Sociological Theory

Profile of the Research Unit

The Research Unit Sociological Theory is dedicated to the critical discussion, dissemination, and further development of the discipline's broad inventory of Social Theory and the Theory of Society. In doing so, it follows the conviction that a Social Theory discourse that is limited to the interplay of different schools and paradigms falls short. Rather, this discourse is embedded in current challenges of society as well as to the study of social processes of their collective and individual processing and is empirically established by participation in university research contexts. In the sense of the strong innovation and transfer orientation of the University of Kassel, the further development of social science concepts and theories as tools for thinking is to be combined with the reflection of design opportunities as well as the development of new approaches to solving social problems at different levels of social action. Among the social challenges to which the Research Unit Sociological Theory pays particular attention are questions of post-digital life-politics, sustainability, global justice, digitalisation, and democracy.


Post-Digital Life Politics

With the thematic focus Post-Digital Life-Politics, the Research Unit Sociological Theory combines questions at the interface of digitality, sociality and sustainability. Post-digitality refers to a state in which digitality and sociality have become so intertwined that they are difficult to separate as distinct spheres. New questions thus arise for politics of living and the possibilities of alternative practices and their structuring (adopted from A. Giddens' concept of life politics). The program builds on anthropological and neo-pragmatic theories of contemporary French philosophy (among others L. Boltanski and L. Thévenot: On Justification, B. Latour: An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence, P. Descola: Beyond Nature and Culture). From a (political)-ontological and practice-theoretical perspective, the question of alternative forms of life and cosmologies is raised. These can or should lie beyond a productivist naturalism (keyword: modern industrial society) and an emerging digital analogism (keyword: cybernetic control society).

The research program is sketched in outline in the following articles:
– Lamla, Jörn (2022): Künstliche Intelligenz als hybride Lebensform. Zur Kritik der kybernetischen Expansion. In: Friedewald, M./Roßnagel, A./Heesen, J./Krämer, N./Lamla, J. (Hg.): Auswirkungen der Künstlichen Intelligenz auf Demokratie & Privatheit. Baden-Baden: Nomos S. 77-100. [Open Access].
– Lamla, Jörn (2021): Die symbolischen Ordnungen des Konsums – und die Fallstricke produktivistischer Soziologie. In: Lenz, Sarah / Hasenfratz, Martina (Hg.): Capitalism unbound. Ökonomie, Ökologie, Kultur. Frankfurt/Main; New York: Campus, S. 283-299.

On Sept. 16, 2022, the Research Unit contributed to the inaugural conference of the Kassel Institute for Sustainability with a panel titled "Negotiating Sustainability in Post-Digital Life-Politics." The abstract of the panel and the presentation slides are available for download here.

Post-Digital Life Politics: More Information

Workshop: Professionalisation in consumer protection

The Kompetenzzentrum Verbraucherforschung Nordrhein-Westfahlen of the Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfahlen e.V. (Competence Centre for Consumer Research of the Consumer Advice Centre NRW e. V.), the Research Unit Sociological Theory (University of Kassel), the Re­search Cen­ter for In­form­a­tion Sys­tem Design (ITeG) (University of Kassel), and the Institute for Consumer Informatics at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences (IVI) hosted a workshop entitled "Professionalisierung im Verbraucherschutz" ("Professionalisation in Consumer Protection") in September.

Among other things, the workshop on September 13, 2022 examined questions as to whether and - if so - to which extent consumer protection is a field in need of professionalisation and how such a need for professionalisation can be met. Which demands can be meaningfully formulated for the development of a profession in the field of consumer protection, how can consumers be addressed both individually and collectively, and which role do the emerging consumer sciences play as an emerging field? The workshop spanned an arc between consumer research, consumer protection practice and professionalisation research.

In this sense, Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla dedicated the first panel to challenges, possibilities and limits of professionalisation in consumer protection in science and practice and thus opened the workshop after the welcoming address.

Further information can be found on the website of the Kompetenzzentrum Verbraucherforschung Nordrhein-Westfahlen.

Annual Conference of the Bundesnetzwerk Verbraucherforschung (Federal Consumer Research Network)

The Corona pandemic and the current problems of energy scarcity contributed to the fact that consumers had to adapt their everyday consumption to rapidly changing conditions and thus significantly strengthen their resilience capabilities. Worries and fears influence precisely this everyday consumption during the various crises and raise diverse questions in consumer research, which were focused on at this year's annual conference of the Bundesnetzwerk Verbraucherforschung.

Under the title: Verbraucherresilienz: Risikofaktoren, Vulnerabilitäten und Interventionen (Consumer resilience: risk factors, vulnerabilities and interventions), various perspectives and findings were discussed and debated in a hybrid format on October 27, 2022 in Berlin.

For the report of the annual conference please see the BMUV website.

Social Theory Lab/Reading Group on the Theory of Society

This mixed event is a permanent institution of the Research Unit Sociological Theory. The workshop is open especially to students in their final semesters (BA and MA) as well as to PhD students who wish to discuss the theoretical framework, the research design or to work together on empirical material of their theses, dissertations or projects. Master's students writing their master's thesis in the field of Sociological Theory can treat this event as a master's colloquium.

50% of the sessions are designed as a joint reading circle. In these sessions, recent works are discussed from which Sociology may hope for impulses for the further development of Social Theory. In the winter semester 2022/23 we will read the following book (the purchase of which is strongly recommended):

Wright, Erik Olin (2017): Reale Utopien. Wege aus dem Kapitalismus. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

The event is held in German.

Leopoldina Statement on Digitisation and Democracy Published

The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech jointly published the statement "Digitisation and Democracy" on June 16 2021. In addition to a comprehensive analysis of the topics of platform infrastructures, information and communication, participation, and self-determination, the statement includes a number of recommendations for action in the digital society. Recommendations include a change in the curation practice of digital information and communication platforms and measures for the democracy-friendly design of digital technologies and infrastructures.

The statement was prepared by an interdisciplinary working group in which Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla from the Research Center for Information System Design at the University of Kassel also participated.

Leopoldina Statement on Digitisation and Democracy Published: Read More

Website of the Project ""

The BMBF project Datenökonomien: Verbraucherverhältnisse und Geschäftsmodelle (Data Economies: Consumer Relationships and Business Models) uses two examples of data-economy platforms to examine how they differ in terms of their market form, value exchange relationships, organisational structure, sociality, promise of co-determination, and personalisation technology, and which consequences this may have for self-determination on these platforms.

Website of the Project "": More (German)

Centre Responsible Digitality (ZEVEDI)

The Centre Responsible Digitality pools the scientific expertise of Hessian universities to analyse the normative dimensions of digital transformation and contributes to shaping this transformation. One of the eight founding directors of the centre is Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla from the Research Unit Sociological Theory at the University of Kassel. In November 2020, the project group "Verantwortungsdiffusion durch Algorithmen" ("Responsibility Diffusion through Algorithms") started, in which Fabian Pittroff represented the Department of Sociology from 2021-2022. Since July 2021, the department has also been involved in the project group "Nachhaltige Intelligenz – Intelligente Nachhaltigkeit" ("Sustainable Intelligence - Intelligent Sustainability").