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International Sociological Association
Working Group on Historical and Comparative Sociology WG02

Established in 2003
Recognized as Working Group in July 2010.

Board 2006-2010
Willfried Spohn, Göttingen University, Germany,
Wolfgang Knoebl, Georg-August-University, Göttingen, Germany
Manuela Boatca, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany,
Board Members
Said Arjomand, USA
Johann P. Arnason, La Trobe University, Australia
José Mauricio Domingues, IUPERJ, Brazil
Ewa Morawska, University of Essex, UK
Elisa Reis, Brazil
Victor Roudometof, University of Cyprus, Cyprus
Ulrike M.M. Schuerkens, France
Björn Wittrock, SCASS, Sweden

The aim of the working group is to further and develop the approaches, investigations and methodologies in historical and comparative sociology in the direction of an international, transnational and global sociology. Historical and comparative sociology, on the basis of classical-sociological traditions, has developed as a well-established and innovative sociological area particularly in the American Sociological Association, has been recently replicated in the European Sociological Association but has not yet found its appropriate place in the International Sociological Association. The aim of the working group on comparative and historical sociology is to fill this institutional void in the ISA with its particular commitment to an international and global sociology.

Sociology from its very beginning has been a historically and comparatively oriented discipline, aiming at understanding and explaining social change in the evolving modern societies. At the same time, there have been theoetical and methodological tensions between rather social-scientific approaches within sociology oriented to the general features of modern societies and rather cultural-scientific approaches oriented to the specific historical trajectories and configurations of modernizing societies.

In 19th and early 20th centuries classical European sociology, these tensions went through the various national sociologies crystallizing in diverging as well as converging orientations between sociology and history. In post-World War II American sociology as a synthesis of European sociology, evolutionist-functionalist modernization theory and research became the internationally predominant social-scientific sociological paradigm focussing on the general features of world-wide modernization processes. As a reaction to it, historical and comparative sociology re-emphasized the historical variation, developmental contingency, and cultural differences of modernization processes and re-oriented research to the historical micro- and meso-foundations of the varying macro-processes.

In the context of accelerating world-wide modernization and globalization processes and the accompanying development of international, transnational and global sociology, historical and comparative sociological approaches argue for the multiplicity of modernity, modernization and globalization processes and related historically and culturally grounded inter-civilizational, international and transnational sociological-comparative research.

From this perspective, the working group will focus particularly on the following topics of a historically and comparatively oriented international global sociology:

1. In a sociological-theoretical orientation: historical-comparative sociology, global sociology and social theory; multiple modernity or modernities; historical-comparative sociology, theories of social change, and multiplicity of social change regarding varying traditions and modernization processes in Western and non-Western societies; multiple modernities and globalization(s); Euro-centrism, Orientalism and post-colonial studies.

2. In a methodological orientation: comparative methodology between generalizing, trans-cultural positivist and individualizing, cultural-relativist orientations , inter-civilizational hermeneutics or the civilizational and historical contextuality of sociological concepts; qualitative and quantitative research methods in a transnational and inter-cultural orientation.

3. In an analytical comparative-civilizational and historical-sociological orientation: research on the manifold socio-economic, political and cultural dimensions of multiple modernization processes; the impacts of the inter-civilizational historical foundations in these dimensions (Empires, transnational economies, world religions) on nationalization and globalization; as well as their micro-, meso-, macro- and global linkages, interrelations and interactions.

Forthcoming Activities

WG02 Newsletter
vol. 3, 2009 [pdf pdf file, 147 KB]
vol. 2, 2008 [pdf pdf file, 110 KB]
vol. 1, 2007 [pdf pdf file, 101 KB]

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