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Working Group on Historical and Comparative Sociology WG02

Established in 2003
Recognized as Working Group in 2010

Board 2014-2016
Stephen MENNELL, University College Dublin, Ireland,
Robert VAN KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia,
Manuela BOATCA, University of Freiburg, Germany,
Board members
Nina BAUR, Technical University of Berlin, Germany
Ewa MORAWSKA, University of Essex, United Kingdom
Fumiya ONAKA, Japan Women's University, Japan
Sujata PATEL, University of Hyderabad, India
Elisa REIS, Brazil
Jiri SUBRT, Univerzita Karlova, Czech Republic

Past Boards

Recordings of Willfried Spohn's presentations

The Working Group 02 Historical and Comparative Sociology is looking for recordings of Prof. Dr. Willfried Spohn, who tragically died on January 16th, 2012. We welcome any (audio or video) recordings of Prof. Dr. Willfried Spohn's presentations at ISA meetings or other academic gatherings in the recent years. Please send electronic files or questions about a postal address for hard copies to:

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
Social Character and Historical Processes: A Conference in Honour of Stephen Mennell
School of Sociology, University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
7-8 January 2016

ISA Third Forum of Sociology

WG02 Newsletter

2015 PDF file
2013 PDF file
2012 PDF file
2011 PDF file
2010 PDF file
2009 PDF file
2008 PDF file
2007 PDF file


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