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  • Author: Lea Elsässer, Armin Schäfer
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: In this paper, we take up the burgeoning debate about the underrepresentation of the working class in politics. In the literature section we discuss theories of group representation and look at recent empirical studies of responsiveness that have begun to disaggregate public opinion by sociodemographic categories. Empirically, we analyze a dataset of more than 700 survey items collected in Germany between 1980 and 2012. The analysis shows that respondents within one social class are more similar to each other than to members of other classes and that class-based differences outweigh those of education, region, or gender. While opinion differences are not always large, they can reach 50 percentage points. There are frequently gaps of between 20 or 30 percentage points in support for or opposition to policy changes. Since workers’ opinions tend to differ from the opinions of those groups who are well represented in parliament, their numerical underrepresentation might bias decisions against them, as recent studies suggest.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Politics, Race, Social Stratification, Sociology
  • Political Geography: Germany
  • Author: Matias Dewey
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: State concerns about crime and security issues have strongly affected conceptions of economic action outside the law, a traditional field of research in sociology. This increasing encroachment by policy-related concerns on the intellectual framework of the discipline has led, on one hand, to an almost exclusive focus on criminal organizations in the analyses of illegal economic activity. On the other hand, it has led to the downplaying of the importance of classic topics of sociological reflection, such as the embeddedness of action, the moral dimension of illegal products, or the relationship between social change and the spread of illegal exchanges. This short paper problematizes economic action outside the law by taking legal definitions and their effects seriously. It begins with the problem of naturalizing state definitions. This is followed by a discussion of the illegality of illegal markets, which illustrates sociological contributions. Finally, three dimensions of the study of illegal markets are suggested. Overall, the paper lays out a research program for this field of sociological inquiry.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Markets, Sociology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Renate Mayntz
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: In sociology generally, the infringement of legal norms is not treated as a special kind of norm violation, the sociology of law being an obvious exception. The study of illegal markets therefore faces the challenge of distinguishing illegality from legality, and relating both to legitimacy. There is no conceptual ambiguity about the distinction between legal and illegal if legality is formally defined. In practice, (formal) legality and (social) legitimacy can diverge: there is both legitimate illegal action and illegitimate legal action. Illegal markets are a special kind of illegal social system, constituted by market transactions. Illegal markets are empirically related to organized crime, mafia and even terrorist organizations, and they interact both with legal markets and the forces of state order. Where legal and illegal action systems are not separated by clear social boundaries, they are connected by what has come to be called “interfaces”: actors moving between a legal and an illegal world, actions that are illegal but perceived as legitimate or the other way around, and a gray zone of actions that are neither clearly legal nor illegal, and neither clearly legitimate nor illegitimate. Interfaces facilitate interaction between legal and illegal action systems, but they are also sources of tension and can lead to institutional change.
  • Topic: Crime, Markets, Sociology, Law
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Martin Höpner, Bojan Jurczyk
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: This paper reviews Eurobarometer surveys from 1995 to 2010 and shows how Eurobarometer selects and frames questions in ways that systematically produce “integrationist” outcomes. The violations of the rules of good public opinion research concern incomprehensible, hypothetical, and knowledge-inadequate questions, unbalanced response options, insinuation and leading questions, context effects, and the strategic removal of questions that led to critical responses in previous Eurobarometer waves. It is highly unlikely that the violations happen unintentionally. Eurobarometer therefore blurs the line between research and propaganda.
  • Topic: Sociology, Public Opinion, Research
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Thomas Paster
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: What is the impact of business interest groups on the formulation of public social policies? This paper reviews the literature in political science, history, and sociology on this question. It identifies two strands: one analyzes the political power and influence of business, the other the preferences and interests of business. Since the 1990s, researchers have shifted their attention from questions of power to questions of preferences. While this shift has produced important insights into the sources of the policy preferences of business, it came with a neglect of issues of power. This paper takes a first step towards re-integrating a power-analytical perspective into the study of the role of business in welfare state politics. It shows how a focus on variation in business power can help to explain both why business interest groups accepted social protection during some periods in the past and why they have become increasingly assertive and averse to social policies since the 1970s.
  • Topic: Human Welfare, Politics, History, Sociology, Landpower, Business
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Barbara Fulda
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: How can we understand subnational differences in fertility rates? The most common explanations see the key to these differences in the socio-structural composition of a region’s population and its structural conditions. However, such explanations fail to account for fertility rate differences in regions with similar populations and structures. This paper analyzes two social milieus in southern Germany and argues that variations in their fertility rates can only be understood through their cultural differences. Family extension patterns as well as opportunity structures (such as the availability of childcare facilities) are substantially influenced by the regionally differing cultural norms formed and held by social milieu members. To better explain differences in fertility rates and to understand the regionally differing effects of family policy measures, demographic research therefore needs to include culture in its understanding of demographic behavior.
  • Topic: Demographics, Sociology, Culture, Children, Research
  • Political Geography: Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Damien Krichewsky
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: The emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a global component of business-society relationships has triggered many controversial debates in which CSR is either advocated as a source of virtuous business or disregarded as mere “window dressing.” This paper proposes an alternative perspective on the CSR phenomenon based on N. Luhmann’s social systems theory, which guides a study of CSR in India combining macroscopic observations and the case of the cement manufacturer Lafarge India. The study shows that CSR is not primarily constituted of corporate attempts to “do well by doing good,” as the CSR doxa suggests. However, the phenomenon generates significant transformations of business-society relationships. While increasing financial expectations tend to blunt large companies’ sensitivity toward competing societal expectations, other social systems react with protest movements and political interventions. Companies respond to the perceived threat of these uncertainties by introducing new CSR-related organizational structures, which improve their ability to observe the uncertainties as parameters of economic risks. Companies subsequently mobilize calculated CSR-related practices to shield business opportunities from the possible negative consequences of sociopolitical constraints. The analytical framework outlined in the present paper introduces new angles for studying how the CSR phenomenon proceeds from and transforms the way social systems observe and regulate the role of companies in society.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Politics, Sociology, Business
  • Political Geography: India
  • Author: Jens Beckert, Jörg Rössel, Patrick Schenck
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: Understanding the valuation of goods in markets has become one of the key topics in economic sociology in recent years. Especially in markets for goods that are valued for their aesthetic qualities, the ascription of value appears to be a complex social process because product quality is highly uncertain. The wine market is an extraordinary example because most consumers and even experts are not able to differentiate between wines based on objective sensory characteristics and cannot rank wines in blind tastings according to their price. Our premise is that assessed quality differences cannot be explained by the sensual qualities of the wine. Instead, we explain variations in valuation by social processes in which quality is constructed and contested. To do so we make use of Bourdieu’s field theoretical perspective, which is strongly supported in our empirical analysis of the German wine field. It shows that his model of the structure of fields has considerable power in explaining price differentiation between wineries and that the orientation of consumers towards different segments of the field is based on class hierarchy.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Food, Sociology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus