Completed research projects

Accept Pluralism - Tolerance, Pluralism and Social Cohesion: Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century in Europe?

ACCEPT PLURALISM is a 3-year international research project, funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme.

The project aims to investigate whether European societies have become more or less tolerant during the past 20 years. Bringing together empirical and theoretical findings, ACCEPT PLURALISM generates a State of the Art Report on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe targeting policy makers, NGOs and practitioners, a Handbook on Ideas of Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe aimed to be used at upper high school level and with local/national policy makers, a Tolerance Indicators’ Toolkit where qualitative and quantitative indicators may be used to score each country’s performance on tolerating cultural diversity, and a book on Tolerance, Pluralism and Cultural Diversity in Europe, mainly aimed to an academic readership.

The project includes direct communication with and input from policy makers, civil society, political and media actors for the dissemination and exploitation of its findings. which will become available in the period from 2011 to 2013. The consortium is formed by 17 partner institutions in 15 countries. The Danish part project is conducted by a researcher team from the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, led by Professor Per Mouritsen and consisting of Associate Professor Tore Vincents Olsen, postdoc Lasse Lindekilde, postdoc Morten Brænder and PhD student Emily Cochran Bech.

Participants in the Danish part project:

Consortium website:

The BRIC Countries and Globalisation

The project offers basic research into the internal and external globalization dynamics of the four BRIC powers as one way to open the ’black box’ of globalization. What does globalization actually mean concerning key globalization actors in the world today and tomorrow, what goes on in terms of globalization inside each of the four BRIC powers?

BRIC has become a buzzword among invesigators, opinion-leaders and decision-makers. The abbreviation stands for the world economy's new 'fab four', namely Brazil, Russia, India and China. The term 'BRIC' was originally launched by the finance house Goldman Sachs with a view to encouraging investments in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US in 2001.

At the Wehrkunde conference in Munich in February 2007, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin used the term to emphasize the importance of Russia and the other BRIC powers at the expense of the US and the EU. The recent G20 economic crisis summit once again put focus on BRIC, since Brazil is the current leader of this forum, consisting of the world's 19 leading national economies, among them all four BRIC countries (+ the EU). Further, it has long been obvious that in future the two Asian giants, China and India, will play a prominent role as the global economy's locomotives - a trend also known as 'Asia rising'. In our view, these are the main characteristics of the BRIC countries:

  1. are major economies in terms of population and geography
  2. demonstrate consistently high growth rates in their GNP
  3. have a very large middle class (many millions in each
  4. consist of open, export-oriented economies
  5. have a mutual division of labour option
  6. practise government-controlled globalisation (state capitalism/
    developing countries)
  7. are superpowers in the traditional security policy sense

The research project focuses particularly on government-controlled globalisation, which is what makes the BRIC countries interesting as an alternative to consistently liberal globalisation models.

The main focus of the project is on item 6, which is what makes the BRIC countries interesting as an alternative to the consistently liberal globalisation models. The study will consider four hypotheses, all of which apply more or less to all four BRIC countries:


The BRICs are competitive states practising 'geo-economics'


The BRIC are embedded in their industrial/commercial sectors = developing states


The BRICs are modern, Westphalian states with a focus on sovereignty


The BRICs prefer soft rather than hard balancing of other

The primary aim of the project is to describe the BRIC dynamics to a Danish audience: The participants arrange lecture series under the Danish university extension organisation and are working on a popular anthology on the BRIC countries.

Project participants:

Click on the names above to see the publications from the BRIC-project. 

Electoral Consequences

In all advanced Western nations, policy-makers have implemented encompassing welfare state reforms in recent decades breaking with past welfare arrangements. In particular, social democracy engaged in significant policy change under the Third Way paradigm and broke with its traditional reputation on welfare that had built the ties with the core constituency in the 20th century.

The project demonstrates that Third Way reforms went against the social policy preferences of social democracy’s core voters and indeed produced an electoral setback for social democrats at the ballots. Moreover, and accounting for cross-national variation, the analysis shows that the nature of the setback is contingent on the electoral system and the party competition social democrats face when reforming the welfare state.

The project ended with the publication of the book 

Project manager: Christoph Arndt

Elites and the 'New Poverty Agenda': A Comparative Study

A research project under the auspices of the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

This research programme is a comparative study of the political economy of elites support and the implementation of pro-poor productive sector initiatives in five countries: Bangladesh, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

The research program asks three main questions:

a) Where does real authority reside with respect to the implementation of selected pro-poor productive sector initiatives?

b) What factors explain state elite views on the desirability and feasibility of these initiatives and thereby elite support, resistance, subterfuge and/or exclusion in relation to them?

c) What are the major cross-country similarities and differences with respect to b) and how can they be explained?

There are various theoretical disagreements within the literature and questions about current thinking that we address in our work:

  1. How important are societal groups?  A central assumption is that interest groups outside the state are key in pushing issues of inclusion and poverty reduction onto the public agenda and in helping to hold the state accountable for subsequent policies, their implementation, and results. We think that this influence is generally overrated because non-state organisations are often weak and fragmented.
  2. Are state elites solely driven by instrumental self-interest? A rational choice framework, which has at its core the assumption that political responses to poverty are dominated by ‘rational egoism’ conceived in rather narrow material terms is not empirically convincing. Thus changes may also be driven by ideology, professional pride, nationalism, etc.
  3. Are neo-patrimonial relations central in explaining what state elites regard as desirable and feasible? The neo-patrimonial paradigm, which scholars of African politics have embraced does focus on the role of state elites but it cannot, on its own, explain the considerable variation in policies, institutional arrangements and outcomes within and across countries. The neo-patrimonial paradigm regards state elite politics as driven by a quest for personal power, rent seeking and other particularistic benefits.

We focus on strategies for economic growth and poverty alleviation as formulated in and implemented through the PRSPs. In each country we research these strategies in two productive sector initiatives in which the state has a prominent role.

We ask two basic questions about these initiatives:

a) Under what conditions do state elites significantly influence relevant sector policies and implementation arrangements?

b) When state elites do have influence, what types of policies, implementation arrangements and outcomes do they then find desirable and feasible?

Our research is grounded in a political economy approach, is deeply contextual and case study based. Policy and implementation outcomes, we claim, result from interactions over time between different state, non-state and donor actors whose beliefs, interests, incentives and constraints are shaped by the institutions within which they are embedded. These dynamics change over time. The research is pitched at a middle level of analysis – seeking to take account of some major institutional and structural changes as well as the ‘micro level’ interactions between specified individuals, units and organizations.

The collaborative research programme is funded by FFU and will run from January 2008 until December 2010.

Project members:

  • DIIS researchers involved: Ole Therkildsen (Programme Coordinator), Lars Buur, Neil Webster, Lindsay Whitfield.
  • Other researchers involved: Anne Mette Kjær, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark.
  • The following students and resaerchers are associated with the programme: France Bourguin, Post.Doc. Candidate; Tina Marie Jensen, PhD Candidate; Florian Langbehn, PhD Candidate.
  • Networks or partners involved: Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director, Institute for Democratic Governance, Ghana; Obede Suarte Baloi, Research Coordinator, Centre for Democracy and Development Studies, Mozambique; Zarina Rahman Khan, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Dhaka University, Bangladesh; Max Mmuya, Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Dar as Salaam, Tanzania; Fred Kakongoro Muhumuza, Lecturer, Department of Economics and Management, Makerere University, Uganda.

Project website:

Institutions, Gender and Behavior 

Do personal characteristics matter in the public sector?
The aim of this research project is to examine whether the personal characteristics of public sector employees affect how they handle tasks individually and collectively. The topic of the project is how institutional factors in the public sector condition the significance of gender for public sector employees' individual and collective task handling.

Project participants from AU: Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen and Lotte Bøgh Andersen

Project website:

Comparative Democracy Assessment

The world has since the 1970s - but particularly so since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of apartheid in the early 1990s - seen more and more countries changing their political regimes in a supposedly democratic direction.

It is not particularly difficult to think of cases, where one would question whether or not a democratic development had actually been started, even though also small steps in a democratic direction are better than no steps at all.

This is the background on which this project on democratic comparative assessment intends to develop and test ways of assessing two main dimensions in our concept of democracy, namely:

  1. Election quality and
  2. Civil Liberties

This is done by constructing two indices suitable for comparing countries (and elections) across space and time. The construction of such indices requires high quality data as well as constructive solutions to the methodological problems inherent in such comparisons. These measures will thus be based on new ways to conceptualize the core concepts and measurement based on new detailed data, which can be aggregated when relevant.

The project will focus on factors, which can explain different country scores on these indices, as well as the impact on political legitimacy, which electoral quality and observance of civil liberties have in the countries under scrutiny. We distinguish between specific and diffuse political legitimacy understood as confidence in and acceptance of the political regime.

Our starting point is analyses of the situation in around a dozen countries (ranging from Denmark to Iraq and Afghanistan). The cases represent very different democratic developments and they also differ widely as far as structural and institutional factors are concerned. This huge variation primarily serves an analytical purpose as such factors are expected to contribute significantly to the cases' different levels of quality in relation to (1) election and electoral administration, (2) civil liberties, and (3) political legitimacy.

The project is for the years 2007-2009 funded by a grant from the Danish Research Council for Society and Business. Previously, a small grant was obtained from the University of Aarhus Research Foundation.

Project group:

Project website:

Nordic Network on Political Ethics

The project "Nordic network on Political Ethics" involves 12 research groups from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The project is led by Professor Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus.

Recent years have witnessed an increasing interest in interdisciplinary research in political ethics, ie the study of practical ethical problems in relation to politics. Research in political ethics takes up conceptual and normative as well as empirical issues and, as a result, draws on disciplines such as philosophy, politics, economics, and law. Examples of research areas are:

1.    climate change and justice;
2.    democracy and inclusion;
3.    the concept of discrimination;
4.    (4)multiculturalism and recognition;
5.    priority setting within health care systems;
6.    war and international conflict; and
7.    the responsibility of rich countries towards poor countries.

Diverse as these topics are, they involve common and important methodological concerns, like what the relationship is betweengeneral political and ethical principles and practical ethical analysis. Moreover, there is a unity of central theories and concepts, forinstance the concepts of responsibility and justice, political and democratic legitimacy. Finally, most members work within themethodological framework set by reflective equilibrium. Accordingly, they prize virtues such as conceptual clarity, a perspicuousargumentative structure, coherent and comprehensive accounts of judgements about political ethics, and empirically informedanalysis of applied ethical problems. For these reasons cooperation between Nordic researchers working within the field of politicalethics makes good sense.Presently, Nordic researchers are well accomplished within political ethics, but there is little interchange between different researchgroups and much reason to believe that more interchange will further strengthen Nordic research within the field.

The aims of the Nordic Network on Political Ethics are to:

  • integrate existing Nordic research in political ethics
  • facilitate interdisciplinary research contacts, especially among researchers working within philosophy and political science (primarily) and economics, law and medicine (secondarily)
  • improve the quality of education for PhD students within political ethics
  • strengthen the international visibility of Nordic research within NNPE area
  • initiate internationally competitive research projects of high quality
  • achieve recognized status as a Nordic Centre of Excellence (or some equivalent status) within five years.

The project is supported by a grant from NordForsk – the Nordic research board for cooperation on research and researcher training in the Nordic region.

Project groups:

The project involves the following research groups. For further information, please see the project website:


The "Oslo group"


Centre for Ethics and Economics, Research group in Social Choice/Experiments (NHH), Bergen


Global Health: Ethics, Economics & Culture, Bergen


Ethical, legal, and religious dimensions of armed conflict, Oslo, the International Peace Research Institute (PRIO)


Centre for the Study of Equality and Multiculturalism (CESEM), Copenhagen56


Social epistemology research group, Copenhagen


Political theory, Århus


Philosophy, Århus


Philosophy, Gothenburg


Political theory/philosophy, Stockholm


Political theory/philosophy, Uppsala


Political Philosophy, Turku

Contact: Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen (


Project website:

Political Agenda-setting:
The role of parties, interest groups, voters, and mass media

The starting point for this project is the argument that the development of the agenda of different political actors is pivotal in understanding contemporary Danish politics as well as politics in other countries. Especially, the development of parties' political agendas deserves attention. Whether political parties focus on the environment, law and order or the welfare state has a number of important political consequences.

The project takes up a number of more specific questions such as what is the mass media impact on parties political agendas? How do interest groups try to influence parties' political agendas? What is the effect of party political attention on the extent to which policy decisions are made in accordance with voter preferences?

You can read more about the different subprojects on the project website.

Project group:

The project, which will run from 2005 to 2009, has received financial support by the Danish Social Science Research Council and The Research Foundation at the University of Aarhus.

Contact: or

Project website: