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Session Overview
RS12_02a_P: Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology of Knowledge 2: Theoretical Positions
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Hubert Knoblauch, Technical University Berlin
Location: PE.3.40
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: E, Level: 3.

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Phenomenology, sociology of knowledge and interpretive social research

Thomas S. Eberle

University of St Gallen, Switzerland

Sociology of knowledge in the tradition of Berger & Luckmann (1966) has three pillars: a phenomenological analysis of the formal structure of the lifeworld; a sociological perspective on society as a constellation of objectivations, institutions and the symbolic worlds of their legitimation; and the actor’s subjective view on society, its formation by internalization as well as the processes of handling meaning crises and of accounting for identities in interaction. Following Luckmann, it has become a common wisdom to make a distinction between phenomenological, egological analysis and cosmological sociological investigation, and to consider the structures of the lifeworld a protosociology that has been successfully described.

Such a position has been seminal in many respects. Phenomenology is basically an epistemology that founds sociological analysis, and Alfred Schutz has greatly contributed to clarify the methodology of the social sciences. However, present-day sociologists are more engaged in exegesis of Schutz’s texts than doing phenomenological analyses themselves, and they are hardly acquainted with the state of the art of phenomenological philosophy. Phenomenology has become a broad movement (Spiegelberg) and has diversified in many different strands. Even based on Schutz, different kinds of phenomenological sociologies have developed. In my presentation, I will demonstrate that phenomenological analysis is not only crucial to found the methodology of sociology, but also to achieve certain reflective achievements in empirical social research. Different types of research substantiate this, like ethnophenomenology, lifeworld-analytical ethnography and phenomenological hermeneutics. I will focus on the latter and present a brief analysis of a concrete empirical case.

Practice and Action. Opposed or complimentary?

René Tuma

TU Berlin, Germany

Social Constructivism is maybe “the” core concept in SoK. With its grounding within Alfred Schutz phenomenological sociology it is general considered to be connected to theory of action, as has also been provided by Schutz (and Luckmann). The concept of action consists in the transformation of experience of finished actions (“Handlungen”) into (modified) projects “modo future exacti”. Those guide the action (“Handeln”) that takes place in the here and now of the subject.

Nowadays Theories of Practice are established. They do not only highlight of bodily practices and tacit knowledge, a new focus on processes and sequences, but also a theoretical shift that decenters or even removes the subjective standpoint. For Schatzki for example, not the subject, but the practice itself is the “nexus of all doings and sayings”.

I am going to argue that some of its arguments are important, but in radical reading leads to new structuralist thinking. Many of their claims have already been addressed in the discussion, especially looking at newer developments such as communicative constructivism.

Also here the universal subject is slightly decentered and replaced by cultural specific identities that emerge as a consequence of communicative processes of communicative action (Knoblauch uses a processual concept of interrelated subjectivity and objectivations).

Based upon this rethinking of the concepts of action is necessary: Do we need to thread action and practice not as essential categories, but rather as culture specific? How do practice and action work in complement to each other rather than as opposed concepts?

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