Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN29_01b_H: Social Theory
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Mikael Carleheden, University of Copenhagen
Location: HB.1.15
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 1.

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Totalitarianism in the Age of Neoliberalism? The Contemporary Relevance of Carl Schmitt


GSCS, Turkey

One would have thought that totalitarianism was a matter of the past and also antithetical to neoliberalism. It appears, however, that a growing trend around the world displays their unity through the rise of seemingly democratic but essentially authoritarian regimes legitimized by politics of identity and community.

I argue in this paper that the ideas of Carl Schmitt, a prominent theorist of the Nazi era, would help us account for this puzzling situation. I do not mean to propose that Schmitt’s theories would offer a causal explanation for this contemporary configuration, but rather I suggest that his normative political philosophy would help us grasp the inner logic of promoting totalitarian politics in the age of neoliberalism.

Schmitt’s incisive critique of parliamentary rule famously distinguished between liberalism and democracy, and defined politics as the struggle between friend and foe, leading to the surprising conclusion that autocratic rule could very well be a reflection of people’s power. It all depended on how you defined the “people” (the members of your community), revealing the short-cut between identity and autocracy. Schmitt’s normative philosophy is essentially an ideology defended through theoretical reasoning, which ultimately legitimizes authoritarian rule as the will of the people.

I illustrate this point through a detailed examination of the case of Turkey, though one could generalize it to other cases currently proliferating around the world.

Sociology of continuity - Review of some sociological theories

Martti Antero Muukkonen

University of Eastern Finland, Finland

Although most of the sociological theorising has emphasised the change and speciality of modernity, there have been some attempts to see current values and practises as a legacy of the past - like Weber and Parsons did. Some aspects of our cultures are amazingly old. For example, in counting time and in dividing a circle we still use the Sumerian 60-system. Our calendar is - with two modifications - 6000 year old Egyptian Sothic calender based on the rise of the star Sirius.

In this paper I review some sociological and economic theories how cultures renew their old values and practices and how they change.

Already in 1950's collective behavior theorists Ralph H. Turner and Lewis Killian emphasised the impact of the past experiences in their Emergent norm theory. Later, basically as a continuum of the same tradition, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann argued for the routinisation of thinking. Michael T. Hannan and John Freeman, in their ecological organisation theory, have argued that organisations have a tendency to resist changes. In anthropology, Glifford Geertz presented his thesis of religion as being both a model of society and a model for society. In economics, Paul David and Brian Arthur developed the Path depenceny theory to explain why people choose QWERTY-keyboard and VHS cassettes instead of better ones.

These theories can be combined with the old Herbert Blumer's idea of "general social movements" - a stage of movement which is still a social trend and exists merely in public discussion and literature. Applying these ideas to cultures we could create a model for cultural continuity and change.

Basic Principles of Interpretation of Meanings of Social Phenomena in the Russian Sociological Tradition

Natalia Yurievna Matveeva

Moscow State University of Railway Engineering (MIIT), Moscow, Russian Federation

Contemporary social processes are characterized by the unique combination of co-existence and confrontation of various social meanings and ideas. The resolution of arising social problems depends on the correct understanding of meaning that underlie personal and group activities.

The original approach to the interpretation of social meanings was developed before 1922 and in the period of post-revolution immigration by Russian social scientists, such as S.L. Frank, S.N. Bulgakov, N.A. Berdiaev, P.I. Novgorodtsev and others. According to this approach, social phenomena have two sides: the actual event or process and inner idea, meaning or significance. The meaning or idea creates the concrete attribute without which social phenomenon is unthinkable. Such meanings have a source of objective ideas, independent from the individual’s consciousness, acting on the will and mind of people toward their realization in social life.

Certain methodological principles follow from this conceptualization of social life. They are based on an understanding of objective ideas that underlie the social processes, their relationships, and logical interaction between them and logic of their development. According to this approach, we need to study the meaning foundation of the contemporary events that give rise to the issue of (un)making Europe, such as Islamic factor and civilization’s problems, European Union and Disunion, the role of Russia in Europe, contradictions in Turkey and some others. Sociological method must be founded on understanding of objective ideas of social events as opposed to trying to judge them on the basis of their external manifestations.

Five Domains of a Settled Life: Household, Production, Market, Authority and State:

Ibrahim Mazman, ERDEM YÖNTEM

Kirikkale University, Turkey

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher dealt with household or oekos as the microcosms of society as it provides basic stability and order into basic human needs. At the same time, modern term, economy originates from these two words of oekos or household and nomos, namely order. On the other hand, German sociologist Max Weber in his major study, Economy and Society was also concerned with production of goods, the exchange of these goods in a market and ordering of these activities by an authority. This paper on the hand, in addition to Aristotle’s concept of household and Max Weber’s idea of authority as the basic provider of stability in society, tackles with the concept of state as the institutionalized entity of authority relations in society. In sum, this paper aims to compare Aristotle’s concept of society and its basic unit, household with Max Weber’s understanding of society and his approach to the concept of household. As Max Weber adds concepts of production, market and authority into Aristotle’s concept of household, this study will also consider state and institutionalized authority relations in order to understand stability and order in a society.

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