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Institute of Political Science and Sociology

Profile and Study Contents


The Master's program "Social Science Sustainability Studies" is offered at the Institute of Political Science and Sociology as part of a consecutive Bachelor and Master program model.

The German- and English-language Master program Social Science Sustainability Studies is aimed at students who wish to broaden their knowledge of the social sciences with a focus on the multi-layered and complex topic of sustainability research with interdisciplinary research approaches.

The four-semester Master's program takes up the social science orientation of sustainability research and combines political science and sociological research perspectives of the IPS with reference to current social and political developments.

As a research-oriented program leading to a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, students can study the research field of sustainability in an interdisciplinary way and expand competences in the field of sustainability regarding scientific, social and cultural questions, problem areas and policy deficits.

Examples from teaching

Due to the integrative combination of the subjects Social Science Sustainability Studies, Political Science and Sociology, you can expect a broad range of topics, which allows you to specialise by setting your own focus. The program includes seminars from the fields of social science sustainability studies, comparative political science, European studies and international relations, political theory, general and special sociology, as well as methods of empirical social research.

In addition to the subject-specific qualification, the degree program opens up the possibility of sharpening one's own profile through career-relevant internships, stays abroad and other additional qualifications.

The Master's program qualifies students for academic activities in university and non-university research and in academically oriented professional fields. These include political consulting, market and opinion research, work in the media, associations, international institutions, business, political education institutions and publishing. The relevance of the topic of sustainability research also opens up good opportunities for work in public authorities and companies.

For an academic career, the basics for writing a dissertation are taught. A doctorate can then be completed within the framework of the interdisciplinary graduate schools at JMU.


Study Contents

Social science sustainability studies

Students receive an overview of the existing social science research approaches in the fields of political science and sociology with a focus on interdisciplinary climate and sustainability research. This is often oriented towards the Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations, such as the fight against poverty, gender equality, quality education, health and well-being.

Students develop competences in Education for Sustainable Development, the ability to structure and relate fundamental questions and research fields to each other, and to reflect on the importance of subject-related and interdisciplinary work.

General sociology

The thematic focus is on the approaches of a still young "sociology of sustainability", which are elaborated, reconstructed and critically discussed. For this, a reference to the existing range of topics and theories of sociological research is indispensable. The focus is on questions of basic sociological and theoretical work in order to discuss which theoretical resources a sociology of sustainability should be equipped with. This also includes questions about the possibilities of connecting to individual subdisciplinary sociological research areas such as a sociology of the political, a sociology of knowledge and a sociology of world society.

Methods of Quantitative Empirical Social Research

Quantitative methods that are central to empirical sustainability research are dealt with in the context of quantitative empirical social research methods. Starting with considerations on the measurability of relevant constructs such as specific attitudes and convictions to behaviour and political measures, their (international) comparability is critically reflected and discussed. Methods of international comparative research such as multi-level analysis, longitudinal methods at country level as well as experiments and evaluation studies play a major role.

Comparative political science and systems theory

The teaching area of comparative politics and systems theory is dedicated to the analysis and evaluation of different concepts of environmental policy, including the effect of divergent instruments and forms of governance, as well as their basic institutional structures. Building on the basic elements of policy research, a comparative study of the environmental policies of selected states (democracies and autocracies) is carried out. The results of environmental policy are also covered. This requires the inclusion of various measurement concepts, the validity of which is critically reflected. Different case designs and comparative evaluation methods can be used in the comparative analysis.

International Relations and European Studies

Sustainability policy (sustainable development and climate policy) can only achieve the necessary progress if it takes effect worldwide. It must be conceived, decided and implemented within the framework of global governance. The political science examination of the sustainability policies of central international organisations such as the United Nations and other international cooperation formats such as the G-7 and G-20, BRICS, IBSA, etc. is therefore part of the course content. A special focus is placed on the sustainability policy of the EU, which not only sets the framework for German sustainability and climate policy, but is also increasingly forced to exercise its role as a global pioneer.

Special Sociology and Qualitative Methods of Empirical Social Research

Sustainable policies are linked to democratic decision-making procedures and the corresponding involvement of publics: But how are publics produced in practice? To answer this question, different theories and empirical studies from sociology on the topic of the public sphere will be brought up for discussion. At the same time, the influence of media on public mediation processes will be appreciated. Finally, the question arises of how publics can be connected within a sustainable decision-making practice.

Within the framework of Qualitative Methods of Empirical Social Research, in-depth knowledge of qualitative research methods relevant for empirical-inductive research on sustainability issues will be taught, such as: How does one sociologically research the consequences of unsustainable policies (such as the consequences of global social inequality, environmental risks, migration experiences respectively the practices of global critical publics)?

Political theory

Aspects of sustainability have been addressed in political theory for a long time, albeit mostly under different headings. One focus is on considerations of justice in national and international contexts, both of which deal with questions of distributive justice. In addition, normative theories of justice raised questions of intergenerational justice early on, and proposed solutions in the form of "just savings principles" that present generations should follow to support future ones.

Basically, the non-European context also raises the question of alternatives to the Western economic system and the associated lifestyles or "conceptions of the good life". In addition, the question is discussed whether developing countries ("countries of the global South") have a right to catch-up modernisation with the known negative consequences for global sustainability and whether the countries of the West are obliged to pay compensation for the damage they have caused, in the form of colonialism and environmental pollution.