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 was 25 March 2016.

  • Accomodation and Travel Information


    In these hotels (10 to 15 min. walk to the conference) we reserved some rooms for you. Password is: “Power”.

    Some other hotels:

    Moreover you can check here for hotels: or for cheap accommodation:

    Conference venue

    Address: Schlossplatz 2, 48149 Münster

    Getting there

    The bicycle is the most commonly used means of transport in Münster. Bicycles can be hired from the bicycle station at the main station, the Muenster Arkaden bicycle station or the “Bike Storage” in the Stubengasse.
    Further information

    By bus

    You can easily get to the conference place in “Schloss Münster” via BUS: Arriving by train you first have to cross a tunnel right hand side from the exit of central station. BUS Nr. 11, 12 or 13 go in a 12-min-trip to “Gerichtsstraße”.

    By car

    You can easily get to Münster via the autobahn A1 (Autobahnkreuze Münster-Nord or Münster-Süd) or the A43 (Autobahnkreuz Münster-Süd). If you are coming from the south (Münster-Süd), continue on Weseler Straße. Follow the road until you can see the castle on your left hand side. If you are coming from the north (Münster-Nord), continue on Steinfurter Straße. Follow the road until you can see the castle on your right hand side.

    By train

    Münster can be reached via regional as well as intercity trains (Deutsche Bahn) or by using the Hamburg-Köln-Express. Taking a taxi from the train station to the castle will take you about 15 minutes; if you go by foot, you will need about half an hour.

    By plane

    The local airport Muenster/Osnabrueck has connections from several cities, both in Germany and Europe. Taking a plane from Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich will take you about an hour. There is a bus to the train station. Alternatively, you can fly into Dortmund or Duesseldorf and take the train to Muenster.

  • Organising Committee

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