CfP: Changing Power Relations and the Drag Effects of Habitus

Changing Power Relations and the Drag Effects of Habitus:
Theoretical and Empirical Approaches in the Twenty‐First Century

The Institute of Sociology at the Westphalian Wilhelms‐University is organising a conference in Münster, Germany, on 8–10 September 2016. The conference results from collaboration between Stefanie Ernst (Professor of Sociology, Work and Knowledge) and Christoph Weischer (Professor of Sociology, Analysis of Social Structure, and Methods), and has the support of the Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam.

Orientation of the conference
Sociologists study social processes that unfold through space and time, but also through the experience of people who are caught up in those processes. Social scientific theories and explanations must therefore always incorporate the dimension of experience; they are, so to speak, theories in five dimensions.
The concepts of power and habitus are pivotal in understanding social processes. Wherever people are interdependent with each other – whenever they have needs that only transactions with others can meet – there are power balances or ratios, which may be stable or fluctuating, relatively equal or unequal. The needs that people have of each other range from the material, through information or means of orientation, to the emotional.

As for habitus, people’s ‘second nature’ – their cultural dispositions and personality traits – is shaped through their life experience, including their experience of power balances. Habitus formation and conscience formation – and transformation – are central components of social change, but they then feed back into the course of the processes that formed them. People’s habitus, formed gradually in the past, may prove an impediment to contemporary social changes, but on the other hand may adapt well and indeed facilitate change: there are leads and lags and drag effects. These questions are central to sociological theory and to this conference: our concerns extend from the past to the present to possible futures.

Call for papers
You are invited to submit abstracts relating to the suggested panels below. Proposals for new panels with a theoretical–empirical focus on contemporary issues will also be welcome.

Methodological and Theoretical Approaches
Here the focus of attention will be on theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches to the study of the dynamics, directions and structures of processes of transformation, and on how the self‐perceptions and self‐experiences of the people involved in such processes can be incorporated into sociological theories.

Work, Unemployment and Lifestyle
In the past few decades, the living and working conditions of people have undergone enormous changes in differently structured societies. Through new waves of economic globalisation, technologisation and individualisation, traditional ways of organising life and work have lost their importance. The study of the structures and directions of these processes, on the one hand, and the study of self‐experiences of people affected by these rapid transformations, on the other hand, will be the main focus of this panel.

Education, Economy and Social Inequalities
In recent decades we have also been able to observe processes of transformation in the fields of education and the economy, generally involving new patterns of equality and inequality. This panel will deal with dynamics, directions and structures of these processes, and with the self‐experience of people affected. Both dimensions should also be considered in different examples of social inequalities.

Environment and Health
A major problem facing all human societies today is environmental deterioration and climate change. Environmental problems are social problems, and therefore a topic for sociological reflection. How can sociological conceptualisation contribute to a reality‐congruent kind of understanding and explanation of the ongoing controversies on environmental issues? How do the people involved as decision makers as well as ordinary citizens estimate the dangers that could arise from these developments? What are the long‐term dynamics of these developments?

Social Conflicts, Immigration and Democratisation
In this panel, by looking at various case studies, we will demonstrate how social conflicts, tensions and wars arise and develop. The question of how people thus affected experience these developments, themselves and their perceived opponents plays an important role as well. We also want to deal with the issues of immigration and integration which have increased, especially in the course of economic globalisation and emerging new technologies.

Global, National and Local Identities
In the course of economic globalisation in recent decades, the topic ‘identity’ has attracted major attention in social sciences. In this session, we ask what kind of reality the term ‘identity’ symbolically represents and how this reality can be empirically grasped, on the basis of case studies from differently structured societies. At the level of self‐experience of the people affected, we will look at how the people in different societies experience processes of transformation in their identities: for instance, what does it mean to use concepts like ‘crisis of identity’ or ‘European identity’?

The deadline for submission is 25 March 2016.
To upload your short abstract, please log in to the website:

More conference registration details will follow under:

Organising Committee
Prof. Dr. Stefanie Ernst, Dr. Behrouz Alikhani, Prof. Dr. Christoph Weischer, Dr. Damir Softic, all of the Institute of Sociology.

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CfP RC33 conference Leicester 11-16 September 2016

Call for Papers on Comparative, Longitudinal and Historical Research for
the 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology (RC33)
at the University of Leicester (United Kingdom)
Conference Date: September 11th – 16th, 2016
Submission Deadline for Papers: 21st January, 2016
Session Topics
The conference will host the following sessions on comparative, longitudinal and historical research:

1. Auto/Biographical Methods (Goodwin and O’Connor)

2. Methodologies of sociological discourse research (Reiner Keller)

3. Analysing qualitative longitudinal couple data. A comparative perspective. (Marie Evertsson and Daniela Grunow)

4. Researching Social Processes (Jason Hughes)

5. Process-Oriented Micro-Macro-Analysis: Mixing Methods in Longitudinal Analysis and Historical Sociology (Nina Baur, Eric Lettkemann, Jannis Hergesell and Maria Norkus)

6. Social Studies of Reproduction: techniques, methods and reflexive moments (Nicky Hudson et al)

7. Effect of respondents’ age on interviews (Susanne Vogl)

8. Contemplative methods meets sociological imagination. An enactive perspective for sociological inquiry and wise social transformation (Vincenzo Giorgino and Krzysztof Konecki)

9. Spatial Analysis (Nina Baur, Linda Hering, Jona Schwerer and Cornelia Thierbach)

10. Analyzing space and spatial externalities (Alexandra Wicht et al)

11. Monitoring Data Collection in International Settings (Ellen Marks)

12. Cultural response styles (Martin Weichbold et al)

13. Maximizing Equivalence in Cross-Nation/Cultural Surveys Using the Total Survey Error Paradigm (Tom Smith and Peter Marsden)

Please check the Conference Website for a full list of sessions and session descriptions.

Conference Website

Please find further information on ISA RC33 (Research Committee on Logic & Methodology of the International Sociology Association) on

How to Submit an Abstract
1. To submit a paper abstract for any session of the RC33 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology, you should visit:

After landing on the homepage, navigate to ‘Abstract Submission’, which appears in the top left hand column of the webpage.

2. Complete the form in full. You may wish to cut and paste your abstract into the Abstract field from another document.

3. Choose the relevant session for your stream. To do so you will need to select the relevant lead session organiser from the drop-down menu highlighted in the image below. To check you are submitting to the correct session, you can view a table of sessions and session convenors by clicking the link entitled ‘View the list of sessions and session convenors’. Once complete, click submit.

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CfP Process-Oriented Micro-Macro-Analysis

Call for Papers for the Session
Process-Oriented Micro-Macro-Analysis:
Mixing Methods in Longitudinal Analysis and Historical Sociology
at the 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology (RC33), University of Leicester (United Kingdom)
Conference Date: September 11th – 16th, 2016
Submission Deadline for Papers: 21st January, 2016
Conference Website

Please find further information on ISA RC33 (Research Committee on Logic & Methodology of the International Sociology Association) on

Session Topic
Social theory is often interested in how social meso and macro phenomena or social contexts (e.g. organizations, markets, cities, regions, societies) and micro phenomena (e.g. everyday practices, interaction, communicative action, individual action) interact, causally influence and change each other.

However, analyzing such questions empirically pose methodological problems which have to be solved simultaneously: Not only is a (1) multi-level analysis needed, but (2) meso and macro phenomena typically change only on the longue durée, thus requiring either longitudinal analysis, historical methods or archival methods which typically make use of QUAL documentary analysis or QUAN public administrative data, structural or trend data. Although today, there are many sources of secondary data available, typically these data were produced continuously in their respective historical times and face the problems of selectivity and availability. (3) In contrast, micro phenomena either address the individual lifecourse or biographies which are typically either analyzed with QUAN survey data or QUAL narrative interviews. Alternatively, very short-term social processes are addressed, which are typically grasped by methods such as ethnography and video analysis. Data are collected today and any past events are reconstructed from the perspective of the present – which poses the particular problem of how to reconstruct past events and social practices on the micro level.

In summary, process-oriented micro-macro-analyses typically combine or mix different data sorts (e.g. ethnography and public administrative data) which address different time layers. Based on these observations and building on the prior debates at the RC33 Conferences in Naples and Sydney as well the HSR Special Issues on “Linking Theory and Data: Process-Generated and Longitudinal Data for Analysing Long-Term Social Processes” and “Social Bookkeeping Data: Data Quality and Data Management” (both 2009), the session asks how to conduct process-oriented micro-macro-analyses.

While papers can also discuss general methodological questions and problems in process-oriented micro-macro-analysis (e.g. sampling, linking data, data analysis), papers discussing specific methodological problems using a concrete mix or combination of data in a specific research project are especially welcome.

Session Convenors
Nina Baur (, Jannis Hergesell (, Eric Lettkemann, ( and Maria Norkus (,

How to Submit an Abstract
1. To submit a paper abstract for any session of the RC33 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology, you should visit:

After landing on the homepage, navigate to ‘Abstract Submission’, which appears in the top left hand column of the webpage, see image below:

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Rates of violent death in non-state and state societies

Max Roser has compiled interesting data from ethnographic and archaeological sources:

Stephen Mennell

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Call for Papers: EGOS 2016, Naples (7–9 July) Sub-theme 62: Power, Habitus and Organizing

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may be interested in this track which is part of the European Group for Organization Studies conference which will be held in Naples in 2016. See below the call for papers and the link to the submission lProcess:

The deadline for submission is January 11, 2016.

John Connolly, Dublin City University, Ireland
Ad van Iterson, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
Paddy Dolan, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

Call for Papers

This sub-theme is concerned with the relationship between power, habitus and the shaping and re-shaping of organizations, organizational structures, practices and the wider socio-political terrain in which this occurs. The emergence and growth of global digital technology organizations, the type of organizing many of these embody, and the more global neo-liberal socio-political structures that all organizations now function within reignite old questions concerning the exercise and level of corporate power, the shaping of organizational structures and institutional logics, intra-organizational power ratios, and the production of organizational subjects (Du Gay, 1994).

At the same time, they also raise new questions about habitus formation and change. What type of habitus facilitates these new types of organizational structures and organizing practices? Could the habituses of those comprising 21st century organizations be deemed ‘more compliant’ and less ‘capable’ of engaging in resistance practices than those of past generations? In what way are cultural guidelines about how to organize ‘work’, shaped by macro and micro power relations? What demands do new cultural codes of working impose on organizational life and non-organizational life? Furthermore, given the simultaneous occurrence of both competitive and co-operative relations between many organizations of varying power resources, it raises questions as to how representatives of these organizations accommodate these conflicting pressures within the habitus.

The concepts of power and habitus, deployed in isolation or combined as part of a wider framework, have long been central components in a variety of theoretical approaches which have sought to explain organizational dynamics and change (for example, Alvesson, 1994; Gomez & Bouty, 2011). Neither is habitus a concept confined to the theoretical lens of Bourdieu. Indeed, Bourdieu was not the originator of the concept – ironic perhaps given the contemporary association. Rather habitus has been deployed from various other theoretical perspectives (see Mutch, 2003; Newton, 2004; Connolly & Dolan, 2013) as have conceptions of power. Moreover, given the capacity for the relationship between power and habitus to be examined at different levels of analysis – micro, macro, or an approach that seeks to combine or transcend the apparent micro/macro divide – this sub-theme aims to attract papers from a diverse range of perspectives including, but not exclusive to, Bourdieu, Foucault and Elias.

Some questions of interest may include:
• What is the relationship between power and habitus? Are particular habituses more capable of resisting change even in cases where considerable asymmetrical power relations exist?
• What are the power relations that foster or impel a particular organizational ‘habitus’?
• In what way do situational face-to-face encounters reflect a specific habitus and particular power ratios?
• In the era of global social/digital technology organizations and the ‘more permissive’ working conditions they appear to embody, have work practices undergone a shift in the balance between formalization and informalization?
• What theories and methodological approaches are more useful and appropriate in identifying and disentangling the different layers of habitus of those involved in organizational practices?

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RC33 Conference Session: Researching Social Processes

Below is a call for papers for one of the sessions at the forthcoming ISA RC33 Conference to be held at the University of Leicester, 11th–16th September, 2016. The full list of session plus further details of the conference (including the abstract submission process) can be found here:

The deadline for abstracts is: 21st January, 2016.

This session, entitled ‘Researching Social Processes’, will be of particular interest to Eliasian scholars researching long- and/or short-term processes.


Researching Social Processes: Call for Papers

The interest in researching social processes has itself a varied history characterised by the fluctuating influence of prevailing intellectual currents over the research endeavour. Over the early part of the twentieth century, much anthropological and early sociological consideration of evolutionary and comparative historical research examined the formation and maintenance of particular societal systems; social distinctions and social institutions. Much was centrally concerned with social, historical and economic ‘development’, whether in particular contexts or globally. Towards the latter half of the century, however, there emerged a counter-tendency to this concern with ‘grand arcs’ of social development: a shift that Norbert Elias has termed a ‘retreat into the present’. This retreat occurred not only within sociology, but more generally as part and parcel of a pervasive ‘developmental agnosticism’ (Wittfogel 1957) in the wake of social Darwinism, eugenics, and variants of scientific racism – the spectres of which haunted post-war researchers (Mennell 1992).

More recently, however, partly motivated by a resurgence of interest in relationality and the ‘flow’ of social life, there has been a return to an engagement with process, albeit in ways which seek to avoid the teleological and evolutionist connotations of early accounts of social development. Such interests have coalesced around a common engagement with processes and relationships via a range of different methods: longitudinal research methods (both quantitative and qualitative); historical research; time series data analysis; biographical and life course studies; social network analysis; corpus analysis; to name a few.

The aim of this session is to explore the range of work stemming from this resurgence of interest in researching social processes. In particular, we invite papers that consider in relation to their respective substantive concerns the difficulties attendant upon researching long-term processes and complex human relationships. Such methodological concerns are potentially wide-ranging. They include, for example, the problem of how to explore the intersection between long-term and short-term processes, such as those at the interface between history and biography. More pragmatically, such difficulties include those faced by an archival researcher’s dependence on extant sources of data which have survived the vagaries of archival selection. And the more general challenges presented by using contemporary sources of data, including the limits to which it is possible to construct theories about social processes based upon observations based on and in the present.

Please follow this link for abstract submission:

Select ‘Jason Hughes’ from the drop-down list of session organisers.

If you have any queries, please contact me on:

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NEF Website may be temporarily offline

A fault has arisen on the Norbert Elias Stichting website. Probably as a result of a software update by the hosting service, it has become impossible to update the site. This fault will be rectified during the coming week, but this may possibly result in the website being offline for a short time.

Stephen Mennell

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Final reminder: deadline for ISA Vienna Forum 2016

Please remember that 30 September is the absolute deadline by which abstracts have to be submitted for papers to be presented at the ISA Forum in Vienna, 10-14 July 2016.

Figurational sociologists are strongly represented in WG02, Historical and Comaorative Sociology, and in RC20, Comparative Sociology. But figurationists write on everything, so if there aren’t appropriate sessions under those two sections of the ISA, do look at the full programme, at There’s bound to be some section that will host your work.

Let me put in a plug for my own WG02 session, on ‘In what ways can comparative–historical sociology help to improve the workings of the modern world?’ The contribution I am offering to myself is entitled ‘Why democracy cannot be dropped in bombs from B52s at 30,000 feet: the social bases of democracy revisited’. I hope the session will be provocative.

Abstracts can ONLY be submitted via the Confex website:

Don’t be late!

Stephen Mennell

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REMINDER: Social character and historical processes: a conference in honour of Stephen Mennell

University College Dublin, 7–8 January 2016

On 7–8 January 2016, the School of Sociology, UCD, will hold a conference to honour the major contribution that Stephen Mennell has made to the discipline of sociology. Stephen who is now Emeritus, was a Professor at UCD from 1993 to 2009 and during those 16 years made a remarkable contribution to the academic and social life of the School. More recently he has spent almost a decade overseeing the publication of Norbert Elias’s Collected Works.

This conference aims to recognise and reflect on his important work, which includes numerous books and articles. In line with his prodigious output, the conference, as well as including sessions on all aspects of the work of Elias, will have panels on America and on food and eating.

It is hoped that there will be no conference fee. And while we will provide assistance, participants will be expected to cover their own travel and accommodation costs.

Everyone is welcome. If you are interested in attending the conference and/or wish to give a paper please email, NOT LATER than 1 October.

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Elias in the Financial Times!

Eric Jones drew my attention to a favourable mention of Elias in an unexpected place. I wrote the following comment to appear in the Figurations newsletter 43, but there wasn’t space for it, so here it is. – SJM

Simon Kuper, ‘Why safety now trumps freedom’, Financial Times, Weekend Magazine, 27–28 June 2015

It’s good to see Elias being cited enthusiastically in the Financial Times. But, when Eric Jones tipped me off about Kuper’s article, from its title I drew the false conclusion that it related to world affairs. Kuper writes about the apparent decline in violent behaviour in many countries, referring not just to Elias but also to ‘one disciple of Elias, the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’ and to Manuel Eisner’s data on trends in homicide. But he uses all this to infer that there has been a generational shift in Western countries from the rather wild generation of the 1960s, preoccupied with ‘freedom’, to ‘a new type of being: the well-behaved teen’. Kuper should have read Cas Wouters!

Of course, Kuper may prove to be right. But in the technical sense in which we use the term, ‘civilising processes’ are slow, fluctuating and reversible – so, to echo Chou En-Lai, it is too early to say.

Kuper does argue, in a neat but over-simple dictum summarising Elias’s argument, that ‘States forced [people] to behave, and growing trade encouraged them to’. (Trade and markets also force people to do certain things – it isn’t just a matter of incentives.) The point I want to make, though, is that the general safety and predictability of everyday life – a diminishing danger of suffering harm or death, whether by violence, famine, disease or whatever – plays an essential part in the development of the greater capacity for habitual self-control that we called ‘civilised behaviour’. It also facilitates the growth of trade, which therefore is not an ‘independent variable’ but one thread in a number of intertwining long-term processes.

So how does this relate to foreign policy? Well, I would argue that the West has consistently underestimated the value of the simple calculability and safety of everyday life, mainly because its leaders take too much for granted something that – by and large – they enjoy for themselves. The other side of this coin is that they ignore (in both the English and French senses of the verb) the whole literature on the social foundations of democracy. In consequence, they choose – for other people – what they think of as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ over everyday security.

To be more concrete, take the example of Syria. Yes, Assad was (before the outbreak of the civil war) a tyrant, but for most people most of the time only a moderately oppressive tyrant. One had to keep one’s nose clean, but the risk of being killed or bombed out of one’s home was relatively small. This is not to set him on any kind of pedestal (though reflect on the fact that it is not all that many years since he was a guest at Buckingham Palace during a state visit). It is merely to say most Syrians today, I suspect, would gladly go back to the status quo ante, to the lives they lived before the civil war.

It is also to point to another corollary of Elias’s theory, that the unleashing – whether intended or unintended – of the kind of violence, danger and instability that we now see in the Middle East has precisely the consequence of generating lower levels of ‘civilised behaviour’.

This is not to undervalue ‘democracy’. As Elias notes in Studies on the Germans, a democratic political regime is more conducive to producing a ‘civilised habitus’ than a tyrannical and arbitrary one. But that is over and above the need for everyday physical safety.

Stephen Mennell

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