1. Well-being and the quality of life in ageing societies – theoretical and empirical challenges
It is important to monitor for levels of well-being and quality of life indicators in order to identify those population groups that require intervention. Health status and quality of life imply a multi-dimensional measurement of various indicators varying from objective to subjective approaches, from uni- to multi-dimensional conceptualization. Analysing well-being and quality of life can help quantify and compare the various impacts on well-being and quality of life of different aspects such as values, attitudes, cultural context, policy measures or economic indicators.
The focus of this section is on the theoretical, empirical, policy and ethical issues involved in wellbeing and quality of life research. For example: How can we assess the well-being and quality of life? How does well-being relate to quality of life? How do attitudes, values, norms shape well-being and quality of life of population? What are the patterns of well-being and quality of life across Europe? Where are well-being and quality of life inequalities critical? What differentiates people with low and high well-being and quality of life? Are there any differences in time? How can be the multilevel/multi-disciplinary approach appropriate in this area of research?
We are seeking contributions that address both theoretical and/or empirical issues of well-being and quality of life. We are interested in cross-national perspective studies and seek contributions from a variety of countries. Comparative studies are welcome, but research focusing on one particular country is also within the aim of this section. The longitudinal aspect of the research on well-being and quality of life is highly welcomed too.
2. Using subjective wellbeing and quality of life indicators in public policy: a Latin American perspective
Therefore, the purpose of this section is to discuss both theoretical implications of using subjective data in policy analysis and empirical cases in the region in a comparative perspective. This panel would allow theorists and practitioners to come together within the context of a productive and applied dialogue.
3. Environment, consumption & sustainability: cross-disciplinary perspectives
There is, however, a second reason for which sociologists have found the study and environment – society relationships compelling for their discipline. Once heralded as the golden standard of scientificity, (natural) science has undergone a profound change in its relation to society (Gross 2005). Variously called “post-normal”, “post academic” or “Mode 2” science, the new scientific outlook has become ever more tightly knitted into the social fabric as research is carried out increasingly “outside the walls of the laboratory” (Behrens and Gross 2010). Pure objectivity has been replaced by concerns for social robustness and acceptability, and these changes are certainly of interest to sociologists. Social change has become coextensive with scientific, technological and environmental change, and this process has opened previously unrecognized research opportunities for sociologists. The contemporary European research agenda has been one of the areas that have fostered the cross-fertilization of natural and social scientific approaches in tackling complex social challenges.
The present session aims to bring together researchers interested in exploring these opportunities and to present their findings in this cutting-edge cross-disciplinary research area. We welcome contributions dealing with environmental change or environmental values, consumption, sustainability as well as with social scientific approaches to scientific research.
4. Social and Geopolitical Changes in XXI Century
Social and geopolitical changes generated by demographic challenges, the struggle for resources, technological progress, but also the relationship between political and social actors affect groups and entire populations. Developments in the economic, technological and social sphere have opened new opportunities and have led to the development of relations between states, but have also generated systemic crisis. Economic crises that shacked the world have led to a reversal of the axis and the emergence of social movements. Protest movements are a reaction to system imbalances. Consequently, the so-called "movements of rage" in terms of Kennet Jowitt (1992) appear. They are new social movements that have become an important source for political change in recent years. Social movements are catalysts for the social changes and they can show the evolution of societies in time. They involve different socio-political processes and phenomena on a large scale and reflect system trends, but also its weaknesses and vulnerabilities. In this sense, they are an indicator of the systemic balance. Taking into account the new challenges of the international environment, there is a need of a greater inclination for the study of various factors that generate tensions at economic, societal, and geopolitical level. Which are the factors that engage the new social movements, which are the trends and challenges of the new international environment, which are the vulnerabilities of the international system and what are the games of the actors on the geopolitical stage are some of the questions that we’ll try to answer in our section. In this respect, we expect empirical and theoretical studies that address social change, social movements, social conflict issues, but also topics related to geopolitics, international relations, security studies.
The aim of this section is to investigate the subjective quality of life of households in "precarious prosperity" or experiencing precarity. Quality of life is without any doubt a concept that has to be analysed multidimensional. Not only are there more objective indicators, such as material living standards (financial situation and income), personal activities (work, leisure, care etc.), education, health, political voice and governance, social connections and relationships and environment (housing etc.) (see Stiglitz et al. 2009) that influence quality of life but also people value these and set priorities as well as how they go about to maintain or improve them. The socio-economic situation is a key component of wellbeing and in this way plays a substantial role for the quality of life, in particular in times of crisis.
In general, multiple institutions have impact on the quality of life of individuals and households: the welfare state’s opportunities for de-commodification, the opportunities provided by the labour markets, by the households and families themselves as well as by civil society. They can ensure socio-economic security that influences people’s quality of life. Papers discussing quality of life of households and in particular those in precarious prosperity are invited to send abstracts.
The scientific approach to employment, which focuses on different social actors´ perspectives on the labour market (employers, employees, jobless, trade unions, policymakers),has pointed to the changing expectations concerning the labour market (responsibility, commitment, personal development, adaptability, safety, resources for a good life), the large diversity of risks associated with it (obsolete qualification, over-work, precariousness, informality, exclusion) and, not least, the changing definition of work. The flexibility policies strongly encouraged in Europe during the last 15 years have led to a labour market with a high level of job diversity, thus creating many secondary issues, such as precariousness, informality and insecurity (Paugam 2000; Gallie et al. 2003; Standing 2011).
This section especially welcomes papers addressing the themes described above and is open to theoretical as well as methodological and empirical papers in the area of the sociology of work and industrial relations. The abstracts could be in English or Romanian. Depending on the abstracts received, there could be a separate panel for papers presented in English.
This section invites presentations of theoretical and empirical researches focused on developments and challenges of current social policy. They should refer to the above-announced theme and may address the following topics, although they are not limited to the list below:
- accompaniment of social policy during transition from planned to market economy;
- research methodologies of social policies;
- comparative research of social policies, particularly in post-communist countries;
- the impact of EU accession on social policies, with a focus on the social institutional design and legislative framework;
- provision of minimum income guarantee and activation of vulnerable groups;
- concession measures of social services;
- socially responsible public procurement;
- policies of active inclusion and emergent vulnerabilities;
- sustainable development and green jobs;
- alternative employment measures especially in social economy.
On the other hand, embeddedness in social relations is important to define the personal universe and to shape representations and definitions of quality of life. Meeting friends, participating in voluntary actions, trusting others change the way in which personal life develops, and influence how and what one stresses as important in own life.
This section focuses on social values and social relations. They may be seen separately, or one may focus on their interplay. The intention is to create a space in which empirical research across Europe is presented. Both comparative analyses and case studies are welcome. The authors are encouraged to comment how their results may contribute to the debates surrounding quality of life. However, this last theme is not mandatory, since the aim of the section is rather to describe the environment in which quality of life evolves, with the focus on this social milieu.
Both types of influences allow societies to communicate, and change them intimately, although silently. They have immediate impact on the way in which quality of life is constructed and perceived.
This societal change due to migration is the one of interest for this section. Our intention is to have two sessions, one focusing on changes in the society of origin, the other referring to the host country. Change is the main target, but we do not impose a specific focus. However, we encourage the authors to discuss the impacts and the implications of their findings for quality of life as well.
We prefer those presentations that combine a sound conceptual construction and the empirical validation, irrespective if qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methodology is employed.
Local development implied the introduction of certain social innovation elements such as participative approach of the social-economic growth process, partnership governance, the creation of new institutional structures in partnerships, the partnership between communities or the strategic planning. In local development process, social innovation often takes place at the border between state, market and civil society. An innovative solution in local development is represented by social economy, whose entities favour the endogenous local development because they rely on the empowerment of the local actors capacity to act, aim to build up capitals at the community level (social capital materialized in social relations, the increase of trust in institutions and in the other individuals; human capital– the increase of capacity of individuals by the provided services) and the mobilization of local resources in the community problems solving process.
The local development is influenced by changes at the level of local government institutions, as well as at various private or non-profit institutions that operate at local level. If changes in public institutions are mainly due to the impact of various public policies, private organisations are strongly influenced by changes of socio-economic environment or existing funding sources, and in terms of non-governmental organisations the dependence on grants is quite high. Although the allocation of funds aims at reducing regional disparities, sometimes it can contribute to deepening these gaps. Rural-urban comparison reveals important disparities: rural communities are characterised by low availability and accessibility of public services – education, health, and social care – while having a lower degree of attraction for community services private investors.
The section invites the submission of both empirical researches and theoretical papers on various local development solutions. The authors are encouraged to submit papers on topics such as models or innovative solutions in response to various issues at local level, local development challenges in various countries, especially in Eastern European countries, the influence of socio-economic and institutional context on local development solutions, public policy response to various local problems, the impact of EU accession on local development in Eastern European countries, regional disparities, sustainability of local development initiatives, analyses of the lessons learnt from past unsuccessful initiatives or examples of good practices in local development.
Studies of gender equality impact on quality of life are not conclusive – we cannot assume linear and unidirectional relation between gender equality and quality of life. While we can observe some positive correlations, the relations between gender equality and quality of life appear more complex and differ between men and women, their characteristics or social status. Therefore, to deepen and extent the discussion, the session welcomes papers investigating the question: does gender equality constitute an important factor for improving both men and women’s quality of life? How can we foster positive impact of GE on the quality of life? What are the potential and pitfalls of various frameworks of quality of life in relation to gender equality? Finally, we welcome papers investigating the gender equality and quality of life relations in different life spheres – in family, work, public sphere, as well as exploring the interlinkages between them.
The project “Gender equality and quality of life - how gender equality can contribute to development in Europe. A study of Poland and Norway” has received funding from the Polish-Norwegian Research Programme operated by the National Centre for Research and Development under the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2009-2014.
Of course, the concept „(un)healthy lifestyles” is normative: what is healthy? Some adopt a meat based diet. Others believe that meat is bad for one’s health and therefore they adopt a vegetarian diet. How something becomes „healthy”? What are the factors that shape these definitions? Critical points-of-view regarding the conceptualization of this domain are welcomed. Is the healthy lifestyles movement a new ideology and what negative effects can have on the mental or physical health of those that embrace it? What is the relationship between our options and the natural or human-made environment? Can we become healthy in the fast food society? What about ever-growing pollution? Is the option for a healthy lifestyle the path for a better world or a better world is the medium for healthy lifestyles?
Though the orientation of this section is substantial, being focused on theories of healthy lifestyles, methodological papers are welcomed to. What indicators should we use to measure healthy lifestyle? How do we combine behaviors and values, fact and attitudes? How do we validate our measures?
Apart from the members of the projects, different researchers are invited to participate in this section and to present their current research on child well-being.
The social sciences represent one of the most dynamic scientific domains, flexible enough to permit its constant renewal concerning the theoretical framework and the methodological apparatus, due to the rapid change of the world and the phenomenon of globalisation, but conservative enough to remember that classical theories are still needed and explanatory to the shape of the world nowadays.
From a socio-cultural perspective and given the recent international events of social unrest registered in the past year in countries such as Ukraine, Bulgaria, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, or in even more „muted” or distant places such as China, Japan and Singapore, one can observe that the citizens chose to transform themselves into crowds of demonstrators in the streets against social inequalities and political discontent. The Facebook generation is increasingly involved in the society’s road towards progress and development as they see it, offering a sign that the internet is merely a tool for a public voice and not an end in itself.
Other points on the internationally changing agenda come from the educational sector (that is more and more distant from the workforce market that produce an entire sector of victims: the unemployed younger generations), or from the shifting paradigms of how the societies should look like, how the family should be constructed, how the vicinities or communities should be recreated, and how the religion-society report should modify.
Also, new Western theories in the demographic sector show that in the future decades, Europe will change its ethnic structure, and the minorities will more and more become an important part of each state, beyond the past year situation from Syria and Eritrea, that generated hundreds of thousands of migrants that flee in order to survive. Thus, a new set of challenges lie ahead, and the communities and societies have and will develop different answers and coping mechanisms in order to preserve their structure but also move towards development and modernisation. From an economic and geopolitical standpoint, new theoretical frameworks are also needed to analyse recent events that appear in the Eastern hemisphere that is drawing more and more attention, such as the Russian advance towards Europe or the „Euromaidan” in Ukraine, the social unrest in Bulgaria, the situation in Transnistria, the elections in the Republic of Moldavia, or the effects generated by the Romanian Diaspora within the recent presidential campaign.
21. Answers of the social economy to current challenges on the labour market
The section welcomes theoretical and empirical research on social economy and its role in social development. Possible themes could include:
- research methodologies on the social economy;
- comparative research in social economy;
- social policy measures on the social economy;
- social inclusion and social economy;
- valorization of local potential in social economy entities;
- the role of social economy in creating jobs especially for vulnerable people;
- entrepreneurs in social economy;
- social economy and corporate social responsibility;
- supporting measures for small and medium enterprises.
In standard Rational Choice Theory (RCT), the pay-offs are added (weighted by the likelihood of appearance) to each other to form a criterion for decision-making (utility or value, depending upon whether the economic or the psychological perspective over game theoretical applications is used). Among the pay-offs which enter such computations are social incentives like power, satisfaction, wellbeing and many others. But, adding and multiplying such subjective payoffs and their probabilities cannot always be methodologically and theoretically justified in other ways except "simplification of the model". While such justifications are at times legitimate and absolutely necessary, a critical perspective over their use is sometimes required.
This section will consider critical contributions on the following topics (without being restricted to them):
• aggregation of subjective and objective pay-offs
• emotional pay-offs in RCT
• quality of life and utility
• happiness and utility
• power and utility
• social costs and benefits and utility
• aggregation methods
This theoretical orientation is however counterbalanced by those emphasizing young people’s creativity, knowledge, innovation and potential to drive changes in society, looking at them as active agents or as initiators of conflicts or protests who find spaces for their self-expression.
We invite participants in this section to debate on the ways young people might respond to opportunities and manage the consequences of their choices, to examine how they reconstruct and renegotiate the constellations of challenges and risks affecting their lives. The approach of the section is broad and inclusive in terms of theoretical and methodological approach and thematic content. Its purpose is to disseminate and discuss research in the fields of sociology of youth, transdisciplinary youth studies, youth policies. We therefore welcome all papers with an interest in studying youth, regardless of discipline, and we invite abstracts from a range of research fields.