Zürich 2017

Welcome to the Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association in Zurich

Theme: “Common Good and Self-interest”
Date: June 21 – 23, 2017
Place: University of Zurich

Keynote Speakers:

» Dominique Joye
» Guillermina Jasso
» Hartmut Rosa

Detailed programme

Programme booklet

The Institute for Sociology at the University of Zurich has been commissioned by the Swiss Sociological Association (SSA) to organize the conference «Common Good and Self-interest».

Congress Topic: Common Good and Self Interest

The relationship between public welfare and self-interest is not only a central theme in Sociology – it is also the essential question underlying how society itself is constituted. How is the relationship between individuals and society established? Are social norms and cooperation the result of actions of self-interested actors or do rather social obligations influence actors’ actions? How can individual and social interests be reconciled? These questions remain contested in sociology and related social sciences and even in social philosophy. This question is addressed by theories in different fields focusing on a variety of societal phenomena. Analytical theories, for example, focus on the mechanisms of the emergence of social order, cohesion, and cooperation, whereas for the history of sociological theories several questions concerning the relationship between public welfare and self-interest are of concern. The concept of common good versus self-interest is relevant to countless questions in the study of contemporary society, for which we can only name a few examples: what are the necessary conditions for building communities and civil societies in a heterogeneous and complex world? What are the underlying causes for the increasing moralization of markets? What is the balance and the relationship between joint welfare and self-interest in families, between genders, or across generations? The recent rise in inequality in many western countries also raises the question of the relationship between self-interest and solidarity with respect to the welfare state and redistribution. On an inter- or transnational level similar questions arise with respect to the development of the European Union or on how national states have dealt with the refugee crisis. The conference will cover diverse theoretical perspectives and a wide range of empirical applications of these questions.

Congress Organization

Peter-Ulrich Merz-Benz, Gisela Pfister, Klaus Preisner, Heiko Rauhut, Jörg Rössel, Katja Rost, Marc Szydlik, Claudia Hiestand, Nicholas Arnold, Pia Fleischlin.

Prof. Dr. Dominique Joye, University of Lausanne


Keynote Speech – Social Mobility and the Promise of Liberal Societies

Wednesday, June 21st 2017, 16.15–17.00 h, KOH-B-10 (KOL)

Social mobility is a long-standing and central chapter for the analysis of social stratification and inequalities :  for at least a century, the question has been constant. Since, by contrast to models that put forth the heritage of positions, most authors argue that a society is fair as far as the place of everybody is given by his own qualities. Therefore, the question of the “transmission of qualities” in a given society and the mechanisms behind this, becomes central. This is even more challenging in a “changing world”, which means that it is impossible to speak about social mobility without thinking about social change.

In this contribution, we propose the exploration of three lines within this general framework:

In a first step, when discussing social mobility, it is important to remember that we speak of a movement from one point to another in the social space. Some authors even mention the idea of “ballistic mobility” to describe such studies. It could be independently interesting to describe the path, not only the starting and ending points; that means that we must be able to assess the properties of of the social space all along the social mobility process. If a system is stable, we can suppose that these positions in the social spaces are similar. However, if a society evolves strongly and rapidly, the categories used in order to measure social position and mobility in the social space are, by themselves, revealing social challenges. In other words, this first part will be dedicated to social change.

In a second step, we can confront these social changes with a discussion about the permanence of inequalities. Twenty-five years ago, Erikson and Goldthorpe were insisting on the “constant flux” between class positions, even if some other authors were simultaneously advocating the “death of classes”. A careful examination of the international data available show, nevertheless, strong tendencies toward the persistance of social inequalities and social barriers–in other words, the permanence of an inequality system in most western countries.

In order to go further in the explanation of these long-term social characteristics, taking into account social change and stability, we propose to return to the notion of “capital” and its use in the description of the social inequalities. From one side, it is a way to better consider social resources of the individuals and, at the same time, it is a way to better contextualize the context of our societies. From this perspective, we will develop the concept of social capital in line with the work of Nan Lin and colleagues. In particular, we will discuss the importance of implementing empirical tools in international surveys, beginning with the ISSP 2017 module, in order to promote the value of such an approach.


After studying political sciences at the University of Geneva (PhD in 1984 on the political geography of Swiss referendums between 1920 and 1980), Dominique Joye has worked in the field of urban sociology and local studies at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, publishing among others Andersson, Harri, Jorgensen Gertrud, Joye Dominique, and Ostendorf Wim (Eds.). 2001. Change and Stability in Urban Europe: Form, Quality and Governance. Ashbury: Ashgate, or Bassand Michel, Kaufmann Vincent, Joye Dominique, eds. 2001. Enjeux de la sociologie urbaine. Lausanne: Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, second edition updated and augmented 2007.

At the same time, he teaches methodology for the social sciences at the University of Geneva (FAPSE, 1988-1992) and at the University of Lausanne (1994-1997). He works also on social stratification: Levy, Rene, and Dominique Joye. 1994. “What is Switzerland’s stratification like: Classes, Prestige, Gradation, Professional Categories?” International Sociology 9:313-335 and elaborates a definition of socio-professional categories for the Swiss Statistical Office. He has also put a special attention to the link between spatial and social forms of social mobility.

From 1999, and until 2006, he was director of the SIDOS, the Swiss data archive, and associate professor of methodology for the social sciences at the University of Neuchâtel.

From October 2006, he is professor of Sociology at the University of Lausane, with specialisation in stratification and research methodology. In collaboration with FORS, he is currently working on the implementation and analysis of international survey in Switzerland (ISSP (Swiss Representative, since 2000), ESS (National coordinator 2002-2010), EVS (National director 2008, member of the Executive Committee since 2010)) with a strong emphasis on the question of quality in the surveys. He represented Switzerland in the QMSS initiative of the ESF (Quantitative Methods for the Social Sciences, 2003-2007 and 2008-2011) and has taught with Cristof Wolf and Tom Smith at the first GESIS summer School in 2012. In 2013 he was elected chair of the Methodological committee of the ISSP and to the methodological advisory board of the European Social Survey in 2014. He is also one editor (with Christof Wolf, Tom Smith and Yang-chih Fu) of the Sage Handbook of Survey Methodology, published last year.

He has kept nevertheless an interest in the questions of inequalities and transformation of the social structure according to context and life course issues (Joye Dominique, Bergman Manfred Max, Lambert Paul. 2003. Inter-generational Educational and Social Mobility in Switzerland. Swiss Journal of Sociology 29: 263-91 or Julie Falcon & Dominique Joye, Formation et mobilité sociale en Suisse in G. Felouzis & G. Goastellec, Les inégalités scolaire en Suisse, Lang, 2015), as well as monitoring of social change in Switzerland (Swiss Social Report 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016, with various colleagues, Seismo, Zurich). He is member of the NCCR Lives (http://www.lives-nccr.ch/) and developed recently a new strand in order to study social networks in relation with life-course and inequalities.

Prof. Dr. Guillermina Jasso, New York University


Keynote Speech – Common Good, Self-Interest, and the Sense of Justice

Thursday, June 22nd 2017, 18.15–19.00 h, KOH-B-10 (KOL)

This work uses ideas and tools from a variety of scholarly traditions to propose new theoretical and empirical links between self-interest and the common good, exploring the part played in those links by social location, income distributions and their shapes and inequality, and the sense of justice.


Guillermina Jasso (PhD, Johns Hopkins) is Silver Professor and Professor of Sociology at New York University.  She has written extensively on basic sociobehavioral theory, distributive justice, status, international migration, inequality, probability distributions, mathematical methods for theoretical analysis, and factorial survey methods for empirical analysis.  Professor Jasso is an elected member/fellow of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, the Sociological Research Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Two of her articles have won awards, and she recently won the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award given by the Methodology Section of the American Sociological Association for a career of scholarship in sociological methodology.

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena


Keynote Speech – Resonance. A New Perspective on the Old Problem of Self Interest vs. the Common Good

Friday, June 23rd, 11.45–12.30 h, KOH-B-10 (KOL)

On first glance, obviously, an orientation towards the common good and self-interest are opposed attitudes, vaguely corresponding with altruistic resp. egoistic values. Against this assumption, there is a long-standing philosophical and economic tradition trying to prove that an orientation towards the common good is in fact compatible with, or even identical with, an enlightened, prudential, long-term conception of self-interest. The keynote tries to replace the dichotomic conceptions of self-interest/common good and egoism/altruism with an alternative account locating the crucial difference in the opposition between an (individual or collective) orientation towards securing resources and increasing the horizon of the available, the attainable and the accessible (‘Triple A orientation towards the Good Life’), and an orientation geared towards establishing axes of (social, material and vertical) resonance (‘Resonance Conception of the Good Life’). The claim is that both these orientations, though mutually incompatible, are strongly effective in modern culture and modern society. With this move, drawing on the earlier versions of Critical Theory, the conceptions of self-interest and the common good are transformed in a way that allows for new possibilities of convergence.


Hartmut Rosa is Professor of Sociology and Social Theory at Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena, Germany and Director of the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt. He also is an Affiliated Professor at the Department of Sociology, New School for Social Research, New York. In 1997, he received his PhD in Political Science from Humboldt-University in Berlin. After that, he held teaching positions at the universities of Mannheim, Jena, Augsburg and Essen and served as Vice-President and General Secretary for Research Committee 35 (COCTA) of ISA and as one of the directors of the Annual International Conference on Philosophy and the Social Sciences in Prague. In 2016, he was a visiting professor at the FMSH/EHESS in Paris. He is editor of the international journal Time and Society. His publications focus on Social Acceleration, Resonance and the Temporal Structures of Modernity as well as the Political Theory of Communitarianism.

We would like to thank our sponsors, who make it possible for the SSA-Congress to take place, for their kind support.

Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences

Swiss National Science Foundation

University of Zurich


City of Zurich

Canton of Zurich



Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsverläufe e.V.








Review of Congress

Day 1: Reception, opening and keynote speech

Day 1: Round table “Braucht die Schweiz mehr Gemeinwohlorientierung?

Day 2: Keynote speech “Common Good, Self-Interest and the Sense of Justice”

Day 3: Keynote speech “Resonance and the Common Good”