Relational Sociology on a Global Scale: Field-Theoretical Perspectives on Cross-Cultural Comparison and the Re-Figuration of Space(s)


  • Daniel Witte Universität Bonn
  • Andreas Schmitz RWTH Aachen University



comparative sociology, cross-cultural comparison, field theory, field of power, figurational sociology, international comparison, sociology of space, relationality, re-figuration of space


Comparison, as a fundamental operation in the social sciences, is anything but a clearly defined method. Rather, there is a highly heterogeneous field of comparative approaches with different intellectual traditions, ideas of "comparison," specific problems, and research strategies. In fact, different streams of comparative studies exist in parallel, each highly elaborated in its own way but largely ignoring the achievements of the other tradition and thus ultimately wasting analytical potentialnamely cross-national studies (often associated with quantitative methods and explanatory objectives) on the one hand and cross-cultural studies or cultural comparisons (usually associated with qualitative methods and hermeneutical approaches) on the other. However, contemporary social sciences are confronted with an increasingly complex global reality that can no longer be described on the basis of one-dimensional frames of reference. Drawing on the basic methodological principle of relationality, the aim of our article is to develop Pierre BOURDIEU's theory of fields and social spaces in a direction that allows different approaches to comparison to be made fruitful on the basis of a common frame of reference. Based on this generalized framework, national, international, and transnational comparisons become possible without having to essentialize or hypostasize specific reference frames and corresponding units of analysis.


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Author Biographies

Daniel Witte, Universität Bonn

Daniel WITTE is research coordinator at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study "Law as Culture" at the University of Bonn. From 2019 to 2020, he served as interim professor of sociology with a focus on sociological theory and the history of social thought at Goethe University Frankfurt's Institute of Sociology. In his teaching and research, he focuses on sociological theory, including classical social theory, differentiation theory, and relational sociology, the sociology of law, the sociology of religion, and political sociology, with a special interest in cultural constellations of law, religion, and politics and their contested boundaries in a global comparative perspective.

Andreas Schmitz, RWTH Aachen University

Andreas SCHMITZ is interim professor of sociology at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. His main research interests are relational social theory, relational methodology, applied statistics, and generalized field theory.




How to Cite

Witte, D., & Schmitz, A. (2021). Relational Sociology on a Global Scale: Field-Theoretical Perspectives on Cross-Cultural Comparison and the Re-Figuration of Space(s). Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(3).



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