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

Hirofumi Utsumi

Osaka, Japan

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.

Frédéric Vandermoere

Gent, Belgium

‘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.





health of

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).

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