Inequality Conflicts in Europe "Beyond Social Class and Nation"

When economic systems and constellations of state order are transformed, then the perception and description of social inequalities also change. Formerly reliable models become unsuitable because established benchmarks and institutionalized principles of incomparability such as the incomparability of citizens’ and foreigners’ entitlement to social security benefits are thrown off balance. A new language is needed in order to lend political expression to a sense of injustice about inequalities. Moreover, previously practiced forms of conflict management and institutionalized conflict resolution are no longer effective and suffer a loss of legitimacy. Furthermore, such processes of change call socio-analytical paradigms into question that were previously used to measure and classify inequalities, explain conflict situations, or provide reasons for the avoidance of conflicts.

The interdisciplinary working group will examine inequality conflicts in Europe from a sociological and historical perspective, focusing on the genesis, practice, and handling of conflicts. It will explore the modalities with which individuals or collectives express claims to equality and parity in conflict situations and question institutionalized forms of conflict management. The changing conditions for examining inequalities will be explored from the standpoint of conflict theory. The analytical starting points are the spheres of action in which conflict actors attempt to address and/or resolve problems concerning social equality and societal parity. "Beyond Social Class and Nation" (Ulrich Beck), that is, beyond the established paradigms of structural analysis, the working group’s historical and sociological focus will center on the societal asymmetries, categorizations, and value standards that are framed as unjust inequalities within the context of conflicts and are addressed and dealt with in conflict resolution. In addition, the group will examine the intersections, distinctions, and shifts which actors in a conflict―whether they are collectives, individuals, corporative entities, or government representatives―make between the conditions they define as problematic for securing their livelihoods and their claims to freedom and social recognition.

The working group combines its reflection on conflicts of inequality with its investigation of Europeanization processes in which economic regimes and/or constellations of state order are changing. Europeanization processes shift and modify benchmarks and categorizations in the determination of equality and parity. They open up possibilities for comparison, forms of mobility, and spheres of action, through which the established constellations of order in societal relationships and the norms regarding an appropriate quality of life and legitimate claims for equality and parity are challenged. In this respect, Europeanization processes lead to the emergence of conflict dynamics; how conflicts are expressed and dealt with in these contexts remain open questions.

The project draws on the results of the working group on "The Socio-Histoire of Europeanization: Social Policy, Equal Treatment, and Public Service in the Maelstrom of European Norms".

(Last modified September 2014)