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research profile

The following themes are currently being researched in the department of Sociology: sociology of economics , welfare state and civil society , social structural analysis and research into (political) elites , theory of society and diagnosis of time , and analysis of capitalism and critique of society .

sociology of economics    

This research direction focuses on the transformation of labour societies and labour markets under intensified globalisation. It is concerned with structural changes both at the macro level (finances, goods and labour markets) and micro level (firm and work) and actions of the involved collective and individual actors.  A special feature of this research direction is interconnectedness of economic-political, labour and sociological labour market issues with research on social differences and integration problems of modern societies.  The empirical research in this direction is oriented internationally and connected to the Collaborative Research Centre 580 through single projects.

Concrete research themes include: capitalism of financial markets, spaces of globalisation, internal and external labour markets, manager-elites, precarious forms of employment, labour market and social differences, human resources in small and medium-size enterprises, flexible work and social security. The transformation concept has a double load here. The transition of the state socialist order to the market economy is embedded in the transformation of the western European capitalisms regulated by the social state. 

welfare state and civil society

The object of this research direction is the transition of welfare and social state orders in the course of civil societal changes. Many developed societies in the course of their modernisation produced welfare systems of entitlements, for instance, health care systems, unemployment insurance or pensions. These services aimed at the status preservation of individual citizens and replaced contributions that have been made through other domains of society (for example, family, neighbourhood help or club activity).

These guarantees or insurances began to erode in the course of the transformation of economic structures of the modern societies (liberalisation, deregulation). This is related not only to problems of financial capacity, but also to the essential change in discourse concerning societal relations of support. This discourse raises the question to what extent the guaranteed status preservation really contributes to the life autonomy of citizens or, on the contrary, can lead to the tutelage. The institutional reconstruction of the social state with an activating intent changes the conditions between individuals in need or individuals capable to activate and the caring or activating state.  An international comparative analysis of this change should illuminate its implications for the structure of the societal relations of support. 

Concrete research themes are: welfare state institutions in relation to specific surrounding structures of actors (e.g. socialisational forms of interaction, family types; the impact of historical structures in regional environments); occupational groups and specific organisational professional activity in psychosocial services; biographical, familial-historical, local and political-cultural influences upon activation of civil-societal commitments; volunteer cultures in relation to professional cultures in the context of the social state activity; problems of retirement as a field of tension between the discourses of insurance and activation.

social structural analysis and research into (political) elites

This research direction focuses on the connection between the differentiation of social structures (social differences in particular) and the process of elite-making in modern societies. A special emphasis is given to the analysis of elites in a political system.

In spite of tendentiously egalitarian value pattern in modern societies (catchword: equality of opportunities), the modern structures of social differences reproduced further and lead to the differentiation of societal elites in particular. These elites emerged not only in the economic area, but also in politics. In this aspect, the existence of elites contradicts not only the idea of equality, but also the idea of democracy as an equal form of participation in decision-making. Thus, it is a valid question to ask how these discrepancies between actors and institutions in the political sector as (paradoxical) challenges could be interpreted, how this leads to the value rattle, crises of legitimacy or even to apathy or, on the contrary, it means a legitimate competition and expression of political professionalization. It is worthy of mention that elites also emerged in the state socialist societies, which have been even more oriented towards the value of equality. This posits the question to what kind of social mechanisms the emergence of elites is subject.

Concrete research themes include: structures of political systems, their processes (elections, party systems and systems of representation), their individual/collective actors (voters, groupings of voters, party members, legislators); recruitment, circulation and orientation of political actors, international comparison of structures of political systems and their configurations of actors; historical analysis of governing elites and processes of social differentiation in the GDR.

theory of society and diagnosis of time

This research direction is devoted to the issue of current transformations in modern society. Almost all classic sociological theories emerged in response to the rising modernity, and the current sociological approaches are similarly confronted with changes and problems of the current societal developments.  If the classic question about the shape of modernity was based on the experience that societal cohabitation is no longer guaranteed by the given order nor  secured by the self-evidence and naturalness of social processes, current sociological theories reflect once more upon accelerated social change that occurs in the form of progressing economisation of the social and rising rattle and questioning of the classic-modern arrangements of the social and welfare state. This type of questions on the changes in the central object of sociology gives a firm ground to expect that diagnosis of time will become an integral part of sociological theories in order to grasp the change of modern societies more adequately. This research direction works systematically with different theoretical approaches of sociology in order, on the one hand, to provide a stronger challenge to the main concepts and, on the other hand, to look for the thematic positions and possibilities of the sociological diagnosis of time.

Concrete research themes include: confrontation with theories of social change and the continuous structural change in formerly real-socialist countries; the question of object conception, scientific understanding and social self-positioning of sociology; notions of norms and values in the communication between Eastern and Western Europe; the connection between consumerism and ‘superfluity’, which is related to the development of the separate research approach called the procedural methodology.

analysis of capitalism and critique of society  

The inter-disciplinary project initiated by the four chairs and their members in the department represents the Jena approach to the analysis of capitalism and critique of society.  Discussions on this theme take place regularly. Two forthcoming books are: “Sociology - Capitalism – Critique” by Dörre/Lessenich/Rosa and “Capitalism: A Side Table Perspective”, edited by research associates.