RN15 - Global, Transnational and Cosmopolitan Sociology

RN coordinator:

Vincenzo Cicchelli, Gemass Paris Sorbonne/CNRS, University paris Descartes, Paris, France



General theme

Social and cultural differences between people and between societies persist or in some instances have somehow expanded, reinforcing the ambivalent challenges of diversity for the necessary integration and coordination of social life. Social and economic inequalities worldwide have clearly increased in the last decades; this is very clear in current Europe, where citizens experience higher levels of poverty, unemployment, racism, marginalization, and the like. Latest sociopolitical polarizations point to critical weaknesses of our European liberal democracies, whereas many other societies are struggling to establish nascent democratic institutions and practices. All these problems bring about multi-faceted issues and dilemmas such as effective democracies and citizens’ deliberative participation, social justice and common goods, cultural diversity and dialogic co-existence, human rights and universal dignity. Policy solutions to these problems and dilemmas need careful sociological analysis, in which a renewed sociological imagination can be fruitful.


Transnationalization and globalization are extensive sets of changes of the ways in which people and societies interact. The current supranationalization and globalization processes widen horizons more than ever before. National societies are no longer bound to take on national projects, but instead participate in global flows of capital, goods and people. One can even talk about non-national societies. Together with the restructuring and relative decline of the nation-state, old and new forms of supranational inequalities and fractures have (re)emerged. Throughout the last decades, social polarization has been intensified by the economic crises, the spread of neo-liberal ideas and economic policies, the reforms and dismantling of the welfare state. In current globalizing capitalism capital accumulates through ever-expanding processes of accumulation, marketization and financialization, and through new networks of trade routes, knowledge (intellectual) and property rights, and labour agreements that simultaneously connect the world while reinforcing its inequalities. In these contemporary world conditions, economic power seems to dominate its struggle with political power. Old and new ideological sources of power navigate through in the confusing waters of epistemic, professional and scientific discourses. In between the concentration and strengthening of capital and economic power and the development of a global awareness and consciousness about humanity’s unequal realities and possible solidarities, there is a broad space and landscape for careful and suggestive sociological analysis. These sessions aim to explore these landscapes and to discover a new vivid way of looking at the interaction of local/national and transnational/global transformations. 


This general call is for papers dealing theoretically, methodologically or empirically with issues related to the supranational dimension of social reality, the local-global relations, and transnational and global shared practices, cultures and patterns of affiliation. In this general theme, we particularly welcome papers that somehow can interconnect the five thematic streams: supranational approaches to “Europe & crisis”, comparative methods in the globalizing world, epistemic governance and synchronization of policies, the glocalization in an everyday imaginary, and renewed cosmopolitanism.


1. Supranational approaches to “Europe & Crisis”: need for transnational imagination.

As paradoxical as this might seem, the crisis that has hit Europe since 2009 confirms the necessity to adopt supranational approaches. These crises made clear that, now more than ever, Europe and European Union (EU) cannot be studied apart from the rest of the world, nor can its members be considered as more or less bounded, sovereign entities. Economic and financial uncertainty, employment shortage, decreasing public welfare, increasing international competition, a growing fear of globalisation, extreme work intensification and self-exploitation, all these aspects are moving Europe into unrest and concern. In spite of a strong Europeanisation of EU member countries and the strengthening of EU integration during the last twenty years, the recent European crisis has weakened the established consensus of living in a community of fate with a model of social capitalism. Beyond historically rooted cultural diversity, peaceful coexistence between European countries is the most characteristic feature of Europe. The painful past, made of wars, genocides and persecutions, has been forgotten for the sake of peace and equal dignity of each country. But several urgent questions arise: are we witnessing the emerging in Europe of new kinds of rivalries between states, geo-cultural configurations, namely between Northern and Southern Europe, or between Western and Eastern Europe?  How can we maintain a human and social friendly European model of capitalism? We call for papers, which would advance knowledge about Europe and EU, the European socio-economic crisis, the crisis of the EU integration, and the rise of inequalities and differences within a European perspective.


2. Toward a renewed cosmopolitan sociology

There is a revived interest in cosmopolitanism today. Powerful and compelling as it is, cosmopolitanism should be approached with care, lest it turns into an autopoietic narrative, separated from empirical evidences. Cosmopolitanism invites more controversy than consensus. And, even for sympathetic souls, it "poses a congeries of paradoxes" (Appiah, 2004). The shrinking of the world, entailed by globalisation, leads to a permanent confrontation with alterity. Transnational processes are binding people together across borders more than in the past and confront them with cultural, ethnical, national differences. Because the planet is smaller, and the pervasiveness of global media is bigger, the sensitivity to cultural difference and diversity awareness is more acute. The greater interdependence that exists between societies today inevitably leads to a widening of contacts with different forms and degrees of alterity. Thus globalization involves comparative interaction of different forms of life (Robertson, 1992). The usefulness of a cosmopolitan outlook is to take advantage of the global interconnectedness, and to go beyond global studies, by approaching it in a specific way. As "the ‘global other’ is in our midst” (Beck and Grande, 2010), it is consequently crucial a cosmopolitan approach be based on how otherness and plurality are handled by individuals, human groups and institutions. What is the specificity of cosmopolitanism in comparison with other approaches related to cultural differences? We welcome empirical and theoretical papers that explore cosmopolitan sociology in various ways and foci: a) on Europe and Europeans within European and global publics; b) on emerging cosmopolitan consciousness and awareness of cultural pluralism, focused on the place that ‘otherness’ is granted within one’s own identity and the broadening sense of one’s national belonging at various levels; c) with regard to a move toward an "ordinary or mundane cosmopolitanism", in order to displace the aloof, globetrotting bourgeois image of cosmopolitanism.


3. Epistemic governance and synchronization of policies

Persistent inequality in Europe and across the world seems to suggest that nation-states have unique trajectories of development. Yet, on closer examination, there are many unavoidable similarities in the policies that countries adopt. Policy models seem to sweep across the world like fashions, as in the case of neo-liberalization in the 1970s or ecological modernization in the 2000s. A metaphor of synchronization, rather than straightforward homogenization or independence, captures this complex of similarity and difference. Such a view of synchronization builds on recognition of inherent inter-dependence in the modern world polity. It has been explained by, for instance, similarities in the ways in which modern nation-states make decisions, i.e. “epistemic governance”, or governance that recognizes and works on people’s conceptions of social reality (Alasuutari & Qadir 2014). This panel calls for papers that seek to unite the seemingly paradoxical condition of our modern world, in which states make policies so similarly yet with such diverse outcomes. We welcome papers that address the ways in which national policy-making is informed by models adopted elsewhere, thus entangling the local and the global. We also invite papers that explore and deepen the concept of interdependence, whether in national policy-making or in explaining global cultural fashions.

4. Beyond borders: The global and the local in an everyday imaginary

Sociology has, for the most part, remained faithful to the nationalist foundation upon which the discipline was established. Nonetheless, from the latter part of the twentieth century to the present day, there has emerged a powerful critique of the assumptions that underpin sociological theory and much empirical research (Chernilo 2004, 2006; Giddens 1973; Martins 1974; Smith 1979). This critique has highlighted the various ways in which sociologists have mirrored, and continue to replicate, a nationalist gaze (e.g. Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2002, 2003). In response, there has emerged a growing literature that attempts to develop a sociological perspective free of methodological nationalism. This has included, for example, the cosmopolitan consciousness of global business elites (e.g. Calhoun 2002) and the activities of transnational communities (e.g. Glick Schiller and Çağlar 2011). In a similar vein, this workshop welcomes empirical and theoretical papers that seek to address the multiple ways in which ordinary actors (e.g., migrants, employees, students, etc.) engage in activities and/or construct identifications that surpass the territorial borders or symbolic boundaries of national groups. Furthermore, we seek contributions that address the scalar complexity of contemporary human action: the compound aspects of daily life that are both locally situated and tied to global flows of people, products and ideas in a variety of different ways


5. Comparative methods in the globalizing world.

Whereas new units of analysis emerge, such as the global, the macro-regional, and the transnational, the cross-national or cross-societal studies are still a very useful and necessary method. Global and transnational processes impact on the way in which comparison can be made. Implicitly, and especially in the case of international comparisons, there is a general tendency to assume that in order to establish an accurate comparability between societies, social phenomena under comparison are supposed to be culturally homogenous, relatively stable and nationally determined. Classic comparison, however, has problems to grasp the cultural diversity within societies, and scholars are increasingly aware that other tools are necessary to size what is particular to a human group and what is shared between communities. While there is growing diversity within societies, there is also an increasing similarity across groups and societies. This dual process makes comparative sociology more difficult and complex. Papers dealing with examination, reflection and improvement of both qualitative and quantitative comparative methods can focus on different levels and issues/themes, such as: a) globalization: its impact on comparative methodologies; b) the global-local relation: which comparative method are most adequate to analyze the ways in which the local and the global are intertwined and embedded in each other in the contemporary world?; c) culture: how to do comparative research on the global spread, indigenization, hybridization of cultural products?; d) politics and identity: how to do comparative research on for example the globally institutionalized construction of identity and imaginary?; e) economy: which methods are appropriate to account for the still alive cross-societal differences in globalizing capitalism?; f) indices and indicators of globalization: which are the best tools in order to measure the impact of globalization processes on different states, regions, cities, people, etc.This is not an exhaustive list, and other issues related to comparative methods in the globalizing world are welcome.


Joint session with RN9 Economic Sociology: Europe and the globalizing economy

In Europe the creation of a common internal (transnational) market has been at the core of the European Union project. But economic exchange and relations today not only transcend national borders on a European scale, but have long extended to the most distant places in the world. The process of economic globalization can be understood as a multi-level transnational expansion and intensification of the exchange of goods, services, money, and of flows of production, technologies, people, and ideas (economic policy and management ideologies). This globalization of the economy and especially of markets has challenged Europe and the different European national economies, yielding both positive and negative consequences. In this session we are interested in the causes, dynamics and consequences of the globalization of economy and markets, specifically from a European perspective. a) Causes: Which factors have fostered economic globalization? What drives the global spread of markets? What are the historical legacies of globalization in Europe? b) Dynamics and nature:  Is economic globalization a uniform process, which affects all countries, regions and citizens similarly? Is capitalist economic globalization compatible with economic alternatives and experiments? Which main social factors shape the process of economic globalization? c) Consequences and effects: Does globalization promote social inequality within Europe? Who benefits from the globalization of markets and why? Does economic globalization lead to convergence in the organization of economies and individual’s economic practices? While these are examples of questions or themes that we would like to discuss and advance knowledge, papers dealing with similar and related issues and questions are also welcome.


Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):                                                                                                15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:                                                                                          www.esa12thconference.eu

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.