Sociology is the science of social action with special consideration of its institutional conditions and effects. It is both a theory-driven and empirical discipline. Since its inception in the early twentieth century, which was shaped to a significant degree by Max Weber, sociology has grown into a highly differentiated field of knowledge, encompassing a variety of (competing) theoretical and methodological approaches.
The MWI covers the full spectrum of sociology in scholarship and teaching. To honor its historical legacy, Heidelberg sociology is committed to cultivating and extending the works of Max Weber and has therefore made significant contributions to the Max Weber Complete Edition.
The research area Sociological Theory bears witness to this living intellectual heritage. Other focal areas cover the variety of special sociologies and empirical methods, including: Social Structure Analysis , Empirical Macrosociology, Organizational Sociology, Political Sociology, Cultural Sociology, as well as Third Sector Research..
The MWI thus offers students the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge in both theory and methods, while allowing them to pursue their individual interests in particular subject areas of sociology.
Figure: The Research Profile of the MWI
Sociological Theory is headed by Thomas Schwinn. The focus of interest is the continuing development of Max Weber’s sociology. Basic theoretical issues in Weberian sociology are explicated in the context of prevailing theoretical currents. The social theoretical issues addressed include the integration of contemporary approaches to social theory with differentiation and inequality theories. Thomas Schwinn is also working on the further development of Weber’s perspective on modernity. The research focuses on the one hand on current theoretical efforts to integrate theories of differentiation and inequality, and on the other hand on the further development of Weber's perspective on modernity.
The research area Social Structure Analysis headed by Thomas Klein investigates many fields of society, notably demographic development, household and family structures, as well as social inequality, especially with respect to education, employment, and income distribution. In research, Thomas Klein focuses on health and life expectancy, migration, age, birth trends, as well as partner choice and relationship stability.
Empirical Macrosociology, represented by Matthias Koenig, is concerned with the comparative analysis of overall social structures and their transformation in the course of modernization and globalization. In close dialogue with sociological theories and supported by a broad range of historical, qualitative and quantitative methods, the current research projects are dedicated to migration, legal and religious sociological topics, in particular the global and local dynamics of dealing with cultural diversity.
Political Sociology, the domain of Kathia Serrano Velarde, uses interdisciplinary and international comparative approaches to three main topics: discursive forms of political and organizational action, participatory politics and civic engagement, educational and science policy. Research typically adopts a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods.
In the research area Organizational Sociology, Markus Pohlmann undertakes studies in economic, organizational, and industrial sociology, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. These are based on an action-theoretical and structural approach, with special reference to institutional analysis, and are addressing multiple-level analysis. In his latest research project, Markus Pohlmann is examining questions of organized corruption.
Finally, what lends the MWI a special profile is its close cooperation with the Center for Social Innovation (CSI). The CSI is a research centre specializing in Third Sector Research. The core research topics of the CSI include social investments, social innovations, philanthropy, civil society, and the social economy. The CSI addresses these topics in projects of national, international and comparative scope, primarily with a European focus. Beyond its contribution to basic research, the Centre has a strong interest in interdisciplinary and action research.
Steffen Sigmund’s main research interests lie in the field of Cultural Sociology. His research deals with issues of civic engagement and volunteering in an institutionalist perspective.