European Centre For Sociology And Political Science

Because the CESSP ( Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique) firmly believes in the interaction of all subfields of the social sciences, its current research programs cover a large range of topics : globalization, European construction, public policies, political parties, social stratification, social protection programs, social movements, elites, intellectuals, gender, forms of knowledge, culture, media and markets.

The European Centre for Sociology and Political Science (CESSP) is attached to University of Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne, the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). The CESSP is also a member of the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme (FMSH).
There are currently 60 full-time members (50 scholars), 40 affiliated members, 18 foreign correspondents, and 200 PHD students. The center has a large international network and is developing partnerships with other research groups around the world. It also hosts a number of visiting scholars, post-docs and foreign PHD-students.


Set up in 2010, the CESSP grew out of the merger of two former research centres, each having a strong historical identity : the Centre for European Sociology (CSE) and the Sorbonne Political Research Centre (CRPS).

The CSE, which was long directed by Pierre Bourdieu, is characterised by a relational and structural theoretical approach, which differs from both methodological individualism and interactionism. It is also distinguished by the research practices of its members, which make cumulativity possible, as well as comparison of a variety of objects (such as politics, the media, science, cultural production), through which the concepts are in turn challenged and redesigned (for example, the issue of the national borders of fields, or the European scale). Focused in the past on education and culture, these objects have indeed been gradually diversified (sociology of the state, of politics, of the media, of the economy and of work) and, starting in the 1990s, internationalised, taking into account the renewal of the social science though issues such as gender, postcolonialism and transnationalism.

Founded by Jacques Lagroye, the CRPS has developed a form of political sociology that also stands apart from both political philosophy and the analysis of election results by taking as its objects of study political institutions, politics as a profession, social movements and more recently, political parties and trade unions, the sociology of administration and of decision making, participation procedures (‘participatory democracy’), European integration, and gender in politics.

Beyond their common objects, the merger of the two former centres was also based on theoretical questions and a methodological approach, designed as inseparable. All CESSP members share a unified conception of the social sciences,which does not separate the study of discourse and practices from the institutions and agents that generate them, and combines historical sociology (a specialisation they helped to renew) with an ethnographic approach, quantitative methods (prosopography, multiple correspondence analysis and network analysis) and qualitative ones. The intersection of sociology and political science has contributed strongly to the work of constituting the social science of politics. Analysis of supranational and transnational levels, which was strongly developed in the recent period, articulates a comparative approach with the study of transfers or international exchanges, reintegrated into an analysis of the geopolitical and cultural balance of power.

The CESSP is therefore characterised by an approach that is at the same time multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary to globalisation, internationalisation processes, European integration, markets, institutions, political parties, social movements, social stratification, gender, knowledge (especially in the humanities and social sciences), cultural production (literature, film and music), the media and the international circulation of symbolic goods.

Cutting across disciplines is not limited to sociology and political science ; it also involves, depending on the object of study, law, history, anthropology, economics, communication sciences, philosophy, literary studies, translation studies. An interdisciplinary dialogue that can be observed in the methods, in the collaborations and in the reception of the work conducted by the members of the CESSP.

Finally, the CESSP enjoys an international influence that has deepened in the lastyears thanks to international partnerships with universities abroad, participation in European projects, organisation of international conferences and the recruitment of new researchers, who have helped to expand its networks throughout the world.

"Going global ? "Process of internationalization and Europeanization

Managers : Grégory Daho and Dominique Marchetti

This thematic axis will be coordinated by Ioana Cirstocea, Grégory Daho and Dominique Marchetti. They will lead the monthly seminar "Sociologie de l’international", which will be repeated in a form comparable to the current one, i.e. the presentation and discussion during a three-hour session of the work of a senior researcher (member of the CESSP or guest) and a doctoral student from the laboratory, around the same theme. The research in progress will fall into four main areas, the first three extending existing research and the fourth opening up new areas of research around safety issues.


Research on the institutions of the European Union will be developed in four main directions : the study of ruling elites (judicial circles, civil service, economic actors, experts, pressure groups, etc.) which has long been at the heart of the work carried out by the CESSP’s Europe Group and which will be extended to include new professions and groups (military and security sectors, academic worlds, memory or gender experts) ; the analysis of the development of independent authorities (central banks, constitutional courts, deontologists, mediators, etc.) ; the study of the development of the European Union’s institutions (the European Union, the European Union, the European Union, the United States, etc.). ) from the point of view of power mechanisms and the forms of political legitimacy they induce ; the import-export processes of state expertise and technologies of good government in which the European Union has an active role ; the contestation of European powers manifested by the rise of populism but also by expert criticism (discourse on the crisis, denunciation of institutional blockages, etc.) - which constitutes a new theme of exploration for the Europe Group.

War and political violence

The ERC’s research Social dynamics of civil wars will continue until 2021, with the completion of case studies on armed insurrections and situations of violence (Mali, Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria, the African Great Lakes region) and the consolidation of theoretical reflection on civil wars fuelled by the analysis of these cases. They are part of a more general reflection on political violence, its dynamics of emergence and its effects on the functioning of states, which a research project submitted to the ANR at the beginning of 2017 proposes to explore in the case of the Middle East (DYNAMO project, headed by Olivier Grojean) and which is in line with the concerns of researchers and doctoral students working on companies and entrepreneurs of violence (mafia groups, paramilitaries, radicalised militancy) in other contexts (Mexico, Italy, the Arab world, France).

Circulation of norms, ideas and cultural goods

The INTERCO-SSH programme is initiating the development of SSH Studies, of which the collection of books launched by Palgrave MacMillan on this theme will be one of the showcases. A series of research projects will focus on the internationalization of the social and human sciences (the European and world fields of the human and social sciences, the international circulation of researchers and ideas), on the international dissemination and reception of theoretical schools, authors and works (structuralism, sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction de ce dernier auteur) and on the translation market. Work on the circulation of cultural goods and media products in the Maghreb and the Middle East will continue in two main directions : the transformations of the audiovisual market, particularly in relation to its commodification (press agencies, image banks) ; censorship and indirect forms of control over press enterprises and journalistic activities.

The study of elites and state knowledge will continue to occupy an essential place, in dialogue with the work of the Europe Unit on similar themes. The circulation of experts (lawyers, economists, academics) and their legitimization mechanisms (universities, think tanks, NGOs, international organizations) contribute both to strategies for asserting competing elite groups and to the ongoing reinvention of state knowledge. They are therefore a privileged observation point of the import-export game where the rebuilding of the legitimacy of States and their ruling elites is played out, and which the research conducted at the CESSP addresses more particularly from the cases of legal, gender, development and health experts.

The actors of security and the transformations of the State

The arrival at the CESSP of members who are specialists in security and defence issues or who have an interest in them because of their research interests (insurrectionary situations, radicalisation phenomena), as well as the increased interest of the scientific community in this type of issue, has led to the creation of this new research centre. The aim is to question the links between current reconfigurations in the field of security, transformations of the State and the modes of expression and regulation of violence. The research focuses on security professionals (military, police, magistrates, intelligence services, private military companies, officials of international organisations, experts) as well as on the evolution of forms of violence and the public policies conducted to deal with them (fight against terrorism, de-radicalisation mechanisms, armed interventions, police activities). The research programme will be developed on the basis of an already existing seminar ("Sociological Approaches to the Armed Forces", led by Grégory Daho and Mathias Thura, researcher at IRSEM, the Institute for Strategic Research of the Military Academy) which will be more broadly open to security issues.

Powers and relations of domination

Managers : Delphine Dulong and Anne-Catherine Wagner

This axis will be coordinated by Pascal Barbier and Delphine Dulong. It will maintain as a structuring activity a regular seminar devoted to the presentation and discussion of research in progress within the laboratory by tenured, external and invited researchers and doctoral students. It will be reorganized into two poles, the product of a slight rearrangement of previous research themes.

Actors, professions and political circles

The different research in this field will be oriented in four main directions :

Ordinary forms of politics, seen from the point of view of actors directly involved in public life (elected officials, activists, administrative staff, associative actors, journalists, experts, etc.) as well as ordinary citizens (interest in politics, participation and mobilization, electoral behaviour). In both cases, the aim is to pay attention to the concrete forms of political practices and to explore them from the point of view of their social and territorial roots. Several research operations are associated with this theme, in particular : the ANR ALCOV program on the localised and comparative analysis of the vote, which will devote the next few years to the processing of surveys on recent elections in France and the dissemination and promotion of their results ; work on militant trajectories and individual biographies as a continuation of the ANR SOMBRERO programme (which will give rise to a collective work to be published by Actes Sud in 2018) ; several monographic surveys on the articulations between socio-economic transformations, those of the territorial presence of the State and those of local political spaces (small town of Burgundy, rural departments of Western France, French West Indies) ; work on the recomposition of parties, partisan commitments and disengagements, particularly in the cases of the Socialist Party and centrist movements in France.

The political sociology of government and government action, notably around the survey of ministerial staff coordinated by Delphine Dulong (constitution of a prosopographic database of senior civil servants and cabinet members since 2012, interview campaign), the aim of which is to study recent changes in the trajectories of access to the summits of the State but also the relationship between these trajectories and the exercise of public action. The reflection thus opens up the question of the capacities for action of public authorities in a context of increased interdependence with other powers (European Union, independent authorities, financial markets, organised private interests, local authorities). Other work addresses this question, dealing with : the boundaries between public and private action by interest groups or business lawyers ; new modes of government brought about by independent institutions and participatory democracy mechanisms ; transformations in territorial public action ; and government relations with the media. On the basis of all these investigations and work, the laboratory will undertake a global reflection on the contemporary recomposition of the State and public action.

The sociology of militancy and commitment, which brings together the research conducted within the framework of the ANR VIORAMIL programme on violence and militant radicalisation of individuals and groups in France from the 1980s to the present day (study of organisations, actors, history, practices and repertoires of militant violence, etc.) ; representations in the media and public opinion ; management mechanisms by public authorities - police, justice, prevention bodies), work on de-radicalisation policies as well as on engagement in war situations and mechanisms for consenting to sacrifice.

Research on gender and parity, the previous dynamics of which will be pursued through the study of : parity provisions and their applications in the electoral framework and in that of access to professional and social responsibilities ; the mobilization of gendered identities, the construction and exercise of women’s roles in the political sphere ; media representations (formation and transformation of stereotypes) and their role in the reproduction of gender identities.

Social structures, stratification and the work of domination

The analysis of the mechanisms of production and reproduction of the social order will remain central to CESSP’s research, based on three main areas of work :

A sociology of classes and social categorizations, which addresses from the point of view of their formation, composition, practices and representations different social and professional groups. Work on social, economic and political elites will continue in this field, with a view to a structural analysis of the field of power and in order to specify the changes that are taking place in it (relative downgrading of positions linked to belonging to the State, interrelationships between political-bureaucratic circles and political-financial spheres). To this will be added surveys focusing on specific professional milieus (military, police, social workers, childcare workers, medical and paramedical professions, judicial milieus, metropolitan public officials in the case of the French West Indies) which focus more specifically on the ways in which institutional affiliations and professional experiences shape social arrangements and habits, and for several of them pay particular attention to gender and race relations.

The analysis of the processes of socialisation and habitus formation, present in the surveys of the professional groups just mentioned, is being developed at the CESSP on the basis of three ongoing research projects : that of Muriel Darmon on relearning following a stroke (definition and evaluation of lost or altered skills ; the work of the hospital and medical institution on the person ; the work of that person on himself) ; that of Wilfried Lignier on social learning in early childhood (formation of preferences, logics of violence and cooperation) ; that of Bertrand Réau on the ways in which tourism practices contribute to the acquisition of norms, values and know-how differentiated according to social groups and categories.

The study of tastes and lifestyles, including the continuation of two collective surveys which have already been mentioned : the questionnaire survey (DIME-SHS) on the moral views of social groups, which will be supplemented by a series of in-depth interviews on tastes and dislikes in ordinary social situations ; and the survey on tastes and clothing practices (publication of a summary book on the subject, questionnaire survey and observations).

Production and dissemination of knowledge and cultural goods

Managers : Arnaud Saint-Martin and Gisèle Sapiro

The axis is coordinated by Thibaud Boncourt, Arnaud Saint-Martin and Gisèle Sapiro. It is composed of three poles.

Historical sociology of science and technology.
The diversification of the research carried out at the CESSP on the sociology of sciences leads to broaden the perspective beyond the human and social sciences and medical disciplines towards natural sciences, techniques and expert knowledge. The main venue for meetings and discussions in this field will be the seminar "Social Sciences of Science and Technology", led from the 2017-2018 academic year by Wilfried Lignier and Arnaud Saint-Martin at EHESS, which will offer interdisciplinary reflection (sociology, political science, anthropology, history, science studies) around the intellectual challenge of integrating theoretically and empirically the analysis of scholarly knowledge and that of technology. The activities of the seminar and the research that will be presented there can be relayed, disseminated and commented on through the online research notebook Zilsel (published on the platform hypothè and the new journal of the same name created in 2016 by Le Croquant editions, both co-directed by Arnaud Saint-Martin.

The human and social sciences will remain at the heart of research on scientific disciplines, through the work already mentioned in the projects of the thematic axis "Going global" on the actors and circuits of their internationalization, those on the history of political science in France, which will continue with the analysis of the period following the 1968 university reform, and the survey coordinated by Arnaud Saint-Martin, with Manuel Quinon (University Paris Diderot), on the social and intellectual history of sociology in the United States and France. In addition to work in the field of medicine (paediatrics and child protection in particular) and the medical and paramedical professions, work will also be carried out on scientific and technical devices in other fields : astronautics and space technologies, environmental sciences, the new neo-liberal regime of science and technology which is reflected in the development of scientific entrepreneurship in startups.

A collective survey will be conducted on the metamorphoses of expertise : economic expertise (Brigitte Gaïti), social science expertise in the evaluation of cultural actions (Cécile Rabot) or in participatory democracy (Loïc Blondiaux), legal expertise in institutional reforms (Bastien François, Antoine Vauchez), renewed reports from experts to the media and parties (Nicolas Hubé, Frédéric Sawicki). The aim here is to question the processes of mobilization of scholarly knowledge in public action as well as in political and activist mobilizations. The doctoral seminar "Sociohistory of economic ideas" will be part of these projects on the analysis of the weight of expertise in the various social spaces.

Sociology of cultural and intellectual assets

Research on the conditions of production and circulation of cultural goods will be broadened and systematized, in a comparative perspective both between production media (literature, media, cinema) and between countries (including the development of work on cultural production and consumption in the Maghreb and the Middle East). They will focus in particular on : the transformation of the profession of writer in France in a socio-historical perspective retracing the processes of empowerment of literary activity but also the obstacles to its professionalization (Gisèle Sapiro) ; the articulation of the transformations of cultural supply (concentration of economic actors, rise in power of blockbuster products) and those of demand and tastes (decline of classical scholarly culture, new modes of cultural consumption) through, in particular, a survey of modernization policies conducted since the early 2000s by some public cultural institutions (Julien Duval) ; the relationship to work in the cultural professions linked to the book world (relationship to time and money, articulation between symbolic and financial remuneration, job insecurity and public support, exercising the profession as a "vocation", etc.). ), their reading practices as well as those of the cultivated public participating in the formation of literary values (Cécile Rabot).

Sociology of intellectuals

In connection with the thematic network "Sociology of Intellectuals and Expertise. Savoirs et pouvoirs", of which CESSP members are founders and which they help to animate, work will be pursued on the position of intellectuals in the social space, the differentiated forms of their commitments and interventions in the social world, the supports and spaces of production and diffusion of intellectual products. This will involve work on : intellectual history, in particular in the framework of the research programme in partnership with New York University "Crossroads to intellectual history" ; the formation of transnational intellectual fields (an issue of Proceedings of Social Science Research is being prepared on this theme) ; the commitments and modes of intervention of intellectuals in the public arena (the case of the 1960s and 1970s in France, reflection on the ethics of disinterestedness in the intellectual and artistic professions in the 19th and 20th centuries) ; the processes of radicalization of intellectuals in certain contexts (war, colonial situation, social and political conflict).

Sociology of memory and opinions

The 13-November programme developed by Denis Peschanski in collaboration with fellow historians, sociologists, neurologists, media and language specialists, etc., will continue his research on the formation of individual and collective memory in relation to the 13 November attacks and its evolution over time (possible distortions, persistence or resorption of the trauma) on the basis of a series of a thousand interviews (which will be repeated several times in the coming years), the accounts to which these attacks gave rise (press, social networks, etc.) and opinion surveys. One of the future challenges is to better integrate this research into the CESSP’s scientific project, through dialogue with other work within the laboratory dealing with questions of memory (memory and history of communism in particular, but also of wars, violent events and conflicts) or more generally the production of opinions and beliefs. Work in the latter field will continue to focus on journalism and the media (reception of political discourse, current transformations in the demand for information from different categories of the public) and on participatory mechanisms (new democratic experiments, relations between the worlds of scholars, expertise and practitioners of public action).