The Institute for Sociology at the University of Zurich has been commissioned by the Swiss Sociological Association (SSA) to organize the conference «Common Good and Self-interest».

Congress Topic: Common Good and Self Interest

The relationship between public welfare and self-interest is not only a central theme in Sociology – it is also the essential question underlying how society itself is constituted. How is the relationship between individuals and society established? Are social norms and cooperation the result of actions of self-interested actors or do rather social obligations influence actors’ actions? How can individual and social interests be reconciled? These questions remain contested in sociology and related social sciences and even in social philosophy. This question is addressed by theories in different fields focusing on a variety of societal phenomena. Analytical theories, for example, focus on the mechanisms of the emergence of social order, cohesion, and cooperation, whereas for the history of sociological theories several questions concerning the relationship between public welfare and self-interest are of concern. The concept of common good versus self-interest is relevant to countless questions in the study of contemporary society, for which we can only name a few examples: what are the necessary conditions for building communities and civil societies in a heterogeneous and complex world? What are the underlying causes for the increasing moralization of markets? What is the balance and the relationship between joint welfare and self-interest in families, between genders, or across generations? The recent rise in inequality in many western countries also raises the question of the relationship between self-interest and solidarity with respect to the welfare state and redistribution. On an inter- or transnational level similar questions arise with respect to the development of the European Union or on how national states have dealt with the refugee crisis. The conference will cover diverse theoretical perspectives and a wide range of empirical applications of these questions.

Congress Organization

Peter-Ulrich Merz-Benz, Gisela Pfister, Klaus Preisner, Heiko Rauhut, Jörg Rössel, Katja Rost, Marc Szydlik, Claudia Hiestand, Nicholas Arnold, Pia Fleischlin.