Social Transformations Research Cluster

Researchers interested in social transformations share a conviction that the comparative and historical study of institutions and social fields, in relation to culture and practice, can yield new discoveries about the shared dynamics that drive change in different arenas.

How do social changes, large and small, occur? Social institutions and organizational and cultural structures often seem durable to the point of inertia, yet change can happen both gradually and quickly. Classic sociological interests in social transformation tended to focus on “big” changes — state crises, revolutions, colonialism, and long-term economic development. These interests continue today. However, the historical and comparative methodologies once reserved for the study of major transformations are increasingly deployed today in the study of a much wider variety of social fields, their institutional patterns, and lifeworldly practices — from political shifts, social movements, and economic change to organizational and interorganizational network structures, social fields and their dynamics and interactions, and shifts in patterns of action and culture.

The substantive topics of research on social transformations encompass diverse topics, including state formations, bureaucracy, crime and deviance, migration, violence, politics, law, medicine, systems of beliefs and values, racial relations, and identities.

Cluster-related graduate courses

  • SOC 225 – Sociology of Culture
  • SOC 242a and 242b – Research Methods in Historical and Comparative Sociology
  • SOC 215 – Economy, Polity and Society
  • SOC 248 – Social Movements
  • SOC 254 – Sociology of Health Care
  • SOC 295 – Topics Courses:
    Categories, Boundaries, and Identities
    Nations and Nationalism
    The Welfare State
    The Political Economy of Neoliberalism

Please read course descriptions for more information. 

People specializing in this area

Diane L. Wolf

Diane L. Wolf

  • Professor of Sociology
  • Director of the Jewish Studies Program

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