The Denationalization of Problem Perceptions and the Assignment of Responsibility to Political Institutions


Project Description

This project is a joint undertaking of the WZB research units, “Democracy: Structures, Performance, Challenges” (DSL) and “Transnational Conflicts and International Institutions” (TKI). It is based on a representative survey of the German population on cross-border problem perceptions and assigning the responsibility to take action to national, transnational and international institutions. More specifically, the question under investigation is to what extent and for what reasons the citizenry increasingly confers the responsibility for solutions to urgent problems on international political institutions and organizations.

Three aspects stand in the forefront as motivational factors for this undertaking:

  • First, whereas there is broad consensus among politicians and social scientists that globalization has increasingly penetrated the public awareness of cross-border problems and processes, there is nevertheless a significant lack of empirical studies to underpin this observation, differentiated according to issue or subject matter.
  • Second, whereas a number of competing hypotheses purport to explain the causes and conditions underlying this “denationalization” of problem-related viewpoints – e.g., cognitive mobilization, the universalizing of norms, cross-border communication, or instances of cross-border identification – systematic research in this area is nevertheless lacking.
  • Third, initial findings are already on hand, vis-à-vis the relationship between problem perceptions and an increasing tendency to shift responsibility onto, or to support, different institutions; however, these findings urgently need to be differentiated according to the various problem fields and institutions.
Main content

Selected Publications

Ecker-Ehrhardt, Matthias (2011): Cosmopolitan politicization: How perceptions of interdependence foster citizens’ expectations in international institutions. In European Journal of International Relations. Online version available at

Ecker-Ehrhardt, Matthias, Bernhard Weßels (2008): Denationalisierung gesellschaftlicher Problemwahrnehmungen [Denationalization of societal problem perceptions], Berlin, 05 2008, unpublished manuscript. Full text PDF (available only in German)