Political Sociology of Critical Times
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Political Sociology
Research in political sociology has been deeply affected by the accelerated societal transformations of the first decades of the twenty-first century. A new agenda for sociological research has been opened in the study of large-scale processes of societal change, such as globalization, EU integration, migration, climate change, and digitalization and its deep impact on nation states, national societies and democracy.
More recently, various shocks such as the economic and monetary instability, the wars in Syria and Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic have further shattered the stability of the European political order. In more recent writings by political sociologists, it has become common to refer to these shocks as a series of major crisis that affects the legitimacy and sustainability of political order. European political sociology, which started out as a sociology of the consolidation of a European political order of democratic nation states, has become essentially a sociology of crisis.
In this Section, we wish to follow new research avenues for a political sociology of critical times. As we argue, political sociology, in facing these multiple challenges, has gained in relevance. This opens up the potential to bring together the various empirical accounts of political and societal ruptures with a critical perspective. Such a new critical sociology emerges by linking back contemporary transformations of policies, politics and society to the classical topics of power and inequality.
The multiplicity of our critical times also produces multiple challenges for research in political sociology. Consequently, this Section will address a range issues crucial for a new political sociological agenda of critical times:
• the challenges to the liberal-democratic order
• the new legitimation narratives and values of a (post)democratic, (post)national and (post)truth political order
• the role of the state and of the EU as regulatory agencies
• the role of academic production of knowledge
• the new dynamics of re-nationalisation and the adaptation of populist, nationalist and right-wing politics
• the role of conspiracy theories and the pandemic challenge to political order, rights and democracy
• the societal impact of climate change
• the new world (dis)order and the impact of war on security and democracy
The complex configuration of socio-political challenges is crucial not only in terms of empirical knowledge but also for theoretical thinking, asking for the foundations of a new critical political sociology in relation to the legacy of critical theory. This also applies to key normative questions with regard to the future design of European political order and democracy, addressing topics like power and domination, environmental sustainability, increasing levels of poverty and rising socio-economic inequality. How can European democracy be inclusive and sustainable? To what extent can emerging forms of transnational solidarity address the rising inequalities in Europe, and redefine its position in the world?
These questions relevant to critical times frame the main field of the Section, but many others may be proposed. The Section invites Panel proposals from various disciplinary angles and multiple methodologies to address key theoretical debates and empirical research in political sociology.
Potential Panel themes and Chairs
Sociology of political ideologies in critical times
Chair: Manuel Anselmi (University of Bergamo)
Right-wing populism in post-Covid times
Chair: Laurent Bernhard (University of Lausanne)
Climate change: citizens, media, parties, and social movements
Chair: Cecilia Biancalana, (University of Torino)
Conspiracy theories and democratic challenges in the EU
Chair: Reinhard Heinisch
Diversities of populism challenge and violations of the rule of law in comparative EU perspective
Chair: Carlo Ruzza (University of Trento)
The political sociology of war: disinformation and misinformation as old/new war strategies
Chair: Tatjana Sekulic (University of Milano-Bicocca)
The political sociology of post-truth politics
Chair: Hans-Jörg Trenz (University of Copenhagen)
Models and Agency in Global Knowledge Governance
Chair: Niilo Kauppi (University of Jyväskylä)
Solidarity policies in Europe: a comparative perspective
Chairs: Ann-Kathrin Reinl (Ghent University), Peter Thijssen (University of Antwerp), Stefan Wallaschek (Europa-Universität Flensburg)
Populism against academic knowledge
Chair: David Swartz (Boston University)