Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
MD07: ESA Lecture Series (2) - Sociology Today
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
12:45pm - 1:45pm

Session Chair: Carmen LECCARDI, University of Milan-Bicocca
Location: PC.2.14
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 2.
Midday Specials Session with Margaret Abraham and Frank Welz

Session Abstract


Carmen Leccardi is professor of Cultural Sociology at the University of Milan-Bicocca. She has been President of the European Sociological Association 2015-17.

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Compass lost? Sociology in the Post-Welfare Society

Frank Welz

ESA President (Innsbruck Univ.), Austria

The purpose of this session is to facilitate active exchange between speakers and the audience about the hopes and realities of sociology today. – Sociology’s beginnings were auspiciously ambition. The formation of a new social order in the 19th century was paralleled by a new mode of thought that promised to provide a tool for navigating this new social world. During the golden age of the welfare state (1950-80), sociology became most attractive to critical students. It expanded at universities far and wide. My guiding question will be: Did sociology’s growth parallel its impact as a ‘compass for society’?

In the effort to shed light on the conditions of sociological knowledge production, I will consider four approaches. (1) ‘Kantian theories’ (Habermas, Parsons) fit well with the future-orientation of the welfare state. (2) Backed up by the new neoliberal social order, other theories became dominant in the 1980s, such as ‘postmodernism’ and ‘systems theory’, both of which posited that traditionally modern perspectives, especially on the politics-society-public policy nexus, required serious reconsideration. (3) Focusing on the triumphant progress of a ‘new social positivism’ as a third group of sociological views, my thesis will be that current conditions of knowledge production push sociology toward descriptive analyses which tend to reflect trends rather than analyse social transformation:

(a) the ‘eclipse of 'society'’ in sociology has replaced categories such as collective institutions by nominalist labels like individualization, chance, choice, agency, and risk; (b) the ‘triumph of the fragmented 'individual'’ in cultural analysis further fractured group categories; (c) the ‘triumph of ready-made methods’, imposed via project- and funding-driven work; (d) finally, the increasing importance of ‘governing by numbers’ further encouraging the 'triumph' of the sociologist as an ‘academic 'self-entrepreneur'’ (Foucault).

(4) Is there an alternative? What is to be done? Against the fragmentation of sociology into small vignettes, how can we strengthen the education of scholars as members of a collaborative association of peers and experts on societal transformation?


Professor Frank Welz (Innsbruck University) currently is serving as President of the European Sociological Association. He conceives of sociology as a public good. He has been the coordinator of ESA RN29 Social Theory and is publishing on social theory, sociology of law, and the history of sociology; currently is co-editing ‘The Battlefield of European Identity’, with G. Tasheva (Routledge).

Sociology's Challenge - Unravelling a Post-Truth World

Margaret Abraham

ISA President (Hofstra University), USA

Growing inequality and resultant widespread frustration and anger have engendered deeply polarized societies that have heightened racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, religious fundamentalism and the politics of exclusion. Instead of targeting the real perpetrators of an unequal system, the resentment and frustration have metamorphosed into a frontal attack on multiculturalism, secularism, LGBTQA rights and a surge in a narrow inward looking nationalism. A frightening aspect of this surreal world is that the purveyors of fabricated claims and deliberate deceit are often able to convince their legion of supporters of their point of view, however extreme and false, often through effective use of the media and more particularly, social media. We live in a post-truth world. This presentation will consider how can sociologists respond to this dystopia? How does sociology face this profound challenge?


Margaret Abraham is Professor of Sociology at Hofstra University and the President of the International Sociological Association, (ISA 2014-2018). Her teaching and research interests include gender, globalization, social justice, immigration, and domestic violence. She has published in various journals and is the author of the award winning book 'Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence Among South Asian Immigrants in the United States' (Rutgers University Press 2000). Her co-edited book and volumes include, Contours of Citizenship: Women, Diversity and the Practices of Citizenship (Ashgate 2010); Making a Difference: Linking Research and Action (Current Sociology, Monograph Series, 2012), Interrogating Gender, Violence, and the State in National and Transnational Contexts (Current Sociology, 2016).

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