GAAS PolSci Conference 2019: The Corrosion of the Liberal Democratic Order? Transatlantic Perspectives in Perilous Times

Project no.:



Thursday, 7th– Friday, 8th November 2019


Heidelberg Center for American Studies, Hauptstr. 120, 69117 Heidelberg


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Florian Böller, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Dr. Markus B. Siewert, Technische Universität München
Heidelberg Center for American Studies
German Association for American Studies

The conference is funded by the

German Research Foundation

Target group:

Political scientists, historians, sociologists as well as a larger interested audience

Participation fee:

No admission


You can register for this conference online until November 4, 2019 here.

Arrival, Accommodation, Travel grants, Busines meeting:

General information can be downloaded here.


For some time, it seemed as if democracy – especially in its market-liberal variant of US-American provenance – is the only game in town. In recent years, however, the marriage of liberal values, capitalism and democratic order has come under considerable stress from a variety of directions. Increasing polarization and decreasing trust in institutions goes hand in hand with an erosion of confidence in the problem-solving capacities of governments and a growing pessimism about economic well-being and social progress, more generally. The promise of the democratizing power of the internet boomeranged as a destructive force in form of fake news and mass disinformation.

At the same time, the disconnect between “the” people and its political representatives became more and more visible, giving rise to new political forces across the political spectrum with the potential of empowering new social groups. These turbulent times are not limited to domestic politics, but also stretch beyond envisaged walls and borders into the realm of international politics: Here, the discontents of globalization and the dismal results of democracy promotion with coercive means after the end of the Cold War contributed to the erosion of American and Western authority on the global stage. Liberal principles and values came under attack from left- and right-wing forces, which contested the traditional bipartisan liberal consensus in the United States but also within the European Union. These developments have opened up room for new geo-strategic maneuvers and dynamics in a multipolar world. All in all, it seems as if we face a corrosion of the democratic order!

The 2019 Annual Meeting of the Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies (GAAS) aims to address these and other challenges to the democratic order with a focus on the U.S. as well as in a comparative perspective. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Florian Böller (TU Kaiserslautern) & Markus Siewert (Bavarian School for Public Policy)

Panel I: Renewing Representation? Chances and Challenges for Political Parties
Jonathan Hopkin (London School of Economics): “Anti-System Politics and the Challenge to the Liberal Order in Europe and North America”
Jordan Tama (American University, Washington, D.C.): “Bipartisanship in a Polarized Age: When Democrats and Republicans Cooperate on U.S. Foreign Policy.”
Mike Cowburn (FU Berlin): “Democratic Re-Engagement? The Ideological Foundations of Growing Primary Participation” 
Jörg Hebenstreit (Schiller University Jena): “What the Privatization of Campaign Finance means for Political Parties: The United States in the Age of the Shadow Parties”

Coffee Break

Panel II: Declining Legitimacy? Political Institutions under Pressure
Natalie Rauscher (Heidelberg University): “Not Weathering the Storm – Catastrophe Mitigation by the Executive Branch in Times of Political Polarization”
Philipp Adorf (Bonn University): “SCOTUS as a Political Prize: Partisan Politicization of the Supreme Court and its Potential Legitimacy Crisis” 
Patrick Horst (Hamburg): “Excessive Executive Privilege and the Challenges for Congressional Oversight in Times of Trump” 

Lunch Break

Panel III: Transformation of Democracy? Political Communication in the Digital Era
Bill Harder (American University, Washington, D.C.): “Executive Twitter Sphere: How Governors Use Twitter for Political Communication”
Diego Ceccobelli (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Florence): “It’s Personal – Personalization Strategies of Political Leaders on Facebook”
Pascal D. König (TU Kaiserslautern): “Digital-era Political Marketing and Microtargeting: The Death Knell for Democracy?”
Curd Knüpfer (Weizenbaum Institute Berlin): “Political Influencers, Alternative News Sites and the Peripheral Networks of the Right-wing Media”

Coffee Break

Panel IV: Faultlines of Liberalism? Democracy in the Age of Trump
Boris Vormann (Bard College Berlin): “Trumpism as a Global Phenomenon?”
Olga Thierbach-McLean (Hamburg): “Overdosing on Individualism? The Reactionary Side of a Liberal Ideology”
Jan Hornat (Charles University, Prague): “The (In)congruence of Liberalism and Post-Communism”
Michael Dreyer (Schiller University Jena): “The Failure of Political Theory: The End of Democracy, Capitalism, History, and Everything”

Didi Kuo (Stanford University): “Political Parties and the Crisis of Democratic Capitalism”

Conference Reception

Friday, November 8, 2019

Business Meeting
Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies 

Panel V: Discontents of Liberalism? Capitalism, Inequality, and Marginalization
Christian Lammert (FU Berlin): “Growing Unequal: The Redistributive Capacity of the Tax and Transfer System in the US”
Welf Werner (Heidelberg University): “Political Polarization Meets Macroeconomic Policies: The Hazards of Inconsistent U.S. Deficit Spending”
Laura Kettel (FU Berlin): “No Place To Be: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities” 
Ana-Constantina Frost (FU Berlin): “A Crisis, Yes – But for Whom? The Central American Diaspora in the US and the Crisis at the Border”

Lunch Break

Panel VI: World Order in Decline? Contestation of Liberal Authority Structures
Maria Debre & Hylke Dijkstra (Maastricht University): “Institutional Design for a Post-Liberal Order: Why Some International Organizations Live Longer than Others”
Betsy Leimbigler (FU Berlin): “International Institutions in an Era of Anti-Globalism”
Tim Heinkelmann-Wild (LMU Munich): “After Exit: Institutional Resilience and Leadership Transition after Hegemonic Withdrawal”
Catherine Hecht (Vienna School of International Affairs): “Democratic Governance in Evolving International Orders”

Concluding Remarks & Farewell

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