Cultural Sociology

The Institute of Sociology and Cultural Organisation (ISCO) grasps cultural sociology as a fundamental theoretical and research-oriented perspective of sociology that always integrates 'culture' in its analysis of society. On the one hand, the engagement with individual fields of cultural (culture in the strikter sense) engenders special sociologies (e.g. sociology of theater, of music, of art), on the other cultural-sociological thought and research also imply viewing the social world from a specific ("cultural") point of view. This chracterises the special profile of culutral sociology in Lüneburg. It starts from the assumption that the social world is furnisched with meanings we share with other peoples-or else it would appear chaotic and meaningless to us. Based on this premise-that the social sphere is not an objective reality, but always also the result of culture-based perception and construction-cultural sociology can also be understood as a general sociological perspective. The activities of all colleagues at ISCO have in common that they take this precondition of an analytical approach to the social world and its methodological consequences into consideration. Cultural theory and (cultural) sociological basics are conveyed by the faculties of ‘Cultural Sociology’ chaired by Prof. Günter Burkart and ‘Cultural and Media Sociology’ chaired by Prof. Dominik Schrage, with each additionally teaching and researching special sub-disciplines of general sociology and cultural studies (see below).

Media Sociology

Technological media have been taking on important social functions and shaping daily life in modern society not just since the emergence of the Internet, “interactive” formats, and digitisation. Book printing, copper engraving, photography, daily newspapers, film, radio, and television brought forth modes of communication and perception that are not bound to the presence of persons and therefore allow the formation of more complex forms of socialisation. We are mainly interested in the interrelations between (technological) media innovations and their (social) appropriation, as well as in their effects that have characterised the culture of modernity from its beginnings to the present. Particular emphasis is placed on the comparative analysis of breaks in guiding media and the tensional relationship between critical and functional media theories manifesting itself in them.

Culture and Technology 

In everyday thought, the notion prevails that “technology” develops in a linear way according to its own rationality (“technological progress”) and that each development step changes the life of humans in an all but deterministic way. Seen from this perspective, the clock, for example, is a technical achievement of man “who had always wanted to know how late it is.” In contrast, we also examine the counter-direction from a cultural-sociological perspective on technology: How culture influences technological developments and how technological innovations often assert themselves only after they are accepted in culture. For example, the significance of the clock can only be plausibly explained with the assertion of modern factory capitalism (“time stamp clock”).

Family, couples, love and gender relations

Family and love, sexuality and gender, are often regarded as natural givens. In contrast to this, sociology explores private living conditions and gender relations as “social constructions,” as manifestations of cultural conditions, and as the result of social changes. This perspective can be understood well when drawing both historical and intercultural comparisons, because they reveal a large cultural variability of supposedly natural givens.

Sociology of consumption

Modern consumption is commodity consumption. With commodity consumption, the daily life of consumers (which we all are) is tuned to the mechanisms of the money economy and the market, a process that has been observed sociologically since the emergence of modern society, meaning since the 18th century at the latest. But consumption has also become the subject of critical debates since then, which deplore a decline in morals and values, the unequal distribution of consumption opportunities, the manipulation of the consumer, or—in recent times—the harm done to the environment by mass consumption. The sociology of consumption as we understand it encompasses the examination of the structural effects of consumption in modern society, the daily practices of which it consists, and the accompanying discourses. The cultural-sociological perspective on consumption differs from empirical consumer research. It does not focus on forecasting trends, but seeks to grasp consumption as a social reality practiced by all of us on a daily bases and taken into account only marginally in sociology.


Providing empirical evidence of theoretical assumptions is an important basis for scientific debate in sociology. Two fundamental orientations can be distinguished: “quantitative” and “qualitative” methods. The former understands the social world as principally measurable and quantifiable, while the latter is interested in understanding contexts and structures of meaning. The typical “data” of the two approaches are mathematical relations between variables (gained from statistical figures or scales in questionnaires) resp. texts and audiovisual material (e.g. narrative interviews, newspaper articles, or photographs). The research interest determines the choice of the adequate—quantitative or qualitative—“tools” of social research. At the Institute, quantitative studies are mainly conducted in the unit of Cultural Organisation. The chairs of “Cultural Sociology” and “Cultural and Media Sociology” are genuinely oriented toward qualitative survey and evaluations methods that are conveyed in research teaching seminars and in collaboration with the method center.