Ultimately the social sciences can only be justified by the contributions they make to better our lives. Now, scholars can neither heal bodies and souls nor govern well, but they may be able to inspire by tweaking and changing the ways in which we see the world. One way of doing this is through conceptual labor, that is to say be developing theory. In my work I strive to develop theory through my empirical investigations. What I research is as much driven by its potential to develop theory as by the substantive interest instilled by a particular topic. My research falls into the following areas (the links below (click title) lead to more detailed pages):
Sociology of knowledge and of understanding:
I am interested in the ways in which organizations (by which I mean institutions made self-conscious through officers who undertake to care for them) produce understandings about the wider world in which they operate, and how these understandings feed back on the stability of these very organizations by making their self-care more or less difficult. I am also interested in the ways in which various modes though which we produce understanding of the world–discourse, feelings, bodily movement, the senses–interact to differentiate or amplify each other. Both of these themes I have developed in the theoretical chapters of Political Epistemics (click HERE for reference and sample chapters) which ultimately develop a hermeneutic institutionalism.
The subtitle of Political Epistemics is The Secret Police, the Opposition and the End of East German Socialism. The main thesis of the book is that socialism collapsed because the party state was structurally and culturally unable to produce useful knowledge about itself within a wider social environment. I distinguish this “epistemic” account of the failure of socialism form more traditional comparative systems approaches.
Ultimately identity is an institution which is like other institutions maintained in interaction. How so is deal with in both my first book and the second.
My original interest in postunification Germany was the question why the political division of the nation seemingly gave rise to a cultural division after unification. More recently I have become interested in what appears to be the emergence of a new class society.
Much of social science is based on a problematic social imagination which implicitly reifies social entities. What we need instead is a consequently processualist form of social inquiry. The foundations for such an approach I try to think through in an essay entitled “An Ontology for the Ethnographic Study of Social Processes: Extending the Extended Case Method (click HERE for reference and download possibility).