Ten years have passed since the death of Ralf Dahrendorf (1929-2009); an absence that is felt, both in the academic world and in the public sphere. Dahrendorf was an Anglo-German sociologist with a philosophical background and an innate interest in politics who chose to be a public intellectual. He rigorously addressed the problem of the relationship between theoretical knowledge and praxis through continuous, open and public reflection on the meaning and implications of his choice to “cross borders”. This meant that he often took on provocative and uncomfortable positions, both in the academic world and in the public sphere.
The essential characteristic of Dahrendorf’s method needs to be sought in the very way in which he proceeded to give themes to the issues and problems he was investigating. The choice, in fact, was not dictated by the relevance of the criteria when strictly connected to scientific debate, but rather by their being inherent in life itself. Consistent with this type of choice, he deliberately employed non-specialist language, without losing rigor or strength of argument, consciously simplifying without trivializing. Jürgen Habermas described it thus, “A forma mentis reminiscent of Max Weber: he builds the difficult unity between objectivity and passion”.
The aim of this call for papers is to collect contributions that develop Dahrendorf’s themes at a theoretical and empirical level and which demonstrate their relevance, starting from his particular way of interpreting the role of sociology. Recalling Habermas’s opinion, Dahrendorf is one of the few to have continued the classical tradition, which gives sociology the task of “capturing one’s own time in thought”, using its professional knowledge as a tool to update the “diagnosis of modernity”, in which social complexity never stops accelerating and developing.
This led Dahrendorf to tackle Marx and the analysis of the German question when this was taboo for most of his intellectual contemporaries in Germany; he offered the theme of conflict and social class when this was not a principal interest of mainstream sociology, using the concept of liberty to analyze new forms of social inequality. Taking his themes from social and political daily life contributed to making Dahrendorf, in a sense, a forerunner. His preoccupation with “taking a position” (Farbe bekennen) led him, before others, to raise problems such as the crisis of the liberal-democratic structures of representation; the search for alternatives to the rigidity of western social democracies; the question of European integration; and the problem of the transition to democracy. In particular, he addressed the issue of the reconciliation of liberty and equality in modern societies, going into the discussion of the “paradoxes of citizenship” and the social costs of neoliberal policies and capitalism based on debt.
Dahrendorf also had the distinction of posing the problems of the impact and consequences of sociological knowledge to political decision makers from the start of his career. He asked decision makers and academics, through public debate (giving rise to the famous dispute on positivism between Karl Popper and Theodor Adorno), to take into account the consequences of the critical potential of “the refutation of this that is taken for granted “, including ideologies, which distort the image of people’s reality. He reminded his audience that “the great theories of the social sciences have all been stimulated by burning practical problems: the struggle between capital and labour, the formation of colonial empires, the great depression”.
Peer Review Policy
Every article submitted to Smp will be evaluated by the Director and the Curator to verify that the contents are relevant to this issue. In the event the article is accepted, it will be subjected to a double-blind peer review.
This issue of Smp will accept articles primarily written in English and Italian. The articles should be no longer than 10,000 words, notes and bibliography included, and should be drafted according to the editorial guidelines of Smp, which may be consulted on the journal’s website. Every article should be accompanied by a brief note on the author (max. 150 words) and an abstract (max. 200 words).
– Submission article: 10 September 2018
– Issue publication: January 2019
Articles and abstract should be submitted to the following email address: laura.leonardi @ unifi.it
The editorial guidelines are available at:
Previous volumes are available at:
 R. Dahrendorf, Uscire dall’Utopia, Il Mulino, Bologna 1971, p. 147.