Authority and social trust are essential ingredients of social life, in a sense they may even be considered the ‘basic glue’ social integration is made of. As everything else in people’s historical existence, however, they are subject to constant, sometimes profound, change which may affect the very foundations of society.
The general goal of the proposed collective interdisciplinary research project is to investigate the dynamics and especially the tendency towards deterioration of authority and social trust in the social field of law in the overall context of globalisation, with special accent on the (European) post-totalitarian societies. This goal comprises three main objectives: 1) to identify the systemic/structural and the epistemological preconditions of the profound changes of authority and social trust; 2) to study the effects of these processes on the social (in)stability and the possibilities for institutional reforms in the field; 3) to interrogate the heuristic potential of the existing theoretical traditions in the problem areas of the project and to generate some new ideas and approaches.
For achieving these objectives, the project is designed in a way which could offer heuristic perspectives and inspiration for scholars from different disciplines and with different theoretical preferences. Each individual proposal will have its own focus which, however, should be in compliance with the aims of the whole project. At least some of the individual projects are expected to include cross-national comparisons.
The project seeks to answer questions such as:
- How should we reconsider the familiar notions of authority and trust in the context of the overwhelming globalisation and the enlargement of the European Union?
- Is the dynamics of authority unfolding parallel to corresponding dynamics of public trust or the presumed connection between the two variables is more complex and contextually dependent?
- How successfully is the decrease of the authority and the public trust in the national institutions compensated for by global institution-building in order to maintain functional level of social stability?
- Where are the “loci of authority” in contemporary societies and what kinds of “authority structures” replace the national state as a central authority of modernity?
- What is the real influence on the dynamics of authority and trust of the reforms carried out in the three social fields in the (European) post-totalitarian societies after 1989?
- Does the decrease of authority and trust have, along with the negative social consequences, some positive effects in the realms of individual autonomy and citizen’s activity?
The general assumption of the project is that the profound changes in the distribution and levels of authority and social trust result mostly from the co-evolution of global systemic-structural processes (such as democratisation, pluralisation, expansion of mass-media, intensified international migration, diminished prerogatives of the nation state, insufficiency of the supra-national institution-building as a substitute source of social order) and epistemological changes (i.e. the dramatically transforming contemporary notions of rationality, emergence of “mode 2 science”).
As interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged in this project, a highly elaborated, strictly uniform theory is not supposed to be imposed on the individual projects. Instead, bridges will be built on the level of different conceptualisations and fields. However, in order for this dialogue to be productive, some common core of general theoretical ideas or theoretical “leading image” for the entire project needs to be developed, including series of basic theoretical assumptions and common understanding of the main concepts. So, all the individual projects are supposed to deal with some shared and simple enough implications of the initially developed general framework. First of all (in addition to the project’s main hypothesis), they will deal with the notion that profound changes in the distribution and levels of authority and trust are not limited to the post-totalitarian space, but are really world-wide and thus subject to some global regularities. Second, with the idea that the processes of central interest for the project are significantly influenced by the crucial characteristics of both totalitarian and post-totalitarian experience. Third, with the understanding that national cultures and persisting national traditions have their own and important impact on the dynamics of authority and social trust.
A great variety of methods and sources of information will be used, as in each case study, the choice of the method will be a responsibility of the individual researcher. However, generally speaking, sociological and anthropological methods (with an emphasis on qualitative techniques for data collection) seem to be most appropriate for achieving the project’s research objectives.
The expected result of the project is an innovative and detailed picture of the dynamics of authority and social trust in the Law social field. On the theoretical level, building on the results from the case studies, the project team will elaborate a model of the factors responsible for the changes in authority and social trust in the field of law in the post-totalitarian (European) societies. It will also identify, “map” and systematise trends in the dynamics, especially in the process of deterioration of authority and social trust, within the field of interest and related fields. The project will also contribute to deepening our understanding of the notions of authority and social trust by revealing the way the specificity of the Law social field influences the dynamics of authority and social trust, as well as the intimate relationship between the changes of authority and the changes of public trust.
The policy relevance of the results of the project is ensured by the fact that it will provide data and analysis on issues which are very “hot”, i.e. publicly sensitive and important for the future development of the post-communist societies.
The project has been supported by the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe and Rule of Law Program South East Europe of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Germany.
The project aims at studying patterns of extra-legal dispute settlement in post-Communist Bulgaria. It analyses the way disputes between economic agents were settled in the period 1992-1993, and what legal and extralegal mechanism were adopted in the process. Evidence suggests that the role of mafia-like organisations in the protection of property rights and dispute settlement diminished towards the end of the 1990s. Hence, the research project builds upon the hypothesis that by the end of the 1990s, informal business practices and mechanism had emerged to secure property rights, and various strategies had been employed to protect entrepreneurial businesses against disloyal partners, predation, and crime. This might be because state institutions designed to protect property rights and enforce contracts had been strengthened by the end of the period under consideration.
It is the project's goal to test these hypotheses against the available empirical evidence, create an additional, independent data-pool by collecting case-studies on different industries, survey statistical data on the various aspects of doing business in Bulgaria in the period 1992-1993, and bolster the quantitative data with semi-structured interviews with entrepreneurs.
The proposed research falls into an area, which has been under-explored so far. It hopes to contribute to the analysis of extra-legal institutions interpreted as a response to low trust in formal institutions, and hence shed additional knowledge on the relationship between institutions and social trust. While the study does not aim to challenge the relative importance of formal and informal institutions for the protection of property rights in Bulgaria, it hopes to elucidate the context in which informal institutions emerged, and deal with the types of dispute settlement practices that prevailed in the early 1990s.
Political misrepresentation has been relatively under-explored. To quote authorities in the field, political scientists tend to treat this issue as an aberration, which is to be naturally corrected by democracy by means of developing proper legislation. Sociologists are interested in explaining the social causes and effects of misrepresentations. The currently prevailing taxonomy, however, does not offer a test able to detect impediments to participation, or identify methods for silencing, and/or monopolising frame-setting activities. Therefore, it is a commonplace for sociologists and political theorists to study post-1989 East European democracies along a minimalist logic of political misrepresentation, by resorting to some stratification theory. If applied to the Bulgarian case, this, however, would prove a rather uneasy task as the latter is far more complex in its social model, and it will be impossible to split and analyse it in three simplistic social groups - the winners (the elites), the losers, and the minorities.
The prime object of study of the proposed research work is the legislative actions passed against possible political misrepresentations in post-1989 Bulgaria. Analysing the rationality of these actions is part of the project's objective. The project interprets rationality as a set of ‘in-order-to' and ‘because' motives, and hence, it sets out to describe these motives by developing grounded theories of explanation. It claims that the bulk of the ‘because' motives cannot be reduced to standard explanatory causes, such as violations of democracy. On the contrary, the project expects to link these motives to responses to social mistrust rather than view them as an expression of political hypocrisy.
The proposed research addresses four major types of cases of political misrepresentation, namely, deficient representation (where portions of the public remain unrepresented), inauthentic representation (linked to violations of election procedures), insincere representation (i.e. not acting in the best interest of the constituents), and inadequate representation (not acting out the will of the constituents). Election laws and amendments of the Penal Code concerning election fraud, too, are analysed as a possible counteragents against political misrepresentation.
The political transition that took place in Eastern Europe almost two decades ago has brought geopolitically, legally and socially about significant changes to the societies involved, leaving their imprint on the countries' development for the subsequent years. The proposed research intends to analyse major societal and legal changes in the post-communist societies, in general, and Slovenia, in particular. It investigates the reasons behind, and effects of the changes on social trust and the loci of power and authority by drawing upon the achievements of the legal, sociological, criminological and social psychological sciences and on empirical evidence. Together, they are believed to provide new insights into the implications of these changes for social stability.
A closer look is taken at social trust in the judicial system and criminal law as they best reflect the (changes in) social values. This influence is not, however, analysed purely unidirectional as the law is recognised to be both influenced and influencing by nature. Hence, the research reflects upon the role of law and legal discourse in generating (dis)trust.
Considering that the media plays an important role in communicating and generating social representations - which, in turn, inform and fuel people's attitudes, values, beliefs, which affect trust - the project also examines its role in the formation of social trust. In conjunction with concrete examples of the changes in authority, order and trust and of the responses to these challenges locally, in Slovenia, and internationally, these insights are applied to assess whether the changes (and responses) are societyspecific or whether they are, at least in part, epiphenomena of a much more global(ised) trend. An explanation is sought for the emerging similarities, and possible solutions to tackle the decreasing social trust suggested.
The project hopes to call into discussion the structural and epistemological preconditions of the changes in social trust and authority, identified as changes in social security, in the part played by controversial denationalisation processes, and as a lack of viable political alternatives in the negotiation process for the accession to the European Union.
This interdisciplinary study traces the historically specific ways of functioning of the legal regulator (Bulgarian criminal law) in three social contexts: the Bulgarian society in the period after the end of Ottoman rule, the early socialist period and postsocialist society. It requires an analysis of law from a double point of view: law as encompassing the qualitative peculiarities of the socio-historical context and law as a necessary component of that context's systemic-structural reproduction.
The goals of the study are:
- To outline the structure and logic of the field of social relations which are the object of normative impact by criminal law in the three socio-historical contexts, define the degree and zones of social inefficiency of the penal legal regulation, and identify probable extralegal, and therefore socio-structural (historical and current), causes acting counter to the efficient penal legal regulation;
- To estimate the relative social weight of these relations within the context of the overall social life along the limits of the actual applicability of penal regulations and determine the sociological indicators of the historical changeability of penal legal regulation in the Bulgarian society not only in structure, form and contents but also by relative social weight;
- To describe the historical dynamics and changeability of penal regulations in Bulgarian society and establish the type of new social relations and/or ‘outdated' relations integrated in or excluded from the texture of criminal law; to fix the limits of tensions of criminal law with the other normative systems and uncover possible forms of ‘normative dualism' in the same circle of relations;
- To analyse the power intensity of penal legal regulation in the transition to a new socio-historical context, i.e., establish the proportion between the elements of reflection, values and prescription; define the transformation in the generalised method of impact (dynamics between the dispositive and the imperative methods); the basic strategy and tactical instruments of regulation; the structures of governance and level of political intervention; and the degree and forms of rationality of Bulgarian legal system; and last but not least,
- ‘To measure' the level of authority of and trust in criminal law in Bulgarian.
The research project addresses the question how the expansion and diversification of higher education relates to characteristics, such as openness and inclusion. It concentrates on the legal mechanisms for the provision of financial support (grants) to university students in Bulgaria and Germany, and explores the relevance of university fees for securing or preventing the access of wider social strata to education. While Bulgaria has recently adopted a law for students' credits, the latter's mechanism of implementation has not been developed yet. Hence, a controversy emerges between the legal and everyday practice, which results into low trust in law.
The project aims to examine the effects of legislation on educational motivation, and focuses on its influence on young people's individual decisions and strategies. In addition, the proposed research attempts to analyse the normative regulations in education from a gender perspective. It hopes to question the routine practice of setting gender quotas for enrollment in academia, as some disciplines of usually strong female preference, preschool teachers, nurses, librarians), do not grant an university degree.
The project is designed on a case-oriented, comparative research basis. The focus falls on how strongly organisational variations across countries, and between Bulgaria and Germany in particular, affect the relation between social class and personal achievement in education.
Albeit each in a different end, the post-Communist societies have many aspects in common. In particular, they need to reconcile the alleged need for academic (research) freedom and the independence of the judiciary with the ‘must' of internal reforms.
The proposed research project examines a series of questions related to the transformations of the professions, including self-administration versus external administration issues, funding and resource control, the renewal of the profession, entry and exit conditions, foreclosure, questions of hierarchy (elites and oligarchy) within each profession, as well as the ways, in which authority is generated.
The project adopts a comparative and interdisciplinary approach. It draws on a comparative analysis of the situation in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and hopefully, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. It subscribes to the assumption voiced by the Shaken Order Project that ‘the common totalitarian past does not predetermine a common present'. Hence, it hopes to build a working hypothesis in the course of research on trust in the process of transformation of self-regulated (self-contained) professions, thus avoiding overreaching conclusions.
The question of social trust in the legitimacy of law-producing and lawimplementing institutions is closely related with individuals' experiences especially in countries with state-sponsored regimes of repression and violence. In Bulgaria and Greece, memories of past repressions, contributed to endemic distrust in public authority and its legal institutions until today. The current research project focuses on the present schisms and heritage from experiences of radical changes, political instabilities and discontinuities. It intends to enlarge the problematic of the hidden order and social distrust by studying the instrumentalised dichotomy between ‘people from the Left' and ‘people from the Right' in the light of the labelling process of individuals and groups as belonging to ‘ours' or ‘others'.
The concrete questions to be explored focus on:
- How do social actors describe the political other in the context of their everyday interactions?
- How does genealogy link to political belongings and to the process of construction, maintenance, invention or re-invention of a coherent account of one's ‘pure' Rightist/Leftist identity?
- How does the mechanism of exclusion and/or inclusion work in the interactions between individuals and when do socially-attached etiquettes assume a stigmatising or, inversely, prestigious social role?
- How do Right or Left belongings shape an intimate ‘internal order', especially with regard to the micro-universe of family relationships?
- What is at stake in Left/Right competing historiographies?
- Within this almost ethnic fracture, how do individuals experience the extreme politicisation of legal, social and political institutions and find ways to transcend their ‘embeddedness'?
The project hopes to shed light on sentiments of distrust and lack of confidence on law and legal institutions by extracting from social relations those fundamental divisions that lead to the extreme politicisation of social life and create endemic affiliations to the rightist or leftist space in society.
The proposed research project aims at studying the particular reasons for the inefficiency of the constitutional and legal system in the Central and Eastern European countries. Its analytical framework encompasses the political and institutional experience driven from the process of social change in Bulgaria after 1989. It focuses on the challenges - social, political and legal - to the designed constitutional model in Bulgaria, on types of threats to that model and present safeguards for the constitutional supremacy. The degree of citizens' attention and attitude to the constitution is analysed as a litmus test for the level of democratic development and potential in the civil society.
The project examines the social preconditions for an effective constitutional and legal regulator in the post-communist societies, the latter having undertaken radical institutional reforms to meet the political and economic standards of the developed Western democracies. The study also critically investigates the connections of the present political elite in Bulgaria to the former communist party and the secret services and attempts to explore the ways these links might influence the process of institutional decisionmaking behind the institutionalised forms and means of the legislative process.