Research Team 2

Ideas and Agency

The Ideas and Agency Research Team studies interconnections between ideas, processes, and agency in global politics, which have witnessed at least two major power shifts in recent decades. First, new transnational actors, such as multinational companies, civil society organisations, and international institutions have become more important. Second, a number of states in the "Global South," from rising powers such as China and India to regional or middle powers such as South Africa and Saudi Arabia, have gained diplomatic visibility, economic influence, and political importance vis-à-vis the established powers in an increasingly multipolar world. Both power shifts have had profound impacts on the norms regulating global politics: based on their own ideational backgrounds, these new or increasingly powerful actors seek to influence political processes such as international negotiations, global discourses, and processes of policy reform and institutional reform. Against this backdrop, the research team addresses the following questions:

  • To what extent do ideas constitute, assign, and deny agency in politics across the globe?
  • How do politically relevant ideas emerge and diffuse? Which actors – in their own right or as part of relevant knowledge regimes, discourse coalitions, and policy networks – play a role in creating, diffusing, and utilising these ideas?
  • What are the origins and the specific content of normative ideas that shape or otherwise affect the behaviour and policies of rising powers and non-state actors?
  • How are these new ideas received, filtered, and adopted by other state and non-state actors?
  • How do international actors exercise agency through political processes, and what are the ideas underpinning their behaviour?

Current Research Projects

GIGA | Tohoku University Forum for Creativity | 2017 - 2019
German Research Foundation (DFG) | 2018 - 2021

Completed Research Projects

Leibniz Competition | 2012 - 2016
Leibniz Research Alliance "Infections 21", (coordinator: by Research Center Borstel) | 2016 - 2019