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SOCIAL THEORY and the Sociological Discipline(s) - page 16 / 44





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15 ESA Social Theory Conference, Innsbruck, September 11-13, 2008

Gerda Bohmann

Vienna, Austria

secularisation-thesis represents one of the nucleuses of sociological theory, but she came under fire by her anti-

Difference, not Identity! A genuine sociological perspective to an old, but nonetheless ongoing problem: the case of Secularisation

Currently, there are tendencies in Sociology to opt for arrangements with her “neighbour-disciplines” - on the level of the discourses, and on the institutional level also. The demarcation to other Social Sciences and Humanities becomes so pretty difficult; to constitute an “identity” of the discipline becomes hard. But - is the question really “how to find identity”? Or, is not “difference” the decisive question. That is to say: what


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contribution, I will show that she is able to stand the test

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    despite of some empirical phenomena (as new

spirituality, or politisation of religions), which seems to contest her profoundly. But we have to start from basics of sociological recognition, like the convergence of the world toward humanity, the “historicity” of societies and the realistic-constructive character of knowledge. In other words: if we start from the perspective, that has been constitutive for the institutionalisation of Sociology as discipline, and which remains decisive for the concept of functional differentiation in modern societies.

are the specific differences of perspective, compared to the others?



I think that a genuine sociological perspective is able to hold her ground in reflecting on “classical” problems of Sociology, particularly on those that retain an actual interest in the dynamic of social change: such as “secularisation” (Max Weber) for example. The

Craig Browne

Sydney, Australia

From the Sociological Imagination Imaginaries: Multiple Modernities Paradoxes of Transformation

to Social and the

This paper contends that the most significant conceptual shifts in contemporary social theory are those associated with the notion of social imaginaries and the perspective of multiple modernities. It will be argued that these should indeed be considered mutually reinforcing standpoints and that both the notion of social imaginaries and multiple modernities are unique in their capacity to reconsider the problematiques of classical sociological theory, such as capitalism, democracy and revolution. According to Charles Taylor, the invoking of civil society by the movements of 1989 drew heavily on the modern social imaginary of a moral order of mutual benefit and its self-

understanding of the ‘practices and outlooks of democratic self-rule’. Likewise, the analyses of 1989 from the perspective of multiple modernities have highlighted the competing projects of modernisation and the different historical trajectories of institutionalising transformations. By contrast, many alternate influential perspectives have proven unable to satisfy the various normative and empirical demands of social theory. It will be argued that postmodernism, the risk society, and globalisation should be regarded as providing limited insights into the permutations of the capitalist imaginary and the paradoxes of transformation. Finally, some of the tensions between the different elaborations of social imaginaries and multiple modernities will be explored, as the contrasting conceptualisations seem to reflect differences in the assessment of the relationships between religion and democracy, capitalism and civil society.

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