellence / FU Berlin

  • Contemporary liberal societies are currently facing a loss of confidence in the ability of their core institutions to provide solutions to the most pressing issues of the 21st century. SCRIPTS investigates alternative concepts of social order and deals with their consequences for global challenges such as climate change, migration, nuclear proliferation, and transnational terrorism. As part of SCRIPTS, GIGA and Hertie School conduct two projects.
    DFG, Excellence Strategy, 2019-2025


    Prof. Dr. Mark Hallerberg

    Hertie School of Governance

    Tanja Börzel

    Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn

    Logo of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

    Research Questions

    After the end of the Cold War, liberal democracy seemed to have prevailed for good. Today, 25 years later, however, the liberal model of political and economic order faces a profound crisis. Authoritarian leaders including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, as well as non-state fundamentalist groups such as the Islamic State openly operate as antagonists of the liberal model. At the same time, right-wing populist movements like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) gain strength by attacking the very foundations of liberalism within liberal societies. Transnational networks connect authoritarian leaders and right-wing populists.

    By putting the contestations of the liberal script in a broader historical, global, and comparative perspective, the Cluster aspires to answer the following three sets of research questions:

    To what extent do current challengers target the liberal script? Are alternative concepts of political and social order that claim universal validity on the rise, or are they varieties of existing liberal ideas?

    What are the causes of these contestations? Under which conditions does the liberal script lose or gain attractiveness, and what are the drivers of the rise of alternative scripts? To what extent are the causes of current contestations different from earlier ones?

    What are the consequences of the intensified contestations of the liberal script and the potential rise of alternatives for politics, societies, and individuals as well as the challenges the world is facing in the 21st century?

    Contribution to International Research

    SCRIPTS addresses fundamental questions about the development of politics and society and offers several advantages over existing approaches. First, it wants to find out why the liberal script has come under pressure despite its remarkable achievements since World War II and again after 1990. Second, in doing so, it analyses external and internal contestations of the liberal script and their interrelationships. The concept of scripts enables the Cluster to see the liberal script not as a constitutive component of modernisation, but as one that has always been competing with other scripts. Moreover, it can identify these alternatives in their own right rather than as mere deviations or dissents from the liberal script. Third, the approach facilitates the analysis of developments across time and space by incorporating the specific perspectives and insights from history and area studies into the social sciences.

    Research Design and Methods

    The Cluster aims at studying contestations, their causes, and their consequences by putting together four Research Units focussing on specific issues each script has to address: borders, orders, (re-)allocation, and temporality. The GIGA President Prof Narlikar acts as Principal Investigator in the Research Unit on (re-)allocation.

    Cooperation Event | 28/11/2022 - 30/11/2022

    Liberal Script(s) — Asian Versions and Contestations of a Concept

    Liberal Script(s) — Asian Versions and Contestations of a Concept, The Lalit, Barakhamba Avenue, Connaught Place, New Delhi and online Organisers: SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script", German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Jawaharlal Nehru University Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar (Organiser, Chair, Panelist, Discussant), Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn (Organiser)

    Under the lead of GIGA President Prof. Amrita Narlikar and Prof. Michael Zürn, the SCRIPTS Conference addressed the broad theme of Asian scripts (liberal or not) and asked how Asian states organise themselves and ally/partner with each other based on these scripts’ political/ economic features.

    Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn

    Conference | 27/04/2022

    Knowledge exchange with SCRIPTS and foreign policy actors: The liberal script and the Indo-Pacific – strategies, narratives and perspectives

    The Liberal Script and the Indo-Pacific: Strategies, Narratives and Perspectives, Online Event Organisers: SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script" Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar (Moderator, Speaker)

    GIGA President Prof. Amrita Narlikar contributed to the event as moderator and speaker. As a follow-up to the SCRIPTS conference in February, Prof. Narlikar shared her analyses on the liberal script in Asia, also in light of current developments, the Russian aggression, and Europe’s relation to the Indo-Pacific region, with a high-level panel of foreign policy practitioners and scholars.

    Cooperation Event | 27/04/2022

    Regional Conference on Asian Scripts

    Regional Conference on Asian Scripts, Online Event Organisers: SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script", German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar (Organiser, Chair, Panelist)

    GIGA President Prof. Amrita Narlikar and Prof. Michael Zürn organised and chaired the Cluster of Excellence SCRIPTS Regional Conference on Asian Scripts. In addition to the welcome remarks and wrap-up, Prof. Narlikar and Prof. Zürn gave a joint input on the Panel "The Liberal Scripts in Asia" and discussed with Prof. Fawcett, Prof. Keane and Prof. Mohan theoretical puzzles, methodological problems, policy implications.


    Sign up to receive email notifications about GIGA activities

    Social Media

    Follow us