When it founded the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG) in 1984, the Max Planck Society reinforced its interest in supporting research on human society. The newly created institute began by examining the governance of modern societies. The objective was to develop a realistic, practically useful social science-based theory of the governance of modern societies by an interventionist state in cooperation with an organized society. Today the institute's research concentrates on the social and political foundations of modern economies. The MPIfG is one of the leading research institutes in the world in this field. The changes in the institute's research program reflect the results of its empirical research and its advances in theory development as well as changes in the real world of economies and politics over the last twenty-five years. On December 4, 2009, the MPIfG combined a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding with its Annual Colloquium.
Podcast of the panel discussion (in German) [50 MB]
The event featured a panel discussion among the past and present directors of the institute, Professors Jens Beckert, Renate Mayntz, Fritz W. Scharpf and Wolfgang Streeck, on an issue at the heart of the institute's present research, "The Governance of Society: Politics versus Markets?". Professor Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society, addressed the invited guests, and there were welcomes from Professor Andreas Pinkwart, the Minister of Innovation, Science, Research and Technology for North Rhine-Westphalia, Thomas Rachel, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Jürgen Roters, the Lord Mayor of the City of Cologne, Professor Thomas Krieg, the Prorector of the University of Cologne, and Professor Christine Musselin, Director of the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations (CSO) at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris.
Annual Colloquium on December 3 and 4, 2009
Past and present directors of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies: Jens Beckert, Wolfgang Streeck, Renate Mayntz, Fritz W. Scharpf (from left to right).
The colloquium "Social Sciences between Professionalization and Civic Involvement" on the morning of December 4 began with historian Ariane Leendertz of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich presenting the results of her study on the pragmatic reorientation of the Max Planck Society regarding the social sciences during the period from 1975 to 1985:
"Die pragmatische Wende: Die Max-Planck-Gesellschaft und die Sozialwissenschaften 1975–1985"
Reimar Lüst, the President of the Max Planck Society when these events occurred, and Franz-Xaver Kaufmann, Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Bielefeld University until 1997, commented on Ariane Leendertz' presentation. These three contributions to the colloquium will be published in an MPIfG Working Paper in January 2010.
Peter A. Hall, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard University and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the MPIfG for many years, talked about "The Political Origins of Our Economic Discontents" in the second part of the colloquium. Using the present financial crisis as a case in point, he analyzed changes in the political economies of the United States and Germany since the 1970s. He focused on the political reasons for what he called an "eclectic neoliberalism" that led to widespread economic deregulation in both countries and, ultimately, in part, to the financial crisis. Politically, Peter Hall finds the causes of neoliberalism in changes in the makeup of political parties: For some twenty-five years now, the traditional class cleavages have ceased to have much influence on the electorate. Had the earlier cleavages remained dominant, economic and social policies that have led to increasing wage disparities would not have been tolerated by the voters in the long term.
The Society of Friends and Former Associates of the MPIfG, which had held its Annual General Meeting on the evening before the anniversary festivities, supported the colloquium financially. Its chair, Uwe Schimank, Professor at Bremen University, concluded the colloquium by presenting the Journal Prize 2009 to Ulrich Dolata for his article "Technologische Innovationen und sektoraler Wandel: Eingriffstiefe, Adaptionsfähigkeit, Transformationsmuster. Ein analytischer Ansatz," which was published in 2008 in the
Zeitschrift für Soziologie 37(1).
The 500-euro prize is awarded annually by the Society for the best article by an MPIfG researcher in a peer-reviewed journal in the previous year.
Jens Beckert, managing director of the MPIfG, welcomed some 180 guests to the institute's official twenty-fifth anniversary celebration on the afternoon of December 4, 2009, at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. He remarked that the MPIfG has gained substantial recognition in Germany and abroad. "The directors of the institute and the researchers have visibly influenced sociology and political science in Germany and in the international community. 'The institute in Cologne' has become a brand in the social sciences." Beckert praised Cologne as an "excellent place to conduct research" and as an attractive city for employees and visiting researchers. He thanked the representatives of the city, state and federal governments who were in attendance for their support during the institute's first twenty-five years.
Speakers and panel participants.
From the left: Thomas Krieg, Jürgen Roters, Fritz W. Scharpf, Beckert, Christine Musselin, Andreas Pinkwart, Renate Mayntz, Peter Gruss, Thomas Rachel, Wolfgang Streeck.
The festivities at the museum concluded with a panel discussion between Renate Mayntz, Fritz W. Scharpf, Wolfgang Streeck and Jens Beckert on "Governing Society: Politics versus Markets?" in which they discussed the development of the institute’s research program since 1984, the current research interests at the institute and the relationship between the social sciences and political practitioners. A podcast
(in German) of the discussion is posted on the MPIfG website.
Some 180 guests were in attendance on December 4, 2009.
The FORSETI saxophone quartet provided musical interludes.
After the official celebration, Mayor Jürgen Roters invited everyone to a reception at Cologne City Hall, where the MPIfG directors and directors emeritus signed the city's guest book.
From the left: Fritz W. Scharpf, Wolfgang Streeck, Jens Beckert, Renate Mayntz, Jürgen Roters, Peter Gruss.
Alumni, staff members and friends of the MPIfG were among the guests at the
Mayor's reception at Cologne City Hall on the evening of December 4.