The Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften: Events

Thursday, 14 December 2017, 11:00
Venue: Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften
Am Wingertsberg 4, 61348 Bad Homburg

Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften of Goethe-University
Fellow colloquium

Daniela Grunow (Goethe University)
»Reconfiguration of Internalized Social Structure (RISS)«

The speaker
Daniela Grunow is professor of sociology at Goethe University. Since 2017 she is a Goethe Fellow at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften.

Contemporary societies are in flux. Catchy words such as individualization, globalization and digitalization were coined to describe some of the dramatic economic, technological, political, and social changes we witness at present. In sociological discourses, the simultaneous rise of individual opportunities and risks is emphasized against the background of educational expansion, increased labour market flexibility, mass migration, claims of gender equality and the individualization of welfare benefits. In political science discourses, a crisis metaphor prevails: at best, representative democracy as we know it is in severe crisis, if not already in a state of post-democracy. Political alienation and populism are on the rise. The speed and depth of all these changes disrupt existing systems of resource allocation and interest representation, challenge the legitimacy of existing social structures and bring new conflicts to the surface. Ultimately, rapid social change challenges whole societies and potentially undermines their social and political cohesion. Our question is: How do individuals, groups and organizations react, adapt and renew under the conditions of current social change?

In this project, we propose to view social change not as the decline of social and political cohesion but as a process of reconfiguration of internalized social structure (RISS) that brings with it newly emerging social positions, group identities and political alliances. We combine concepts of sociology and political science that serve as analytical lenses to assess the interdependencies between these micro-, meso- and macro-layers of social change. In particular, we acknowledge the idea that social structure is a multidimensional space of positions among which individuals are distributed and in which they occupy several social positions at once; we recognize the duality between structure and which accounts for the fact that social structure is both a condition for and outcome of the social practices of individuals holding multiple social positions; we understand that in contemporary societies certain dimensions of social difference within the social structure are more salient and also more closely related than others, whereas both salience and relatedness are subject to change and thus need to be assessed empirically; and we acknowledge that political conflict is aggregated in processes of collective action which eventually result in political organizations, reflecting the main underlining fractures of a society. Empirically, we suggest an innovative methodological approach which departs from traditional modes of sampling and analysis, focused on ‘average’ respondents and population means, but aims at theoretical (over)sampling and techniques of model-based population inference.

Closed event. Contact: Beate Sutterlüty (

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