36 ESA Social Theory Conference, Innsbruck, September 11-13, 2008
Society in the Age of Globalization
One of the critical concept on which sociology has been traditionally based is “society.” In sociology post-World War II, “society” has been identified with nation-state. Recently the image of “society” has been criticized. Does this criticism pertain to the deprivation of the concept “society”? Does the age of globalization mean “post-social/post-societal” era? This presentation argues that the concept “society” is useful for sociology even in the age of globalization as long as we keep in mind the distinction between “society as a whole” and “society in a narrow sense”. The discussion consists of the following five parts: (1) theoretical distinction between economy, state, and “society in a narrow sense”; (2) economical globalization and “society in a
narrow sense”; (3) changing relationship between state and “society in a narrow sense”; (4) globality of “society as a whole”; (5) relationship between “society as a whole” and “society in a narrow sense.” If we continue to identify “society as a whole” with a nation-state, we cannot analyze the trends of “society in a narrow sense” or “the social” at present time. Contrary to say, if we can dismantle once the sociological imagination of the 20th century and rebuild the approach into “society in a narrow sense” based on a re-imaged “society as a whole”, the age of globalization will promote the re-birth of sociology. Contemporary sociology needs a similar sociological imagination to that of the first generation of sociology, which established an approach into “the social” in contrast with politics and economy.
‘Sociology as if nature doesn’t matter’: external, disciplinary and intra sub-disciplinary factors
In this article we’ll discuss to what extent it is tenable to restrict sociology to a ‘sociology of the social’, and why mainstream sociologists exclude(d) the non-social from their analyses. Firstly, the intellectual climate in which sociology developed as a discipline will be outlined. Secondly, an overview is given of the different positions sociologists take vis-à-vis the relation between the social and the natural. These include but are not restricted to: realism, constructivism, and anti-dualism. Next to external explanations for the development of a ‘sociology as if nature did not matter’ and some factors distinctive to the sociological discipline (e.g.: the dominance of the Weberian and Durkheimian tradition), we’ll discuss some intra sub-disciplinary conflicts (e.g.: sociologists of environmental issues versus real environmental sociologists, sociologists of science versus actor-network theorists, European versus U.S.
differentiation within the sub-discipline of environmental sociology is framed in Abbott’s (2001) notion of ‘microcosm’ (i.e. the idea that a subset of a larger unit contains scaled-down versions of structures and processes in the larger unit). In response, an ecological-symbolic approach (ESA) is developed (Kroll-Smith & Couch, 1991, 1993). The intermediate position of the ESA between a postmodernist stance on the one hand, and the strong program on materiality on
References Abbott, A. (2001). Chaos of disciplines. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kroll-Smith, J. S., & Couch, S. R. (1991). What is a disaster? An ecological-symbolic approach to resolving the definitional debate. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 9(3), 355–366. Kroll-Smith, J. S., & Couch, S. R. (1993a). Symbols, ecology, and contamination: Case studies in the ecological-symbolic approach to disaster. Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, 5, 47–73. Rosa, E. (1998). Metatheoretical foundations for post- normal risk. Journal of Risk Research, 1(1), 15-44.
residents exposed to soil pollution in a Flemish neighbourhood. Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1646- 1657. Vandermoere, F. (2008b). Hazard perception, risk perception, and the need for decontamination by residents exposed to soil pollution: the role of sustainability and the limits of expert knowledge. Risk Analysis, 28(2), 387-398.
the other hand, is reconstructed realism
potential of an ecological-symbolic approach will be discussed and illustrated by a case study about people’s responses to chemical contamination in a neighbourhood (cf. Vandermoere, 2008a, b).