Social Theory in a Global Context

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 45 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Wolfgang KNOEBL, Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany
In the last two or three decades social scientists had to learn that assumptions concerning the robustness and stability of social processes and structures cannot be held as self-evident any longer since the outcomes of social actions are far more unpredictable than is usually assumed and that events and their surprising occurrence have to be taken into account in making sense of social reality. If this is so, then social theory has to rethink some of its basic methodological and theoretical assumptions particularly with respect to its attempts to analyse global trends and phenomena and to theorize a kind of a “global modernity”.
The paper will address the following questions: Which types of accounts can social scientists give in order to grasp reality? Can they still speak self-confidently of laws and/or general social mechanisms or must they rather rely on narrative methods and how does that touch the ways how macro-sociology is done? The main answer given to these questions will be that social theory indeed will have to take on the problem of ‘narrativity’ which at the same time also means that main stream social theory will necessarily have to thoroughly historicize all its categories. If this task is taken seriously then, so it is argued, a fruitful exchange between ‘traditional’ approaches within the social sciences on the one side and postcolonial thought on the other can emerge. Whether such a fusion of insights from different sociological camps might help us to define “global modernity” remains to be seen, however!