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Cultures of Political Decision-Making in Modern Democracy


Kulturen politischer Entscheidung in der modernen Demokratie

The recent heated debates on German policy in the Covid pandemic have once again made it clear why it is often so difficult to understand how decisions are made in a democracy. The reason for this lack of clarity is that scientific expert opinions, publicly articulated emotions, survey results, the weighing of socio-political or constitutional arguments against economic policy arguments and much more play an important role in making political decisions nowadays, but are weighted completely differently at different times, by different actors and in different contexts. As much as decisions are argued to be rational and inevitable in retrospect, their genesis is usually anything but linear and their outcome is not self-evident.

The Before of Political Decisions

"Cultures of Political Decision-Making in Modern Democracy" is the research project's name that has started at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (BAdW) in spring 2021, in which four young researchers examine political decision-making cultures. Whereas in classical historiography and the academic study of politics, political decisions are usually understood as trend-setting milestones whose implementation and consequences need to be described and researched, the research project at the BAdW will focus on the "before" of political decisions instead of the "after" and will examine their legal, political, social and cultural foundations.

Research perspectives and interdisciplinarity

The interdisciplinary project examines a period from around 1950 to the immediate present. The project will analyse the situation in the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the United Kingdom, Poland and in other countries. This analysis has a historical and a legal perspective and will especially do research on the time structure of democratic decisions, the increase of complexity, representation in parliamentary democracy, democracy and gender, the separation of powers and political language.

What we do

The project "Cultures of Political Decision-Making in Modern Democracy" mainly addresses four areas of research:

Four researchers attend to those areas independently. By the end of the project, their results will be published in four books, referring to each other in a complimentary way. The project aims specifically at promoting a younger generation of researchers. Two postdoctoral and two doctoral researchers from the fields of history and law work on the project. Future plans for the project include a close cooperation with different universities, as well as regular workshops, a closing event and a final anthology, bringing together all four areas of research.

Project management and project advisory board

The research project is a project of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, BAdW), and started in 2021. Principal investigators and heads of the project committee are Christian Walter, professor of international and public law at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), and Andreas Wirsching, professor of contemporary history at LMU and director of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin (IfZ). An advisory board of six members advises the project and its committee.


The research project "Cultures of Political Decision-making in Modern Democracy" is part of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and is funded by the State of Bavaria.