Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

The economy, society and politics are the focus of work at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. The Institute conducts advanced basic research aimed at developing an empirically based theory of the social and political foundations of modern economies. The researchers at the Institute are particularly interested in the interrelationship between economic, social and political processes. For example, they are investigating how markets and business organizations are embedded in historic-institutional, political and cultural frameworks, how they develop and how their social contexts change over time.


Paulstr. 3
50676 Köln
Phone: +49 221 2767-0
Fax: +49 221 2767-555

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy

Department The Political Economy of Growth Models


Department The Sociology of Markets

“Emphasize social and joint culture”

Lisa Suckert of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies argues for a more differentiated perception of the Brexit campaign and the economic identity of Great Britain.

<p>"Keep the future open"</p>

Interview with sociologist Akos Rona-Tas

A status symbol to die for

Three rhinoceroses are killed in South Africa each day, their horns chopped off and sold illegally on international markets.

How fictional expectations drive the dynamics of economic developments

The financial crisis reached its apogee in the autumn of 2008: the market for mortgage-backed securities from US mortgage loans imploded. Investors who had made what they thought were safe investments in securities, suddenly found themselves facing massive losses. The writedowns required and the payments due from credit insurance policies brought the financial system to the brink of collapse in a very short space of time.


On the political economics of the European Central Bank's bond-buying programme.


Felipe González, associate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, leads the Max Planck Partner Group for the Study of the Economy and the Public in Santiago de Chile. He reports on the project, talks about social unrest in Chile, and recalls the culture shock he experienced while living in Germany.

Opinions are divided when it comes to the question of how Europe should progress in the future. On the one side are the Eurosceptics, who wish for stronger nation states. But on the other, there are also many advocates of stronger European integration. At the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, research on Europe by Martin Höpner and his group and Fritz Scharpf explores to what extent there is any chance for the member states to move closer together, given their significant structural differences.

Advertising tells us that wishes really can come true. With the right deodorant, anyone can be a cool guy. The new yogurt is guaranteed to make you slim. Paradise is waiting for you at the seaside resort. It is well known that advertisements tell fictional stories designed to arouse the expectation that the product in question is going to make us cool, slim, or feel rested and refreshed. Our author explains that the economic system as such functions in a very similar way. Stories play an equally vital role in the seemingly rational world of investors and analysts.

Max Planck scientists cooperate with partners in more than 110 countries worldwide. Here they relate their personal experiences and impressions. Marcin Serafin studied sociology at the University of Warsaw. For his doctoral thesis, he chose to attend an International Max Planck Research School, where he enjoyed the opportunity to concentrate exclusively on his doctoral research – a stark contrast to the usual working conditions of doctoral students in Poland.

The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG) has been looking at the issue of “illegal markets” since 2012, and it has proven far from easy to draw any clear lines of demarcation. After all, the cycle of manufacture, distribution and consumption isn’t always as uniformly criminal as in the case of drugs or child pornography. Academic staff and doctoral students headed by Director Jens Beckert are researching counterfeiting in Argentina, the mining and trade in diamonds in Sierra Leone, the trade in rhinoceros horn and financial market crime – a look at an innovative project in economic sociology.

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The ideal of home-ownership – a generator of prosperity or crisis engine?

2018 Kohl, Sebastian

Social and Behavioural Sciences

Until the global financial crisis of 2007, homeownership had been a broadly supported political ideal in most countries and political parties. Historically, the idea of getting more people into homeownership can be traced back to a conservative answer to the upheavals of industrialization, but it can also be found in many political manifestos of center-left parties. It was not until after the financial crisis that observers noticed that the homeownership ideal had also produced mortgage and house price booms, followed by deep recession and more political radicalism.


Economization is a basic historical process that has profoundly changed the relationships between the economy, the state, society, and individuals since the 1970s. The political power of the private sector has grown, and the terminology, self-images, goals, and yardsticks of economics have become increasingly predominant. Only if we know about such basic historical developments we can understand the forces driving the world around us today and imagine what options are available for influencing future developments.


The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne has a long history of researching European integration and European monetary orders. The MPIfG’s research on Europe links the analysis of multilevel systems to insights from Comparative Political Economy into the inherent logic of the manufacturing and distributive regimes that are found in the EU and the eurozone. How can the euro crisis be judged on this basis and which possible solutions follow?


2008 the market for mortgage-backed securities from US mortgage loans imploded. The writedowns required and the payments due from credit insurance policies brought the financial system to the brink of collapse. Why had economists failed to spot the warning signs of the incipient worldwide financial crisis? The rationality assumptions behind economic theory founder on the complexity of the economy; expectations cannot be understood rationally but are contingent visions of the future. Such “fictional” expectations play a central role in decisions and in the dynamics of economic developments.


Low interest rates from the European Central Bank, loan offers galore on the internet, zero-percent financing from retailers: it has rarely been easier to get personal credit. Evoking the dangers of excessive consumption and credit bubbles oversimplifies this phenomenon, however. A political economy of household debt puts household debt into perspective.

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