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Department of Sociology

Focus Areas

The sociology study program at the University of Zurich Department of Sociology features the following focus areas (German):

Soziologische Theorien und Methoden

Life Course and Generations

The evolution of modern society also has impacts on the courses that life take and on families. This focus area studies intergenerational exchange and conflicts, for example, and examines the question of how provenance and education or genetic factors affect life, career success and family relations, often drawing on comparisons between countries including Switzerland.

Social Norms and Cooperation

Social norms are essential to orderly human coexistence. They particularly facilitate cooperation between people and entities, thus enabling the establishment of a reliability of expectations, but also the creation of specific public goods such as a clean environment or street lighting. However, violations of the rules of social conduct are an everyday phenomenon. The range of deviant behavior extends from misdemeanor offences such as fare dodging to scientific research fraud and severe felonies. This focus area investigates, for example, under what conditions certain norms originate and examines how the anticipation of punishment for violating rules affects behavior. Such questions are researched through social experiments and other means.

Economic Sociology

Seismic changes in world economic activity – be it globalization, a crisis in the financial industry, social inequality in many countries, or the evolution of management compensation –    have profound consequences for the social stratification and organization of contemporary societies. But this focus area also examines equitable and sustainable consumption and why some consumers spend their money on attending the opera while others choose instead to buy tickets to the latest blockbuster movie. Beyond those specific questions, basic theoretical discussions of present-day economic structures are also addressed.

Methodological and Theoretical Training

The scientific study of social phenomena requires a systematic, methodologically controlled investigation process. Data get collected through means including surveys, interviews, experiments and content analysis, and are analyzed using advanced statistical methods. It takes comprehensive theoretical knowledge about societal processes to understand the results of sociological studies. The objective is not just to be able to describe society, but also to explain it.

The training incorporates the latest findings from numerous university, national and international research projects.

Weiterführende Informationen

Prof. Buchmann

Sociology of life course; social stratification and mobility; sociology of education, work and occupations, and labor markets; social and cultural change

Prof. Burger

Sociology of education , psychology of education, sociology of life course, child rights studies

Prof. Davidov

Methods and empirical social research; cross-country comparative analyses; values; attitudes toward minorities and immigration

Philosophy and history of the social sciences; historical epistemology; social theory; sociology of science

Prof. Nax

Experimental/Behavioral Market Design and Learning in Games applied to Markets and Collective Goods

Prof. Rauhut

Social norms and cooperation; analytical sociology; experimental game theory; science studies; social networks; quantitative sociology

Professorial Chair Rössel

Sociological theory; empirical cultural sociology; social stratification; political sociology; comparative historical sociology

Professorial Chair Rost

Economic sociology; inequality studies; diagnosis of society

Prof. Shanahan

Sociology of life course; genetics and life course; medical sociology; social psychology 

Professorial Chair Szydlik

Social stratification; life course; labor market; generations; empirical social research