5 doctoral positions for Ph.D. projects (f/m/d)

The Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies (Max-Weber-Kolleg) at the University of Erfurt invites applications for up to:

5 doctoral positions for Ph.D. projects (f/m/d)
Pay category E 13 TV-L (65 %)

In the fields of Classics, Music Didactics, North American and Modern History, Early Christianity, Religious Studies and Sociology as well as related subjects within the framework of the International Graduate School (IGS) “Resonant Self–World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices” directed by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke and Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa (Erfurt) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Spickermann and Prof. Dr. Irmtraud Fischer (Graz), funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Austrian Research Foundation (FWF).

The positions are to be filled by 1 October 2022 for a period of 3 years.

The project is a cooperation between the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt and the University of Graz. Participants are required to spend the second year of their participation in the programme at the cooperating university.

As an International Research Training Group, the programme’s primary language is English.

You can find more information about requirements and the application process on the website of the University of Erfurt.

Barbara Thériault presents a working paper on ‚Average aesthetics or the regular haircut. The aesthetic dimension of the social in a German city‘

In ‚Average aesthetics or the regular haircut. The aesthetic dimension of the social in a German city‘, I propose to explore, through interviews and observations, the setting of the hair salon. I intend to do so both as a sociologist and as an apprentice hairdresser – another vocation that focusses on observation – exploring a social setting that
encourages talk and the exchanging of confidences.

This project, which highlights the aesthetic dimension of the social, builds on a previous one that I pursued on middle-class inhabitants of a city in central Germany, which considered the practical, moral, and material dimensions of how they lead their lives.

The goal of this project is not only to capture this aesthetic dimension of the social but also, following the work of Simmel and Kracauer, to develop a methodological position sensitive to the full range of sociological meanings. In this way, I hope to contribute to the renewal of sociological writing through “sociological feuilletons,” brief texts inspired by German journalism of the 1920s and 1930s that marry sociology, literature, and reportage.

The project also serves to bring sociology to a broader public, not only through its engaging theme but also through the distinctive genre of writing that it promotes and the new spaces it creates for disseminating sociological research. In doing so, it could foster a
reflexive engagement by readers with the texts produced and ultimately impart a greater sociological sensibility to public discourse.

What Max Weber Always Wanted to Know about China – Two Doctorates on China Successfully Defended at the Max-Weber-Kolleg

With the appointment of Prof. Dr. Carsten Herrmann-Pillath as Fellow for Economics at the Max-Weber-Kolleg, a research focus on China was established at the same time, because he is not only an economist, but also a sinologist with intensive contacts to China. Under his supervision, two doctoral theses dealing with specific aspects of the Chinese economy were defended at the Max-Weber-Kolleg this week.

Ms Qian Zhao successfully defended her dissertation on „The Evolution of Modern Business Ethics in Reform China“ on 13 September 2021. In it, she deals – like Max Weber more than 100 years before her – with the religious and cultural roots of business ethics in China and examines the so-called „moral background“ (Gabriel Abend) of today’s business ethicists at business schools and in business associations. For this purpose, she not only examined extensive source material, but also conducted a large number of interviews, which have been incorporated into the material-rich writing. This work provides a broad overview of the foundations of business ethics ideas in contemporary China.

On 17 September 2021, Ms. Sisi Sung successfully defended her PhD thesis on „Managerial Careers of Women in China. An Economics of Identity Approach“. In this thesis, she examines the problem that although women in China have relatively equal rights in terms of both participation in working life and salary levels, this equality does not exist in the area of corporate management. Rather, women come up against so-called „glass ceilings“ here. For her study, Ms. Sung not only uses economic theories, but supplements them with insights from sociology and social psychology in order to draw a more holistic picture of this problem. Furthermore, by using both English and Chinese research literature, she is able to show how cultural gender stereotypes are effective all the way into research literature from economics, business studies or sociology.

„I am delighted that these two projects could be completed so successfully. The two doctoral researchers have benefited enormously from the research environment at the Max-Weber-Kolleg and have made great progress. But my colleagues at the Max-Weber-Kolleg have also learned a lot about China beyond the usual clichés,“ says Prof. Carsten Herrmann-Pillath, who supervised both projects.

Thuringian Research Award for Hartmut Rosa

Every year, the Free State of Thuringia honours excellent research achievements with the Thuringian Research Award. This year, the prize in the category „Basic Research“ goes to the sociologists Professor Klaus Dörre (University of Jena), Professor Stefan Lessenich (LMU Munich) and to Professor Hartmut Rosa, the director of the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt, who also works in Jena at the Friedrich Schiller University.

The three receive the 25,000 euro award for their work on post-growth societies. Within the framework of the research group „Landnahme, Beschleunigung, Aktivierung. On the (De-)Stabilisation of Modern Growth Societies“, the sociologists have investigated the structural growth constraints of modern societies and uncovered the social mechanisms of „always more and never enough“. The research group has been funded by the German Research Foundation between 2011 and 2019.

The world, according to the diagnosis, is in an economic-ecological pincer crisis: economic growth as we know it from the past is no longer possible without further exacerbating the catastrophic ecological consequences. Conversely, climate protection and the conservation of natural resources require a departure from previous economic and transport concepts. „The primacy of growth has reached its limit. Growth exacerbates the current crisis of capitalism and no longer offers the solution,“ underlines Professor Klaus Dörre. The Professor of Sociology of Labour, Industry and Economics at the University of Jena accepted the award on behalf of the entire team of the research group. He emphasises that the current Corona pandemic exacerbates the pincer crisis on the one hand and makes the underlying mechanisms clearer on the other: The fact that Germany actually achieved its climate goals in 2020 was mainly due to the Corona lockdowns and not so much the result of a successful strategy. „The example shows that the system change to a post-growth society has already begun. If we don’t actively shape it ourselves, the next crisis will further force us to do so.“

The sociologists want to follow the development even after the conclusion of the research college – the Thuringian Research Award, according to the sociologists, is both recognition and motivation for this.

Michal Kaczmarczyk presents a working paper on ‚Dystopia – an Alternative to Sociology?‘

Dystopia originated as a variant of utopia and its inversion. In this respect it shares many characteristics of classical sociology. However, as a fictional genre dystopia broke with utopia in a much more radical way. In addition, it became much more than a mere counterpoint to the declining utopian literature. The major advantages of dystopia, as compared to sociology, proved to be 1) the self-confident future-orientation and 2) the inclusion of imaginaries into the realm of social ideas. Through the adoption of methods offered by narrative flexibility and non-determinist visions of individual and social change, the considered type of literature has been able to contextualize nad transpose social phenomena and mechanisms identified by sociologists. In result, dystopian worlds are instrumental in imagining potential experiences to which various social scenarios can lead. Moreover, they enable readers to look behind the curtain of the Unknown by delivering its specific visions along with their alternatives. Finally, dystopia is a dialogical endeavor because almost all dystopian authors use their works as tools to convey arguments and warnings that cannot be expressed in a typically scientific way. This dialogue takes place between different generations of writers, between different dystopias as well as between sociology and dystopia. This widespread and profound exchange might be seen as an opportunity to examine more carefully the complex relationships between ideas and images.

Michael Sauder presents a working paper on ‚A Sociology of Luck‘

Sociology has been curiously silent about the concept of luck. The present article argues that this omission is, in fact, an oversight: an explicit and systematic engagement with luck provides a more accurate portrayal of the social world, opens potentially rich veins of empirical and theoretical inquiry, and offers a compelling alternative for challenging dominant meritocratic frames about inequality and the distribution of rewards. This article develops a framework for studying luck, first by proposing a working definition of luck, examining why sociology has ignored luck in the past, and making the case for why it is valuable to include luck in sociology’s conceptual repertoire. The article then demonstrates the fertile research potential of studying luck by identifying a host of research questions and hypotheses pertaining to the social construction of luck, the real effects of luck, and theoretical interventions related to luck. It concludes by highlighting the distinctive contributions sociology can make to the growing interdisciplinary interest in this topic.

Andreas Pettenkofer is going to present a working paper on ‚The irreducibly collective character of criticism‘

In our ‘liberal’ ordinary language of politics, political criticism is usually described as a product of individuals who resist collective pressures; here, “the collective” appears as that which suppresses critique. This is mirrored by a “sociology of critique” that sees critical activities as being founded in individual capacities. Against this kind of assumption, this paper tries to show how nonconformist acts of criticism are internally tied to collective processes. For this purpose, it uses concepts from Durkheim’s social theory (which emphasizes aspects of the sociality of mind that are not emphasized in pragmatist analyses). Through this, the paper also tries to show what a Durkheimian approach can contribute to a sociology of critique.

Gabriel Abend presents a working paper on ‚Thick Concepts and Sociological Research‘

In this paper I ask how to do social scientific things with thick concepts, what’s unique about thick concepts, and what’s unique about creatures in whose lives there are thick concepts

Martin Repohl gives a working paper on ‚The relationship quality of the material world – perspectives of a worldrelationship sociological approach for the analysis of materiality‘

The aim of my dissertation project is to formulate a consistent world
relationship sociological terminology for analyzing materiality under the
aspect of relationship quality. The premise is that material entities are
parts of social relationships and have an influence on the dynamic and
quality of the concrete relationship by their own material constitution.
The question of materiality is a key problem of sociological research and
is addressed in many different ways. But the aspect of relationship
quality only appears in an implicit way. The sociology of world
relationship provides a new perspective on that aspect, but has no clear
concept for describing materiality by its own terms. The inclusion of a
phenomenological approach to materiality offers a solution for that
conceptual lack, because this perspective describes the self activity of
material entities. An inclusion into the terminology for world relationship
sociology opens the perspective for the transformative part of material
entities in the dynamic of relationships. It’s planned to make empirical
case studies on specific material entities (for example plastic particles,
toxins or wood) to describe its influence on world relationship in an
exemplary way. These case studies will be used to develop a valid and
applicable concept for analyzing materiality under the aspect of
relationship quality.