Social Structure, Social Policy and Applied Methods of Social Research

Participants: Claudia Globisch, Bernadette Müller Kmet, Bernhard Weicht

a. Research Activities

The research of this group focuses on the empirical analysis of the structure and dynamics of societies in a historical and comparative perspective.

It is based on a plurality of theoretical positions: (historico-genetical) action theories, system theories (theories of modernization and functional differentiation) as well as historical-materialist, „critical“ theories (from Critical Theory through poststructuralism, regulation theory, feminist and postfeminist approaches onto postcolonialism).

The focal research object is ‘social structure’ in a manifold sense:

  • In the sense of the normative structure governing production and reproduction at the macro- societal level. This includes the institutionalized relations of production and gender relations, as well as the political regimes of economy, welfare and care;
  • In the sense of the institutional framework and specific political regulation operating at the meso-level  subsystems society (family, education/ science, economy/ labor, polity, …);
  • In the sense of the “axes of difference and social inequalities“ produced and reproduced by these institutional frameworks and political regulations that manifest themselves in the unequal distribution of material and immaterial resources and in the emergence of social hierarchies (intersectional social inequality and domination based on class, gender,ethnicity, etc.);
  • In the sense of the cognitive and discursive patterns that govern the interpretation and legitimation of the normative order, the political regulation and the unequal distribution of resources in society, and that serve as a frame of reference for everyday experience and action at the micro level.

Research on social structure poses theoretical problems such as the relation between structural/ systemic constraints and power relations, the scope of action and patterns of participation, inclusion and recognition in capitalist market societies; the relation between the national and supranational levels of social integration; the relation between social structures and cultural semantics and, last but not least, the relations between cultural knowledge, social action and political governance of society.
At the same time the analysis of social structure and social policies raises empirical questions to be answered by means of empirical social research, e.g. the identification and descriptive and interferential analysis of multidimensional inequalities on the one hand and the concomitant processes of inclusion and exclusion and of integration and disintegration on the other hand. Thereby empirical research plays a central role,

  • research of the distribution of material and symbolic goods (e.g.,  income and wealth, social recognition or political participation) resulting in different social positions,
  • research of the subjective patterns of perceptions of and attitudes towards social inequality;
  • research of the interactions between „objective“ inequalities and their „subjective“ processing. 

Correspondingly empirical-analytical, quantitative research methods as well as qualitative, hermeneutic-interpretative research methodologies are applied.

b. Research-Based Teaching Areas

Research on social structure and social policies informs and inspires several teaching areas of the sociology department such as

BA Programme in Sociology:

  • The special sociology: „Structures and Changes of Contemporary Societies“;

  • Applied and Advanced Methods of Social Science

  • Applied Research Training

MA Programme in Social and Political Theory:

  • Theory-based Empirical Social and Policy Analysis

MA Programme in Gender, Culture and Social Change:

  • Difference and Heterogeneity in Migration Societies 1

PhD Programme in Sociology


c. Topics for Master- and PhD-Theses

Research work done by students may contribute to the research of social structure and social policies. Therefore proposals for master- and PhD-theses in the following areas of research are welcome:

  • intersectional social inequality: patterns of distribution, recognition and participation and their discursive (de)legitimation;
  • structures and cultures of wealth and/or poverty;
  • changing patterns of family, work and consumption, political decision making, education, science etc.;
  • social policy reactions to current changes in demography, work and economy, family, mkigration etc.;
  • discoursive reflection and mediation of current social structure and social policy changes;
  • alternative socio-political concepts and concomitant discourses: from gainful employment to community or voluntary work, economy for the common good, basic income etc.;
  • structure and dynamics of European integration, conditions and consequences of Europeanization processes;
  • current structural transformations of science and social science in comparative perspective.

d. Selected Publications:

  • Globisch, Claudia (2012): Strukturwandel sozialpolitischer Steuerung? In: OEZS 27 (2012): 133-154.
  • Globisch, Claudia (with Guenter Dux) (2012): Soziologie der Kritik. In: Soziologische Revue, Vol. 35 (2012): 417-428.
  • Hirschle, Jochen und Holger Lengfeld (2012): Perceived Job Insecurity and Employment Systems: Paradoxical Effects in International Comparison, in: Hamburg Reports on Contemporary Society (HRCS) Nr. 2.
  • Hirschle, Jochen (2011): Familie, Geschlecht und Klassenmobilitaet: Der Einfluss der Geburt eines Kindes auf die Berufskarrieren von Frauen und Maennern. In: Arbeit. Zeitschrift für Arbeitsforschung, Arbeitsgestaltung und Arbeitspolitik 20(2): 112-126.
  • Hummelsheim, Dina und Jochen Hirschle (2010): Mother's employment: cultural imprint or institutional governance? Belgium, West- and East Germany in comparison. In: European Societies 12(3): 339-366.
  • Hoenig, Barbara (2014): The Making of ‘Excellence’ in the European Research Area: How Research Funding Organizations Work. In: Christian Fleck and Andreas Hess, eds., Knowledge for Whom? Public Sociology in the Making, Aldershot: Ashgate, 127-146.
  • Hoenig, Barbara (2012): Europeanization of Sociology. A Comparative Perspective on Slovenia and Austria, Baden-Baden: Nomos.
  • Hoenig, Barbara (2010): European Union’s Research Policy and the Social Sciences, European Perspectives, 2: 37-58.
  • Müller Kmet, Bernadette (2017) 'Private and Public Universities in Kenya and Tanzania: Missions and Visions' In Anne Goujon, Max Haller and Bernadette Müller Kmet (eds.): Higher Education in Africa: Challenges for Development, Mobility and Cooperation. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 82-106.
  • Anne Goujon, Max Haller and Bernadette Müller Kmet (eds.) (2017) Higher Education in Africa: Challenges for Development, Mobility and Cooperation. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Max, Haller; Eder, Anja und Müller Kmet, Bernadette (2015): Drei Wege zur Zähmung des Kapitalismus. Die Wahrnehmung und Bewertung sozioökonomischer Ungleichheit in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz; Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 40 (1): 1-31.
  • Müller, Bernadette (2011): Empirische Identitätsforschung. Personale, soziale und kulturelle Dimensionen der Selbstverortung, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
  • Preglau, Max (2013): Geschlechterpolitik im internationalen Vergleich: Oesterreich, USA und Schweden. In: Appelt, Erna/ Gatt, Sabine/ Jarosch, Marion/ Kogler, Nina (Eds.), Interdisziplinaere Perspektiven der Geschlechterforschung, Innsbrucker Gender Lectures II, Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press, 181–204.
  • Preglau, Max (2013): Oeffentlichkeit versus Privatheit: Grenzziehungen und -verschiebungen in geschlechterkritischer Beleuchtung. In: Appelt, Erna/ Aulenbacher, brigitte/ Wetterer, Angelika (Eds.), Gesellschaft – Feministische Krisendiagnosen. Muenster: Verlag Westphaelisches Dampfboot, 146–166.
  • Preglau, Max (2010): Schuessel and the Welfare State. In: Günther Bischof/ Fritz Plasser (Eds.), The Schuessel Years in Austria. Contemporary Austrian Studies Vol. XVIII., New Orleans – Innsbruck: UNO Press & Innsbruck University Press, 58–78.
  • Tolhurst, Edward &  Weicht, Bernhard (2017), Preserving personhood: The strategies of men negotiating the experience of dementia, Journal of Aging Studies, Vol. 40, pp. 29-35.
  • Tolhurst, Edward; Weicht, Bernhard & Kingston, Paul (2016), Narrative collisions, sociocultural pressures and dementia: the relational basis of personhood, Sociology of Health & Illness, doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12523
  • Karner, Christian and Weicht Bernhard (eds.) (2016): The Commonalities of Global Crises: Markets, Communities and Nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Weicht, Bernhard (2016): State, Market, or back to the Family? Nostalgic Struggles for Proper Elder Care, in Karner, C / Weicht B (eds.) (2016), The Commonalities of Global Crises: Markets, Communities and Nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan, 115-142.
  • Karner, Christian and Weicht Bernhard (2016): Markets, "Communities" and Nostalgia, in Karner, C / Weicht B (eds.), The Commonalities of Global Crises: Markets, Communities and Nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan, 1-34.
  • Karner, Christian and Weicht Bernhard (2016): Epilogue, in Karner, C / Weicht B (eds.), The Commonalities of Global Crises: Markets, Communities and Nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan, 345-354.
  • Weicht, Bernhard (2015): The Meaning of Care: The Social Construction of Care for Elderly People, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Da Roit, Barbara, Hoogenboom, Marcel and Weicht, Bernhard (2015): The Gender Informal Care Gap: A fuzzy-set analysis of cross-country variations, European Societies, Vol. 17 (2): 199-218.
  • Weicht, Bernhard (2015): Employment Without Employers? The Public Discourse on Care During the Regularisation Reform in Austria, in Triandafyllidou, A and Marchetti, S (eds.), Employers, Agencies and Immigration: Paying for Care, Farnham: Ashgate: 114-130

e. Current Research Projects

Ethnic Differentiation and Social stratification in South Tyrol. An Empirical Study

  • Project Management: Atz, Hermann/ Pallaver, Günther/ Preglau, Max/ Haller, Max/ Scaglia, Antonio;
  • Duration: 11/2013 – 04/2016;
  • Funder: Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen, South Tyrol

Armutsdynamiken in Tirol

  • Project Management: Claudia Globisch;
  • Duration: 2/2012-6/2013;
  • Funder: Tyrolean Science Fund (TWF)

Qualitative Poverty Report Innsbruck

  • Project management: Claudia Globisch 
  • Duration: 2/2012-6/2013
  • Funder: Aktion D. Swarovski KG

ERASCIENCE Europeanization of Science: The Case of the European Research Council

  • Project Management: Barbara Bach-Hönig 
  • Duration: 7/2013 - 12/2014
  • Funder: Promotion of Young Scientists/University of Innsbruck, Aktion D. Swarovski KG, Tyrolean Science Fund (TWF)

f. Related Dissertations and PhD Thesis Projects

Recently finished:

  • Geser-Engleitner, Erika (2013), Betreutes Wohnen für Aeltere in Vorarlberg (Doctoral Study Programme in Social and Economic Sciences)

In progress

  • Bishara, Maisam, NGOs between Dependency and Ethical Code (Doctoral Study Programme in Social and Economic Sciences)

  • Bodenseer, Johannes, Corporate Social Responsibility. Rettungsanker in der Krise? (Doctoral Study Programme in Social and Economic Sciences)

  • Knapp, Daniela, Die Verantwortung der Jugendwohlfahrt gegenueber der Gesellschaft aus regulationstheoretischer Sicht (Doctoral Study Programme in Social and Economic Sciences)

  • Timgum, Julius Ngwainmbi, Towards a Cultural Perspective. Reasons of Individuals to Subscribe to Micro Health Insurance Organisations (MHOs) in Low Income Countries – Case Study North West and Western Province of Cameroon (PhD Programme in Sociology)

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