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Focal points of the research are the formation of sociological theories, society theory, theories of social change-, culture, economy and technology sociology as well as the areas named by the individual persons working in the professorship as named on their own web pages.

Specifically we are working at the present time on concepts relating to the following research focal points:

1. Sociological practice theory, social change and theory of society

This research focal point is directly affiliated with earlier research work by Frank Hillebrandt, Franka Schäfer and Anna Daniel on the field of "Thematization forms of the religious in the most important sociological narratives of modernity of the present time". An important finding of this discourse-analytical research work is namely that the religion-sociological discourse has changed fundamentally since the 1960s. What can be observed is a change from the thematization of collective religion in the two large confessional churches towards a thematization of the manifoldness of religious experiences in the private sphere of the individual person.

Proceeding onward from this important result we are following the objective of investigating the cultural changes since the 1960s by drafting a practice-sociological contribution to a theory of the more recent social change. In this research work, which sees itself as a contribution to historical sociology, it is a matter of consolidating the cultural-sociological and discourse-analytical sketch of the cultural change in a practice-theoretical manner and of extending it from religion to wider areas of society. Standing behind this undertaking is the assumption that the cultural change since the 1960s is linked with a change in practices and the formation of practices. Planned for the identification and analysis of these practices and formation of practices are studies on the change processes in education, in the economic systems, in art and in politics. Because it is particularly these change processes - according to the thesis being investigated - that represent important foundations for integration processes in present-day society.

2. Theory formation

An important focal point of the research of the professorship is the culture- and practice-sociological formation of theory. The theory discussion of sociology has currently reached a point at which a reorientation of the formation of sociological theory can be expected. This development generates a considerable research requirement for the further development of the sociological theoretical fundamentals, this requirement being taken up by the work area and transferred into research projects. In particular the systematization and further development of the sociological culture and practice theory is in this connection a focal point of the research for the formation of sociological theory. Here it is above all a matter of a further systematization of this very promising theory-direction which up to the present time is not present as a finalized theory.

3. Further development of existing and development of new methodological instruments for cultural-sociological practice research

In close interaction with the research focal point of sociological theory formation, the professorship - following the intensive professional discussions held in recent years - will be linking methodologically sociological theory formation with empirical research in order in this way to not only promote the empirical research studies but also to further develop sociological theory. This approach promises innovative impulses for the research since the current theory discussion of the field of study is flowing into the conception and operative execution of research projects. In a similar manner and in respect of its theoretical premises, the methodological consolidation of practice research has also not yet been adequately systematized. In this connection it is above all a matter of developing innovative research methods which assist in the overcoming of the one-sided focussing of cultural-sociological research on the analysis of cultural forms. Because cultural sociology oriented on the term practice interests itself to an increased extent in the way cultural forms, which possess their own quality, are lived out in practice. Accordingly it is a matter of developing a multi-facetted method-mix which is able to do justice to the stringent demands of empirical practice research and which at the same time can be further developed iteratively in the course of the research practice.

A very promising field of research capable of making a contribution to the theory-led method discussion in this area is the researching of discourses. Above all poststructuralistic and post-modern discourse theories (e.g. Foucault) offer numerous opportunities for links for sociological practice research in so far as it is assumed that on the one hand social practices write themselves into discourses and that on the other hand discursive formations express themselves in practices. To this extent a change away from new discursive formations able to be found in discourse towards a change of the forms of practice can be concluded.

4. Economic sociology

Following on from various studies on economic sociology and in particular on the sociology of bartering, which Frank Hillebrandt as chair of the professorship has presented, research perspectives for the studying of work as a social practice, which study explicitly carries out a cultural sociology of symbolic forms which are generated by expert knowledge and common knowledge. This culture- and knowledge-sociological research is employed in a second step in examining the practice of work in order in this way to illuminate the implementation of knowledge in work. This research project is currently still in its conceptual phase. Intermeshing of it with the first research focal point seems natural.

FernUni-Logo FernUniversität in Hagen, Institute of Sociology, 58084 Hagen