The State, Political Norms and Political Conflicts

Responsible: Daniela Heimpel, Marieke Louis, Alexandra Oeser

Co-organization: Mathias Delori

The Pole "The State, Political Norms and Political Conflicts" aims to collate and compare social science works on political conflicts, their dynamics, and their resolution, with particular attention paid to how they impact not only legal and bureaucratic norms, but also social and professional (and vice versa).


The analysis of political conflicts, their crystallization, and their resolution informs us to what “holds together” a society or, on the contrary, causes it to disintegrate. To scrutinise the ways in which certain problems are posed, and undoubtedly politicized, in terms of conflict, often comes down to the question of shared norms, in the broad sense of the term, for generalized conflict is the extreme form of anomie. As for attempts to defuse, appease, or settle conflicts, they are never politically neutral and primarily inform us about the actors (State or otherwise) who are responsible for them. In this respect, the social sciences should resist the temptation to evaluate conflict resolution policies and to measure their hypothetical social effects. The Pole État, droit et conflictualité aims to bring together researchers from various disciplines and scientific traditions (anthropology, law, history, political theory and science, sociology ...), who are attentive to social practices at work in political conflicts, their own temporalities, and their historicity. Special emphasis will be placed upon social relations to the law and to the State – for example, state agents, contractors, and activists, whom political conflicts generate, expose, or transform.

The research presented in this Pole falls under three distinct themes: first, violence, crises, and post-conflict transition; second, political mobilization and engagement; and third, institution and appropriation of legal norms.

1. Violence, Crises, and Post-Conflict Transitions

Research on this topic focuses on violent practices and institutions that might be associated with such practices, in the context of acute crises and conflicts of varying degrees, or in the stabilized framework of the most varied political systems (whether democratic liberal, or authoritarian). Among the issues addressed from this perspective are, firstly, the formation, construction, and stabilization of political systems; secondly, the forms and modalities of violence, whether physical or symbolic, institutional (exercised by the State, big business, religious organisations ...) or of a more widespread and diffuse character; questions, equally, concerning the dynamics of political crises and social upheavals that accompany them; and the essential question, ultimately, concerning the processes of post-conflict transitions that are often characterized by their juridico-political dimension.

2. Collective Mobilisations and Political Engagement

A second series of works focuses on mobilization around various causes and the construction of public problems, on the one hand; and on political participation and engagement, on the other. It is a question of primarily thinking about what factors influence groups that build and support them and, conversely, on the ramifications of collective dynamics on the way in which the problems emerge and are configured in the public arena. The often-conflicting assertion of a first person plural “we” effectively passes through a categorization in the social sphere and a point of view concerning it. These include the most varied mobilizations for recognizing a group and its participation in political life, whose intersectional approaches – analysing the intertwining of gender, race, and class relations in practice – have underlined the complexity of the issue. The question of political participation is then inseparable from that of political commitment, in the most diverse spheres of social life, whether professional, family, activism ...

3. Institution and Appropriation of Legal Standards

Research in this field is concerned with the formation, institutionalization, and practical implementation of normative systems, in particular legal systems, by multiple actors operating both inside and outside of the State. In fact, the Law is not only crafted and practiced by legitimate experts such as professional jurists, but also by lay persons, formally associated with its institution (e.g., jurors at the Court of Assize) or outside of these, capable of assimilating the rules instituted and, at times, to use them against the State (activists). Such tensions in legal practice and process are palpable both on a national and international level.