Second ISA Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1-4 August 2012

Research Committee on
Conceptual and Terminological Analysis, RC35

  on-line programme

Programme Coordinator

David STRECKER, University of Jena, Germany,

RC35 Liaison in Argentina
Ana Grondona,


All Forum participants (presenters, chairs, discussants, etc.) need to pay the early registration fee by April 10, 2012, in order to be included in the programme. If not registered, their names will not appear in the Programme or Abstracts Book.


provisional as of March 15, 2012, in alphabetical order


Community: A key sociological concept

Lately, there seems to be a re-emergence of the debate about the concept of community. This can be observed within sociological theories and empirical research, but also in political philosophies’ insights, in social movements discourse, in social policies design and in non-governmental organizations rhetoric.

Community, however, is not a new notion in sociological theory. In the perspectives of K. Marx, F. Tönnies, E. Durkheim, T. Parsons, the Chicago School, and others, community appears, from dissimilar points of view and different terminology, as a relevant object. Also, in recent sociological theory, community seems to be a central topic of discussion. It can be found in a plurality of analytic formulations, such as (a) the notion of “reflexive communities” in A. Giddens´ assessments about late modernity, (b) the idea of “community of communication” in J. Habermas´ theory of communicative action, (c) as a tool to comprehend contemporary societies in the works of Z. Bauman and M. Maffesoli, (d) as a criticized and useless concept in N. Luhmann’s studies, or (e) related to the calling for deconstructing its ethnocentric and essentialist characteristics by diverse theoretical perspectives.

Parting from this variety of proposals, four dimensions in the analysis of community can be pointed out: (1) as an abstract ideal type of a certain kind of social relationship; (2) as an historical predecessor of modern society; (3) as a political utopia or horizon for social interventions; (4) as the ontological substratum of all sociality. These guidelines are not isolated from one another. On the contrary, and according to each case, they are combined in different ways, emphasizing one or the other, and remaining open to the construction of alternative dimensions that will complement them. Therefore, we invite all those who find themselves interested in the reflection about “community”, to participate and contribute from multiple perspectives to the debate of its various dimensions and orientations.


Critical theories: A dialogue between Europe and Latin America

Critical Theory (with a capital `C` and a capital `T`) emerged at a specific place and a specific time. It was the expression of a group of young German academics who reacted to the dehumanizing experiences provoked by the crisis that Europe went through during the first decades of the 20th century.

Critical Theorists believed that their experiences and critique of modern societies were representative for all modern societies regardless of the experiences that people in other societies may have gone through. Adorno even thought that nobody who had not made the same experiences that he and his European colleagues have made were qualified to get involved in the important enterprise of Kritik. He was especially concerned about the "nonoccidental pleople", because he did not trust their critical faculties. Critical Theory was reserved for a selected group of Europeans. Today, however, we are realizing that beyond many affinities experiences in and within global modernity vary. For instance: post-colonial critique has not only argued convincingly that colonialism has been a constitutive element in the formation of global modernity, but it has also shown that in formerly colonized societies problématiques emerged that critical theories from the `North` were simply not aware.

Since Latin American societies gained official independence some 200 years ago, post-colonial experiences accumulated and reflected about in this part of the world are particularly rich. Not only can we find here alternative "projects of moderniy"—as some scholars already argue—but also very impressive critical theories, which are not reducible to the influence of European Critical Theory. Because of the different evolution of academic institutions, important voices of Latin American critical theories are not limited to the discourses of the social and cultural sciences. Although some of them may express genuine sociological interests they often blossomed in extra-academic realms, especially in the strong essayistic tradition.

It is my contention that critical theory too has to be provincialized. But not only that: after it is has become clear that there cannot only be one Critical Theory for all the different experiences made in and within global modernity, the multiplicity of critical assessments have to be put in a dialogical relationship. Mapping and translation of critical theories becomes one of the main challenges. The aim of this exercise is not to disqualify European Critical Theory, but to complement it with other critical theories. This session wants to stimulate a dialogue between European and Latin American critical theories.


Decentering sociology: Reconceptualizations for a global era


Democracy and democratisation

The concept of democratisation has achieved considerable prominence in sociology over the past few decades. Yet, democratisation has been used to characterise democratic changes in radically different contexts. On the one hand, democratisation is commonly used to refer to major transformations in political regimes, especially the transitions from authoritarian political orders to institutional arrangements typical of liberal democracies. Whether it refers to substantial changes in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or the Middle East, in these contexts democratisation has usually involved the re-emergence or establishment of civil society and the promotion of the political rights of citizenship.

Nevertheless, in this version of democratisation the focus tends to be on the political order, with contemporary discussions differing from earlier interpretations of comparable developments in their lesser framing by the assumptions of modernisation theory. On the other hand, the concept of democratisation has come to be invested with new meanings in both advanced nation states and the global south. Indeed, democratisation has been equated with a variety of changes in social relations, extending from the transformation of intimacy to transnational regulations of the global order. Even so, in these cases the predominant meaning of democratisation is that of actions and processes that extend, expand, or radicalise democratic practices beyond the parameters of a liberal democratic political order.

In some cases, this image of democratisation is intended to reinforce and contribute to the realisation of the normative potential of a liberal democratic polity. However, in other cases this understanding of democratisation is inspired by the participatory and radical democratic critiques of the inadequacies of liberal democracy. These versions usually reference either the Ancient Greek meaning of democracy or the more modern ideal of democratising social institutions and hierarchical social relations in general, from the division of labour at work, schooling and pedagogy, gender and sexuality, culture and information, to social relations within the family. Democratisation is here equated with contesting the restrictions that liberal democracy and capitalist modernity impose upon both the theory and practice of democracy.

These divergences in the meanings and usages of the concept of democratisation raise a number of questions that this session seeks to address. Is democratisation a sociological category that details an unfolding and reinforcing process, in a manner equivalent to other concepts like rationalisation, globalisation, or modernisation? Does the concept of the ‘democratisation of democracy’ that has been used in related, but also different ways, by sociologists like Anthony Giddens and Bonaventura de Sousa Santos provide a means of reconciling the two dominant alternative understandings of democratisation in sociological discourses? Does democratisation actually mean substantially different things according to the model or paradigm of democracy that is taken as the point of reference, such as the models of participatory, deliberative, associative and reflexive democracy?

How should one assess these endeavours to incorporate new meanings into the notion of democracy? Given current theoretical understandings and practices, is the relationship between democratisation and governance inherently unstable? Whilst the idea of democratisation derives much of its normative connotations from its associations with social and political movements, has the prevalence of democracy over other political forms resulted in a paradox that is counter to democratisation, that is, is democracy a new ideology that has subordinated other images of emancipation? What has been learnt about democratisation from the variety of transitions to liberal democracy and their comparison?


Epistemological challenges presented by the experience of modernity in non-Western contexts 1


Epistemological challenges presented by the experience of modernity in non-Western contexts 2


Global modernity. Sociology facing the post-western age


Postcolonialism and decoloniality: A dialogue

Postcolonial studies is most usually associated with the triumvirate of Edward W. Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha, although contributors to the field both pre-date these theorists and are disciplinarily more diverse. While postcolonial studies can be seen to have emerged within the humanities, more recently it has begun to influence the disciplines of the social sciences, particularly sociology. Decoloniality is the name given to a similar movement emerging in Latin America and focused, in particular, on the experiences of this continent in the context of understanding modernity. This roundtable session brings together key scholars working in both fields to discuss the commonalities and significant differences between the two theoretical perspectives and to discuss the implications of each for sociology more generally.


Power and slavery

Slavery represents the most extreme form of an asymmetrical power relation. In no other social institution is power distributed as unequally. For this reason, slavery has become a metaphor for repressive political institutions in republican theory. Actual instances of slavery, however, encompass a wide variety of forms of domination, including transatlantic chattel slavery as well as more traditional forms of personal servitude, contemporary forms like contract slavery and arguably also so-called slavery-like practices, most prominently debt bondage. This implies that power is involved in extreme domination in more complex ways than is commonly thought.

Hence, examining the relationship between power and slavery in more detail holds the promise better to understand such domination: What types of physical, psychological, cultural and structural power are at work in the various forms of extreme domination referred to as slavery? How are they interrelated and how do they differ? Does the focus on slavery shed new light on fundamental theoretical problems like the relation between power and violence or power and authority? How are the respective mechanisms of power reproduced in different forms of slavery and when do they change or even break down? In which ways are actual forms of slavery comparable to political unfreedom? Under which conditions (characterized by power relations of what kind) are such analogies typically drawn?

This session invites empirical, typological, theoretical and conceptual contributions focusing on power and slavery in discussing these issues and related questions.


RC35 Business Meeting


Subjectivity, symbolic power and social justice

The investigation of the idea of social justice and the constitution of power hierarchies requires focusing on the dialectical relationship between individual and society. Starting from Max Weber’s methodological individualism, this session will discuss different perspectives on the correlation between the subjectivity of the individual actor based on knowledge structures and systems of relevance with objective power hierarchies for the analysis of social justice. To establish a bridge between subjectivism and objectivism – a task proposed by Pierre Bourdieu –, we may be able to apply the concepts of “habitus” and “symbolic power” to be able to confront the idea of social justice.

Symbolic power is based on the recognition of economic, cultural and social capital. Recognition, though, is related to the subjectivity of the individual actor which is determined by specific categories of perception and interpretation of the world. Correspondingly, social justice depends on the recognition of established categories and concepts of equality, solidarity, etc. The session will specifically, but not exclusively focus on theoretical orientations related to sociology of knowledge and phenomenology which serve to challenge these reflections in demonstrating how social justice is established through the confrontation of imposed power structures on the basis of individual decision making within social action.


Time and Society

Because of the inherently processual nature of action and society, all social structures are necessarily temporal structures . This session seeks to explore and specify the temporality of society in all its ramifications. Thus we invite contributions that approach the subject from a theoretical perspective and ask for the conceptions of time in different strands of social theory. Furthermore, we are looking for contributions dealing with the temporalities of particular social spheres such as the temporality of politics, education or the economy.

Finally, a specific interest lies in the identification of temporal conflicts that arise between cultures (multitemporality), classes or social spheres (desynchronization). The overall goal of the session is a clarification and specification of the concept of social time which is of interest to all scholars of temporality represented by the broad range of topics featuring in the interdisciplinary journal Time & Society. The journal is co-sponsoring this session and thus invites all readers and authors as well as everybody interested in the subject to a small reception following the presentations.




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International Sociological Association
November 2012