research

Political Sociology

Inspired by classical readings such as Lipset’s Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics and Lazarsfeld et al.’s The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign, I study how social stratification affects value orientations, various forms of discontent, party identification, and voting behaviour in western liberal democracies. Most notably, this part of my research programme scrutinises the political ramifications of stratification in the economic and cultural realms. Whereas the first pits the economically strong against the economically weak, stratification in the cultural domain revolves around the extent to which one appreciates, demonstrates, and masters the life style of the cultural elite (i.e. status differences indicated by means of Bourdieusian cultural capital).

The first type of stratification proves crucial for understanding good-old class politics or ‘the democratic class struggle’, in which the economically weak vote for leftists or labour parties in support of those parties’ economic agenda of redistribution, decommodification and protectionism. Their economically strong counterparts, on the other hand, translate their economic conservatism into support for the laissez-faire agenda of classic right-wing or economically conservative parties. Contrary to the alleged ‘death of class’, this democratic class struggle is still part and parcel of politics in contemporary liberal democracies. Yet, it increasingly operates in the shadow of the various political corollaries of status politics, in which higher status groups’ dispositions and affinities underlie support for new-leftist or cosmopolitan initiatives, movements, and political parties. Their lower status counterparts, on the other hand, translate their culturally conservative dispositions, also referred to as ‘authoritarianism’, into support for new-rightist or nationalistic kinds of political parties, movements, and initiatives.

Acknowledging the different ways in which economic and cultural stratification can be relevant for value orientations and political behaviour can inform various debates and questions concerning the relationship between politics and society. Disentangling the salience of these two types of stratification for value orientations and vote choice as I have done extensively with various colleagues, provides the mere starting point for more systematic and rigorous scrutiny. More specifically, it inspires my current and future scrutiny of how economic and cultural stratification affect i) party identification and non-institutional political behaviour, ii) various kinds of discontents such anomie and distrust in institutions, iii) preferences for personalised, popularised, and anti-establishment politics, iv) the consequences of media cues on value orientations and political behaviour, and v) interactions between members of low status groups and high status professionals such as politicians and judges.

In addition to scrutinising the political corollaries of economic and cultural stratification, my political-sociological line of research also entails studying the various ways in which regional cultures and institutional regimes affect value orientations and voting behaviour. Moreover, this line of research includes examining the political consequences of cultural change, globalisation, secularisation , and political discontents.

 

Sociology of Health

The stratified nature of various contemporary health issues in western societies, ranging from obesity to feelings of depression, is well-established but poorly understood. The main reason for this hiatus is that the standard research practice neglects the multifaceted nature of stratification (see above). Consequently, there is a lack of awareness of the various mechanisms through which both economic and cultural stratification might affect health, and can inspire various health-related behaviours, ranging from food and sports preferences and physical exercise in daily life to difficulties in navigating health institutions.

In addition to the often-assumed and well-known mechanisms revolving around the potential relevance of poverty, material disadvantage, scarcity and stress stemming from stratification in the economic realm, various status-related mechanisms can be discerned. These are assumed to result from childhood socialisation in status-stratified parental milieus. Status-related mechanisms centre, for instance, on the role of reflexivity, institutional knowledge and cultural affinity with standard repertoires in health institutions, and predispositions towards cultural differences, thinness and asceticism. Systematic scrutiny of these mechanisms calls for various research methods and approaches. These range from surveys in combination with implicit association tests (IATs) as to uncover status-specific predispositions (i.e., Bourdieusian habitus) relevant for health-related behaviours, to studying interactions between patients and health professionals, and observing and surveying parenting styles.

 

Globalisation and Inequality

Besides my contemporary research in the fields of political sociology and the sociology of health, various past and current research collaborations focus on the consequences of economic globalisation for inequality and immigration. According to various textbook economic theories, economic globalisation – i.e., cross-national migration flows, trade in goods and services, and foreign direct investments – negatively affects demand for the less educated in advanced economies. In addition to assessing  the alleged political ramifications of this ‘factor endowment model’ in my political-sociological writings, my globalisation-and-inequality line of research focuses on the empirical tenability of this claim. I often do so by counter posing that model to competing notions in the so-called ‘global city debate’, which focuses on the impact of globalisation on inequality in cities.