Earlier studies focused on the structural and theoretical analysis of communist systems until 1989/90. They were primarily based on the concepts of "bureaucratic socialism" and "socialist paternalism" proposed and elaborated at this chair. The research emphasis was on the GDR, political culture studies and on socialist political systems. Several research projects and volumes analyzed the political systems and - based on empirical studies - the ruling elite of the GDR and the Soviet Union as well as problems of legitimacy in the context of processes of social differentiation, ideological erosion, and potentials for systemic crisis.
During the 1980s, research focused mainly on political culture and the way of life/living conditions of different social groups in the GDR and in Poland. The latter was a result of longstanding research relations with the University of Warsaw.
In addition, from 1987 until 1992 this chair headed the "Interdisciplinary Network for research on Germany and the GDR" (Interdisziplinärer Arbeitskreis DDR- und Deutschland-Forschung). In collaboration with the University of Jena this group formed the cooperative research project (Forschungsverbund) on "The Way of Life in the GDR". Other studies focused on paternalism and patriarchalism in the GDR. They analyzed the political implications of a gender-specific division of labor and of a male-dominated political culture.
With the breakdown of the communist, bureaucratic-authoritarian systems in 1989, research on new areas and with new partners became possible. As a result, research questions and interests shifted in focus. While previous studies focused on the GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union, current research concentrates on a broader spectrum of countries including additional countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The comparative analysis of political cultures and "the quality of democracy" of East and West Germany, as well as Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, is at the center of current research. Asking for the "quality of democracy", an international team of authors will analyze "the two faces of democratization: formal institutions and informal mechanisms of political opinion formation and decision-making".
Since the early 1990s, the focus somewhat shifted towards the analysis of political cultures and studies of political psychology. Central is now the comparative analysis of political cultures in East and West Germany as well as in the Central and Eastern European countries and Russia. Political psychology research picked up on the theme of authoritarianism: Studies on authoritarian personality structures and authoritarian attitudes in East and West, on the inheritance of "small life worlds" in socialism and post-communism as well as comparative studies on democracy deficits of political cultures in East and West Germany. An empirical study in "Civil Courage in Everyday Life" laid the foundation for an additional and new area of research which is of special importance in analyzing and fighting right wing radicalism. Two volumes will appear in 2004, one by Gerd Meyer on "Civil courage and courage in everyday life. Research results and practical perspectives", the other edited by Gerd Meyer, Ulrich Dovermann, Siegfried Frech and Günther Gugel which aims at political education in society ("Learning civil courage - research, social practice, materials for seminars and trainings").
In 2007, as a result of a long-term project, a detailed volume on "Society, Personality Structure and Chances of Leading a Successful and Satisfying Life in Postmodern Society" will be published.