9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 European Society or European Societies? I Building AA, AA.326

One European Society OR Pluralism? A False Antagonism for Contemporary Sociology

In contrast to the CfP, although (or even: just because) divisions in general become more salient - understanding "divisions" as processes, with changing topics and diverse, transforming types of salience -, it makes sense to look at "European society" as such. Instead of presuming that we can see "society" (and, hence, the "true" object for sociology) only if European nations are converging, resulting in an increasingly cohesive entity, it is crucial for contemporary sociology to give up a set of artificial assumptions on "nation" as well as on the role divisions/diversity play for "society".
The first problematic understanding to overcome is the one of "nation state" as a basis for society: the idea of the coherent nation state has always been a myth and attempt of construction; the social/society does not follow directly and one-dimensionally from any political form; nations are not the only unit for society; Europe's analysis via comparison of its nation-states or as a large nation-state (in the making) itself is, therefore, of confined use.
The dialectic of (possibly limiting) division and (potentially enabling) diversity is the core feature of contemporary social co-existence. This has to be considered as such theoretically, when thinking about society - "society" beyond being a mere derivative of "nation state".
The main theoretical consequence for the concept "society", particularly when asking for "European society", is a shift of focus: if difference is key, how can the idea of a necessarily particular "European society" be justified exactly on these grounds - without finally basing the idea on any essentialising or overly normative model of "unity"?
In order to answer this crucial question, which obviously goes beyond "Europe", we might reverse the argument for a moment, assuming that exactly the starting point "Europe" can be of outstanding use for research on "society" in general. On the one hand, Europe distances us from the "iron cage" of the nation state, on the other hand, diversity and division (perceived as both chance and risk) are quasi "inbuilt" features of our images of Europe. This promises good chances to address contemporary social complexities successfully - via "European Society".