ESA Journals News – European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology
Ricca Edmondson, Eeva Luhtakallio, Siobhan Kattago, Editors of the European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology
The past few months in Europe have continued to illustrate how inextricably blended culture and politics are. There is no way to separate these fields when we look at how debates are conducted in Poland about how to remember the past, in Hungary about the place of religion in politics, or the UK about what British identity is or ought to be… Even the body-language of politicians can seem to radiate cultural/political habits that may feel very natural to the people concerned, but that are only too easily misunderstood by those they are trying to interact with. Twenty-first-century wars, including those in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, encapsulate the perils of failing to understand cultural politics and political cultures. In this Journal we try to disentangle some of the problems involved in such multi-layered encounters and to throw light on how to approach them.
Ricca Edmondson, Eeva Luhtakallio, Linda Haapajärvi (editorial assistant) and Siobhan Kattago in Athens 2017
In other words, current events consistently underline our conviction that what is cultural is also political, and what is political is also cultural. Our last editorial, written after the ESA Conference in Athens, called attention to the cultural and political history of democracy in Europe, and how fragile it may be. The current double issue, Issues 1-2 in 2018, explores contributions by ‘the sociology of engagements’, harking back to Laurent Thévenot’s contribution to our very first volume and inspired by much of his work. It can be seen as a blend of the political and the cultural par excellence, exploring the ways people build common ground with each other amongst the array of differences that separate them, for example by justifying their positions to themselves and each other as they act in the world, reflecting age-old political preoccupations as they are formed within contemporary cultural contexts.
Other recent and up-coming articles, many of which have already been published on line, include Paula Cossart’s and Andrea Felicetti’s work on the history of political cultures, scrutinising early ‘democracy’ in New England for its relevance to efforts at deliberative democracy today. They show how a public culture of deliberation need not, unfortunately, always be democratic in the sense of dealing generously with a diversity of opinions. The account given by Nata Duvvury and Aine ni Leime of women’s pension provisions in Ireland takes an approach guided by feminist political economy and life-course analyses to interrogate women’s financial vulnerability and the constraints this imposes on their citizenship. Kristoffer Kropp’s research on the development of the European Social Survey is an exercise in the sociology of sociology, interrogating social and political influences that have contributed to its establishment, authoritative status and longevity. Chris Gillead’s work on Castoriadis’ approach to ‘the social imaginary’ is an effort to come to terms with a concept that is playing an ever more significant role in contemporary debate, yet is insufficiently understood. Returning to contemporary problems in democratic politics, Tuukka Ylä-Anttila takes a fresh approach to understanding how right-wing populists understand knowledge, without dismissing them simply as irrationally fooled by ‘fake news’. Ylä-Anttila argues instead that they support a version of ‘counterknowledge’ propounded not by conventional experts but alternative ones.
Authoritative argument is explored from a very different standpoint by Pertti Alasuutari, Hanna Rautajoki, Petra Auvinen and Marjanna Rautalin in connection with implementing the Single European Skies initiative for harmonising air traffic management. Though this plan is regarded as eminently sensible and has indeed already been agreed by all member states, different European institutions take very different approaches to it and its implementation is proving problematic. This article examines how each organisation defends its own viewpoint, using a particular interpretation of argumentative authority while struggling to remain sheltered by the overall canopy of public rationality. Thomas Pfeffer and Isabella Skrivanek examine a very different cultural-political approach to knowledge: how it comes to be that individuals can find it so hard to transfer their credentials from one part of Europe to another – a crucial issue at a time characterised by high migration. Lastly, Caroline Patsias, Julian Durazo Hermann and Silvie Patsias will confront intriguing contrasts in the ways local associations of activists cultivate different group styles, and how they succeed or fail in raising issues onto an effective political level.
Book reviews will range from Victoria Brown’s feminist approach to time, with its interlocking modes of temporalisation making up an entire ‘politemporality’, to Svetlana Boym’s ‘trans-sensical’ approach to the ‘off-modern,’ Robin Wagner-Pacifici and Henri Rousso’s arguments for the importance of ‘the event’ and Iddo Tavory’s ethnography of Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Los Angeles.
This is a selection of articles and reviews that shows wide variation in topics and subject-matters, yet they all contribute to our overall thematic concerns. We hope they illustrate the fact that there are no groups within the ESA who need feel themselves excluded from contributing to the EJCPS. We hope too that our policy of giving pro-active support to our authors in the formation of their work continues to contribute to the welcome they receive from the journal.