NA Reports – German Sociological Association (DGS)
Birgit Blättel-Mink, President of the DGS
President in 2020: Birgit Blättel-Mink
The German Sociological Association (DGS) is a non-profit organisation, whose main objectives are to discuss sociological problems, to promote scholarly communication amongst its members, and to foster the dissemination and deepening of sociological knowledge. The DGS supports its members in dealing with disciplinary questions concerning teaching and research. It maintains relations with sociology abroad. Every second year, the DGS organises the ‘Conference of the German Sociological Association’, in which several thousand participants join for scientific exchange. The lectures, from over one hundred years, are published in edited volumes. Since 2017 those volumes are published Open Access. On occasion of the congresses the DGS awards prizes for excellent publications and excellent final theses and dissertations.
The DGS is the national association for scientifically qualified sociologists of Germany. Today it has about 3,300 members. About four-fifths of all graduated sociologists in Germany are members of the DGS. Membership is open to any person who has been scientifically qualified through study, research, teaching or publishing in the field of sociology. Since 2002, students may also become members of DGS.
The DGS was founded in 1909, among others by ‘classics’ of sociology such as Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber and Georg Simmel. Even at the time of the Weimar Republic conferences were held regularly. During the period of National Socialism the activities were – due to internal disputes – largely stopped. Already by 1946, the DGS was re-launched. Since then it has grown from a small scholarly association to a large academic society. Since the first conference called by then ‘Soziologentag’ which took place in Frankfurt in 1910, a total of 39 sociological conferences have been organised, usually dealing with current societal issues and controversies. Strong controversies among sociological scholars have been rising during the student revolts of 1968. The German ‘Positivismusstreit’  has been challenging sociologists for many years. The DGS always made efforts to contribute to the consolidation of sociology in teaching and research. The members of the DGS have adopted a code of ethics, providing guidelines for dealing with each other in an open and fair manner.
The organisational tasks of the DGS are carried out by the Executive Board and by a multiplicity of Research Sections. The Council constitutes the parliamentary control mechanism. Elections are held every two years. The Executive Board as well as the other bodies of DGS are supported by an administrative office, located in Essen and headed by Dr Sonja Schnitzler.
So far, 36 Research Sections and several Working Groups have been formed within the major fields of sociological research. Every year they hold numerous conferences whose results are often published.
In order to inform its community and interested pupils or students, but also to foster communication among the community, the DGS is running a website and the study information system (an online platform providing information for people interested in studying this discipline; i.e. what is it about; where can you study it; what foci of teaching and research in different locations), as well as the printed journal Soziologie which provides its members with news from its bodies and committees but also with subject-specific discourses among its members.
In addition to its biennial conferences the DGS is running, in a non-regularly manner, Regional Sociological Conferences, dealing with more specific issues. The last Regional Conference took place at the University of Jena in September 2019. It had been dedicated to “Great Transformation: On the Future of Modern Societies” and was organised by the DFG-funded  research group “Kolleg Postwachstumsgesellschaften Landnahme, Acceleration, Activation: The (De-)Stabilisation of Modern Growth Societies” and the German Sociological Association.
Every now and then three-countries-conferences are organised by the scientific societies of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The DGS is a member of the ESA as well as of the ISA.
In September 2020 the next ‘Conference of the German Sociological Association’ will take place in Berlin and will deal with “Society Under Tension”, addressing the ways in which tensions, conflicts, and power struggles are manifesting.
Currently the DGS is facing a multiplicity of challenges, among them the increasingly precarious status of early career scientists, the management of research data in times of Google, Facebook and Co., the relevance of Sociology in school, the question of global ranking of universities, but also internal controversies on sociological methodology. We also try to support scholars in other countries who are threatened by attacks against their scientific freedom, for example through the decentralisation of government funding of sociology and philosophy in Brazil’s public universities.
 The ‘Positivismusstreit’ in the 1960s in Germany is closely related to the processing of causes and consequences of Second World War and the atrocities of the National-Socialist regime. Negotiated were the adequacy of Max Weber’s perspective of ‘value judgment freedom’ and the appropriateness of methodology. Main proponents were Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno and Jürgen Habermas from the Frankfurt ‘Critical Theory’ and Karl R. Popper and Hans Albert from ‘Critical-Rationalism’. The former argued for a revolutionary perspective, striving for overcoming ‘capitalist totality’ and accusing the critical-rationalist school for being ‘positivist’, i.e. supporting the political system of Germany actively, whereas the latter argued for supporting societal reforms and a methodology striving for fallibilism instead of verification. Nowadays the controversy between an ‘analytical-empirical’ and a ‘reconstructive-hermeneutic’ perspective is somewhat revitalizing arguments of the ‘Positivismusstreit’. See Strubenhoff, Marius, 'The Positivism Dispute in German Sociology, 1954-1970', History of European Ideas 44 (2018).
 The DFG (German Research Foundation) is the central, independent research funding organisation in Germany. It serves all branches of science and the humanities by funding research projects at universities and other research institutions.
DGS c/o KWI, Goethestraße 31, 45128 Essen, Germany, sonja.schnitzler [at] kwi-nrw.de
Comment on this article – log in with your ESA username and password: a comment field will appear.