completed PhD projects

Ezequiel Luis Bistoletti

Beyond thundering words. The labor policies of the left governments in Ecuador and Venezuela

Since the beginning of the democratic transition three decades ago, Latin America exhibits a convergence between democracy and enduring social inequality. This situation drew the attention of social researchers and led the present debates on social inequality and democracy to the reassessment of the labor market, as it constitutes a fundamental factor of social inclusion and political participation.
The International Labour Organization recognized this situation and introduced in 1999 the concept of “decent work” as a new paradigm of work. The concept of “decent work” does not conceive work only as employment, but also as a decisive element of social inclusion and political participation.
Based on this concept, the project analyzes the labor policy of the left governments in Ecuador and Venezuela, which declared the reduction of social inequality and the expansion of democracy as a central component of their policies. The project expects to determine to what extent the labor policy of the left governments contributes to the extension of decent work and, additionally, to find out where the main obstacles to the generalization of decent work lie.


Anke Butcher

The elected Caudillo – Nicaragua’s Democracy in the shadow of corruption, favoritism and elites

Each country’s development and democratic process demonstrates specific regional peculiarities. These need to be interpreted proceeding from a general to a specific point of view. To analyze a specific case, Nicaragua was chosen for this dissertation project. In its recent past, the country has experienced important social and political changes, and its democratic process was influenced by external interventions. The Nicaraguan development and democratic process show us that in spite of existing democratic structures, formal implementations of institutional frameworks, and sufficient legal involvement, broad political participation and socio-economic balance have not been achieved. Based on this observation, the focus of this dissertation is the description of internal factors and power structures and in this context the analysis of internal structural conditions of democratic processes. The dissertation will focus on the contextualization of corruption, favoritism and the workings of the elite. In which way have these informal power and regulatory systems influenced the democratic mechanisms and which impact do they have on the generation of social equality or inequality during the Nicaraguan democratic process (1997 – 2009)? How inherent to the system is the political and social handing down of corruption and favoritism in Nicaragua?


Kristina Dietz

Complex Vulnerabilities: social and political dimensions of climate change vulnerability, the cases of Nicaragua and Tanzania

There is a growing attention to the adaptation of Climate Change and to factors that influence the degree of vulnerability of certain population groups. In social science, attention is increasingly made to the concept of “societal vulnerability”, meaning that there are multiple underlying societal and socio-economic factors that determine the degree of vulnerability apart from the intensity of climate related stimuli or climate variability. The PhD study focuses on the role of political participation of rural poor people in political planning and decision making processes as a determining factor for vulnerability to increasing climate variabilities in Nicaragua and Tanzania. Although the importance of political participation for human development has been widely acknowledged by politicians and decision makers at the international and national level, there is still evidence that for poor people to participate, decide or raise their voices there are multiple societal and socio-economic obstacles that are not easy to overcome. Based on theory of political participation, governance and vulnerability the objective of the research is to analyse whether the exclusion / inclusion from / in societal and political decision making processes has an influence on the degree of vulnerability of those being affected.


Tanja Ernst

The Decolonization of Democracy: participation requires redistribution and recognition. Democratic theory lessons from Bolivia!

This PhD project examines the theoretical- and practical implications of social inequality and cultural difference for democratic quality focusing on the concrete example of Bolivia. The first part analyse retrospectively the limits of formal equality, and traces the political-economic and socio-cultural causes of the crisis of liberal representative democracy model in the Andean country. The second part highlights the social and democratic scope of the transformation process under the government of Evo Morales. The question of how the liberal-representative model could be enhanced by directly and traditional democratic forms and organizational structures in order to strengthen the democratic and socio-economic participation of structurally disadvantaged populations, and what democratic-potentials and conflicts this implies, will be discussed on the basis of indigenous demands for autonomy.


Dana de la Fontaine

New Dynamics in South-South Cooperation: India, Brazil and South Africa as “Emerging Donors”

The broad purpose of this research-project is to make a comparative analysis of the change in foreign policy in India, Brazil and South Africa since the economic liberalization, political democratization and international reorientation since the 1990s. In this sense, the aim is to identify the new actors and interests involved in the foreign policy process, in order to find out how these influence its outcome. The main interest is focussed on the new dynamics in the policy field of South-South Cooperation and on the relatively new role these countries play in providing technical, financial and humanitarian assistance to other developing countries.


Sebastian Matthes

Recommendation and Redistribution: The political and social-economical impacts of indigenous movements in Bolivia and Ecuador

In the past decade a unprecedented process of transformation has been initiated in Bolivia and Ecuador. At this the indigenous movements who fought against their ongoing and social exclusion, were the main actors in this process. Even after two decades of democratic rule, both states were characterized by the enduring social inequality, which mainly affected the members of the indigenous nations. However, in Bolivia like in Ecuador it was especially the ethnical protest articulated by the indigenous movements, as well as their increasing political influence which overthrew the traditional politics and opened the possibility for alternatives. As the result of the following democratic elections, progressive “leftwing” government projects emerged. The new democratic governments promised a ”re-foundation” of the states with the elaboration of a new constitution which contains a broaden democratically participation as well as a socio-economic redistribution. In front of all these actions should  effect the social disadvantaged population, hence the majority of indigenous people. The study focuses on a critical observation of the implementation of the introduced reorganizational process. For this it will be investigated to what extend the increase of the formal recommendation and participation in the Political process lead to a measurable economic re-distribution. Thus how the interdependency between recommendation, re-distribution and representation is arranged in a concrete example.


Stefan Peters

Continuity within Change. Education and Social Inequalities in Latin America. Findings from Venezuela and Uruguay

The reduction of social inequalities is at the centre of the political strategy of Latin America’s Leftist governments. In accordance with international debates, for achieving this objective education is given special importance. The dissertation examines the potential of the current reforms of education policies in Venezuela and Uruguay to reduce social inequalities. Therefore a complex analytical model containing the categories access to education, quality of education and hierarchical fragmentation of education systems is applied to empirical research. The results of the investigation demonstrate that the two distinct reform paths for different reasons both are not able to contribute to a substantial reduction of social inequalities. Thereby, it challenges the relevance of the predominant distinction between a moderate and a radical-populist left in Latin America for the performance of social policies. Moreover the results provide evidence of the importance to incorporate educational policies into an integral social policy approach which also includes the redistribution of wealth and income.


Anne Tittor

Driving Forces of commodification and privatization in the health sector in Latin America

My PhD-project is an analysis of international and national actors promoting the commodification and privatization of the health sector since the 1980`s in Argentina and El Salvador. Special emphasis is put on the question of, how international structures and policies determine national health politics, e.g. through project conditioning and how they interact with social forces within the countries favoring privatization. Although since approximately 2003 there has been a modification of international health policy and despite a lot of critics and protests against health privatization, the tendency towards commodification has not yet come to an end.


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