Centre for Social Theory


The Centre for Social Theory focuses upon theoretical and theory-driven empirical research. Four types of questions are central to its research:

  • The first type of questions deals with analyses of “big structures, large processes and huge comparisons”, such as the rise of the world society, the knowledge society, the risk society, the surveillance society, the pluralistic society, as well as the challenges these changes pose for social order and cohesion.
  • Secondly, the focus is on the micro-macro link, studying how these large-scale developments affect smaller-scale phenomena such as social solidarity, social practices, social network dynamics, or “little” social systems (such as conversations or face-to-face interactions).
  • The third question focuses on the agency-structure debate, i.e., issues of liberty and social order, and how social structures influence the behavior of actors and the latter are able to transform these structures.
  • The fourth type of questions are established ones in theoretical sociology: they deal with the critical discussion and reconstruction of classical and contemporary social theories, focusing on debates over citizenship, civil society, or globalization.

In addressing these questions, research at the Centre for Social Theory contributes to a variety of fields within sociology, including theoretical sociology; sociology of knowledge, science and technology; macro- and structural sociology; historical and comparative sociology; sociology of education; sociology of religion; sociology of exclusion; and political sociology. In addition, given that many of the key theoretical debates today are no longer discipline-specific, the CST also engages with theoretical discussions in other disciplines. The CST conducts both quantitative and qualitative research, ranging from cross-national comparisons and network analysis to conversation analysis and ethnographic research.


Current research themes

Some current research themes within the research group are:

  • Globalization, the state and the world system
  • Developments in civil society and contemporary citizenship practices
  • Social capital and social networks
  • Structural analysis of ethnic segregation
  • Poverty and social exclusion
  • Dynamics of gentrification processes in city neighborhoods
  • The development of the knowledge economy/society
  • Environmental risks and risk perceptions

Research Staff