RN32 - Political Sociology

RN coordinator:

Hans-Jörg Trenz, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


Virginie Van Ingelgom, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium



On occasion of the 2015 ESA General Conference in Prague the political sociology network will offer again a forum for debate on the ongoing transformation of political order and authority in Europe and beyond. It invites general contributions in the fields of citizenship, governance and political institutions, political attitudes, political communication, forms of political participation, democracy and democratisation. The thematic focus will be on how multiple crises in Europe and beyond redefined the ways citizens interact with the state. In a context marked by the exponential increase in social inequalities, a process that the international crisis as exacerbated beyond measure, the very existence of democracy is threatened. Thus, as Europe finds itself in a time of turmoil and crisis, the meaning and the practice of citizenship are renegotiated. To this regard, we are particularly interested in (a) how vulnerable groups of society interact with the welfare state and in the representational functions of civil society organisations at different levels of governance; (b) how the experiences of social precariousness and poverty shape citizens relationship to politics (c) the emergence of new cleavages and their political expression; (d) the impact of the crisis on attitudes in particular towards ethnic minorities and migrants and the resurgence of right-wing populist movements; (e) changes in the structure of political communication, the role of the new and social media and their impact on political legitimacy.

  1. General session : open
  2. European enlargement: new asymmetries and inequalities

Political sociology has been mainly interested in the process of European integration from a perspective of deepening and widening that was meant to create equal living conditions across the territories and the populations of the European Union. This promise of ‘equality’ and ‘symmetry’ was also underlying the last waves of enlargement that invited the former socialist countries of the East to join the European club. In this panel, we which to collect evidence for a possible rupture of this inclusive logic of integration. For the first time in its history, the European Union has now put a formal five years moratorium to this process of enlargement. One question to be investigated is what effects this moratorium has on a number of accession countries, both with the status of candidate or potential candidate to the membership. Another question that shall be raised in this panel is how through the recent emphasis on differentiated integration new inequalities emerge giving rise to asymmetrical structures in the relation between member countries and accession countries or in the relationship between member or accession countries and the EU. Last but not least, the panel invites for contributions which investigate how the differentiated statuses of membership/non-membership affect civic agency in these countries, empower or disempower democratic institutions and generally support or undermine the establishment of democracy in the aspirant member countries.

  1. Mediating cultural diversity: Understanding new challenges for the accommodation of difference and diversity in Europe and the World

The panel discusses the challenge of mediating cultural diversity in contemporary Europe situating the debate in relation to theories of multiculturalism, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism and/or globalization. Contributors are invited to develop conceptual approaches to cultural diversity that captures the magnitude of cultural changes from the national to the transnational, and to apply models of how diversity may be handled, both a state level and within Europe and the world. The particular challenge to be addressed is how cultural diversity in Europe and beyond can be mediated. This includes a focus on the public sphere and its function of accommodating difference and the plurality of political and cultural expressions. Special attention will be paid to the role of new media technologies and the effects of the global diffusion of media content. Thus, the panel seeks to capture both changes in media and public sphere infrastructure for accommodating cultural difference, and media’s role as an amplifier of cultural conflicts and public contestation.

  1. The Populist Radical Right as Political Actor in Europe

Populist radical right parties have meanwhile established themselves in Western and Eastern European party systems. They refer to social exclusion and inequalities in European societies, when they represent via class politics “modernisation losers” who are concerned by the impact of economic globalization and the European crisis. Simultaneously, they offer – and this in their core – a nationalistic answer to cultural and religious difference in modern societies and succeed in filtering status politics by using cultural issues of identity politics. With their protectionist positions, populist radical right parties form the radical poles in the new cleavage structures of national party systems, which oppose liberal and “open” to such protectionist and “closed” positions; in several countries these parties have even become the spearhead of a larger process of re-nationalization directed against the European order. In this context, the radical right is not only a nationalistic “reaction” to globalization based on the social and political disintegration of declining (post)industrial societies; but it has become an important political actor, which transforms the political exit behaviour of citizens living in economical, urban, cultural and political margins into a political voice. This panel wants to discuss this “creative” moment in the dark side of Western and Central and Eastern European democracies; comparative contributions are as welcome as case studies.

  1. Social resilience and/or social resistance in times of political and economic crisis

In times of crisis, citizens prove to be able to activate survival strategies through the organization of collective dynamics. In particular, in a time in which political Authorities are unable to protect social interests, by promoting the de-structuring of welfare institutions, citizens are often organized in order to compensate for the absence of public institutions. In this regard, scholars speak of “social resilience”. As de-politicization and financial crisis may have anti-political effects they also create the conditions for new forms of activism of civil society that becomes the protagonist of forms of public protest also activating different resilience strategies, meant as the ability of citizens to address economic difficulties by deploying an active process of endurance, self-righting, and growth in response to crisis and challenge. The operationalization of the concept of resilience, allows us to analyze the ways in which people face the crisis in times of de-politicization. If on the one hand, the social consequences of the crisis may have inhibitory effects on the forms of collective solidarity and participation, on the other hand, the crisis itself creates the conditions for a new contentious politics that cannot be implemented within the conventional parameters of the electoral participation.

  1. Welfare State Transformation at the Grass Roots: New forms of Social Solidarity, Social Resilience and Citizen Activity in Europe

Western welfare states are undergoing significant changes and we need more information about what these changes mean for being a citizen. This is a particularly urgent question at the moment, as the mechanisms that once produced social solidarity are disintegrating all over the Western world and we need to figure out new ways to secure it. The aim of this session is to explore different new forms of social solidarity, social resilience and grass root level citizen activity that have emerged in different parts of Europe in the past few years to tackle exclusion and poverty or bring about new kinds of communality and solidarity. The key questions that we hope to address in the session are: what means and preconditions does this kind grass-root activity have to help people and offer possibilities e.g. for inclusion, why people engage in this kind of activity and what is their agenda, what is meant with solidarity in them and who have the right to participate, how or by which means are solidarity and communality, in fact, produced in them?

  1. Joint session with RN 28 – Society and Sports and RN 31 – Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism : Sport, ethnicity and political conflict

There has been a growing interest in the role of sport both in underpinning ethnic belongings and exacerbating interethnic tensions, on the one hand, and in promoting positive interaction and conflict resolution, on the other. The proposed session will explore these phenomena along a range of dimensions including:

•     The historical sociology of ethnic conflict, nationalism and sport

•     The comparative analysis of ethnic conflict, nationalism and sport

•     The historical sociology of ethnic/national conflict resolution

•     The comparative analysis of ethnic conflict/national conflict resolution

We welcome contributions that develop these ideas theoretically and/or empirically. New styles of analysis would be desirable, including visual approaches and new forms of textual analysis.


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.