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Transformation research deals with changes that affect the socio-economic, political or cultural order of societies. Our research focuses mainly on institutions and various stakeholders such as the economic elite, social movements, and their roles in transformation processes. Our regional focus is on Latin America.

State Transformation in Latin America
Since several center-left governments came to power in the late 1990s, various Latin American countries have experienced massive changes. As a member of the working group “The State in Latin America “of the Latin American Social Science Council (CLACSO), we examine these state transformations in regards to three aspects: 1) The continuation of neoliberal paradigms associated with authoritarian tendencies; 2) The more interventionist role of the state in the form of neo-developmentalist projects and 3) The remodeling of state institutions and apparatuses, understood as a decolonization of the state in the context of “plurinational statehood” and constituent assemblies.
Grupo de Trabajo 19, El Estado en América Latina:

In addition, we study the relationship between the state and social movements in the context of transformation processes: Does their interaction produce new types of institutions? If so, what kinds of difficulties do they encounter?

Neoliberal Transformation in Latin America
Since the early 1980s and as a result of military interventions and debt crisis, many Latin American countries and societies have been subject to neoliberal structural adjustments. We study the role of ideas and economic and political power elites in this process. We explore the ways in which neoliberal policies and doctrines were introduced in the local context and continue to be effective, but also what resistance they experienced.

As part of the research group Think Tank Network Research, we study the activities of neoliberal intellectuals. We explore their intellectual networks and strategies to influence policy. Here we focus on trans-continental think tank networks.
Think Tank Network Research:

Over the past decades, broad social movements have emerged all over the world. They protest against neoliberal globalization projects and policies which unequally distribute the costs and consequences of the multiple crises. They all have the rejection of representative politics in common and search for direct-democratic decision-making and self-organization.

We examine these new movements in terms of their organizational structures, strategies, programs and their goals. We consider current waves of protest and actors in a longer term perspective and connect them with the historical lineage of social movements in the modern world system.

In addition to the concrete study of movements, we focus on refining theoretical approaches. We address the controversies in movement studies and contribute new knowledge based on the study of transnational networks and contemporary movements in Latin America and beyond.

In previous decades, globalization was already linked to regionalization. Regional integration can, however, serve very different purposes. For example, groups of states can pursue active world market integration and free trade or follow a development strategy and regional cooperation that supports domestic markets.

We study the uneven integration of developing and emerging countries into global commodity chains. We examine the consequences for people and regions when production locations are integrated into (or expelled from) a supra-regional labor division. Furthermore, we study the emergence of new patterns of economic integration.

We analyze regional integration processes also regarding their political structures and their geopolitical importance. A new type of regionalism has been established since 1988 with upcoming center-left governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. The common purpose of the integration projects, mainly promoted by Brazil and Venezuela, is the recovery and strengthening of autonomous agency and steering power.

Peoples’ life chances are determined mostly by where they are born and grow up, in other words by the geographic location. Inequality, manifest in the disparities between centers and peripheries, is evident not only between "global North" and "global South" or world regions, but also within the European Union.

Our research aims at combining spatial and social dimensions of inequality. We analyze global commodity chains in order to visualize the global geography of value production and appropriation. We study global dynamics of inequality caused by the rise of the "emerging countries" (BRICS) and internal social inequalities in these countries. Our analysis always emphasizes policies that reduce inequality.
In order to interpret unequal developments we use critical theories of space dealing with the formation of centers and peripheries in historical and contemporary capitalism.
Combating Inequality Research Project:

We study workers’ control, solidarity economy, and forms of co-management and self-management of ownership and means of production from a historical and contemporary perspective. This includes companies under workers‘ control in Europe and Latin America as well as workers‘ councils in different historical transformation processes, for example, in the context of democratic and anti-colonial struggles in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, in socialist revolutions or in state socialist countries.
Documentation and theoretical essays on past and current experiences of workers’ control:


Militarization and Militarism
The terms militarization and militarism point to a political rationality that is based on violent regulation of social conflicts. This political rationality has its roots in the idea of society as a natural organism and the use of a friend/enemy dualism leaning towards the destruction of the enemy. The fact that military forms of thinking penetrated politics and society bears not only consequences on state institutions as such. It also undermines the possibility to solve political conflicts democratically. The department`s research focuses on the militarization processes in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Colombia.

Privatization of Military Services
Looking at the increase in transfer of military services to private companies, warfare has changed rapidly in the last decades. The global market for military contractors became huge. Today the United States of America is the biggest customer buying 50 percent of all military services sold worldwide. Employees of private companies operate many of the sophisticated US weapons systems, they patrol, provide bodyguards and guard buildings and infrastructure, they operate radar systems and much more. We study the military, legal and democratic aspects of the rise of privatized military services.