ECPR Joint Sessions at Université catholique de Louvain in Mons, April 2019

Dear Colleagues,

If any of you are planning to submit proposals for the 2019 Joint Sessions at Université catholique de Louvain in Mons, Belgium April 23-27 2019, this is a reminder that the deadline is February 1. You can submit proposals directly online at the ECPR web site ( If you are interested in getting Standing Group support, please submit your proposal to Niilo (niilo.t.j.kauppi[at] and me (dswartz[at] by January 26 so that we and the SG Advisory Board will have a chance to review it before making a decision.

Trust 2018 is off to a good start for you.


Call for panel and paper proposals: Political Sociology – Contemporary Challenges (ECPR General Conference 2018)

The section Political Sociology – Contempory Challenges has been accepted for the ECPR General Conference at Hamburg Universität, August 22-25, 2018.

Section chairs: David Swartz (Boston University), Niilo Kauppi (University of Jyväskylä)

Abstract: At the dawn of the twenty-first century there were signs of a new political sociology emerging that would broaden the focus beyond classical concerns such as the social basis of political participation, voting and political parties, anti-democratic right-wing and left-wing extremism and bureaucratization, elite domination, and the modern state. Attention was shifting to historical change at a global scale (globalization). Culture (language, symbols, religion, the media) was coming to be seen as central to the exercise of power. New linkages among global, society-wide organizations and group levels were being thought about. The formation of social identity and new social movements became key concerns. And data and methodologies integrating structure with agency became the order of the day. Now is a good time to assess how those shifts in attention are working out in light of contemporary challenges such as migration, regional conflict, populism, citizenship, transnational organizations, and particularly those phenomena that challenge established institutions and state-centered analyses. This Section will invite Panel proposals that take up contemporary challenges to the new political sociology.

The Academic Convenors have provisionally allocated the Section 7 Panels. Panels (with 4-5 Papers) and individual Papers can be submitted as of now. The following links are available:

Click here to propose a Panel with Papers (login with your MyECPR account)

Click here to propose an individual Paper (login with your MyECPR account)

Please note, if you included Panels in your Section proposal, these will need to be submitted formally via MyECPR using the links provided above.

The deadline for Panel and Paper proposals is midnight UK time on 15 February 2018. However, Niilo and I are asking that you submit everything by February 1 so that we can review all submissions and have time to adjust panels and papers and request an additional panel if the number of paper submissions warrant it.


David L. Swartz


Call for papers: Public Utility, Tax Expenditures and the Welfare State (ECPR General Conference 2018)

ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, August 22-25, 2018

Section chairs: Romain Carnac (Universit of Lausanne),; Alexandre Lambelet (University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland)

Questions of public utility, and the role of private actors in promoting the public interest are intimately linked to changing conceptions of the role of the state in society. Over the past decades, neoliberal ideology and policies have questioned the scale of the welfare state; political, economic and financial crises have further eroded state capacity and social policies. And most European countries have experienced over the past decades a number of reforms questioning in different ways the role of the state, its domains of action, and the division of tasks between public and private actors.

Tax policies and fiscal tools are crucial in regard to this question (Reich 2010). Studying fiscal welfare (Morel, Touzet and Zemmour 2016) or the « Hidden Welfare State » (Howard 1993), and more specifically the political debates on the question of public utility recognition and on tax legislations related to the involvement of private fortunes or organizations in social policies, is a way to analyse the transformations of the welfare state (or welfare mix) in western countries. What kind of fiscal tools are promoted as a way to encourage third sector development or private investment in welfare policies? If there is a need of a « public utility recognition » by some authorities to enjoy a tax exemption, what are the conditions under which tax exempt status is granted and how have they evolved during the last decades? How are public authorities involved in these topics?

In order to start a dialogue between researchers from different disciplines working on a variety of national contexts, we are looking in particular for: 1) Theoretical and methodological contributions addressing the ways tax expenditures are applied in contemporary welfare states, their evolution over time or the comparison between different national contexts and different sectors of activity. 2) Empirical analyses of the ways the notion of « tax expenditures for public utilities » is applied in different sectors of activity. Contributions could in particular speak to one of the following three axes (but other aspects and panel contributions are possible too):

1) Fiscal policy debates and the welfare state: Since the 1990s, all European countries have embarked on a series of reforms to promote philanthropy. Using a political sociology perspective, with a special attention for the role of politics and ideas in shaping the reform process, this axis asks questions such as: What are the policy debates with regard to philanthropy and fiscal expenditures? Who intervenes in these debates? How does the conception of what public utility is evolve? What is the legitimacy of different fiscal tools? And what do these debates tell us on the welfare mix and his evolutions in different countries? What is the role of international contexts and debates (for instance, competition to welcome large non profit organizations).

2) Inquiring fiscal policy at the « street-level »: The Street-level bureaucracy perspective (Lipsky 2010) has shown the importance of lower-level administrators in public policy implementation, but has rarely been used in regard with fiscal policies. This axis addresses this level of analysis and questions the role of administrators in fiscal policy decision-making. What are the dilemmas the front-line workers in public services (for exemple: fiscal autorities employees) have to deal with? How do fiscal administrations’ employees enact public policy in their routine work? What are the systematic and practical dilemmas these employees must overcome? What are the methodological difficulties for studying tax policy at this level, and how to overcome research barriers?

3) Tax expenditures as public policy instruments: In a socio-economic perspective, we would like to analyse reform processes of the welfare states through the development of specific policy instruments, namely tax expenditures for public utility purposes, which remained a blind spot in much of the welfare state literature. What are the consequences of the use of this kind of techniques or policy instruments to attain social goals on the welfare state? How do these transformations in the fiscal system shape the welfare state?

Papers and/or panel proposals must be submitted through the MyECPR platform by February 15, 2018.


Click here to download the pdf of this call for papers.


Lipsky M. (2010). Dilemmas of the individual in public services. In: Lipsky M, editor. Street-level bureaucracy. Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation; 2010.

Reich, R. (2010). Toward a political theory of philanthropy. Giving well: The ethics of philanthropy, 177–95.

Morel N., Touzet C., Zemmour M., 2016. Fiscal Welfare and Welfare State Reform: A Research Agenda. LIEPP Working Paper, 45.

Howard, Christopher (1993). « The Hidden Side of the American Welfare State », Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 108, No. 3 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 403-436

Call for papers: « 1968-2018, fifty years after: where is the social movements field going? »

Conference organized by COSMOS/SNS, ECPR/SG P&M, ESA/RN25

At Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy

23-25 of May 2018


2018 will mark the anniversary of the 1968 social movements mobilization: from Frenc May, over Anti-Vietnam War protests or the Tlatelolco massacre, to Prague Spring. The 1968 protest cycle considerably shaped social movements, political parties, universities, states, and societies as well as the social movement scholarship. Taking the 1968 anniversary as a stimulating moment for reflection, this conference seeks to provide space for looking at the implications of that period on social movement research as well as addressing a number of key questions in current social movement research. For instance: How have the theoretical and methodological approaches in the social movements field evolved in the aftermath of 1968? How did issues of protest change: which have emerged, disappeared of taken new forms? What is the impact of protest? When do movements bring social change? How do social movements select their strategies? How do they interact with other actors like parties, interest groups or NGO’s? Where do protestors end up in the aftermath of mobilization? What is the role of memory in social movements mobilization? What is the impact of individualisation on contentious politics? What is the role of media coverage and new communication technologies?

We invite submissions from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives and using a variety of methodologies. The midterm conference aims to bring together distinguished scholars and younger researchers not only from sociology and political science, but also from related disciplines, including economics, geography, anthropology, psychology, history, international relations, and area studies.

To submit an abstract, please email an abstract of no more than 250 words to

The deadline for all abstract submissions is the 8th of January 2018.


Applicants will be informed of the outcome by email no later than the 29th of January, 2018. Those offered places must confirm their participation within 10 days, after which places maybe offered to applicants on the reserve list. Participants to the Conference are required to write and submit a max. 7000-8000-word paper no later than 1st of May 2018, papers should be sent to Oral presentations should not last more than 10 minutes. Discussants are given 5 minutes per paper.

The conference will open with a mentoring session for young scholars. Young scholars (doctoral and postdoctoral level) will be invited to submit research proposals of up to five pages upon which they would wish to receive feedback. To apply for the mentoring session, send an abstract (250 words including “mentoring session” in the title) to no later than 8th January 2018. Research proposals should be then sent to, no later than 1st of May 2018. They will be coupled with two senior scholars who are specialized in the proposal’s subject, and who will read the proposal. The young scholar will get 30 minutes with each senior scholar to receive feedback and to get to know their more senior colleagues.


The conference will feature keynote speeches from:

-Professor Donatella Della Porta, COSMOS, Scuola Normale Superiore

-Professor Olivier Fiellieule, University of Lausanne

-Professor Marco Giugni, University of Geneva

-Professor Béla Greskovits, Central European University

-Professor James Jasper, City University of New York

-Professor Hanspeter Kriesi, European University Institute

-Professor Michele Micheletti, Stockholm University

-Professor Eva Anduiza, Autonomous University of Barcelona


A roundtable will be organized discussing a book:

– Roggeband, Conny and Klandermans, Bert, eds. 2017. Handbook of Social Movements Across Disciplines. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Springer.


The Conference has no fees and will provide a dinner.

With best regards,

Lorenzo Bosi (SNS, COSMOS), Joost de Moor (Keele University) and Kateřina Vráblíková (OSU)

Call for Papers: Political and Social Trust – Citizens and Context

Conference to be held in Tampere, Finland, on May 10-11, 2017


The Consortium of Trust Research (CONTRE) at University of Tampere and Åbo Akademi University, Finland, has the pleasure of inviting paper proposals to an international conference.

The conference brings together scholars who study the causes and consequences of social and political trust at different levels of society. It consists of keynote addresses by Professor Jonas Linde (University of Bergen) and Professor Eric M. Uslaner (University of Maryland) as well as four thematic panels.

The conference is organized as a part of the activities of the Academy of Finland funded project the Consortium of Trust Research – Pathways to Political Trust (CONTRE), in operation since September 2015. The key objective of the project is to understand to what extent short-term factors explain fluctuations in political trust and whether long-term cumulative forces explain gradual change.


  • Participants should apply by proposing a paper related to the general theme of the conference. Participants can indicate their panel preferences in their submission.
  • Applications should include an abstract of no more than 250 words describing the proposed paper.
  • The deadline for paper proposals is February 22, 2017.
  • Propose your paper here:


  • Panel chairs will select the papers to be presented at the conference. Those who have proposed papers will be informed about the selection by the end of February 2017.
  • The deadline for registration is March 31, 2017. Link to the registration form will be sent to participants via email.
  • The deadline for full papers is May 1, 2017.
  • There will be no conference fee. The local organizers will cover accommodation costs for two nights as well as lunches and dinners during their stay.


Panel I The relevance of Social Capital

Chair: Maria Bäck, University of Tampere

The last two decades have seen an upsurge in research on the relevance of social capital in society. Social capital has been claimed to have both a private and a public dimension and it can thus be treated as either an individual-level or an aggregate-level trait. This is the also case when studying the link between social capital and political trust. There has been a large debate on the questions of whether political trust is a cause or consequence of social trust. The relevance of social capital has also been a recent topic of interest in research concerning immigration, multiculturalism and questions of community cohesion. The panel invites papers that scrutinize various aspects of social capital and the causal mechanisms through which it works in society. Papers that propose social capital as a public policy tool, e.g. to achieve social cohesion, are also welcome.

Panel II Contextual factors

Chair: Peter Söderlund, Åbo Akademi University

This panel focuses on the questions of if, how and why the context matters for citizens’ levels of political trust. Contextual factors capture variations in the wider cultural, social, economic, political and institutional context. A variety of contextual factors have been shown to explain cross-national differences in political trust, such as the longevity of democratic rule, cultural homogeneity, aggregate social trust, socioeconomic development, economic performance, political corruption, and power-sharing institutions. We welcome papers that address the mechanisms by which contextual factors, measured at an aggregate level, affect individual attitudes. For example, some environments can be conducive for trust to develop and remain stable over time, while others can be characterized by low trust and short-time fluctuations. As data accumulate over time, more comprehensive cross-sectional or longitudinal analyses are possible to test or refine contextual theories of political trust. Furthermore, contextual effects can be contingent in the sense that particular subsets of citizens develop higher (or lower) trust under certain circumstances. An interesting avenue for research is how and why trust levels vary across various social groups depending on context.

Panel III Political actors

Chair: Elina Kestilä-Kekkonen, University of Tampere

The panel focuses on the relationship between citizens’ political trust and decisions taken by the political elite. It invites both theoretical and empirical papers dealing especially with one of three themes: 1) Economy: How is political trust linked to the economic management of incumbents and consumer confidence? 2) Issue representation: Does opinion congruence between representatives and citizens affect the level of political trust? 3) Anti-incumbency and anti-establishment voting: To what extent is distrust in political actors channeled through the anti-political-establishment vote in Europe, compared to alternate expressions of dissatisfaction, i.e. anti-incumbency voting and abstention?

Panel IV Citizens

Chair: Kim Strandberg, Åbo Akademi University

Variations in short-term trust are often argued to take place due to the occurrence of political scandals or crises of various kinds. Repeated short-term trends in political trust are additionally argued to accumulate and eventually become long-term trends. It is thus crucial to gain more knowledge on the micro-level mechanisms leading to either a decrease or increase in citizens’ short-term political trust. This panel explores the mechanisms shaping citizens’ political trust in the short-term. The panel especially welcomes contributions on how experimental methods can be used to assess such fluctuations in political trust and their causes. Both theoretical and empirical pieces concerning citizens’ political trust are welcome.


Aino Tiihonen
Email: aino.tiihonen(a)
Tel: +358 50 318 7649
Address: School of Management (JKK)

Josefina Sipinen
Email: josefina.sipinen(a)
Tel: +358 50 318 7681
Address: School of Management (JKK)

Call for papers for the conference on Democracy and Participation (Lisbon, 12-15 July 2017)

Please find below the call for papers for the conference on Democracy and Participation in the 21st Century organised at the University of Lisbon 12-15 July 2017 ( In order to send an abstract, please contact the session organisers via email before the 12 March 2017.

Session 6.4. Mandate type, participation as democratisation or deliberation as a limit?

Session Organized by: Cristiano Gianolla, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal; and Ryan Jepson, University of Vienna, Austria;

Imperative mandates are generally considered contrary to the spirit of liberal representative democracy in which elected representatives must be free to speak and make decisions in the best interest of the whole political community, as opposed to a specific section of society. This session aims to engage with research on the relationship between mandate type (free or imperative) and the implications for participation, deliberation, political patronage, populism and other consequences for the political system. Is it possible to consider that a free mandate expands the distance between the representative and the represented, thereby contributing to the political crisis experienced by liberal democratic regimes? How do people perceive and react to the decision of elected representatives to share their ‘mandate freedom’ with the community, adopting participatory exercises to enable the co-creation and negotiation of political decisions within political constituencies or the electorate? The session especially welcomes papers from political science and sociology researchers in order to investigate the relationship between the mandate, the political system and the political commitment of the political community. Papers may address one or more of the following or similar topics:

  • Implications of mandate type in the level of political participation;
  • Relation between mandate type and political patronage;
  • Relation between mandate type and the commons;
  • Relation between mandate type and political responsibility;
  • Implications of mandate type in the relationship between representative and represented;
  • Implications of mandate type in political satisfaction and accountability;
  • Implications of mandate type in the raise of populist phenomena;
  • Enhancement of interconnection between representative and represented through e-democracy;
  • Mandate type and ideological position;
  • Relation between mandate type and party system;
  • Relation between mandate type and party organisation;
  • Relation between mandate type and social activism;
  • Relation between mandate type and infrastructures;
  • Mandate types in different world regions;
  • Mandate types and social movements.

Call for paper and panel proposals for Oslo 2017

Dear Colleagues,

This is a call for panel and paper proposals for the Oslo meeting September 6-9, 2017. Our Standing Groups has been allotted just five panels, the same number as for the Prague meeting. (We requested eight.). Several of you have already submitted tentative proposals and we encourage you to firm them up and resubmit them well before the official deadline of February 15. We have also received a few paper proposals. Completed panel proposals will need a good descriptive abstract plus the titles and authors names (with authors commitments to present their papers in Oslo) for four or five papers. Panel and paper proposal guidelines and procedures can be found on the ECPR website. Your Standing Group membership via MyECPR will need to be up to date.

This call to submit paper and panel proposals is open to all members of the Standing Group. If we end up with more than five solid proposals, we will petition the ECPR Academic Convenors for an additional panel or two. There is no guarantee that such a petition will be successful but the Convenors are open to considering such proposals. (The numbers of panels is partially constrained by the available rooms at the meeting site.). In addition, the Oslo meeting will include an Open Section set of panels so if by chance your proposal does not make it into the Political Sociology Section we can try to get it included in the Open Section. The same is true for proposed papers.

Below you will find a description of the Standing Group overall theme for the Oslo meeting. This has been approved by ECPR and panel and paper proposals will need to intersect in meaningful ways with the section theme.

Finally a reminder to renew your Section membership via My ECPR if you have not already done so.

Any questions or concerns, just email us.

Happy New Year 2017

Chair. Niilo Kauppi, University of Jyväskylä, niilo.t.j.kauppi[at]
Co-chair: David Swartz, Boston University, dswartz[at]


In recent years the European welfare state has come under several challenges: economically, socially, politically, and culturally. The recent migrant crisis, for one, is challenging numerous countries in terms of social support services, security, cultural identity, and legal provision. Populist movements are challenging the dynamics of migrant integration and assimilation and the way political leadership is dealing with them. Are traditional ideals of solidarity being replaced by others? Assumptions of traditional welfare provision are also being challenged by the policies of neoliberalism. Do growing forms of economic inequality undermine the traditional safety nets afforded by state welfare policies? Forms of social solidarity have been a central concern of political sociology from its very inception. It is the social causes and consequences of these challenges that will be the focus of the panels for this section. It seems particularly fitting for political sociologists to examine those challenges at a conference in Oslo since the Nordic countries have often been viewed as model welfare states. Does the Nordic model or any other welfare state model seem capable of addressing the contemporary challenges? Other challenges target the public sphere and debate, educational reform, governance driven by rankings and technocratic indicators, social movements, law, and gender. Panels will be organized around types of challenges welfare democracies are facing, such as the welfare crises in Eastern and Balkan countries, transnational forms of solidarity in the EU, the new legitimation crisis of political leadership, the social bases of politicisation/depoliticisation, measuring institutional competitiveness and decline, revisiting the Nordic model, and the politics of flexible solidarity.

KEYWORDS: Democracy, European Union, Governance, Migration, Welfare State, Solidarity

ECPR Joint Session 2017: « Transnationalisation of Problems and Agendas: Theoretical and Empirical Challenges »

We would like to make you aware of the Joint Session « Transnationalisation of Problems and Agendas: Theoretical and Empirical Challenges » supported by our standing group. It will be held in Nottingham (25th- 30th April 2017). The topic might be of interest for all members of our group and for other scholars studying the construction and circulation of social problems at national/international level or related issues such as transnational expertise and mobilizations.

Deadline : 1st December 2016.

The proposals should be uploaded on the ECPR website:


How and why some events and topics are transformed into issues focusing public debate, media-attention and policy initiatives? Two different scientific traditions have brought their contributions to these puzzles. Strongly established in political science, the “agenda/s” paradigm maps the changing rankings of political and social issues, questions their interactions. Rooted in sociology, the “social problems” approach pays particular attention to actors who frame their claims successfully. It examines why some stakes become faster “problems” and policy targets.

This workshop opens up a forum to question the legacies, blind spots and possible cross-fertilizations between those research perspectives. Such debate is scientifically wothwhile when processes of transnationalisation and Europeanisation are changing the dynamics of social problems. New opportunities (and threats) linked to environmental changes, migrations and de-territorialisation are redefining supra-national agendas. Claims are travelling across borders, fostered by coalitions of actors internationally organized.

As a growing flow of research questions the internationalisation of social problem framing and policy treatment, as the availability of big data opens up new opportunities for comparative research on agendas the need for bringing these two major paradigms into dialogue is stronger than ever. This aim implies theoretical and empirical contributions.

For both approaches, the recent trends, their relationships and mutual improvements might be highlighted. For example, social problem studies suggest combining quantitative approach of media agendas with more qualitative explorations of news production and sources’ strategies or adding specific agendas to the classical agenda’s trilogy.

Empirical studies should focus on growing internationalised issues, especially “public health” issues (including here struggle against epidemics, risk management, food safety, environmental threats). How do claims on the definition and urgency of diseases travel? Who are the local and transnational actors involved in agenda setting and mobilization processes? How do national cultures, institutional patterns and mediascapes impact the construction of health issues?

Call for Papers: International Dissidence – Rule and Resistance in a Globalized World

International Conference, Frankfurt, 2-4 March 2017

From Occupy Wall Street and radical jihadism to protests against UN peacekeeping, right-wing mobilization in Europe and India’s exit from the Non-Proliferation Treaty – resistance remains a ubiquitous but ambiguous aspect of global social and political life. It takes many courses, purposes and guises. In parallel, rule has been re-fashioned for both academic and political purposes. It is present in the power of the international banking system, ‘Western’ imperialism, the legitimation of violence, in a homogenizing globalism and asymmetrical global rules. But how can we make sense of the dynamic relationship between resistance and rule in today’s globalized world? How has resistance changed across time and social spaces? And how is it affected by or does it affect transnationalization?

Resistance challenges and sometimes produces or reproduces systems of rule. This constitutive relationship between rule and resistance, however, seldom attracts scholarly attention. This negligence is partly due to the fragmentation of academic discourses. Some scholars focus on specific types of resistance (e.g. populist movements, cyber activism, terrorist groups or the extreme right) or specific processes (e.g. radicalization, deradicalization, or transnationalization). Still others study the variety of forms and practices of rule in reaction to various forms of resistance. While such specialization has yielded deeper insights into the significance and operation of rule and resistance in particular instances, it has also occluded the bigger picture. Scholarly understanding of the relationship between resistance and systems of rule has suffered as a result. The conference will attend to this bigger picture.

We invite scholars from various disciplines, including sociology, history, political science, political theory, international relations, anthropology, and area studies, whose work contributes to one of the conference sections. Section 1 focuses on resistance to specific systems of rule, ranging from international norms, regulations and bureaucracies to rule by elites. Section 2 zooms into the dynamic interactions between authorities and resistance movements, including how international organizations cope with protest, reactions to digital dissidence, and various forms of international disciplining of protest within the state. Section 3 finally traces how resistance movements change from “opposition”, referring to resistance according to established rules, to “dissidence”, referring to revolutionary resistance availing itself of unconventional means (for a more detailed description of the sections and panels, click here).

The conference is part of the collaborative research project “International Dissidence” based at the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” at Goethe University Frankfurt (for more information, click on

To encourage in-depth discussion, presentations will span 20 minutes and will be held in plenary sessions.

Please send your abstract of no more than 300 words to by 1 June 2016. Please indicate your panel of interest. Travel and lodging expenses will be covered for those accepted.

Call for papers, conference on : Activist Tribulations – Lille (France) , December 12-13, 2016


An electoral setback after an intensive campaign; a series of issues, of defeats or divisions which alter the public image of a collective, and the pride associated with being involved in it; hopes for an ascension to power blocked by a context of shrinking political opportunities and a reconfiguration of multi-organizational fields; a profound ideological disagreement after the reworking of a partisan strategy; the obsessive fear of losing a fixed salaried position or some material advantage when an organization’s finances and institutional positions are reduced; the repression or death of comrades in arms; the dilemmas of union delegates anxious to speak in the name of the workers they represent without betraying their word; the failure of a radical commitment after years of complete dedication to and sacrifice for the cause; the dissolution of a group, hence of the roles and social relations associated with it which were structuring one’s existence; the ordeal of maladjustment within an association experiencing a process of professionalization; the erosion of a « feeling of being at home » in an institution which has been transformed… Cases of activist suffering abound, to the extent that participation, whether in a political party, a union, an association, an NGO, a religious institution or any other type of group, including clandestine ones, may be difficult to analyze without taking into account the price to be paid (both financial and physical) by committed individuals.

Now, it must be noted that, while the sociology of participation abounds in works which have become classics on the “triggers” of activism, whether in terms of incentives (Olson, 1965), gratification (Gaxie 1977; and Gaxie, 2005), faith (Berlivet, and Sawicki, 1994) or happiness (Mer, 1977; and Lagroye, and Siméant, 2003), research on activist tribulations remains piecemeal, reduced as it usually is to one aspect amongst others of research on modalities of collective action. Despite academic debates on Albert Hirschman’s propositions (Hirschman 1983; and Hirschman 1995) and, in recent years, the profusion of analyses of participation as a process subject to the variation of gratifications (Fillieule, 2001) and of exit phenomena (Fillieule, 2005, Fillieule, 2010, and Fillieule 2015), study of activist tribulations is still very much in development and deserves to be brought to light.

Through integrating a diversity of methods and situations (parties, associations, unions, NGOs, and religious groups, in democratic or authoritarian contexts), this symposium aims to grasp the logic behind the disappointment or frustration expressed in activist groups—whether or not it leads to defection. Following Bourdieu in La misère du monde, it is a question of proposing an alternative to psychologizing descriptions of these forms of malaise, to understand and objectify the mechanisms. What does this suffering owe to the properties of the political field in which the activism is taking place (the type of state, of regime, of competition; and the contexts of crisis or of revolution)? To the exhaustion and discrediting of a historically rooted repertoire of collective action? To the transformations of the institution under consideration? To the both ideological and morphological evolution of the organization? To the socio-local framework of the involvement? To the social trajectories of the individuals studied? How does this distress affect activist careers? Under what circumstances and conditions will activists adapt to experiences of doubt or despondency? What resources and techniques allow them to move beyond the loss of activist libido? What exit configurations become the sole response to unhappiness? What means do organizations possess to limit the expression of dissatisfaction and the disintegration of the activist body? What academic tools can researchers seize to examine them? So many questions which reopen the « black box »—and the gloomy side—of activism, in proposing to diversify the empirical data and the disciplinary approaches for the purpose of greater clarification. To address those questions, one is invited to explore four lines of inquiry:

Understanding detachment. The Social Conditions Behind Activist Malaise

The first line of inquiry concentrates on analysis of the reasons for this maladjustment of individuals to an institution: it is a question of understanding how a feeling of foreignness, a loss of an activist illusio (Bourdieu, 1980; and Bourdieu 1997), a malalignment of dominant cognitive frameworks within the organization and the frameworks adopted by individuals, develops within the « practical reason” of the group. How can we explain that a commitment is no longer or is less and less experienced as a vital necessity or a categorical imperative, as a source of meaning and satisfaction, of dignity and hope? This question leads to a consideration of the variation in the forms of gratifications of activism, or rather of their perception. Under what conditions are the benefits eroded or vanishing or changing into costs in the eyes of activists? Here, it is important to ask ourselves about how the modification of the cost/benefit balance is related to the three levels at which activism occurs, that is, the socio-political context (national and eventually international), the activist organization (subject to transformations which reconfigure the modalities of membership and loyalty), and individuals’ social trajectories (also affected by changes or bifurcations which may affect the relationship to the issue of mobilization and to the group mobilized). The linking of these three levels of analysis appears to be a heuristic manner of grasping the different relationships to the same institution, and the plurality of commitments it engenders. Coexistence within a collective of various cohorts of activists requires the researcher to objectify the social distribution of specific cultural traits and collective identities, as well as its possible multiple and complex effects, within each generational unit. More generally, it is a matter of questioning the ways in which the activist habitus can be more or less maladjusted under the pressure of changing organizational contexts – activist habitus here being understood as the product of secondary socialization within voluntary groups (Fillieule, 2013).

Remaining Without Pleasure? Resources and Modalities of Adaptation for the Discontented Activist

The second line of inquiry bears on the analysis of cognitive and practical forms of adaptation to frustration, anger or disenchantment. Existing research tends to show that not all activists are equally prepared and equipped to make themselves heard and bring their disagreements to the forefront, to reposition themselves within the organization, and to reconcile postures consistent with « working with » and « working against » other members of the group (Lefebvre, and Sawicki, 2007; and Lefebvre, 2013). Perhaps through reinvigorating an illusio which is becoming tarnished, rediscovering the reasons for action, and reviving the belief in the collective project or subject? Up to what point, with what types of capital and techniques—of rationalization, of open dissidence, of discrete disagreement, etc.—is it possible to continue to be involved? To what extent can organizational subcultures (for example, within cliques and factions in parties and unions) contribute to preserving activist commitment? Is it possible and, if so, in what configurations, to “adapt to the roles imposed by changing it from within” (Muel-Dreyfus, 1984) to rediscover a feeling of working together with the institution? Are we observing forms of redefinition of the activist role, of adaptation to the institution (Goffman, 1968), of subversion of ways of “performing it” (Lagroye, and Offerlé, 2010)? At what stage and according to what system of discrepancies or tensions does disengagement become the only outcome imaginable? What are the social conditions of possibility for the « unhappy activists, » of a departure which does not exact an exorbitant price (Leclercq, 2011; and Leclercq, 2012)? Here an avenue for research on « reactions to discontent » is offered which, in contrast to strictly utilitarian approaches, falls within the study of social rationales for activism and its fluctuations.

How to Remobilize. The Institutional Management of Disarray

The third line of inquiry questions institutional responses to activist tribulations. While we know that centrifugal tendencies are related to failings of efforts at homogenization and securing loyalty, we observe different types of institutional reorganization, designed under cover of « modernization, » « democratization, » « re-establishment » or other apparently legitimate official intentions, to replenish and remobilize the activist body in circumstances where it is more or less threatened by a process of « dissociation” (Offerlé, 1987). Beyond how individuals subjectively experience the organization’s social change, what can be said about measures taken by managers in terms of a strategic reversal, an overhaul of the collective capital, reallocation of positions, revitalization of the social fabric of the group and administration of a new meaning for activism? Research on institutions’ renewal (Pudal, 2009; and Mischi, 2014) shows how transformation of the doctrinal corpus, the rules of operation, practices and the activist figures held up as models, works with uncertain consequences. While these shifts are generally designed to swell the ranks and strengthen internal cohesion, they still remain sources of intense struggle, in as much as they contribute to the disqualification and relegation of those who, due to their very activist socialization, are little disposed to cooperate and, to some degree, are condemned to sink into a feeling of unease What social psychologists calls the niche edge effect). Therefore, we might wonder about the effects of such strategies, and their eventual counterproductive impact on the more vulnerable or marginalized sections of the activist group. We also need to consider the entire range of reforms, modifications of statutes, and procedural inventions, restructuration through separation or mergers, with or without a change of name, and termination of the group (Gottraux, 1997). The triangulation of data is here required as a means of developing the sociology of institutions, while taking into account both the way they evolve under various strategies and their nature as « cultural enterprises » (Sawicki, 2001) caught in social configurations and evolving power relationships.

Objectifying the Suffering. Scientific Tools and Disciplinary Transfers

The forth line of inquiry raises the question of the conceptual and methodological set of tools which researchers might employ in borrowing from different disciplinary domains: sociology, political science, history and social psychology, in particular. Indeed, the issue of academic work on activist discontent consists of avoiding both the unsolvable conundrums of utilitarian analysis and the impasses of psychologizing descriptions. Unlike these two tendencies, this is a matter of defending a genuine sociology of affects from impressionistic and tautological penchants which are often at work when studying the very experiences of individual distress. Here we have solid references, including foundational studies on the pathologies of the social world (Durkheim, 1897), on the sociogenesis of despair (Elias, 1991), and on the maintenance of self under extreme conditions (Pollak, 1990). This is a matter of extending this research, drawing upon varied materials and seeking to venture beyond metaphorical or analogic uses of psychoanalytical concepts such as repression, the work of grieving, drives, the libido, etc. (Pudal, 2009). Thus, the goal of this symposium is to exchange ideas and discuss interpretative frameworks and ways of studying commitments or, in this particular case, the actual experience of the unhappy relationship of individuals with institutions.

Means of Submitting Proposals

Proposals, of a maximum length of 5,000 characters, may be written in English or French, and must be based on empirical data. They will include the presentation of the field of inquiry and will specify the principal line of inquiry adopted. They should be sent to the three following addresses:


  • Sending proposals for papers (5,000 characters maximum): by May 20th, 2016 at the latest
  • Selection of proposals and responses to the authors: July 11th, 2016
  • Sending of papers (30,000 to 40,000 characters): November 15th, 2016
  • Symposium in Lille: December 12th-13th, 2016

Organization comittee :

Olivier Fillieule (CRAPUL, Université de Lausanne), Catherine Leclercq (GRESCO, Université de Poitiers), Rémi Lefebvre (CERAPS, Université Lille 2).

Scientific comittee :

Philip Balsiger (Institut de sociologie, Université de Neuchâtel), Stéphane Beaud (ISP, Université Paris Ouest- Nanterre-La Défense), Olivier Fillieule (CRAPUL, Université de Lausanne), Catherine Leclercq (GRESCO, Université de Poitiers), Rémi Lefebvre (CERAPS, Université Lille 2), Nicolas Mariot (CESSP-CNRS), Julian Mischi (CESAER-INRA), Julie Pagis (CERAPS-CNRS), Bernard Pudal (CSU, Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense), Frédéric Sawicki (CESSP, Université Paris 1).


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