Sociology as Socioprudence

Sociology as a discipline is constituted from various pre-sociological lines of tradition that are not reducible to each other: next to the genealogies from social statistics, social criticism, social reporting, and analytics of society runs a long pre-sociological tradition of thought of “world wisdom” through to sociology. Seen this way, sociology would (always also) be the academic training of “social intelligence”. Sociology can also be understood as the academic study of “dealing with the human being” (A. v. Knigge), differentiated by contexts, constellations, and classifications. This intellectual tradition of a “socioprudence” as an unlikely art of dealing with human beings does not only already involve a sensitivity towards different socio-cultural contexts (i.e., not just ‘understanding’) but also a communicative ability of dealing with difference (‘behaviour). The keywords for this tradition of thought are sociability, behaviour, politeness, strategy, tactics, tact, diplomacy, manipulation, ‘psychological’ warfare, propaganda, subversion, the art of intrigue, rhetoric (as the ancient, first social art of communicative success), patterns of power formation, and seduction.

The project of the uncovering of, and critical reflection on, this inheritance of “socioprudence” in sociology stems from recent considerations to newly define the social and cultural sciences as disciplinary groups. Seen this way, a possible focal point of this group of sciences would be the academic training of “social intelligence” as distinct from the natural sciences (the training of objective-technical intelligence) and psychology (training of intra-personal intelligence).

This project involves two steps: a historical ascertainment (1) and a systematic reflection (2).

(1) By a historical ascertainment we mean the uncovering of a leitmotif of the social sciences that has been covered so far—namely, a teaching of the art of dealing with human beings, which informs the constitution of the subject of sociology, starting with the Renaissance thinkers such as Castiglione (“The Book of the Courtier”) and Machiavelli (“The Prince”); from the “moralistic” (Gracián and the “Verhaltenslehren der Kälte” (Lethen)); from the educator von Knigge (“Über den Umgang mit Menschen”), to the romantic thinker Schleiermacher (“Theorie des geselliges Betragens”), especially with the sociological classic Georg Simmel (“Gesellschaft als Geselligkeit”) and his social theory of “forms” and “reciprocity”. It then increases in relevance within the subject concerning “the debates on roles” with Helmuth Plessner (“Takt und Diplomatie”), Heinrich Popitz (“Prozesse der Machtbildung”) and Ervin Goffmann (“We all play theatre”)—up to Niklas Luhmann’s theory about “symbolically generalised medias of communication” that operate according to their own logic (money, power, truth, love, etc.) with their own codes and connectivity options which should not be confused with each other by those participating (Niklas Luhmann).

The historical reconstruction of the pre-sociological intellectual tradition of “socioprudence” is connected with two additional theories: firstly, the “art of dealing with human beings” as an achievement of civilisation (at least the European modern context of courts and cities) is inaugurated by women whose constant communicative pressure changes the male warrior into a courtier (Norbert Elias); secondly, this perspective allows us to reconstruct a history of sociology also from the ‘spirit of the upper levels of society’ (since the 17th century)—in addition to the conventional derivation from the problematic situation of the lower levels of society (the solving of the ‘social question’ since the 19th century)
(2) Systematically, this project aims at collecting this dispersed knowledge (that partially migrated into other disciplines such as social psychology, media studies, management studies, public relations, psychological operations, cultural science (deconstruction and subversion), rhetoric) into sociology and to critically reflect upon possible gains for the identity of sociology. If “jurisprudence” is the academically trained competence to solve ‘cases’ according to constituted and written laws, then “socioprudence” would be the academically trained competency to understand complex situations within the entanglement of formal and informal rules and to treat and negotiate them. A subject-specific perspective lies in the shift of attention in sociology as a core discipline of the social and cultural sciences to the task of academically training cultural and social intelligence. The practical relevance of a specific science that accentuates and is grounded in the tradition of “socioprudence” reflects the tendency in contemporary society to change its basis from production to communication (service, legalization, mediation, constant intellectual observation, media, intercultural competency, diplomacy).

Lectures and seminars, talks, publications, and blogs


Soziologie als Sozioprudenz. Überlegungen zu einer Neuakzentuierung der Disziplin. Vortrag auf dem Reichenauer Symposion ’Aktuelle Kultursoziologie von der Religion bis zu den Alltagssitten‘, 25.-28.09.2008.

Soziologie als Sozioprudenz. Zur Kunstlehre des Umgangs mit Menschen.Vortrag auf der Tagung: Formen der In-Diskretion, 08-10.10.2008, Universität Konstanz.


Sozioprudenz. Zu einer Neuakzentuierung der Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften. Vortrag auf Symposium der Universität Bamberg, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, 24.01.2009.

Vorlesung: Identität der Soziologie (innerhalb Vorlesung Einführung in die Soziologie), („akademische Kunstlehre der Sozioprudenz“). TU Dresden, Institut für Soziologie, WS 2008/09

Hauptseminar: Soziologie als Sozioprudenz. Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Institut für Soziologie, WS 2009/10


Soziologie als Sozioprudenz. Vortrag im Forschungskolloquium der Universität Erlangen, Institut für Soziologie, 02.02.2010

Soziologie als Sozioprudenz? Zu einer Neuakzentuierung als Schlüsseldisziplin der Sozial- und Kulturwissenschaften. Vortrag im Graduiertenkolleg ‚ Freunde, Gönner, Getreue‘, Universität Freiburg, 14.07.2010


Masterseminar: Soziologie als Sozioprudenz. Universität Halle-Wittenberg, SoSe 2011


Durkheims Soziologie als Sozioprudenz, in: Tanja Bogusz / Heike Delitz (Hg.): Émile Durkheim - Soziologie, Ethnologie, Philosophie, Frankfurt/M., New York: Campus 2013, S. 95-118.


Vorlesung: Soziologie als Sozioprudenz, TU Dresden, SoSe 2014.

SozBlog der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie: Soziologie als Sozioprudenz (zus. mit Clemens Albrecht).


Vorlesung: Sozioprudenz. Soziologie als Hochschulung sozialer Intelligenz, TU Dresden, SoSe 2016


Soziologie als "Sozioprudenz": Konzept und Studiengänge (zus. m. Clemens Albrecht), in: Soziologie., 47. Jg., H. 1, 2018, S. 74-83.


Joachim Fischer: Soziologie als "Sozioprudenz". Interview hochgeladen bei Youtube 20.05.2021: