European Political Sociology

Section of the European Sociological Association

Research Network 32 

Political Sociology 


About us

The ESA political sociology research network was proposed by a multi-disciplinary promotion committee and was approved at the ESA Executive Committee meeting of 23-24 October 2008. It initially reflected the interests of its founders and articulated the following set of topics with specific attention to the European dimension. They corresponded to the main research interests of the list of signatories of the promoting document. We seek to represent the concerns of a wider sociological community based in a variety of European countries and expressing a wide geographical distribution.


Citizenship and Governance

The relationship between citizens and the legitimacy of political institutions is at the core of how the workings of modern state systems are understood. The historically developed nexus of citizens and political institutions has traditionally been held to entail membership in a bounded, territorial community. This paradigmatic understanding has been challenged by the idea and practice of transnational, multicultural, European, cosmopolitan or global citizenship. Within the political sociology section, contributions are welcome, which challenge the notion of congruence between nation, state and citizenship, e.g. through studies on European citizenship or comparative studies of citizenship. Furthermore, scholars within the section will look at new forms of citizenship practices, often related to issues of gender, migration and poverty.


Political Attitudes

Attitudinal research has been at the core of comparative political studies classifying political behaviour and the ways ordinary people relate to politics. Attitudinal research is useful to establish how ideological or ethnic cleavages divide populations within and across European societies. The European comparative dimension has been opened by making new statistical data available for research and conducting regular opinion polling through Eurobarometer at a European scale. Over the last years, this has opened a new comparative dimension in research on political culture, voting behaviour, value surveys and political identifications. This research cluster brings together the different efforts that have been made by scholars in this field. It encourages, in particular, comparative surveys that map convergences and divergences in value attachments, allegiances with political parties, support of political regimes, welfare states, etc.


Political Communication

More than in any other research field, the framework for political communication research has been the national public sphere backed by national media organisations and nationally fragmented audiences. The integrity of the national public sphere is however increasingly challenged by the impact of global communication flows and the embedding of local and national cultures in world culture, shaped by the global exchange of meaning. At the same time, many scholars have expressed concerns with the degradation of mass political communication exemplified by the growing personalisation of politics, media advertisement and images, which replace rational debates and discourse, the lowering of news quality and the media staging of politics as show business. The political sociology section can respond to these uncertainties by encouraging comparative research in the field of political communication. Contributions can be both theoretically and normatively driven, deal with the complex methodological problems of comparison in the field and, in empirical terms, deal with the many ways of how political actors and institutions interact with the old and the new media.


States, Communities, Governance Structures and Political Institutions

The institutional and constitutional dimensions of the re-ordering of the political spaces in Europe and beyond merit particular research attention. In response to global challenges and the transnationalisation of governance, many have projected a profound transformation of the state structure. Others have emphasized the resilience of the nation state, which continues to be the main locus for the allocation of political authority and legitimacy. Changes in the structure and in the modes of operation of the state and of political institutions are also not necessarily followed by the redefinition of the borders of the political community. This research cluster articulates the research interests of scholars working on the macro and micro dimensions of the transformation of political power. This includes a broad understanding of the constitutional basis of political order as well as case studies on the functioning of political institutions at different levels of governance, their interactions and their modes of operation in specific public policy domains. This includes also theoretical and methodological issues concerning the mechanisms the policy process and of political change.


Forms of Political Participation

This cluster of themes articulates research on forms of participation and their change. The main focus is here on institutional forms of participation that develop within and across existing state structures. This includes work on political parties, public interest associations and more generally on party systems and their change. It also includes work on party families such as parties of the extreme right and related issues of racism and xenophobia. This cluster further relates to more informal and non-institutionalised structures of political participation. It does however not focus specifically on social movements and protest but rather embeds changing patterns of political participation within civil society at large. This opens a new comparative perspective on the consolidation of organised civil society in relation to changing forms of government/governance.


Democracy and democratisation

This cluster invites for a theoretical interchange between normative political theory, theories of democracy and social theory. Instead of dividing the world of norms from the world of political facts, political sociology needs to explore the normative foundations of political order and legitimacy under condition of modern or postmodern societies. In descriptive terms, democratic theory need to make sense of new ways of how citizens relate to political order, contest political legitimacy and influence political decision-making. In normative terms, it needs to be spelled out how these new forms are coded in procedural terms (e.g. direct democracy, representative democracy or deliberative democracy)and what kind of particular value is attributed to them. In this latter sense, political sociologists are invited to deliver not so much a normative assessment of the present transformation of democracy but an analytical account of the ongoing processes of (de)democratisation within and beyond the nation state framework. This includes an empirical perspective on the  practices of justification and legitimation of democratic order and redesign. 
After the first interim conference...
After our first interim conference held in Lille in November 2010, the list of interests has expanded. We would like to include in our conference sessions a set of new streams. These now include:

- Populism and the extreme right (our contact Dietmar Loch)
- Local politics/ urban studies (several board members are interested)
- Maarten Vink on citizenship (several board members are interested)
- elite/citizens perceptions and relations (several board members are interested)
- gender and politics stream (our contact Cristian Norocel)
- Active Citizenship, EU-level Civil Society, International Civil Society (our contact Carlo Ruzza)
- Political Representation (our contact Carlo Ruzza )
- The state and the political impact of the recent economic crisis (our contact Virginie Guraudon)
- New vs. old forms of public opinion and political participation in Europe (our contact Mauro Barisione)
- Emerging patterns of political leadership in Europe (our contact Mauro Barisione)
- New media and political communication (our contact Hans-Joerg Trenz)

The Promotion Committee

The Political Sociology Research Network of ESA was spearheaded by a promotion committee which consistsed of the following proponents:

  1. Carlo Ruzza – University of Leicester, UK
  2. Jens Rydgren – University of Stockholm, Sweden
  3. Hans Joerg Trenz – Arena, Oslo, Norway
  4. Giovanna Procacci – University of Milan, Italy
  5. Donatella Della Porta – EUI Florence – Italy
  6. Stefan Svallfors - Umeå University – Sweden
  7. Paolo Rosa – University of Trento – Italy
  8. Pieter Bevelander - Malmö University – Sweden
  9. Virginie Guiraudan – University of Lille, France
  10. Roberto Biorcio – University of Milan, Italy
  11. Barbara Misztal – University of Leicester, UK
  12. Juan Díez Medrano – University of Barcelona, Spain
  13. Ephraim Nimni – Queens University of Belfast, UK
  14. Paolo Crivellari - Université de Toulouse 3, France
  15. Roberto Biorcio – University of Milan, Italy
  16. Yasemin Soysal – Essex University, UK
  17. Paul Statham – University of Bristol, UK
  18. Umberto Melotti – University of Rome, Italy
  19. Christian Lahusen – University of Siegen, Germany
  20. Adrian Favell - University of Åarhus, Denmark
  21. Kazimiera Wódz  - University of Silesia, Poland
  22. Jacek Wódz  - University of Silesia, Poland
  23. Zdzislav Mach, Jagiollonian University Krakov, Poland