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Termin: 04.11.2015 Uhrzeit: 18:00 - 19:30

The Unequal Forms of Social Integration in the Twenty-First Century Capitalism

Reihe: Perspektiven der Moderne

Serge Paugam


Prof. Dr. Serge Paugam ist Directeur d'études à l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). Er hat mehrere Bücher zum Thema Armut, Prekarität und Solidarität verfasst. Außerdem ist der Direktor der Reihe › Le lien social‹ und der Revue ›Sociologie‹.

Inklusion und Exklusion_Plakat Abstract

Sociological analysis has also underlined the importance of employment security for wider social integration. As Durkheim argued, in modern societies with a strongly developed division of labour, the integration of individuals in the social system to a great extent takes place through the world of work.  The 1980s and 1990s saw a marked increase in the number of employees who perceived their employment as insecure. For many analysts this was seen as an inherent structural trend in the development of advanced capitalist economies. It reflected both the accelerating rate of change that accompanied the spread of new computer technologies and the growing need for flexibility in an increasingly volatile international economy. By the end of the 1990s the implications of job insecurity for employee well-being became a central theme of both public debate and empirical research. A wide range of studies have highlighted the very negative consequences of employment insecurity for employees’ physical and mental well-being. In this communication, I wish to undertake an analysis of the failures of the contemporary system of social integration in this context of employment precarity as well as the production of new inequalities.


The notion of integration is pervasive in contemporary social and political debate. It generally appears with reference to particular public policies directly targeting the immigrant population or other individuals in the margins of the social system. Implying the existence of a problem – the lack of integration of certain groups – and an intention to find a remedy to the problem, integration is also a political issue. However, this notion also applies to the social sciences and cannot be reduced to themes of immigration and national identity, or to policies addressing these former. Within the tradition of social sciences, the notion of integration denotes a larger process applying to the social system as a whole. Consequently, both the integration of individuals into society as well as the integration of a given society as a whole are taken into consideration. Following the analysis of the founder of French sociology, a modern society is integrated when it is organised according to the principle of organic solidarity. I seek to explain the unequal foundations of social integration and the limits to the regulation of these very inequalities in the twenty-first century capitalism. This communication posits that not only are economic and cultural capital unevenly distributed among individuals, but that the ties that bind individuals to groups and to society are themselves of unequal in strength and intensity.


The hypothesis of unequal integration has already been the object of empirical analyses in social sciences, notable of the research work realised by Maurice Halbwachs (2011) on the working classes in the beginning of the 20th century. Accounting for a certain hierarchy of living standards, this disciple of Durkheim used the image of a campfire around which individuals were gathered in concentric circles corresponding to their respective class positions. In the centre one finds the hearth, representing the highest intensity of social life, and around which the most integrated classes are concentrated. The working classes, the least integrated and the most intimately connected to life’s material aspect, find themselves at the furthest peripheries. This campfire metaphor provides a heuristically fertile representation of a stratified model of social integration already analysed by Halbwachs (Paugam, 2007). Although the concentric circles do not directly correspond to the levels of integration that I would like to discuss here, the idea is quite similar as in both cases, social integration is perceived as an unequal process.

In this communication, I will attempt 1) to demonstrate what can be gained from combining the Durkheimian approach of social integration with that of social inequalities; 2) to present a framework for undertaking this conjoint analysis – namely that provided by the theory of social bonds; 3) to outline a typology of levels of social integration drawing to recent sociological studies.

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Veranstalter: Forum Internationale Wissenschaft