Zukunft der Verbände

Project Description

At a Glance

› Examination of the reorganisation logic of German industry associations
among 170 branch- and sector-level associations.

› New data: online survey and interviews with associations' executives and others

› Quantitative and qualitative data analysis

› Independent research at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES),
funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation

Project details

– Topic –

In Germany, industry associations are important political actors in representing the interests of companies vis-à-vis political decision makers and the general public. Like in many other societies around the world, lobbyism is perceived as something controversial in Germany. But industry associations are not mere agents of interests—they also play an important role in implementing policies, enabling networking between companies, facilitating innovation, and providing services especially to small and medium-sized enterprises. Furthermore, they help companies to operate in a constantly changing economic and political environment. Yet, long-term and short-term changes in the political and economic world not only affect the members of the German industry associations but also the interest organisation of the German industry itself. We study in detail which changes in the associational environment are perceived as important and how German industry associations adapt in order to secure their performance.

– Research questions –

The comparative analysis of more than 170 German industry associations aims to identify the logic behind the reorganisation of collective interests in response to changing context conditions. The project examines the organisational narratives, rationalities and structures within which interests are selected, bundled, processed and transformed into influence strategies.

– Theory –

Our theoretical assumption is that the organisation and reorganisation of associations are not a mere response to functional requirement, but that actors are guided by specific institutional, instrumental and normative rationalities. The project draws upon previous studies and thus also captures the change of associations over time and the close link with corresponding associational reorganisation at the European level.

– Methods –

The empirical study is based on an online survey, interviews and a document analysis. The survey collects information on the kind and degree of the perceived pressure as well as on the character of the intended reforms. The question is which reforms are considered compatible with a given organisation, its available instruments, and the prevailing beliefs about legitimacy. On the basis of interviews, we will critically examine the relevance of the rationalities and ascertain the actual reform efforts.

Survey preparations: 100%

Survey: 100%

Survey analysis preparations: 100%

Survey analysis: 100%

Interview preparations: 100%

Interviews: 100%

Interview analysis: >99%

Publications: 7

Project time: >99%

Research Team

Prof. Dr. Beate Kohler

Prof. Dr. Beate Kohler

Project Director

Professor Kohler is a distinguished researcher of European integration, European civil society and interest group research. Her focus has been on efficient and democratic governance as well as on the respective contribution of intermediary organisations.

With the current research project, she pursues the question whether transformations at the level of individual business associations will trigger a change in the German system of economic interest intermediation.

David Friedrich

David Friedrich, M.A.


David Friedrich is a researcher at the MZES. He holds a degree in political science (M.A. Thesis: “NGOs in global economic governance”). His main research interests cover interest groups, global civil society, European integration and international relations. In addition to his academic experience, he has gained practical insights at the German Embassy in Washington D.C. and the European Commission, Brussels.

His dissertation project examines the impact of Europeanisation and globalisation on German industry associations. Are associations embarking on a path of becoming transnational actors or are they upholding their historic position as national actors? What organisational and action strategies do associations pursue to meet political and economic challenges that transcend their traditional sphere of activity?

Sebastian Fuchs

Sebastian Fuchs, M.A.


Sebastian Fuchs has moved to Bielefeld University in April 2018. He is still involved in the project, particularly because he is working on his dissertation. He studied political science at the University of Bielefeld and the University of Osnabrück, where he graduated with distinction. His research interests cover political interest intermediation, interest groups as organisations and economic policies. Sebastian Fuchs has published on legitimacy beliefs in German economic chambers and on the chambers' activities in legislative processes.

His dissertation project focusses on the development of organisational identities and core functions of German industry associations. It examines how industry associations change their identities in reaction to altered context conditions. The project compares associations’ identities in four different branches and over time.


Prof. Dr. Beate Kohler-Koch
Mannheim Centre for European Social Research
Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung | MZES
Universität Mannheim
A5,6 | Bauteil A
68159 Mannheim
Tel.: +49 621 181-2842
Fax: +49 621 181-2845

Postal address:

Universität Mannheim, MZES
68131 Mannheim


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Last update: 22 February 2021