Research


 

General underpinnings of my research programme


Most notably, my research programme focuses on the consequences of stratification in the economic and cultural realms. Whereas the first pits the economically strong against the economically weak (e.g. classes as defined by stratified positions in the production process and labour market), stratification in the cultural domain revolves around individual’s familiarity and affinity with legitimate or elite culture (i.e. status differences indicated by means of Bourdieusian cultural capital).

My research team primarily investigates stratification’s role in educational gradients in the domain of health and politics. Generally, we theorise, and subsequently empirically scrutinise, mechanisms that link stratified positions to health and political outcomes. In other words, we are not interested in whether, and to what extent, stratification is linked to these outcomes; instead: we take well-established educational gradients as mere starting points, and aim to uncover how such gradients can be understood and explained.

 

Sociology of Health


The stratified nature of various contemporary health issues in western societies, ranging from obesity to feelings of depression, is well-established but poorly understood. The main reason for this hiatus is that the standard research practice neglects the multifaceted nature of stratification (see above). Consequently, there is a lack of awareness of the various mechanisms through which both economic and cultural stratification might affect health outcomes, the uptake of health information, and numerous health-related behaviours ranging from food and sports preferences and physical exercise in daily life.

In addition to the often-assumed and well-known mechanisms revolving around the potential relevance of poverty, material disadvantage, scarcity and stress stemming from stratification in the economic realm, various status-related mechanisms can be discerned. These are assumed to result from childhood socialisation in status-stratified parental milieus. Status-related mechanisms centre, for instance, on the role of reflexivity, institutional knowledge and cultural affinity with standard repertoires in health institutions, and predispositions towards cultural differences, thinness and asceticism. Systematic scrutiny of these mechanisms calls for various research methods and approaches. These range from ethnographies and focus groups for theory development, to surveys in combination with implicit association tests as to uncover status-specific predispositions (i.e., Bourdieusian habitus) relevant for health-related behaviours, and survey experiments as to scrutinise the causal claims in our theorising.

 

Political Sociology


Inspired by classical readings such as Lipset’s Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, my research team studies how stratification affects value orientations, various forms of political discontent and distrust, party identification, and voting behaviour in western liberal democracies. 

Stratification in the economic realm proves crucial for understanding good-old class politics or ‘the democratic class struggle’, in which the economically weak vote for leftists or labour parties in support of those parties’ economic agenda of redistribution. Their economically strong counterparts, on the other hand, translate their economic conservatism into support for the laissez-faire agenda of classic right-wing or economically conservative parties. Contrary to the alleged ‘death of class’, this democratic class struggle is still part and parcel of politics in contemporary liberal democracies. Yet, it increasingly operates in the shadow of the various political corollaries of status politics, in which higher status groups’ dispositions and affinities underlie support for new-leftist or cosmopolitan initiatives, movements, and political parties. Their lower status counterparts, on the other hand, translate their anti-elitist and culturally conservative dispositions into support for new-rightist or nationalistic kinds of political parties, movements, and initiatives.

Acknowledging the different ways in which economic and cultural stratification can be relevant for value orientations and political behaviour can inform various debates and questions concerning the relationship between politics and society. Disentangling the salience of these two types of stratification for value orientations and vote choice as I have done extensively with various colleagues, provides the mere starting point for more systematic and rigorous scrutiny. More specifically, it inspires my research team´s current and future scrutiny of how economic and cultural stratification affect various kinds of discontents such anomie and distrust in institutions, and support for anti-establishment politics. Generally, we theorise and systematically scrutinise, that educational disparities in those outcomes largely reflect what we refer to as a status-based cultural conflict: low affinity with elite culture among the less educated inspires various ways of resistance to and withdrawal from institutional and established politics.

 

You can find my publications under the tab Publications or download a full list of publications under the tab CV. You can also visit my Google Scholar profile.