Conference Transformation Sociology


Conference Program

You can find the program here:


For a Sociology of Scientifically Organised and Socially Desired Processes of Change

30.11. and 01.12.2023 in Aachen

Marco Schmitt, Claudius Härpfer, Roger Häußling and Stefan Böschen (RWTH Aachen) in cooperation with the DGS-section Environmental and Sustainability Sociology

The expansion of practices of experimentation, trans- and interdisciplinary exchange, social innovations and participatory and transformative research - whether living labs, niche experiments, open arenas, etc. - in quite different social fields, confronts sociology with a renewed decision on direction. What role should it take on in terms of analysis of social change processes and what role can (and should) it itself play in these transformation processes? This development is fuelled by a high normative socio-political pressure of expectations, which demands a new role for the social sciences in shaping social change - for example, towards a more sustainable society. For a sociology of transformation, the question of 'engagement and disengagement' (according to Elias) thus arises in a completely new way.

This problem is deepened by the fact that society is becoming more and more frayed into milieus, lifestyles, world views and value systems, where differences, conflicts and the simultaneity of very different dynamics of change lead to polarised public debates (such as the recent continuation of nuclear power and natural gas policies within the framework of a sustainable nomenclature).

On the one hand, practices of testing open up the chance to try out new ways, but on the other hand, they can be confined less and less. Just as the metaphor of "society as a lab" refers to the expansion of academic knowledge production in other areas of society, 'labs as society' are now being constituted in which, for example, sustainability problems are to be solved.

Therefore, the aim must be to develop the scientific means to better understand such processes. And not in a historical perspective as completed transformations, but in realtime as processes that are just taking place, which also have to stand up to polarised conflicts. This raises the question of the constellations of observation that need to be created sociologically in order to examine these processes adequately. How do we access the field and position ourselves relative to the respective field? In recent years, there has been increasing talk of an "experimental turn" in the social sciences in order to better understand which interventions work under today's conditions and drive transformations. More and more often, however, these experiments are also fundamentally part of the observed transformation processes and thus inevitably affect the role and understanding of the role of sociology.

With these experiments, social scientists on the one hand participate much more strongly in the processes of change to be studied, since they also initiate them and want to intervene in them in a reflective way, but on the other hand other groups of actors also actively contribute towards expanding knowledge about transformation. In addition to the positioning of research and researchers in these processes, it is also important to reflect anew on the methodological procedure in relation to the contexts. The distinction between a purely observational, a policy-advising and a publicly enlightening sociology then becomes equally permeable and a clear separation of these roles becomes more and more demanding (if one wants to maintain it).

The conference Transformation Sociology wants to deal with this topic, gather interested researchers and create a starting point for community building.

Registration is possible until 10th of November. Participation is free of charge.


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DGS Chair of Technology and Organization SoTec (Society and Technology) HumTec Institute of Sociology