Volker Schneider: a Professor’s Professor

I’ve returned from a Festschrift for Prof. Dr. Volker Schneider, who has moved to an Emeritus Professorship at the University of Konstanz in 2020. While a celebration of his retirement was delayed repeatedly by the pandemic, his colleagues moved ahead with an edited collection of papers for his Festschrift around the politics of the complex governance of innovation and policy networks which was published by Springer (Nagel et al 2020). But in July 2022, we were able to get together in person to celebrate Volker’s exemplary career.

Volker Schneider, July 2022

I knew Professor Schneider from visits he did to USC before I went to Oxford, and through collaborating with him and Thierry Vedel on applying our ideas on an ecology of games to the study of technological innovations (Dutton et al 2012). Thanks to Volker, I was able to spend a couple of weeks in 2013 at the Universität of Konstanz teaching a short-course on the internet and politics. There I met Gabi, his wife over forty some years and his children, all out on their own now.

Professor Schneider’s lecture was a brilliant tour across his career, highlighting his empirical-analytical orientation using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, such as network analyses. But he also showcased great theoretical ideas and individuals that inspired his own thinking, including seminal thinkers and former professors. In visualizing policy and science networks, he discussed work ranging from Plato’s typology of governing regimes to contemporary issues of science-based policy in modern institutional structures of democratic policy networks.

Some of the individuals he recognized in his lecture included Mario Bunge (facet theory), Gerhard Lehmbruch (neo-corporatism), Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield, Ernesto Cardenal (Latin American liberation theology), Otto Kallscheuer (structuralism), Nicos Poulantzas (power and the state in modern societies), Rudolf Wildenmann (an empirical and comparative researcher, who introduced Volker to network analysis), Phillippe Schmitter (policy networks, from University of Chicago), Eduard Luhman (elite structures), Franz Pappi (collective action), Renate Mayntz and Fritz Scharpf (Max Planck Institute), the Chicago school of political science, including Harold Lasswell, and on.  
Some of the People and Topics Covered in the Lecture

His tour of theory and research in political science was truly insightful, entertaining, informative. He gave me a new appreciation of the shift from the study of government to governance as a means to broaden study to the economic and societal context of government and politics. I was amused to learn he had produced a set of YouTube videos based on his interviews and discussions of some greats, such as one on Machiavelli, explaining theories of politics and society. They helped him introduce great thinkers and ideas to his students. He covered many individuals and ideas connected with my own work, including my courses with Professor Rudolf Wildenmann, when Wildenmann was visiting the University of Buffalo [then SUNY Buffalo] in the early 1970s.

Bill Dutton speaking at Volker Schneider’s Festschrift, 2022

After his lecture, everyone I spoke with said virtually the same thing: I wish I could take his courses; or, proudly: I took some of his courses! It is in that spirit that Volker strikes me as a brilliant example of a professor’s professor.

Whatever Professor Schneider does, I am sure he will not retire.

Published in 2020


Dutton, W. H., Schneider, V., and Vedel, T. (2012), ‘Large Technical Systems as Ecologies of Games: Cases from Telecommunications to the Internet’, pp. 49-75 in Bauer, J. M., et al (Eds), Innovation Policy and Governance in High-Tech Industries. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Melanie Nagel, Patrick Kenis, Philip Leifeld, and Hans-Jörg Schmedes (Hrsg.), (2020), Politische Komplexität, Governance von Innovationen und Policy-Netzwerke: Festschrift für Volker Schneider. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer VS.https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-30914-5

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