NA Reports – Austrian Sociological Association (OeGS)
Martin Weichbold, OeGS President
President in 2018: Martin Weichbold
History and development
The Austrian Association for Sociology (Oesterreichische Gesellschaft für Soziologie, OeGS) was founded in 1950 as the professional association for sociologists in Austria. At that time and in the following decade, Austrian sociology as well as the OeGS were rather weak. This was not a peculiarity of Austria; after World War II nearly all over Europe, particularly in the former fascist countries of central Europe, sociology had to be established anew.
In the 1960s, sociology was institutionalised as a main curriculum discipline at the universities of Vienna and Linz, and later, in the eighties, in Graz and Salzburg. Besides the universities, the Institute for Advanced Studies (Institut für Höhere Studien IHS), founded in 1962/63 by an initiative of Paul F. Lazarsfeld (who had carried out sociological research in Austria in the 1930s), was (and still is) an important place for sociological teaching and research (unfortunately IHS suspended its postgraduate programme a few years ago). From the early 1960s onwards, sociological research and teaching in Austria grew steadily and produced notable results.
Co-operation with other countries has always been a core issue for the OeGS (and maybe a necessity for a small country like Austria). Together with the sociological associations of the other German-speaking countries Switzerland and Germany the OeGS organised joint conferences tightening the contact between the neighbours (1988 Zürich/Switzerland, 1998 Freiburg/Germany and 2011 Innsbruck/Austria). Besides that, the OeGS holds biannual conferences (see below). In the 1980s, during one of these international conferences the idea of establishing a European sociological association was born. Following this conference, a small organising group started to work, chaired by Max Haller (Graz) and David Lane (Cambridge), who organised the First European Conference of Sociology in Vienna in 1992 with about 600 sociologists from all over Europe. These activities resulted in the foundation of the European Sociological Association. Since then, many Austrian sociologists have been involved in the ESA in manifold ways and functions.
The goal of the OeGS is the establishment and development of sociology as a scientific discipline and an academic profession. We offer our members a platform for information and communication about the scientific, professional and practical aspects of a career as a sociologist and seek to facilitate the exchange of knowledge about ongoing changes in the university system (such as the Bologna Process, University rating and rankings, etc.) that affect sociology in every aspect. In addition, the OeGS supports national and international networks of sociologists including students of sociology. Promoting and profiling sociological research and teaching are other central goals of our activities as well as mediating sociological expertise to policymakers and the public.
Organisation and structure
Today, the OeGS has about 350 members. Following the statutes, persons who want to become members either have to have a degree in sociology (the large majority) or have to carry out sociological work. Advanced students in sociology can become student members, with a reduced member fee.
The OeGS is a member organisation of the Federation of Austrian Scientific Societies (VWGÖ), the International Sociological Association (ISA) and the European Sociological Association (ESA), and maintains collaborative agreements with numerous other international organisations. The ÖGS is a non-profit organisation. The legal basis of its activities is the Austrian Federal Law on Associations and the statutes adopted by the General Assembly of the OeGS.
The OeGS serves as the umbrella organisation for 20 sections currently dedicated to specific research fields of sociology. Currently, sections are active in the sociology of labour, the sociology of education, drug research, feministic theory and gender studies, the history of sociology, the sociology of health, cultural theory and cultural studies, rural sociology, migration and racism research, society and law, social work, social inequality, sociological methods and research designs, sociological theory, urban sociology, the sociology of science and technology, the sociology of body and emotions, and economic sociology. Many activities are set by the various sections; they organise workshops, meetings and conferences, publish papers and books and are active in international co-operation.
The board of the OeGS is elected every two years. The current President is Martin Weichbold (University of Salzburg) and the Vice Presidents are Alexander Bogner (Austrian Academy of Science) and Ulrike Zartler (University of Vienna). Susanne Pernicka (University of Linz) is Secretary to the Board, Johannes Ebner (University of Graz) is Treasurer. Lena Stöllinger, Patrick Mathä and Tobias Enck are student members of the Board.
Biannual conferences: Every two years, the OeGS organises the Austrian Sociology Congress. Students can participate at a discounted rate. In 2000, a special congress was held to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the OeGS. In 2011, the OeGS organised a common “three-country congress” together with the German Sociological Association (DGS) and the Swiss Sociological Association (SGS/SSS) in Innsbruck (“Changing structures of the public”). Since then, conferences were held in Linz (2013: Crisis in the society – society in a crisis?). Innsbruck (2015: Sociology in Austria – International Interrelations) and Graz (2017: Sociology between theory and practice). The next conference will take place in 2019 in Salzburg.
The Austrian Journal of Sociology (OeZS) is the scientific journal edited by the OeGS. It appears quarterly and is published by Springer. Since its launch in 1976, this journal has quickly gained a recognised place among the German-language sociological journals, but it also publishes articles in English. An advisory board with renowned international scholars supports the editorial board. OeZS is listed in many social science literature databases like SCOPUS, EBSCO, Sociological Abstracts, Emerging Sources Citation Index and many others.
Another core activity is communication and public relations. A monthly newsletter gives actual information to all members; our homepage (www.oegs.ac.at) provides information on all kinds of activities of the OeGS, its sections or its individual members.
Currently, there is an open and active discussion about developing and improving sociological teaching at bachelor’s and also at master’s level. The discussion focuses on two main possibilities. First, the establishment of new interdisciplinary master programmes. This is an attempt to answer current societal developments, by means of a well-grounded sociological foundation, and to demonstrate the connections between sociology and other disciplines (e.g. politics, economics, business administration, pedagogy, psychology, peace and conflict studies). Second, to strengthen thematically focused master programmes which offer students the possibility of specialisation in a specific topic and/or area as well as an intensive connection with scholars in the field.
Christian Fleck (2015): Sociology in Austria since 1945. Basingstoke: Palgrave Pivot.
Haller, Max; Traxler, Franz (2006): The Austrian Sociological Association and Austrian Sociology - another view. Graz. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-235256