In this article, I present a Habermas-inspired «radical democratic» sociological diagnosis of the present. Starting off from his theory of communicative action, I attempt to show how the rationality, freedom and equality inherent in linguistically mediated interaction may be institutionalized society-wide through what I call the democratic power circuit. Outlining what I take to be the three most salient structural characteristics of modern societies (functional differentiation, social stratification, and individualization), I then discuss some important barriers to modern democracy. Nevertheless, through invoking the democratic power circuit, I argue that members of modern societies may at least potentially overcome these barriers. In this way, I hope to present a moderately optimistic sociological defence of modern democracy, thereby counteracting some of the pessimism on the part of modernity often encountered in the sociological discourse of modernity.
This article is an introduction to and discussion of the concepts of racism and discrimination. Despite frequent use of the terms, what they actually mean and how they should be used, is seldom to be found. On the basis of three empirical illustrations, we discuss when racism and discrimination are used as concepts to describe different phenomena and when the two merge into meaning similar meanings. This transformation is identified to take place when the concepts of racism and discrimination move from descriptions of actions and attitudes at an individual level to explanations of racialized relations at a structural or systemic level. It is also when lack of social belonging among ethnic minorities is linked to the existence of some sort of structural racism that the public debate in Norway has a tendency to turn into conflict. In our opinion, the structural perspective is important if we are to understand the mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion. Due to the conflicting character of the public debate when the concept of racism is involved, however, we conclude that systemic discrimination clearly has advantages in explaining such mechanisms. Reserving the concept of racism for more explicit imaginations of a hierarchy of human value, we suggest in conclusion a divide of the concept of discrimination into three different spheres of social life – the civil, the legal and the political.
The article addresses the impact of social origin on a students decision to study abroad. The data set was constructed by linking official registers of Norwegian students entering higher education in the period 1987 to 2005 and comprises 50 percent of those who began their studies in Norway and 50 percent who went abroad to begin their study. In this article, students abroad are those starting an entire degree abroad, and not exchange students. The analyses indicate that the probability of a student studying abroad increases in the case of those whose parents have a high level of education and economic resources. While this relationship between social background and the decision to study abroad can be applied throughout the entire period, it is stronger in the latter years observed. Moreover, it can be said that when the proportion of students abroad is increasing, the increase is greatest among those from a high social background.
The article attempts to come to grips with the phenomenon of globalization in a long-term perspective. It argues for analysing globalization as a process and identifies and follows particular actors within the process of globalization. Based on studies in Malaysia, Singapore and the Shanghai region in China, the article explores the motives and adaptations of Norwegian companies in Asia. During a period of more than 20 years, the researchers followed one company and studied its shifting strategies, the life changes of women workers, and the development in their local community. The focus is on what takes place at the meeting grounds, or interface situations, of local and global actors. The authors make a quest for more localized analyses in view of globalization as a differential force.