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Research Unit Orders

Research Unit: Orders

Research Unit: Orders

Orders are principles and institutional arrangements that structure expectations and practice in social and political life – from high politics to the everyday. For example, one can find them in acts of political reasoning, in policing and jurisprudence, in economic exchange, in the socialization/schooling of new generations, and in gender relations. Such principles and institutional arrangements are often formulated in formal rules and regulations, but they also exist incorporated in practices and imaginaries. For example, within the liberal script, people and nations are supposed to have the right to collective self-determination (democracy and sovereignty) and individuals are endowed with and entitled to basic equality before the law.

However, liberal principles and arrangements have coexisted with varying types and degrees of real-world heteronomy and inequality. Inherent tensions, contradictions, and divergent interpretations of different key principles that constitute liberal orders (security vs. freedom, social equality vs. liberal economy, state sovereignty vs. individual freedom, merit vs. inclusion, etc.) have been prevalent in liberal orders. Moreover, in-built exclusions, unfulfilled promises and disappointments have contributed to ongoing contestations of liberal orders. With regard to the research mission of SCRIPTS, this RU deals with the tensions, disappointments and exclusions that have triggered contestations against liberal orders.

The RU Orders investigates three areas:

1. Liberal principles and institutional arrangements and their emergence, tensions, and contradictions;

2. Characteristics, causes, and varieties of contestations of liberal orders;

3. Varieties of liberal orders, critiques, and alternatives.

In particular, the RU Orders is interested in current populist movements and parties that question basic liberal principles; in authoritarian backlashes against democratic procedures; in efforts within liberal societies to contain and/or reform illiberal tendencies; in critiques of liberalism and neoliberalism and the relationship between neoliberal and liberal principles; in critiques of inherent racisms, questions of the race-religion nexus in liberal orders, and persistence of colonial and imperial formations in the liberal international order; and, finally, in non-liberal alternatives to liberal orders.

Research Projects

De-Centering Human Rights: Liberalism, Human Rights, and the Global South
Prof. Dr. Tobias Berger, Prof. Dr. Anna Holzscheiter, Prof. Dr. Thomas Risse
Sep 01, 2022 — Aug 31, 2025
Race and Multilateralism: The Anatomy of a Complex Relationship (RAM)
Prof. Dr. Lora Anne Viola
Sep 01, 2022 — Aug 31, 2025
Varieties of Diversity Scripts
Prof. Dr. Gülay Çağlar, Prof. Dr. Yasemin Soysal, Prof. Dr. Kathrin Zippel
Sep 01, 2022 — Aug 31, 2025
War in Ukraine, Russia’s potential decoupling from the global internet and the changing perspective of emerging powers on internet and data governance
Prof. Dr. Katharina Bluhm, Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse
Sep 01, 2022 — Aug 31, 2025
Science Friction: Science Friction: Patterns, Causes and Effects of Academic Freedom Contestations
Prof. Dr. Tanja A. Börzel, Prof. Mattias Kumm, S.J.D. (Harvard), Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach
Sept 01, 2021 – Aug 31, 2024
Regional Conferences on Contestations of the Liberal Script With the Cluster's International Partners
Prof. Dr. Tanja A. Börzel, Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn , Prof. Dr. Thomas Risse
Apr 01, 2021 — Mar 31, 2024
Negotiating the Future of Education: The UNESCO’s Futures of Education-initiative and the OECD’s Future of Education and Skills 2030-initiative
Prof. Dr. Florian Waldow , Prof. Dr. Tobias Berger , Prof. Dr. Marcelo Caruso
Feb 01, 2021 — Feb 14, 2024
Liberal Order, Legitimate Authority and Disagreement: On the limits of legitimate disagreement (LOLAD)
Prof. Dr. Matthias Kumm, Prof. Dr. Stefan Gosepath
Jan 01, 2020 — Dec 31, 2023
The ecology of individuals’ disposition for scientific populism
Prof. Dr. Yasemin Soysal
Jan 01, 2023 — Dec 31, 2023
‘Transformative Constitutionalism’ and the Borderlines of Liberalism
Prof. Dr. Tobias Berger, Prof. Dr. Philipp Dann, Uday Vir Garg, Vikram Aditya Narayan
Sep 01, 2019 – Dec 31, 2023
Towards a Typology of Contestations
Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn, Prof. Dr. Stefan Gosepath, Prof. Dr. Andrew Hurrell, Dr. Johannes Gerschewski, Nieves Fernández Rodriguez, Lena Röllicke, Max Weckemann, Sukayna Younger-Khan
Sep 01, 2019 –  Oct 14, 2023
Does it pay off for authoritarian regimes to organize major sports events?
Dr. Johannes Gerschweski, Dr. Heiko Giebler, Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn, Research collaborators: Dr. Eda Keremoglu (Universität Konstanz) Dr. Sebastian Hellmeier (WZB)
Nov 01, 2022 — Apr 30, 2023
Who wrote the Liberal International Order script? Contributions from the Global South to the international human rights architecture
Prof. Dr. Tobias Berger, Dr. Luis Aue
Oct 01, 2021 — Mar 31, 2022
China-inspired Digital Industrial Policy as a Challenge to the Liberal Script?
Prof. Dr. Katharina Bluhm
Jul 01, 2021 – Dec 31, 2021
Pandemic Rationalities: Sources and Dynamics of Uncertainty and Non-Compliance in Germany
Dr. Anne Menzel, PD Dr. med. Michael Knipper
May 01, 2021 — Dec 31, 2021
Making sense of girls empowerment in Sierra Leone: a conversation
Dr. Anne Menzel, Dr. Aisha Fofana Ibrahim
May 01, 2021 – Dec 31, 2021
Restrictions of civil liberties and their political legitimation in context: a cross-national survey experiment on citizens’ acceptance of pandemic countermeasures
Dr. Johannes Gerschweski, Dr. Heiko Giebler
May 01, 2021 — Dec 31, 2021

Reading Lists

The Research Unit Borders meets in the form of jour fixes to reflect on and discuss research themes connected to the Research Unit on the basis of shared readings.

Jour Fixe "The role of (neo-/liberal) education in the liberal script" (summer 2021)  
  • What is the role of liberal education in the liberal script – in historical and contemporary perspectives?
  • What kind of subject is imagined and cultivated in liberal education, generally, and in educational institutions, in particular, and to what extent is this “subject of freedom” normative?
  • To what extent is decolonisation of curricula a possible path to pursue?


  • Robbie Shilliam 2016: The Aims and Methods of Liberal Education: Notes from a Nineteenth Century Pan-Africanist. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 29: 251–267. Additional material for those interested: Edward
  • Wilmot Blyden 2020 [1881]: The Aims and Methods of Liberal Education for Africans. Educational Sciences 17, https://academicworks.livredelyon.com/edu_sci/17   
Jour Fixe "Neoliberalism and the Liberal Script – Component, Contradiction, Contestation?" (winter 2020/21)  
  • Which topics or questions related to neoliberalism are of central relevance/great interest in the context of SCRIPTS? If so, which are these?
  • How does the Research Unit members’ work on neoliberalism so far relate to the Cluster’s key questions and interests?


  • Biebricher, Tomas (2015) ‘Neoliberalism and Democracy’, in: Constellations 22:2, 255-266.
  • Cahill, Damien, Melinda Cooper, Martijn Konings and David Primrose (2018) ‘Introduction’, in The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism edited by Damien Cahill, Melinda Cooper, Martijn Konings and David Primrose. London et al.: SAGE, xxvii.