Abstracts for Multidisciplinary Research Workshops 2012-2013

"History and the Social Sciences: Still a Dialogue of the Deaf?"



29 May 2013, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room







It has often been lamented that history and the social sciences have long parted ways into separate disciplines. So much so that Fernand Braudel once quipped that conversations between historians and social theorists had become akin to a ‘dialogue of the deaf’. Braudel, however, was one among the growing number of scholars and intellectuals who over the past half-century have incessantly sought to bridge the growing gap between historical and social scientific disciplines. This effort has led to the growth and expansion of, among others, fields of inquiry such as historical sociology, social science history and social history. Both research itself and professional associations bringing historians and social theorists together, have proliferated over the recent decades and their growth does not seem to abate.

The workshop asks whether Braudel’s lament still stands today. Is there still a ‘dialogue of the deaf’ between history and social science? If genuine dialogue has increasingly taken place, what has been learned? Has it simply generated further specialized and isolated sub-disciplines, for instance those of ‘historical sociology’ and ‘historical economics’? Or has it been more broad-based, and hence is it time do away with stereotypes that see historians as overwhelmingly concerned with the particular, change and narrative, while the social scientist with generalization, patterns, and theory?

In an effort to address some of these questions, the workshop brings together junior and senior scholars from across disciplines that have an interest in understanding the relationship between history and social sciences. Scholars will reflect upon the challenges and opportunities that they have encountered when drawing together epistemologies and research methodologies which are generally thought of as belonging either to history or to the social sciences.

Professor Peter Mandler (Cambridge University. U.K.) 
Professor Jacques Revel (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
Professor Donatella Della Porta (EUI)
Dr. Philip Balsiger (MWF/SPS)
Dr. Gregorio Bettiza (MWF/SPS)
Dr. David Pretel (MWF/HEC)

Organizers: SPS Fellows, APG, Contacts: David Pretel and Gregorio Bettiza, MWFs

"Contemporary Approaches to Studying Norms across Disciplines"

22 May 2013, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


Norms are generally understood to be ubiquitous in human societies. Scholarship in diverse fields such as law, economics, politics and sociology has consequently dedicated considerable attention to the meaning and function of norms in ordering various kinds of interactions. Yet these disciplines approach the subject matter very differently in both philosophical and methodological terms, and so there is perhaps less understanding between academic fields than is the case with other subjects.

With this in mind, during this Multidisciplinary Research Workshop two prominent scholars will address fundamental questions about, for example, the distinction between different types of norms, their emergence and the various explanations of compliance with norms.

Cristina Bicchieri (University of Pennsylvania) will give a keynote speech about her theory of social norms and some of her more recent empirical work.

Giulia Andrighetto (Institute for Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Rome) will analyse the role of punishment in the enforcement of norms, combining agent based models and experiments.

These presentations will be followed by a discussion in which Max Weber Fellows from different social science disciplines will link the presentations by the invited speakers to relevant work within their own field, encouraging a multidisciplinary debate.

Programme (pdf)

Organizers: Julia Cordero Coma and Thomas Beukers, MWFs 

"Multi-, cross-, inter- transdisciplinary research in disciplinary and disciplined universities"


Johan Galtung

15 May 2013, 12.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room








Our world does not come to us divided in natural, human and social aspects, with the special divided from micro level psychology via meso sociology-politology-economics to macro IR with the global level missing. All of the above combined. Health science being a good example, development, peace and environment studies being others. The contradiction indicated in the title has not been solved so that type of research tends to go outside, to think tanks etc., to the great loss of universities. Max Weber's "Wertfreiheit" plays a role here. 
The talk will cover some of the experiences of somebody dubbed the "father of peace studies".

Speaker: Johan Galtung

"The Radical New World of Central Banking"


Bank of England

6 February 2013, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room








The aim of this interdisciplinary workshop is to explore the shifting role of central banks in developed economies, and in particular the ways in which financial crises – both current and past – have affected their scope for independent policymaking.

Since 2007 the manner in which central banks interact with the wider economy has changed almost beyond recognition. The short-term nominal interest rate, previously the main monetary policy instrument, has been pushed to its effective floor of zero in a large number of developed countries, yet a satisfactory recovery in economic conditions has remained elusive. The result has been a growing willingness on the part of these institutions to experiment with alternative measures – in particular the large-scale purchase of privately-held debt from financial markets, known as ‘Quantitative Easing’. At the same time the European Central Bank has played an active and pivotal role in managing the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, through a combination of actual and promised interventions in markets for government securities.

These developments raise a number of important questions. Some relate to quite practical uncertainties: for instance, how much do we understand about the likely effects of the new policies? And how soon, if ever, might we return to the familiar landscape of the past? Others are more normative: How much freedom should central banks have to innovate in this manner? Is there a case for greater democratic scrutiny of their decisions?

Downolad the programme (pdf)

Organisers: Charles Brendon (Eco), Thomas Beukers (Law) and Stefan Link (Hec)


"Interrogating Interdisciplinarity"

Fellows at workshop

30 January 2013, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


The goal of this multidisciplinary workshop is to encourage reflection upon the challenges of communication and collaboration across the disciplinary boundaries of the Max Weber Programme. The basic assumptions, foundations, methodologies, academic practices, forms of engagement, and final measures of achievement of each of our disciplines often diverge in ways that are impossible to ignore. In addition, as interdisciplinarity is currently in vogue, this workshop will address how we actually engage in such interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration. What can we really learn from one another?

The first part of this workshop will address the important foundations and epistemological assumptions of each of our disciplines – Law, Social and Political Sciences, History and Civilization, and Economics.

The second part of the workshop will focus on one issue – labor – and explore the differing potential starting points and approaches each discipline make take to tackling this subject. Most importantly, this workshop will provide an opportunity for frank and open discussion among Max Weber fellows across disciplines about our different approaches.

Download Programme & list of Speakers (pdf)

Organizers: Gabrielle Clark (LAW), Jean Beaman (SPS), Stefan Link (HEC), Konrad Lawson (HEC), Max Weber Fellows


"Identity and Citizenship in the new Arab World"

MRW Citizenship and Identity in the Arab World 14 Nov

14 November 2012, 11.00-12.30, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


The wide-scale protests that erupted in several Arab countries in 2011 and eventually led to regime change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have come to contradict the idea that the "Arab street” was apathetic. In those countries / like in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria / there have been attempts, sometimes marred with extreme violence, to reshape the relationship between the state and citizens.

Protest movements, elections, constitution-drafting are some of the means through which change has been taking place. In this process, tensions have often surfaced between a concept of citizenship that shall put the individual in the first place, and diverse identities (religious, ethnic, tribal and familial) that sometimes interfere / or even take precedence / in the expectedly direct relationship between the citizen and the state.

Through a few case studies and in a historical perspective, this workshop aims at discussing what has changed in Arab polities and what is at stake in process of change that is currently taking place.

Organizers: Virginie Collombier, MWF, & Oliver Roy, RSCAS


"Exiting the Euro Crisis?"

Thomas Cooley

17 October, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference room 

Joint workshop by the Max Weber Programme & Pierre Werner Chair of RSCAS

Keynote by Tom Cooley, NYU


At the coming 18-19 October European Council meeting an interim report will be presented by the EU’s “Four Presidents” (Herman Van Rompuy, Manuel Barroso, Mario Draghi and Jean-Claude Juncker) with a roadmap for the achievement of a genuine Economic and Monetary Union. It will focus on the four earlier identified essential building blocks for the future of EMU: an integrated financial, budgetary and economic framework and strengthened democratic legitimacy and accountability. It is yet another step in the difficult political process to overcome the sovereign and banking debt crisis that has afflicted the Eurozone since 2009.

This multidisciplinary research workshop will discuss the political and policy consequences of the Eurozone crisis. It will examine both the short-term solutions that have been proposed to solve the crisis (ECB intervention in bond markets, new rules on fiscal discipline and the establishment of a permanent financial mechanism for distressed member-states) and proposals for a long-term fiscal federal union (e.g. a banking union and a central budget). The issues dealt with range from lessons to be learned from the US historical experience to the impact of austerity driven reforms in individual member states. 

Download the programme (pdf)

Organisers: Ramon Marimon (Director MWP, EUI), Thomas Beukers, Aidan Regan and Charles Brendon (MWP Fellows, EUI)


"Frontiers in Intellectual Property Law: Ethical, Legal & Economic Boundiaries of IP Protection" 

Flyer for MRW on IP, 10 october 2012

10 October, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference room


The workshop aims to discuss the ethical, legal and economic boundaries of IP 
protection and to expose conflicting views on the granting of property rights for 
inventions and innovation.

The first session of the workshop revolves around patentability, with a focus on the 
well-known Brüstle case as decided in October 2011 by the Court of Justice of the 
European Union (Case C-34/10 Oliver Brüstle v Greenpeace e.V.). In adopting a broad 
view on the notion of ‘human embryo’, the Court negated the patentability of a 
particular type of cells, developed in vitro from human embryonic stem cells and used 
for scientific research. The controversial judgment has been discussed both in 
academia and industry circles: it was argued that it has the potential of hampering the development of potentially life-saving medical treatment.

The second part of the workshop adopts an economic perspective on the interrelationship between IP protection and innovation. Particular emphasis will be put on weak IP rights, research spill-overs and the incentive to innovate. Building 
upon the Brüstle case, the session investigates the conditions for the desirability of exclusive IP rights for innovators, as opposed to weak rights allowing for some degree of imitation and ex-post competition.

The conclusions will focus on the economics dimension of the interrelationship between IP protection and innovation. 
Ultimately, the workshop aims to discuss the far-reaching ethical, economic and societal implications of the design of IP protection.

Download the programme (pdf)       Download the workshop flyer

Organizers: Luana Joppert Swensson, Sofia Moratti, Andrea Wechsler, Yane Svetiev, Michael Rousakis & David Pretel, MWF  


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