Social transformations: new challenges, practices, and critique
ESA RN36 Midterm Conference
Sibiu, Romania, September 28-29, 2016


Social transformations: new challenges, practices, and critique

ESA RN36 Midterm Conference, Sibiu, Romania, September 28-29, 2016

Transformative processes occur worldwide and can be subject to various interpretations from different theoretical perspectives. Despite the end-of-history rhetoric surrounding the initial stages of ‘transitions’ from state socialism to democracy and capitalism the transformations are far from being finished. Moreover, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Asia have experienced a broad variety of transformation paths leading to very different results, ranging from a spiral of economic decline to relative prosperity, from democratisation to the maintenance of hybrid or even fully autocratic regimes, from embracing Euro-Atlantic integration to insisting on traditional political and cultural divisions, and so on. These days we are witnessing the unleashing of forces that radically affect the stability of European social development. These forces manifest themselves in such aspects as rising social inequality and exclusion; widespread disillusionment after the expectations of the initial stages of transitions, increasing distrust in political and other institutions, mass migrations; political radicalisation and the threats to social welfare.

Societies in Central and Eastern Europe have gone through more or less radical transformations, while trying to balance in very different ways between universal prescriptions and their local specifics. The complex systemic changes, simultaneous reforms in different spheres, stimulated by technological developments have created social acceleration in post-communist societies. “Speeding up” is constructed as a ‘natural’ condition of social life in public discourses and seen as a main factor of successful transition. The socio-cultural implications beyond these processes (social stress, polarization between ‘winners’ and ‘laggards’, capacity of cultural reproduction, etc) as well as the tensions between the agents of social acceleration and resistance are waiting to be discussed.

These problems set the stage for a more reflexive and critical way of thinking about social transformations. An in-depth exploration of transformations in this region might produce significant new lessons and ideas. Classical sociological approaches to social transformation tended to focus on large-scale changes – crises, revolutions, long-term economic and social development, whereas relatively ‘small’ changes can produce unpredictable and ambivalent challenges for a particular society. Such ‘small’ changes also require constant research monitoring, followed by theorising upon research data.

Change deserves to be explored in many areas of social life in CEE countries as well as all over the world. Some specific areas of research may be more mainstream, while others seem to be at a peripheral zone of scientific discourse. However, they are (or should be) more debatable and perhaps complicated than they appear to be. A wide range of factors arising from (and elucidated by) different analytical frameworks – institutionalism in particular – contribute to explaining the different trajectories of countries over time.

This conference invites submissions approaching transformation in a wide variety of fields, including but not limited to:

  • transformations and sociological theories;

  • mediation and public discourses of transformation and social change;

  • critical approach to CEE transformation;

  • unanticipated consequences of transformation;

  • post-industrial society or non-industrial society?

  • economic and social gap between the East and West;

  • Europe: more or less unity?

  • paths of transition on a local/regional/national level, challenges and solutions;

  • class division and inequality;

  • generations in the context of transformation;

  • spaces of poverty and exclusion in Central and Eastern Europe;

  • rural and urban areas, local communities life and practices;

  • migration flows, new challenges, consequences, and possible solutions;

  • the idea of nation state in transformation;

  • political tensions and political order, new challenges for consent;

  • political behaviour and political values;

  • ecology, gender, city-movements, protest movements as new waves of transformation;

  • civil society: development and barriers, self-government, self-organization, NGOs;

  • values, identities, cultural practices;

  • intellectuals and their impact on social changes discourse: past and present.

The organizers invite theoretically or empirically grounded papers on the above topics. Special consideration will be given to empirically grounded papers, either comparative or country-based. The language of the abstracts, the papers and the conference will be English. Abstracts should be about 400 words, and should be accompanied by the name(s) of the author(s), his/her/their affiliation(s) and e-mail(s). The processes of abstract submission and acceptance will be managed using the online platform of the Romanian Sociological Society (Conference Management System):


Keynote speakers:

Dr. Jan Drahokoupil (European Trade Union Institute, Brussels)

Jan Drahokoupil is a Senior Researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) in Brussels. He published a number of books and journal articles on post-socialist transitions, European and transition economies, welfare state, and multinational corporations. His book publications include Transition economies: political economy in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (with Martin Myant), Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, The outsourcing challenge: organizing workers across fragmented production networks (edited), ETUI, 2015, and Flexible workforces and low profit margins: electronics assembly between Europe and China (edited), ETUI, 2016. Jan is an associate editor at Competition and Change: The Journal of Global Business and Political Economy.

Prof. Lazăr Vlăsceanu (University of Bucharest)

Lazăr Vlăsceanu is professor of research methodology in the Department of Sociology, Bucharest University. He does teaching, mostly at postgraduate level, and published extensively in areas like sociological  research methodology, sociology of higher education and cultural reproduction, institutional theory of modernization.  The  books  published recently are:  Universities and reflexive modernity (New York/Budapest, CEU Press, 2010), in which an analysis of  some  institutional ambiguities and unintended consequences of late European  higher education policies was put forward, and Modernitatea Românească/ Romanian Modernity ( Paralela 45, 2014, co-author M. G. Hancean), focused on the institutional and comparative analysis of the economic and political orders of the modern Romanian society.  His research interests are currently invested in the distribution of inequalities and their social consequences in contemporary Romania within the context of the European Union. He previously  held positions of public responsibility both in Romania and in UNESCO.


New: Extended deadline for submitting paper proposals!


Deadline for submitting paper proposals – June 15, 2016 (extended deadline) May 30, 2016

Notification of paper acceptance – June 30, 2016 June 15, 2016

Deadline for registration – July 30, 2016 June 30, 2016