Prof. Christoph Weller beim 27th World Congress of Political Science der IPSA in Buenos Aires

The Politics of Funding Peace and Conflict Research in Germany:

Between Scientific Requirements and Political Expectations

Paper to be presented at the Panel „National Associations, the Politics of Funding, and Trajectories of the Discipline“ of the 27th World Congress of Political Science, 15-19 July 2023 in Buenos Aires.

Christoph Weller

Abstract: Under what conditions does the public funding of peace and conflict research come about, what contribution can research itself make to this and what are the political expectations associated with this funding? This paper addresses these questions in relation to Germany, which is a particularly interesting case in terms of the development of peace and conflict research since the 1950s.

From a historical perspective, there would have been many reasons why peace research was developing in Germany as early as the 1950s: A country divided by World War II on the geographical front of the Cold War and with clear anti-militarist protests as early as the 1950s were undoubtedly supportive contexts for the development of peace and conflict studies. But in the areas of tension between political expectations and scientific requirements, it was a difficult and laborious process to establish the research field of peace and conflict studies in Germany in the post-war era.

To reconstruct this development, the areas of tension between science and politics are considered in four dimensions that are particularly relevant for the politics of funding peace and conflict research in Germany:

  • Basic research or political practice-oriented research?
  • Is "peace" a political or a scientific task?
  • Are scientific concepts of peace suitable for socio-political discourse?
  • What distinguishes science from politics when it comes to questions of peace?

In every stage of development of this politicized field of research in Germany, changes in these dimensions can be seen. The multiple changes in the areas of tension between science and politics characterize also the changing politics of funding in the development of peace and conflict studies in  Germany. This can be divided against this background in five stages of development.

While the first stage of development was dominated by scientific criticism of political decisions and developments (1960s), in the second stage politics influenced the development of the research field through financial support (German Society for Peace and Conflict Research, 1971-1983). In the third stage of development (1980s), the establishment of peace and conflict studies was shaped by a very pointed security policy-debate in the public and the unavoidable political positioning of political scientists. Only the end of the East-West conflict with many new research-problems and questions for peace and conflict studies opened up the space for more theory-oriented research efforts, epistemological debates and interdisciplinary cooperation without giving up the practice-oriented approach.

With its institutionalization at universities, scientific journals, study programs, textbooks and special financial support since 2000, peace and conflict studies in Germany has to a large extent followed the classic path of scientific discipline development, but without giving up its political, practice-oriented and interdisciplinary claims. Much more, these claims lead to a special openness to meta-theoretical and methodological innovations, for example in connection with constructivist, intersectional, post-colonial or participatory approaches. They can be understood as scientific efforts to continue to work on the areas of tension between science and politics and at the same time to reflect on them (self-)critically.