The denomination of the chair of empirical theory of the state* derives from the jurisprudential distinction between formal and material - whereby formal refers to specific procedural rules, and material refers to the in this proceedings contextual meant and purposed. Therefore, it can be differentiated for example, on the one hand, between formal and material laws, and on the other hand, between formal and material constitutional state. A formal constitutional state that has principles such as freedom and equality embedded in its constitution, is not necessarily also a material constitutional state. The latter must ensure that these rights are actually guaranteed by means of specific content.
In a similar logic, a formal privatisation of state tasks, in which, for example, the service provider is transferred into a private legal form, is distinguished from a material privatisation in which the actual control over the action of this bearer is now taken over by private actors (e.g. by the sale of a public company on the stock exchange).
Teaching and research at the chair of material state theory is therefore devoted to the theoretical and empirical analysis of state activity, which is also called "public policy" in the Anglo-Saxon language area. The theoretical interest here is directed both at the prerequisites and determinants, as well as at the consequences and effects of state action. It also encompasses theories of political governance and political system theories which regard the state as a central component of social self-regulation.
Since in complex societies, further elements and areas are involved in this labor-intensive social regulation and control context, the relationships to private forms of organization, such as associations and large enterprises, are considered to be particularly important in theory. Growing social complexity and the related differentiation of public policies also calls for a growing specialization of content.
The functioning of social policy, health policy, infrastructure policy, technology policy etc. cannot be adequately understood without specific knowledge about their structural and procedural characteristics. For this reason, the chair's empirical research is largely focused on infrastructure and technology policy. Both qualitative and quantitative methods of empirical social research are used here, although structural analysis methods are particularly emphasized.