When the Hamburg Institute for Social Research was founded in the mid-1980s, its mission was to produce alternative knowledge and address problems that were otherwise neglected or deliberately ignored by state-funded academic institutions. The intention was to conduct social research outside the established routines of conventional practice in research. This founding principle is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago.
In doing so, HIS defines its own research agenda—independent of constraints associated with external funding, political guidelines, and theoretical trends! Researchers in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences work on relevant contemporary issues, with sociology and history playing a central role. The Institute pursues “historically informed social science” that sets out to define and analyze central fields of conflict in modern societies from a theoretically ambitious and—whenever possible—comparative perspective. Research currently focuses on phenomena of (past and present) macro-violence as well as on current problems of democracy and statehood and the structural idiosyncrasies of present-day capitalism.
Research at HIS does not aim to accumulate increasingly detailed knowledge. The pronounced interdisciplinary character of the Institute and the great willingness of its staff to engage in theoretical work facilitate the development of projects that focus on larger theoretical contexts and avoid pure empiricism, often making it possible for the non-academic public to become aware of the Institute’s research results. The fact that this can be done so successfully is due especially to the orientation of the Institute’s journal (Mittelweg 36) and the Institute’s publishing company (Hamburger Edition), both of which publish the Institute’s research findings.