Comparing Actors and Scales. Methodological Perspectives From a Political Sociology of the Refiguration of Spaces




figurational sociology, comparison, sociology of space, spatial analysis, scale, refiguration of spaces, collective actors, Henri Lefebvre, Norbert Elias


In this article, I translate the analysis of the production of space as a social process into a processual methodology sensitive to its political aspects. This requires taking actors as well as the different socio-spatial logics into account. One of the main transformations since the 1970s—the historical period under scrutiny in the analysis of the refiguration of spaces—is that of re-scaling. This means that the relationship between socially meaningful geographic arenas (global/worldwide, national, regional, metropolitan, urban, local, bodily), and thus the (hierarchical) order of spatial scales as a whole, has been changing. In order to investigate the diachronic process of refiguration, I have therefore developed a multi-actor and multi-scalar approach. My methodological contribution starts from the inquiry into the socio-theoretical dimension of scale. I do so by asking what sociological analysis can learn from the (mostly geographical) scale debate, and, conversely, what a sociological contribution to this debate might look like. The empirical context from which this intervention stems is research on non-profit and non-governmental organizations in housing and asylum politics. Methodologically, two distinct approaches of social theory are discussed here respectively: that of Norbert ELIAS's figurational sociology, and that of Henri LEFEBVRE's theory of space.


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Author Biography

Johanna Hoerning, HafenCity Universität Hamburg

Johanna HOERNING is an acting professor for urban and regional sociology at HafenCity University Hamburg. In her academic work, she focuses on the relationship between general societal dynamics and the spatial and political premises, processes, and implications of the same, with a particular interest in cities and civil society actors.




How to Cite

Hoerning, J. (2021). Comparing Actors and Scales. Methodological Perspectives From a Political Sociology of the Refiguration of Spaces. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(3).



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