The Transformation Research Unit (TRU) was the successor to the Transformation Research Initiative (TRI), an informal research group established in 2000 at the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
TRU was launched at an inaugural conference on 16 April 2015. You may read the keynote address here.
TRU’s mission was to investigate the state of democracy globally. The research was conducted by a team comprising scholars from a wide range of countries and academic disciplines. The cross-cultural studies included a theoretical and data-based research approaches.
TRU’s research examined democracies located in vastly different historical and cultural contexts. The cases studies included South Africa, South Korea, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Germany, and Sweden. By investigating the political institutions, economy, civil society, culture, values, and ethics present in each of these seven democracies, TRU’s research helped to illuminate the difficulties associated with democratic transformation and consolidation of democracy in the countries of interest, as well as highlight the difficulties democracies the world over encountered as they tried to cope with the global financial crisis and its consequences.
Over the years TRI and TRU have been generously supported National Research Foundation, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, Daimler Foundation, Daimler-Chrysler Foundation, Anglo-American Chairman’s Trust, Eskom Development Fund, Billiton Development Trust, and the National Business Initiative.
In 2022, TRU was reorganised into a fully institutionalised research centre, the Centre for Research on Democracy (CREDO).
Core Research Team
Director: Prof Ursula van Beek
Historical memory and identity
Comparative historical analyses
Cultural values and democracy
Prof Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Germany
The quality of the democratic process
Parties and party systems
Political science as an academic discipline
Prof Ursula Hoffmann-Lange, Germany
Prof Yilmaz Esmer, Turkey
Culture and cultural change
Survey research methodology
Prof Pierre du Toit, South Africa
State building and ethnic conflict
Prof Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Germany
Political culture research
Development and African studies
Prof Christer Jönsson, Sweden
Diplomacy and the role of transnational networks in international cooperation
Prof Laurence Whitehead, United Kingdom
Comparative politics in Latin America
International political economy
Dr Krige Siebrits, South Africa
Dr Cindy Lee Steenekamp, South Africa
Prof Vello Pettai, Estonia
Post-communist political development
Varieties of Democracy dataset
Southern Africa Research Team
Dr Nicola de Jager
Prof Henning Melber
Prof David Sebudubudu
Prof Lloyd Sachiknoye
Dr Peng LU
Dr Catherine Musuva
Special Edition of the Taiwan Journal of Democracy, Volume 11, No. 1, July 2015
Democracy Compared: Complexities and Values (Ursula van Beek). The Global Crisis and Democracy: Danger or Opportunity? (Stan du Plessis, Andreas Freytag, and Willem Boshoff). The Impact of the Great Recession on Regime Change: Economic and Political Interactions (Dirk Berg-Schlosser). The Impact of the Great Recession on Support for Democracy (Ursula Hoffmann-Lange). Market Economy or Social Welfare Policy? The Programmatic Responses of Political Parties to the Global Recession (Hans-Dieter Klingemann). Social Norms in the Wake of the Global Financial Crisis (Cindy Steenekamp, Pierre du Toit, and Hennie Kotzé). Economic crisis and Political Polarization: A Challenge to Civic Culture? (Yilmaz Esmer). Global Change? (Christer Jönsson).
Global democracy: Political Institutions and Cultural Contexts (Project 2015 – 2017)
Sponsored by the National Research Foundation (NRF) as part of its Human and Social Dynamics in Development theme. Initial findings were published in a special issue of the Taiwan Journal of Democracy, Vol. 13, No. 1 July 2017. Final results were reported in a book entitled Democracy under Threat: A Crisis of Legitimacy (2019) published by Palgrave MacMillan as part of the Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century book series.
Democracy Under Threat: A Crises of Legitimacy?
This book addresses some of the most pressing questions of our time: Is democracy threatened by globalisation? Is there a legitimacy crisis in contemporary democracies? Is the welfare state in individual countries under pressure from global trends? What are the implications of high-level migration and rising populism for democracy? Does authoritarianism pose a challenge?
The volume builds on a cross-cultural study of democracy conducted over nearly twenty years. Three of the countries studied – South Africa, Turkey and Poland – receive individual attention as their respective democracies appear to be the most vulnerable at present. Germany, Sweden, Chile, South Korea, and Taiwan are assessed in their regional contexts. Further insights are gained by examining the impact on democracy of TV and the Internet and by pointing out the lessons democracy should learn from diplomacy.
Edited by Prof Ursula van Beek. Published in 2019 with Palgrave Macmillan.
R.I.P. 11 May 2010
Professor: Sociology of Religion, Uppsala University, Sweden
R.I.P. 4 January 2015
Co-founding TRI member
Rector: Collegium Civitas, Warsaw, Poland
President: Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw