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.
Understanding stratified patterns in health and health-related behaviours
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 class and status might affect health outcomes, the uptake of health information, and numerous health-related behaviours ranging from food and sports preferences to 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. The superiority signalling and accompanying censoriousness of high status groups, in addition, can affect health-related behaviours and health outcomes of low status groups in different ways. This ranges from mental health problems because one feels looked down upon, to various forms of resistance to health campaigns and outright distrust of medical specialists and institutions.
Systematic scrutiny of status and class mechanisms calls for various research methods and approaches. These range from ethnographies, in-depth interviews, focus groups and Q-methodology 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.
Understanding stratified patterns in political attitudes and behaviours
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 political participation in 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-establishment attitudes and cultural
conservatism into support for populist or nationalistic kinds of political
parties, movements, and initiatives. Our research indicates low-status
individuals’ anti-establishment attitudes reflect the cultural distance to establishment
politicians they perceive, amongst other things because of the latter’s insensitivity
to the lived experience of ‘the common man’, and communication styles. That
cultural distance and the feeling of being looked down upon, moreover, inspires
political participation of low-status citizens in various ways, varying from
opting out of the political domain all together to rebellion and protest.
Acknowledging the different ways in which class and status stratification
can be relevant for political attitudes and behaviour can inform various
debates and questions concerning the relationship between politics and society.
Disentangling the salience of these two types of stratification for political
attitudes and behaviour, 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 class and status affect various kinds of discontents such as
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: the superiority signalling of more-educated
citizens in general and professionals in legitimate institutions such as
politics, the judiciary and science more specifically, inspires various ways of resistance to and
withdrawal from institutional and established politics among less-educated citizens.
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.