General Sociology, Sociological Theory

My understanding of sociology is multi-paradigmatic both in research and in teaching. I offer a broad spectrum of sociological theories (Systems Theory, Symbolic Interactionism, Phenomenological Sociology, Structuralism, Feminism, Critical Theory, Philosophical Anthropology, Post-Structuralism, Cultural Studies, Figurational Sociology, historical-sociological approaches of theories of power [Elias, M. Mann]) – which also include history of sociology, sociological classics (Durkheim, Tönnies, Simmel, Weber, Mannheim) and older pre-sociological authors of social theory, beginning with Hobbes and Locke.

1. A specific research area focuses on developing a new methodology for multi-paradigmatic approaches in sociology. This research project, which was developed in several stages, ties in with the method, developed in recent sociological tradition, of the “comparison of theories in social sciences” (Karl Otto Hondrich). On the one hand this project involves a meta-reflexive “comparison of comparative theories within German sociology”, and, on the other hand, it proves this specific method of case-related comparison of theories or “comparison of theories with one case”.

The problem of General Sociology so far was to convince the various sociological theories to jointly analyze a single example. Thus an idea for a project arose: at last, with its spectacular new construction the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin has fully become a historical, current, and future place of a real as well as imaginary topology of modernity. The project develops a thought experiment: to access this socio-cultural artifact, which embodies concentrated urbanity unlike any other and has therefore an exemplary status for the polyvalence of modernity, from different theoretical perspectives. For this “comparisons of theory with one case”, seven sociological paradigms were solicited: Philosophical Anthropology, Rational-Choice Theory, Systems Theory, Cultural Studies, Critical Theory of Frankfurt School, Gender Studies, Discourse Analysis. This project has two intentions which exceed a mere abstract comparison of theory. On the one hand the multi-perspective interpretation demonstrates the different understandings and explanations of modernity as applied to a single shared case. On the other hand the theoretical perspectives, which are isolated from each other, shall prove analytically their value as different sociological theories of modernity for one case. Theory comparison with one case, a new way of dealing with the multi-paradigmatic status of sociology, also proved to be of value in teaching Sociological Theory. This project was put to the test together with Michael Makropolous in different phases (2001-2004).

Another attempt to specifically outline and evaluate the condition of the multi-paradigmatic condition of sociology (also for students), is available in the volume Architektur der Gesellschaft (Architecure of Society, edited together with Heike Delitz, 2009): twelve authors working with different sociological theories were invited to conceptualize the phenomena of the ‘Architecture of Society’ based on their theoretical premises and to choose an example with which they could illustrate the diagnostic and analytical power of their particular perspective: Social Morphology (Durkheim, Mauss), Theory of Figuration and Civilization, Phenomenological-hermeneutical Sociology, Institutional Analysis, Systems Theory, Philosophical Anthropology, Critical Theory (Benjamin, Kracauer), Discourse Analysis (Foucault), Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Theories of Social Praxis and inequality (Bourdieu), Theory of Structuration (Giddens).

2. Part of General Sociology is the self-observation of the discipline of sociology in the form of research into the history of sociology. A research project on West German Sociology from 1945/49-1975/1990 has been developed since 2009 together with Karl-Siegbert Rehberg and Stephan Moebius. With the help of oral history interviews with prominent representatives of the discipline a resource will be established to allow for recent research on the history of ascent and differentiation of sociology and its significance for German society in the second half of the 20th century. Its working hypothesis is that the epoch of West German sociology might be an important epoch in the history of sociology – in terms of theoretical innovations, empirical researches, and methods and functions of the discipline “as a key discipline of (emerging) West-Germany”. A pilot project has been approved by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung early 2010.

Publications / Papers / Presentations

Since 2004, member of the Section on Sociological Theory (Soziologische Theorie) of the German Sociological Association (GSA).

Conferences and Plenums organized within the Section on Sociological Theory:

“Vergleich der Theorienvergleiche in der Soziologie” (“Comparison of Comparative Theories in Sociology”, together with Rainer Geshoff), Dresden 2005.
“Wie viel (menschliche) Natur braucht die Soziologie?” (How much [Human] Nature does Sociology Need?, together with Uwe Schimank), Plenum GSA congress, Kassel 2006.
“Wie bürgerlich ist die Moderne? Bürgerliche Gesellschaft, Bürgertum und Bürgerlichkeit“ (How Bourgeois/Civil is Modernity? Bourgeois Society, Bourgeoisie, Bourgeois Life Style, together with Andreas Reckwitz), Konstanz 2007.

Potsdamer Platz. Theoretische Perspektiven zur Kultursoziologie eines Ortes der Moderne (Potsdamer Platz. Theoretical Perspectives for a Cultural Sociology of a Place of Modernity.),
annual convention of the GSA section Cultural Sociology, Berlin 2002, together with Michael Makropoulos.

“Der Potsdamer Platz als gesellschaftsdiagnostisches Artefakt” (Potsdamer Platz as an Artifact of Sociodiagnostics),
in: Ästhetik und Kommunikation, 116/33, spring 2002, 84-119.

Systems Theory (Andreas Ziemann)
Philosophical Anthropology (Joachim Fischer)
Critical Theory (Christine Resch / Heinz Steinert)
Discourse Analysis and Semiology (Michael Makropoulos)

Potsdamer Platz. Soziologische Theorien zu einem Ort der Moderne (Potsdamer Platz. Sociological Theories for a Location of Modernity. ed., together with Michael Makropoulos), München 2004.

Rational-Choice-Theory (Jürgen Friedrichs / Christiane Bremer)
Critical Theory (Christine Resch / Heinz Steinert)
Systems Theory (Andreas Ziemann / Andreas Göbel)
Philosophical Anthropology (Joachim Fischer)
Discourse Analysis and Semiology (Michael Makropoulos)
Cultural Studies (Udo Göttlich / Rainer Winter)
Gender Studies (Hannelore Bublitz / Dierk Spreen)

Vergleich der Theorienvergleiche in der deutschen Soziologie (Comparison of Comparative Theories in German Sociology),
co-organized together with Rainer Greshoff for the GSA Section on Sociological Theory, June 17-18, 2005, Technische Universität Dresden

Michael Schmid (München): Theoretische Modelle und Erklärung. Einige Grundprobleme des soziologischen Theorievergleichs
Georg Kneer (Schwäbisch-Gmünd): Theorienvergleich als Reflexionsinstrument des Wissenschaftssystems
Joachim Fischer (Dresden): "Potsdamer Platz". Theorienvergleich an einem Fall
Urs Stäheli (Basel): Parasitäre Lektürestrategien - Zur (Un-)Möglichkeit von Theorievergleichen
Wolfgang L. Schneider (Freiburg i.Br.): Hermeneutischer Theorienvergleich
Rainer Greshoff (Hagen): Theorienvergleich als Grund-Verhältnisklärung. Ein Vorschlag zur vergleichenden Bestandsaufnahme theoretischer Vielfalt
Annette Treibel (Karlsruhe): Theorienvergleiche im Spannungsfeld von Fachdiskursen und Lehrpraxis
Roman Langer (Hamburg): Theorien auf Gemeinsamkeiten analysieren. Arbeitsschritte zur Konstruktion integrativer Theorien u. ihr Erklärungsnutzen
Wolfgang Knöbl (Göttingen): Zur Problematik eines historisch-kontextualisierenden Theorievergleichs

Die Architektur der Gesellschaft (The Architecture of Society). Architektur der Moderne im Blick soziologischer Theorien (Architecture of Modernity from the Perspective of Sociological Theory),
2. Convention on Sociology of Architecture, April 28.-29., 2006 at the TechnicalUniversity Dresden.

Die Architektur der Gesellschaft. Theorien für die Architektursoziologie (Architecture of society. Theories for a Sociology of Architecture,
ed., together with Heike Delitz), Bielefeld 2009

Social Morphology: Durkheim, Halbwachs (Markus Schroer)
Figurational Sociology: Elias (Herbert Schubert)
Phenomenological-hermeneutical Sociology (Achim Hahn)
Institutional Analysis (Markus Dauss / Karl-Siegbert Rehberg)
Historical-sociological theory of cognition: Giedion, Benjamin, Kracauer (Detlev Schöttker)
Philosophical Anthropology (Heike Delitz)
Systems and Form Theory (Dirk Baecker)
Discourse Analysis (Stefan Meissner)
Gender Studies (Susanne Frank)
Cultural Studies (Udo Göttlich)
Theory of Social Inequality: Bourdieu (Jens Dangschat)
Theory of Structuration (Martina Löw)

Audio-Visual Resources on German Sociology after 1945.
Project together with Karl-Siegbert Rehberg (Dresden) und Stephan Moebius (Graz).

Co-Interviewer on oral history interviews on West German Sociology, Research project 2010-2014 / Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.Interviews already with Hans Albert, Martin Baethge, Balint Balla, Ulrich Beck, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, Peter L. Berger, Günter Dux, Wolfgang Eßbach, Christian Ferber, Iring Fetscher, Urs Jaeggi, Hansfried Kellner, Helmut Klages, Hermann Korte, Kurt Lenk, Wolf Lepenies, Rainer M. Lepsius, Hermann Lübbe, Thomas Luckmann, Burkhart Lutz, Werner Mangold, Renate Mayntz, Oskar Negt, Friedhelm Neidhardt, Karl Siegbert Rehberg, Wolf Rosenbaum, Bernhard Schäfers, Michael Schumann, Hartmann Tyrell.

Inklusion/Exklusion: Max Scheler als Grenzfall der Klassikerbildung der deutschen Soziologie,
in: Transnationale Vergesellschaftungen. Verhandlungen des 35. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Frankfurt am Main 2010, hrsg. v. Hans Georg-Soeffner, Wiesbaden 2013, S. 125-136.

Multiparadigmatizität der Soziologie. Übersichten, Unterscheidungen, Ursachen und Umgangsformen,
in: Stephan Kornmesser / Gerhard Schurz (Hg.): Die multiparadigmatische Struktur der Wissenschaften: Koexistenz, Komplementarität und (In)Kommensurabilität, Wiesbaden, S. 337-370.

Sociology in Germany (1949 to the Present),
in: Alexandros Kyrtsis / Sokratis Koniordes (eds.), Routledge Handbook of European Sociology, Routledge 2014, pp. 342-356.

Bundesrepublikanische Soziologie von 1949 bis heute. Versuch einer neuen Skizze ihrer Geschichte,
in: Zyklos 2. Jahrbuch für Theorie und Geschichte der Soziologie, hg. von Martin Endreß, Klaus Lichtblau, Stephan Moebius, Wiesbaden 2015, S. 73-99.

Joachim Fischer / Stephan Moebius (Hg.): Soziologische Denkschulen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Wiesbaden 2019.

in: Jörn Bohr/Gerald Hartung/Heike Koenig/Tim-Florian Steinbach (Hg.): Simmel-Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung, Stuttgart 2021, S. 489-494.

Giving Interpassivity back into Sex. Zur Sozialphänomenologie des sinnlich-sinnhaften Beieinanderwohnens oder: Soziologie aus dem Geist der Kohabitation,
in: Reiner Keller / Michael Meuser (Hg.): Die Körper der Anderen. Soziologische Erkundungen, Wiesbaden 2022, S. 113-138.