From a Sociology of Suspicion to a Sociology of Meaning – About Living Together within the Boundaries of Liberal Thought and Beyond

Years of Activity: 2018 - 2019

Research Status:


Guy Abutbul Selinger, Itai Artzi, Elad Ben Elul, Ben Bornstein, Chen Bram, Shlomo Fischer, Ella Glass, Aziz Haidar, Sharaf Hassan, Maya Kahanoff, Gilad Kenan, Carol Kidron, Natalie Levy, Nissim Leon, Inna Leykin, Edna Lomsky-Feder, Ori Mautner, Inbar Michelzon Drori, Ilana Paul, Galia Plotkin, David Rier, Nitzan Rothem, Merav Sadi Nakar, Eilon Schwartz, Leeor Shachar, Guy Shani, Erica Weiss, Yuval Yonay

How to live together with those who are vastly different from us has been, perhaps, the most acute political issue in Israel in the first decades of the twenty-first century. Moreover, it is a challenge that concerns many contemporary democracies. However, for sociology—the science devoted to the study of society—it is not only a disquieting political issue but also a pressing research question that requires examination and reshaping of the available theoretical and methodological toolkit. It seems that the question of living together with others has occupied Israeli sociology from its very beginning. Establishment sociology adopted the paradigm of the melting pot as a theoretical solution to the problem of difference. Yet its successor—critical sociology—declared its loyalty to liberal justice while applying liberalism’s two overarching moral categories—distributive justice and the politics of recognition—in the fields of stratification and identity studies, respectively. However, it seems that the liberal grammar of critical sociology has reduced its interpretive space, needed for innovative readings, with regard to the issue of living with difference. In a related vein, the liberal grammar of critical sociology has blinded it to the worlds of meaning of the “disadvantaged,” those who were supposed to benefit from liberal justice and human rights. Today, perhaps more than ever, it seems that the same disadvantaged groups (and certainly others) tend to reject the framework of liberal thought to which sociology has clung, and sociology, in turn, is becoming part of a socially bounded elite identified with the liberal left. As such, sociology finds it difficult to provide an interpretive framework adequate to the socio-political reality it is facing. This research group aims to cope with this dual rupture — the scientific and the political.


Group activity

The group meets monthly. Its meetings include theoretical discussion of the issue of living together with others, the liberal characteristics of critical sociology, and its shaping of a sociological-anthropological alternative to the critical discourse commonly found in the social sciences. In addition, the group’s activities include lectures and a discussion of papers by group members—sociologists and anthropologists from universities and colleges throughout the country—who are all dealing with issues of the shared society, attempting to forge new paths for sociological and anthropological thought that break through the boundaries of critical discourse. The group’s activity is conducted in conjunction with Shaharit—Creating Common Cause, directed by Dr. Eilon Schwartz, with the purpose of creating mutual learning between academia and social activism in contemporary Israel.