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Prof. Dr. Christoph Knill

"A Complexity-Capacity Paradox? Why Constrained States Make Increasingly Complex Policies and How This Affects Democracy": Prof. Dr. Christoph Knill, Dr. Christian Adam, Dr. Steffen Hurka und Yves Steinebach, M.A. (Political Sciences)

Academic Year 2016/17

The starting point of the research that Christoph Knill will carry out at the CAS in cooperation with three young scholars is the development – paradoxical at first glance – of expanding and increasingly complex policies in modern democracies, which goes hand-in-hand with a simultaneous increase in the limitations of the possibilities for action on the part of states in many policy areas. The focus lies on three specific research questions:

  1. Is the impression of an increasing complexity of national policies correct and how can such developments be methodically captured and explained?
  2. What are the consequences of increasing complexity for the quality of political discourses?
  3. What effects of increasing complexity are produced on the implementation and goal-attainment of political programs (for example concerning the improvement of environmental quality or social redistribution of wealth)?

Working Group

Christoph Knill's working group during his time at the CAS will include Dr. Christian Adam, Dr. Steffen Hurka und Yves Steinebach, M.A.:

  • Christian Adam is concerned with the effects of increasing complexity of policies on the political discourse. On the one hand, this complexity requires a high deliberative quality of the political discourse in order to “include” citizens and to create sufficient legitimacy for political decisions. On the other hand, it is precisely this complexity itself that is making it increasingly difficult to complete this task successfully. This is made even more difficult by the brevity of debate contributions demanded by the media. Against this background, this part of the project addresses the question of the extent to which a high or low quality of political discourse can influence the acceptance of complex political decisions at all, for example in the form of comprehensive reforms, and under what conditions this could indeed be possible.
  • Steffen Hurka is concerned with the question of how policy complexity in the field of environmental, social and moral policy can be conceptualized, measured and thus systematically compared. Based on these considerations, he retraces lines of development in an international comparison and investigates using statistical methods whether the patterns observed between various sectors and over space and time differ from one another and what factors explain these differences.
  • Yves Steinebach is concerned with the effects of increasing complexity on the ability of governments to implement their political plans effectively and efficiently. During his time at the CAS, he will write his dissertation investigating the influence of critical implementation capacities on the effectiveness of environmental regulations. The analysis is based on an innovative dataset which records both the environmental regulations and the implementation structures and capacities of 16 countries over a period of 25 years.

Visiting Fellows

Visiting Fellows