From ESA – Strategies & Activities
Doing Sociology – Funding, Teaching & Opportunities
Discussion – Key Debates, Viewpoints & Interviews
Issue 47: Uncertain times and sociological knowledge
Luigi Pellizzoni – Chair of Communications Committee
This special issue of European sociologist sees the light in a particular moment for European societies and ESA.
As for the former, we are by now close to completing a second year within the pandemic, with all related implications. Hopes in a relatively quick end of this period, which had spread after the announcement that vaccines had been realized in record time, have given way to the acknowledgment that the infection is going to stay for a longer time, perhaps becoming endemic. Tackling the emergency has entailed a profound rethinking – or the beginning of that – of the grounds and scope of the European project, with a sort of (re)discovery of its welfare, solidary understanding of the life in common. The emergency has accelerated elements of crisis that were already present – namely, of labour, of ecology, of citizenship (read equality, justice and recognition) and of geopolitics, or international relations – urging governments at national and Community level to take decisions about whether and how are these issues to be addressed rather than let develop – and worsen – by themselves. The orientations emerged so far are to some extent encouraging (anti-austerity measures, environmental commitments etc.), yet they also appear timid, as if the ruling elites were unwilling to part company with the societal model that imposed itself worldwide in the last decades and were counting instead on a prudent, reformist path which – whatever one’s own political orientations – cannot but be felt at odds with the drama of the moment, and with the acknowledgment that the effects of the pandemic are going to endure after its end; that there is no way back to the previous world, whatever its goods and bads. The hardly glamorous outcomes of the Glasgow climate change negotiations are a case in point.
Sociological knowledge should be especially suited to making sense of the situation, of its challenges, of the possible directions and of their implications. Yet, without glossing over important differences concerning the public role of sociology in the individual national contexts, the overall feeling is of a relative marginalization, in favour of expertises whose apparent surefootedness obscures a lack of reflexivity which threatens to be pernicious.
Against this backdrop, ESA seems to be called to a particularly challenging task, as a venue for sociologists to strengthen their efforts and capacity of insight into the dynamics at work in current societies, European and the world over; and this both at scientific and at policy level – as academic and as public sociology. The newly established Executive Committee is well aware of this challenge, which it aims to tackle in different ways, as it affects the life of the association on several levels. A very basic, yet crucial, issue is whether to postpone of one year the next conference in order to avoid overlap with the ISA general conference, with a risk of reciprocal damage that for the reasons above would be especially unwelcome. As the ESA President illustrates elsewhere, the online consultation with the members highlighted a preference for postponement, which entails organizing an extraordinary general assembly to decide over the necessary modifications in the Statutes.
At the everyday level, the Executive Committee shares the idea of encouraging a closer engagement of Research Networks and individual members in the life of the association, which entails, among the other things, a strengthened communication about the initiatives taken by the different Committees – a first outline of which you find illustrated by the Chairs in their texts – and an intensification in the very use of European Sociologist as the association’s magazine where different types of contributions should find their place, flanked by a newsletter as a quick means of information about upcoming initiatives and events. In both cases the aim is to involve more intensely the Research Networks as funnels of the members’ activities. To this purpose, please have a look at the organization of the magazine, as illustrated in the Communications Committee’s text, and please consider this as an invitation to submit contributions accordingly, as we aim to prepare one issue for 2022. Stay tuned as the call for contributions will be open soon.
Finally, and in line with the reflections above, let me stress that a new ad-hoc group has been established in order to address the issue of the public engagement of sociology more consistently than it has been possible until now. See also the note from Gabi Lombardo, Executive Director of the European Alliance for the Social Sciences and Humanities (EASSH), which is also included in this special issue of European Sociologist.
On behalf of the whole ESA Executive Committee I take the opportunity to send you the warmest seasonal greetings and wishes for the New Year!