Forschungsprojekte des Seminars für Soziologie

ValCon: Value Conflicts in a Differentiated Europe

Value Conflicts in a Differentiated Europe: The Impact of Digital Media on Value Polarisation in Europe (ValCon)

The project will examine the role of digital social & news media in creating political value polarization among citizens & in promoting the rise of populism in Europe. It includes a comparative survey in 6 countries & qualitative analysis of debates conducted through social media. The overall aim of our research is to explain the growing tendency in and across Europe to contest the core values that anchor the European project, and clarify how this new trend relates to digital media usage. At a broader level, ValCon addresses the challenges posed by a deep crisis of liberal democracy in Europe and the world. This crisis, we assume, is a manifestation of increasing conflicts over liberal values, which—we further argue—social media both drives and amplifies.

ValCon asks the following core question: To what extent can value conflicts, as expressed in polarized opinions and extremist political views among the public, be attributed to patterns of social media communication? To answer this question, we analyse the dynamics of online value conflicts and how they affect the legitimacy of political order. Is the EU as a community of value drifting apart? And if so, how is this "drifting apart" related to the erosion of value consensus at national level? In this context, our proposed project addresses two major challenges to European societies today: digital media’s rapidly increasing contribution to political polarisation, and the emergence of new social cleavages within and across European societies.

ValCon’s main hypothesis is that one key factor to explain these new observable social cleavages within European societies lies in a mediatized logic of value contestation. To investigate this mediatized logic of value contestation, ValCon designs an innovative research methodology that bridges the fields of media framing and reception studies. This allows us to analyse how values contestation engages political actors, the media, and audiences in new ways. Beyond simply focusing on top-down mobilisation efforts by new populist parties and their impact on political preferences and attitudes, we further explore how broader audiences and the media engage in values contestation through a bottom-up dynamic of political mobilisation.

This mediatisation perspective helps us to understand how value conflicts are not only channelled through the media, but also constituted by the media. Moving beyond a standard country comparison by asking for trans- and crossnational trends in value contestation, the study combines and synthesizes public opinion surveys and media content analysis for three core value conflicts (freedom of speech; independence of judiciary; gender equality) in six EU member states (Denmark, Austria/ France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Spain).

Förderung: Volkswagen Stiftung / Challenges for Europe

Laufzeit: 9/2020 - 8/2023


ValCon is coordinated by Prof. Monika Eigmüller (EUF, Flensburg), Prof. Hans-Jörg Trenz (UoC, Copenhagen), and Prof. Juan Díez Medrano (UC3M, Madrid).

Access+ Zugang zu sozialen Rechten in Deutschland und Frankreich

Zugang zu sozialen Rechten in Deutschland und Frankreich: Ungleichheiten und Diskriminierungen, Geschlecht und Migration im jeux d’échelles des europäischen Raums

Das Projekt untersucht Europäisierungsprozesse, die die Bedingungen des Zugangs zu sozialen Rechten und Leistungen in Deutschland und Frankreich beeinflussen und dadurch die Kombination politischer Handlungsrepertoires in Bezug auf die Kompensation sozialer Ungleichheiten und den Kampf gegen Diskriminierungen verändern. Unser analytisches Raster bildet das Konzept des social citizenship, worunter wir (i) eine Narration über soziale Kohäsion, (ii) die Beziehung zwischen individueller Teilhabe, sozialer Sicherheit und Statusnormen und (iii) eine territorial konstituierte politische Ordnung verstehen.

Frankreich und Deutschland sind als Vergleichskontexte gewählt worden, deren kontrastreichen Traditionen sozialer citizenship unterschiedliche Verflechtungen mit der Europäisierung eingehen. Auf einem abstrakten Gleichheitsbegriff und einer universell verstandenen sozialen Integration beruhend, erlaubt social citizenship in Frankreich, nach sozialem Status zu differenzieren und das öffentliche Handelns [action publique] an konkrete Zielsetzungen zu binden. In Deutschland hingegen beruht social citizenship auf Zugehörigkeit zu einer soziokulturellen Gemeinschaft und ermöglicht ihre Delegation an intermediäre Instanzen, dezentrale Organisation und insofern mehr Disparitäten. Die sozialen Ungleichheiten und Diskriminierungen im Zugang zu sozialen Rechten untersuchen wir im Hinblick auf Frauen und Migranten. Beide Bevölkerungsgruppen sind historisch auf dem Arbeitsmarkt und im Kontext sozialer Sicherung marginalisiert worden.

Unser Projekt umfasst drei aufeinander aufbauende Ziele:

  • Erstens erarbeiten wir auf der Basis von Primärquellen für Deutschland und Frankreich eine historische Soziologie (i) der Problematisierungsformen des Zugangs zu sozialen Rechten, (ii) der juristischen Kodifizierungen und (iii) der Politikinstrumente der Kompensation sozialer Ungleichheiten und des Antidiskriminierungskampfs im Bereich Geschlechtergleichstellung, Migration und Ethnizität.
  • Zweitens nehmen wir auf der Basis administrativer und juristischer Dokumente eine Bestandsaufnahme der europäischen Bestimmungen und Regulierungen des Zugangs zu sozialen Rechten und Leistungen vor.
  • Drittens gehen wir den Wirkungen der Europäisierung auf den Zugang zu sozialen Rechten und Leistungen in beiden Ländern nach –insbesondere im Hinblick auf die ausgewählten Bevölkerungsgruppen. Hierbei konzentrieren wir uns auf den Zeitraum nach der Verabschiedung der europäischen Antidiskriminierungsrichtlinie im Jahr 2000.

Das Projekt hat zum Ziel, die Veränderungen, Anpassungen und Schwierigkeiten in der juristischen Kodifizierung und in der Entwicklung von Politikinstrumenten herauszuarbeiten, auf deren Basis in Deutschland und Frankreich Ungleichheiten kompensiert und Diskriminierungen bekämpft werden.

Förderung: DFG / ANR

Laufzeit: 9/2020 - 8/2023


Leitung: Prof. Dr. Monika Eigmüller (EUF, Flensburg), Dr. habil. Olivier Giraud (LISE/ CNRS, Paris), PD Dr. Nikola Tietze (CNAM, Paris)

From Experiencing Europe to Thinking European

From Experiencing Europe to Thinking European? The Impact of EU-specific Activities on Attitudes towards and attachment to the EU (Europaförderung)

During the last decade social scientists have paid intense attention to the relationship between actions of the European Union and position-takings by individuals like the transnational activity, the support for the EU or the emergence of a European identity. However, although there is solid evidence that those who are experiencing Europe abroad have also more pro-European attitudes, feel more attached to the EU and know more about it (Fligstein 2008; Rother/Nebe 2009), it is still an open question what kinds of activities trigger which kind of European thinking. This is due to the fact that until now the research has mainly focused on border crossing activities and thus reduced experiences with Europe to cross-border interactions. Thus the project asks two questions: (a) do both cross- and within-border activities produce pro-European attitudes? and (b) are the less-educated still less pro-European after having experienced the EU? Reacting to this important gap in the literature, the project contributes to our understanding of the formation of pro-European attitudes by studying the role of experience-based Europeanness.

Förderung: Volkswagenstiftung


Eigmüller, Monika/Trenz, Hans-Jörg (2020), Werte und Wertekonflikte in einer differenzierten EU. In: Grimmel, Andreas (Hrsg) 2020: Die neue Europäische Union: Zwischen Integration und Desintegration. Baden Baden: Nomos.

Eigmüller, Monika/Tietze, Nikola (2019), Ungleichheitskonflikte und Europäisierungsprozesse. In: Ungleichheitskonflikte in Europa. Jenseits von Klasse und Nation. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag, 12-22

Fernandez, Juan/Eigmüller, Monika (2018), Societal Education and the Education Divide in European Identity, 1992-2013. In: European Sociological Review, Vol 34, 6, 612-628

Fernandez, Juan/Eigmüller, Monika/Börner, Stefanie (2016), Domestic transnationalism and the formation of pro-European sentiments. European Union Politics, Vol 17, Issue 3, pp. 457 - 481 (with Juan Fernández and Stefanie Börner)


Field Theory as Social Theory

Field Theory as Social Theory

On a theoretical level, Vincent Gengnagel aims at opening up the scope of analysis beyond the analysis of single fields and their respective ‘autonomies’: Field-specific autonomy feeds into the heteronomies of other fields and is a major source of legitimating and even obfuscating power relations. Together, such relative autonomies and respective power logics form a ‘labor division of domination’ and constitute a ‘field of fields’ that is more than the sum of its parts.

Despite the necessary epistemological cautiousness that tends to stick to the rigorously empirical reconstruction of a single field ‘from scratch’, it is productive for political sociologists to repeatedly return to this broader level of analysis in order to paint a bigger picture. This train of thought is developed in a paper written with Andreas Schmitz and Daniel Witte, called Pluralizing field analysis: Toward a relational understanding of the field of power and illustrated by discussing the German historical conditions and political dimension of claims to academic autonomy in a broader field of power called "Die zwei Gesichter der Autonomie: Wissenschaft im Feld der Macht."

Vincent Gengnagel’s PhD ("Im Dienste Ihrer Exzellenz. Der Beitrag der Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften zur europäischen Vergesellschaftung", to be published this year) develops this argument further, pointing at the necessity to relate current dynamics in Europeanizing fields to broader historical and epistemological analysis.

The Academic Field as a Contributor to the European Project

The Academic Field as a Contributor to the European Project

Vincent Gengnagel analyzes the effects of the academic field in the symbolic and material formation of a European societal framework. In particular, he is interested in the role of academic autonomy as a legitimating source for European integration. As it turns out, academic Europeanization pushes towards the primacy of the market, both within the realm of academic work itself and in terms of its symbolic construction of Europe as a market – the academic field lends its sense of academic autonomy to political and economic imperatives.

The case study observed in his PhD – to be published this year – is the academic legitimatization of the European Research Council, which acts as a core instrument for shaping the European Project within the academic field. Having worked with the DFG-funded research group "Horizontal Europeanization" in subprojects on the "Europeanization of Higher Education between national traditions and global challenges" and "EU-Professionalism", recent publications are Laying Claim to the Academic Field: The European Research Council and the European project, Academic Autonomy beyond the Nation-State and Europeanisation and Global Academic Capitalism. A forthcoming publication addresses the effect of EU policy rhetoric in EU-funded social scientific research, esp. the way it conceives of the welfare state, in cooperation with Katharina Zimmermann and Sebastian Büttner.

Political Sociology as Public Sociology

Political Sociology as Public Sociology

Beyond its purely academic use, sociology helps Vincent Gengnagel to understand the state of public discourse and the marginal role of critical intervention in the formation of public opinion today.

Reflections on the sometimes tentative character and overall low volume of public interventions by academic sociology have been published in publications titled "’Das können wir nicht durchgehen lassen‘. Zur gesellschaftlichen Resonanz kritischer Intervention" and posts on Sozblog (DGS, German Sociological Association), in which Vincent Gengnagel and Alexander Hirschfeld observe a "Trojan Sociology" that succeeds in applying sociological concepts mostly in subtle terms. Currently, a Bourdieusian outlook on public sociology is further developed in cooperation with Philipp Rhein and Alexander Lenger (forthcoming)."

European Attitudes towards Social Solidarity

Central European Attitudes towards Social Solidarity in the EU (PhD Project)

This project aims to map the position of Visegrad Group countries towards the notion of transnational social solidarity in the EU. Giving its historical and demographic background, in existing scientific research there have been certain differences highlighted when it comes to approaching social solidarity in this specific region.  Thus, this project aims to look at the different semantic nuances of the word solidarity used in public language, political and media construct of solidarity and the public opinion mirrored via social media.

There has been several drafts and proposals aimed at combating the social and economic inequalities between MS and its citizens. These proposals include areas of economic and labour market policies, e.g.: Corporate taxation, Transfer Tax, European minimum wage policy or European unemployment insurance scheme. The space of central Europe represents a distinct political, economic and cultural establishment which has, after a decade of recovery following the fall of communist regime successfully joined the space of European Union. Even after 15 years of membership have these countries a lot to catch up with their older co-members. This includes economies as a whole but also the labour market and social provisions policies in which are these countries still lacking behind.

This study aims to define the position of citizens from Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland towards the above-mentioned proposals which as per se, could lead to broadening the social dimension of Europe and could bring greater equality amongst European individuals. The positions of VG citizens are of particular interest of this thesis as they might or do not might collide with the opinion of the rest of EU citizens. 

Machtstrukturen in feministischen Kontexten

Zwischen sozialer Ungleichheit und kollektivem Empowerment: Machtstrukturen in aktivistischen Kontexten (Dissertationsprojekt)

Machtstrukturen in feministisch-aktivistischen Kontexten sind besonders interessant, weil sie gleichzeitig gesellschaftliche Machtasymmetrien aufzeigen, reproduzieren und verändern. Basierend auf den Annahmen, dass sich in sozialen Bewegungen politische Räume öffnen, die einen anderen Umgang mit bestehender sozialer Ungleichheit ermöglichen und dass Feminismus immer auch eine spezifische Machtkritik impliziert, wird in dem Forschungsprojekt nach Verschiebungen von Macht gefragt. Wie wird innerhalb von feministisch-aktivistischen Gruppen mit Machtdynamiken und sozialer Ungleichheit umgegangen? Dabei richtet sich der Blick auf die internen Gruppendynamiken und die Aushandlungsprozesse dort. Welche Auswirkungen haben die Reflexionen und Überlegungen, die mit feministisch-aktivistischen Kämpfe gegen gesellschaftliche Missstände und Ungleichheiten einhergehen, auf die internen Umgangsweisen mit Machtdynamiken in diesen Gruppen und Zusammenschlüssen? Welche Übersetzungsarbeit leisten Feminist*innen von ihren Reflexionen in ihre Praxis und umgekehrt bezüglich Macht? Mit einer ethnographisch angelegten Feldforschung mache ich sichtbar, welche spezifischen Praktiken im Umgang mit Macht(ungleichheiten) dort angewandt werden, wie Reflexionen zu Macht und sozialer Ungleichheit in Praktiken übersetzt werden und welche Leerstellen dabei entstehen. Ich frage danach, welche Machtstrukturen den feministischen Aktivismus durchkreuzen und welche Machtstrukturen aktivistisch durchkreuzt werden.