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Regular version of the site

Mapping Social Mechanisms in a Civilized Public Sphere

On March 16, Apostolis Papakostas, Professor of Sociology at Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden gave a presentation of his book ‘Civilizing the Public Sphere: Distrust, Trust and Corruption’ at the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research. Examining the interplay between distrust, trust and corruption, this book maps out the social mechanisms that make actors and organizations in the public sphere perform their activities in a civilized manner. Professor Papakostas recently agreed to speak with the HSE news service about his research and about what got him interested in the topic.

— What motives did you have in pursuing the research that led to your recent book?

— There is not just ‘one’ motive but several. Some of the motives originate in my personal biography. I moved to Sweden in my early twenties. People in the north often behave more predictably than people in the Mediterranean world do. When I asked people why they behave in this way, the answer was because of the culture they live in.

For many years, I was satisfied with such answers. But as I became a professional sociologist later on in life, I understood that cultures are very ambivalent entities. They cannot determine or prescribe the performances of actors. I felt that I had to find the answers in other places in social life.

— What were the criteria you used in selecting examples?

— Since I use my examples to illustrate complicated theoretical arguments, they are selected in order to give the simplest and best illustration of the theoretical argument. I have chosen many illustrations from everyday life, simple or trivial ones, in order to capture the interest of the reader and then lead the reader into more abstract reasoning.

— How and where were you looking for your examples?

— Everywhere, from everyday routine activities to macro phenomena such as states or political systems.

— Did you have a certain theory before writing the book and was it proven by facts, or did you have to rethink your own ideas?

— I did not have a theory, but, I believe a capacity to theorize, as my former teacher Richard Swedberg puts it. You come up with some questions, and then you try to answer them by playing with theories, metaphors, paradigms, schools of thought, etc. Theorizing is a kind of playing with theories and ideas.

— How did your collaboration with HSE start? What comes next?

— I was invited by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) and Professor Anna Kuleshova to give a talk at the organization’s Grushin Conference. At the moment, I am leading a rather large comparative project on developments in civil society organizations involving several countries.  Russia is a part of the study. I hope that my talks with colleagues in Moscow during my visit will give some ideas for future academic cooperation.  

The book has been translated in Russian and published by VCIOM. 

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service 

See also:

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In many countries, including but not limited to Russia, frontier regions, populated more recently than the country's core territory, tend to lag behind in terms of socio-economic development. This phenomenon can be explained by legacies such as state formation in remote regions and the autonomy traditionally enjoyed by new settlers, according to Roberto Foa (Harvard University) and Anna Nemirovskaya, Senior Research Fellow of the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR).

Social Well-being Worsens with Age

An elderly person can be described as aging successfully when they maintain good health and engage in fulfilling social activities. According to Larisa Kosova, Director of the HSE Joint Economic and Social Data Archive, poor health and a lack of savings often prevent older people in Russia from enjoying retirement.

Education as a Vehicle for Peace

The 5th annual LCSR conference was organized  from 15th - 21st November at HSE. One of the keynote speakers at the conference on Cultural and Economic Changes under Cross-national Perspective is the Director of the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute at Qatar University, Darwish Al Emadi. Dr. Al Emadi’s talk was on The Challenges of Surveying in Countries with Unorthodox Population Pyramids. He spoke to HSE English News about his long term goal to improve education on a global level and about his cooperation with HSE.

Migrant Flow from Central Asia to Russia Will Increase

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One Year of Science and Technology Studies Fieldwork in HSE

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International Not Only in Name

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'Urban Movements and Local Civic Activism are the Most Flourishing and Productive Sides of Contemporary Russian Society'

Christian Frohlich has been a Research Fellow at the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Non-Profit Sector since 2014. This year he is being fast tracked for tenure in the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences in the School of Sociology. Dr Frohlich has a DPhil in Sociology from Leipzig University, Germany. He spoke to HSE English News about his research into civic activism in Russia and about why he likes living and working in Moscow.

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As the 5th LCSR Summer School on ‘Introduction to Factorial Design and Data Visualisation with R’ came to a close on August 3, participants commented on their experience and shared their impressions.

Measuring Well-Being and Happiness

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