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Special Issue

“Ambivalence of the world and sociological theory”

Presence and strength of the plurivocity

 Ed. Emanuela Susca (Università degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo”)
Motivated by the desire to produce definitive and unambiguously clarifying discourses on society and the subject, sociological thought has from the beginning tried to expunge from its conceptual and analytical horizon that “grey” area – made up of ambiguities and intrinsically contradictory elements – which is recognizable both in macro-phenomena as a whole and in the motivations of the action. Nevertheless, ambivalence – understood as a configuration in which two different instances, in reciprocal tension but both ineliminable, act at the same time (Calabrò 1997) – touches the very object of sociology in an unavoidable and not marginal way. Indeed, we may say that ambivalence is necessarily a theoretical challenge with which it is essential to confront, as well as a field that questions any methodological reflection alien to reductionism and trivialization. Before arriving at the metaphor of liquidity Bauman (1991) painted the fresco of a modern rationality aimed at eradicating ambivalence through historically disastrous dichotomies, and opposed to that tragic past the project or the utopia of a postmodernity finally able to take charge of ambivalence itself by consciously accepting the difference and freedom of what escapes rigid categorizations. However, although three decades have passed, and apart from some studies often pioneering and of considerablevalue, sociological theory as a whole has shown itself to be unwilling to deepen, even critically, those baumanian analyses and to delve into the many trajectories of a topic that is anything but marginal or avoidable. In fact, even today we can mostly see two opposing temptations corresponding to two intellectual postures. On the one hand, the anxiety to reduce complexity induces many to reject or drastically limit the presence of ambivalence, which therefore remains relegated to a secondary role of pathological discrepancy and ultimately is expelled by a self-declared science of the norm and the social order. On the other hand, a far from extinguished postmodernist tendency leads many to triumphantly celebrate ambivalence as the foundation and characteristic feature of the human condition, often forgetting that sociological work passes through determination and objectification that are prerequisites of communication and confrontation, both within the sociological community and outside it. Escaping both of those opposite extremes, this Call wants to invite reflection on a notion that proves to be fundamental to understand the social bond, the dialectic persistence/change, and the concrete condition itself of those who inhabit the world. For the realization of the special issue of “The Lab’s Quarterly” on this topic, both theoretical and theoretical/empirical contributions deepening the theme of ambivalence will be welcomed. Even in the autonomy of exposition and argumentation, contributions should focus on one or more of the following issues:
  1. In what ways, and with what heuristic value, classical and contemporary sociology deals with ambivalence? If great authors like Simmel, Elias or Merton have addressed in a more direct way the area of indeterminacy and the many social antinomies, it is indeed undeniable that sociological reflections had soon to come to terms with the ambivalence of the world and of behaviours, with frequently interesting and topical results.
  2. To what extent can the notion of ambivalence help to formulate or re-formulate a theory of social action that is realistic, but at the same time does not renounce the ambition to be precisely “theory”? Already refuted over time by several theorists and researchers, the aut aut between rationality and irrationality returns in many ways to propose itself in the social sciences, with outcomes that certainly do not facilitate neither authentically scientific analysis nor the advancement of our ability to understand.
  3. Since the notion of social structure refers to the idea of frameworks that persist and reproduce themselves, could ambivalence help explain the change? Objectifying can imply the possibility to acknowledge an ambivalence of a structural type, wondering if and to what extent subjects can remove this ambivalence, or under what conditions ambivalence itself can instead lead to restructurings of more or less wide scope.
  4. How could ambivalence be used as an instrument of empirical analysis? Beyond any Manichean – and now anachronistic – opposition between supporters of “quantity” and “quality”, the ambivalence inherent in the phenomena, as well as in relationships and subjects themselves, urges a collection and elaboration of empirical materials more sensitive to plurivocity and to the many shades of what tends to remain “unsaid” or difficult to observe.
  5. What interdisciplinary dialogue this matter is calling fo r? If sociology came to deal with ambivalence later than philosophy and psychology, it is now perhaps possible to think of ambivalence itself in an authentically multidisciplinary perspective, going beyond boundaries that have been overcome and can be overcome between different human and social sciences, and going beyond their opposition to natural and supposedly “exact” sciences.
  6. Can ambivalence enrich the point of view of critical sociology? After a long season in which an Enlightenment disposition has targeted duplicity especially to expose the ideology of others, the notion of ambivalence could finally help to understand both the possible acquiescence of those subject to domination and the common “good faith” of those who objectively benefit from domination itself.
Scholars interested in participating to the Call are invited to send an abstract of about 500 words in Italian, English or French to the editor Emanuela Susca at this e-mail address: After a first selection based on the abstracts, the papers in Italian, English or French will undergo a double blind peer review by two reviewers.


  • Deadline for abstract submission: 30.10.2020
  • Review results returned: 01.12.2020
  • Deadline for paper submission: 15.05.2021
  • Peer review notifications: 30.06.2021
  • Deadline for final paper submission: 01.09.2021
  • Special issue publishing: 01.12.2021

Special Issue

“Orient yourself in the society of uncertainty. Life paths and trajectories in the age of the New/Net/Knowledge Economy”

 Eds. Franca Settembrini and Elena Gremigni


Recent developments in globalisation processes have produced an increasing precariousness in the labour market. The New/Net/Knowledge Economy requires a capacity for continuous adaptation to innovations following one another at an increasingly accelerated pace, and needs a “human capital” prepared to carry out work activities with the best possible results in rapidly changing conditions. In this scenario, competences have assumed a strategic role, meant primarily, even if not exclusively, as a set of resources that are acquired through practice and get transformed into useful devices for productive activities.

In the “Knowledge Society”, theoretical knowledge seems to be placed in the background, while skills are considered fundamental for overcoming the imbalance between job demand and supply (skills mismatch) and consequently for economic growth processes (Hanushek and Woessmann 2008). Particularly, in the workplace, alongside “hard skills” − formal competences based on the knowledge of subjects − so-called transversal competences or “soft skills” are increasingly required (Heckman and Kautz 2012). Non-formal competences, related to the social and emotional dimension, such as perseverance, flexibility, self-confidence, communication skills, the ability to work in a team, conflict management, etc. are considered decisive aspects in the workplace and more and more often school or academic certifications are of less importance because they are deemed of little utility in order to assess workers’ potential (OECD 2015).

Finding your own way in this constantly changing social context has become an arduous task especially for young people who no longer possess the reference points of past generations. The education agencies are investing more and more resources, both economic and human, to try to offer students support in choosing their paths. However this is a contradictory and paradoxical goal, because attempts to promote individual attitudes and potential often collide with the need to develop competences that can allow students to find a place within the job market. The main aim then seems to be the promotion of the acquisition of the “key competences” for 21st century society pointed out by the European Union in the context of the Lifelong Learning Program (European Council 2006), which have assumed a central role in the definition of the subsequent “Europe 2020” program (European Commission 2010). However, even this strategy does not offer many guarantees, given that the European Union itself recognises the need to continually redefine the objectives of education (European Council 2018a). It follows that the individual is given the difficult task of learning to orientate and re-orientate himself/herself throughout the course of his/her existence.

However, what are usually described as personal abilities or attitudes are actually paths and trajectories largely marked by social origin. As a matter of fact, it is known that students’ socio-economic and cultural background is still having a significant impact on their education paths (Argentin, Barbieri and Barone 2017; Azzolini and Vergolini 2014; Ballarino and Checchi 2006; Ballarino and Schadee 2006; Ballarino and Schizzerotto 2011; Barone 2009; Barone, Luijkx e Schizzerotto 2010; Bonichi 2010; Bottani and Benadusi 2006; Breen et al. 2009; Checchi 2010; Parziale 2016), with evident consequences on their professional destiny.

The precariousness of work activities, however, has clear effects not only on the economic level, but also on the social one. By failing the possibility of taking on a defined role within society through a process of identification with a stable job, the identity itself of individuals is thrown into crisis. The progressive dissolution of forms of organised solidarity, also due to the transformations of the labour market that produce a precariousness of human relationships and social protections, fosters an ambiguous “yearning for community” which reinforces the dangerous polarisation between “in-group” and “out-group”, with the increasing importance of nationalistic, localistic, familistic or individualistic positions (Bauman 2001; Sennett 1998).

The “great recession” that began in 2007 has reinforced these trends with clear reverberation also in the political sphere. Therefore, especially nowadays, it seems necessary to promote forms of orientation that manage to overcome the inequalities of educational opportunities and promote autonomous cultural, relational and professional growth in accordance with shared values.

For the realisation of the special issue of The Lab’s Quarterly on this topic, both theoretical contributions and empirical research will be accepted. After selecting the abstracts, the essays received will undergo a double peer review process.

Scholars interested in participating are invited to send an abstract of about 500 words by email to the editors:

Elena Gremigni:

Franca settembrini:


  • 31 May 2020: Deadline for abstract submission.
  • 30 June 2020: Review results returned.
  • 31 December 2020: Deadline for paper submission.
  • 31 March 2021: Peer review notifications
  • 30 June 2021: Deadline for final paper submission
  • September 2021: Special issue publishing

Call for Papers: File pdf

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  • Azzolini, D. and Vergolini, L. (2014). Tracking, inequality and education policy. Looking for a recipe for the Italian case. Scuola Democratica, 2, maggio-agosto.
  • Ballarino, G. and Checchi, D. (2006). Sistema scolastico e disuguaglianza sociale. Scelte individuali e vincoli strutturali. Bologna: il Mulino.
  • Ballarino, G. and Schadee, H. (2006). Espansione dell’istruzione e disuguaglianza delle opportunità formative nell’Italia contemporanea. Polis, 20(2): 207-228. doi: 10.1424/22553
  • Ballarino, G. and Schizzerotto, A. (2011). Le disuguaglianze intergenerazionali di istruzione. In A. Schizzerotto, U. Trivellato, N. Sartor (a cura di). Generazioni disuguali. Bologna: il Mulino.
  • Barone, C. (2009). A New Look at Schooling Inequalities in Italy and their Trends over Time. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. 27(2): 92-109. doi: 10.1016/j.rssm.2009.04.001
  • Barone, C., Luijkx, R. and Schizzerotto, A. (2010). Elogio dei grandi numeri: il lento declino delle disuguaglianze nelle opportunità di istruzione in Italia. Polis, 24(1): 5-34.
  • Barone, C., Assirelli, G., Abbiati, G., Argentin, G. and De Luca, D. (2017). Social origins, relative risk aversion and track choice: A field experiment on the role of information biases. Acta Sociologica, 61(4): 441-459.
  • Batini, F. and De Carlo, M.E. (2016). Alternanza scuola-lavoro: storia, progettazione, orientamento, competenze. Torino: Loescher.
  • Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
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  • Benadusi, L. and Di Francesco, G., a cura di (2002). Formare per competenze. Un sentiero di innovazione tra scuola e formazione professionale. Napoli: Tecnodid.
  • Benadusi, L. and Molina, S., a cura di (2018). Le competenze. Una mappa per orientarsi. Bologna: il Mulino.
  • Bonichi, F. (2010). Istituzioni educative e riproduzione dell’ordine sociale. In G. Paolucci (a cura di). Bourdieu oltre Bourdieu. Torino: UTET.
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  • Breen, R., Luijkx, R., Müller, W. and Pollak, R. (2009). Long-term Trends in Educational Inequality in Europe: Class Inequalities and Gender Differences, European Sociological Review, 26(1): 31-48. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcp001
  • Brunello, G. and Checchi, D. (2007). Does School Tracking Affect Equality of Opportunity? New International Evidence. Economic Policy, 52: 781-861. doi: 10.1111/J.1468-0327.2007.00189.x
  • Bruner, J.S. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge, MA: Belkapp Press.
  • Checchi, D. (2010). Il passaggio dalla scuola media alla scuola superiore. RicercAzione, 2: 215-235.
  • Colombo, M. (2009). Insegnanti e studenti: orientamenti valoriali, aspettative, agire di ruolo. In E. Besozzi (a cura di). Tra sogni e realtà. Gli adolescenti e la transizione alla vita adulta, Il Bologna: il Mulino.
  • Colombo, M. (2011). Educational choices in action: young Italians as reflexive agents and the role of significant adults. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1): 14-48.
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  • De Corte, E. (2010). Historical Developments in the Understanding of Learning. In H. Dumont et al., The Nature of Learning. Using, Research to Insoire Practice. Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • Delors, J., Al Mufti, I., Amagi, A., Carneiro, R., Chung, F., Geremek, B., Gorham, W., Kornhauser, A., Manley, M., Padrón Quero, M., Savane, M.A., Singh, K., Stavenhagen, R., Won Suhr, M. and Nanzhao, Z. (1996). Learning: The Treasure Within. Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century. Paris: UNESCO.
  • De Santis, G., Pirani, E. and Porcu, M. (2019) (a cura di). Rapporto sulla popolazione. L’istruzione in Italia. Bologna: il Mulino.
  • Dewey, J. (1899). The School and Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.
  • Di Fabio, A. and Kenny, M. (2016). From decent work to decent lives: Positive self and relational management (PS&RM) in the twenty-first century. Frontiers in Psychology. 7: 361
  • Di Francesco, G. (2004). Ricostruire l’esperienza. Competenze, bilancio, formazione. Milano: FrancoAngeli.
  • Drucker, P. (1993). Post-capitalist Society. New York: HarperBusiness.
  • Drucker, P. (1994). Knowledge Work and Knowledge Society. The Social Transformations of this Century. Harvard: John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • European Commission (2010). Europe 2020: A European Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth. Brussels: European Commission. HTML/?uri=CELEX:52010DC2020&from=en
  • European Council (2000). Lisbon European Council ˗ 23 and 24 March 2000. Presidency Conclusions. Brussels: European Council.
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  • European Council (2018b). Council Recommendation of 22 May 2018 on Promoting Common Values, Inclusive Education, and the European Dimension of Teaching. Brussels: European Council.
  • Fumagalli, A. (2011). Bioeconomia e capitalismo cognitivo. Verso un nuovo paradigma di accumulazione. Roma: Carocci.
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Special Issue

The Knowledge Society between inconsistencies and social inequalities

 Eds. Fiorenzo Parziale, Gerardo Pastore

The Knowledge Society idea is closely connected to the possible directions of development of contemporary societies. As is known, the current historical phase is characterised by the problematic advance of the processes of globalisation and crisis. Some of the significant drivers of change that clearly demonstrate the high degree of complexity in today’s social systems include financialisation of the economy, opening up of international markets, new/net/knowledge economies, transformation of the workplace, intensification of information and people flows, multiplication of forms of communication and the consequent redefinition of individual-society relations. In this context, the concept of the Knowledge Society seems to be primarily configured as an attempt to provide an analytical summary of the transformations taking place, to then return to an operational vision of the future on which to normatively base political actions aimed at the definition of a new model of society. Thus, from the point of view of the analysis of social change, some scholars show a paradigm shift: that is, a transition from a material dimension to an intangible dimension, from hardware to software, from realisation to conception, from markets to networks. Based on this transformation, the need for a Knowledge Society appears as completely evident. But it is not so obvious that the routes that started at a national level will lead to positive results in terms of social inclusion, expansion of the cultural base, and job and professional satisfaction. The problem that remains to be solved is how these aims can be pursued effectively and under what political strategy.

The special issue aims to present research findings on the Knowledge Society idea, and its implications within both the social inclusion and exclusion processes. Wide space will be dedicated to the research products that investigate the effects of these transformations in all major dimensions of social life. Both empirical and theoretical contributions are welcome.
There are no submission or acceptance fees for manuscripts submitted to this special issue. The proposed contributions will be subjected to double-blind peer review process.

Scholars interested in submitting a proposal should send their contribution by email to the editors:

Fiorenzo Parziale, Sapienza Università di Roma:
Gerardo Pastore, Università di Pisa:

Papers length should be in the range of 7000- 8000 words including references. Languages: Italian or English.


 –      Deadline for submission: 31/12/2018

–      Review Results Returned:  01/02/2019

–      Final Paper Submission: 01/04/2019

–      Final Acceptance Notification: 15/04/2019

–      Special Issue Publishing: 03/06/2019

Call for Papers: File pdf


Special Issue

“Gli algoritmi. Come cambia la società e la ricerca sociale”

A cura di Enrico Campo, Luca Ciccarese e Antonio Martella

La centralità degli algoritmi nelle società occidentali è pari soltanto alla loro relativa invisibilità. La semplicità della formula che definisce gli algoritmi come procedure finalizzate a produrre output sulla base di input, contrasta rispetto all’estrema complessità del loro impatto sociale. Grazie alla pervasività delle tecnologie digitali, gli algoritmi sono in grado dunque di produrre ed elaborare un’enorme quantità di dati a partire dalle nostre attività quotidiane. Queste ultime, a loro volta, vengono scandite e influenzate dalle operazioni che gli algoritmi effet­tuano sui dati. La loro ubiquità ha dunque effetti potenzialmente rivolu­zionari tanto nell’ambito della vita quotidiana, quanto nella ricerca sociale.

In che modo gli algoritmi riconfigurano il nostro ambiente collettivo? Quali sono le possibilità e i vincoli per la ricerca sociale? È forse il caso, come afferma provocatoriamente Anderson nella rivista Wired (2008), di dichiarare la morte della teoria e obsoleto il metodo scientifico?

Attualmente gli algoritmi fungono da strumenti regolatori per la selezione delle informazioni, favorendo ad esempio i processi alla base della costruzione delle cosiddette bolle informative e agiscono così sui nostri sistemi di rilevanza individuale e collettiva, Gli algoritmi svol­gono un ruolo sempre più importante nell’estrazione di valore dalle attività umane e sociali, basti pensare alla “gratuità” delle piattaforme di uso quo­ti­diano, che in realtà si nutrono di dati e della loro elaborazione per la pro­duzione di profitto. Inoltre, anche le attuali forme di partecipa­zione po­litica, controllo sociale e azione collettiva si ristrutturano sulla base delle nuove possibilità (e rischi) offerte dagli agoritmi (voto online, intelli­gen­cehacktivism, etc.). A fronte della loro diffusione colpisce la relativa in­vi­si­bilità e opacità: sfuggono alla percezione diretta nonostante la condizionino in modi molteplici e stratificati e risultano spesso inaccessibili a causa dei diritti di proprietà e la loro intrinseca complessità.

Le criticità qui esposte si riflettono sulle teorie e i metodi della ricerca sociale: modificano le fonti, la costruzione dei dati, le metodologie di analisi e pongono nuove domande sulla correttezza e la coerenza della costruzione del sapere. La conoscenza dei meccanismi alla base di questi processi risulta il necessario presupposto epistemologico e metodologico per la costruzione della conoscenza nei diversi campi delle scienze sociali.

Interesse del volume saranno i contributi che vorranno analizzare:

  • Come cambia l’esperienza quotidiana, la rappresentazione di sé e degli altri nella misura in cui tutto ciò è condizionato dalla matematica dei software?
  • Come si struttura la sfera pubblica nel sistema mediale ibrido e quali sono le influenze dell’azione degli algoritmi nella selezione e nella diffusione delle informazioni?
  • In che modo le forme tradizionali di partecipazione politica, le strategie di controllo e resistenza mutano alla luce delle possibilità offerte dalla digitalizzazione governata dagli algoritmi?
  • Quali sono gli effetti degli algoritmi e come cambiano i criteri di esclusione e marginalità nella società dell’informazione?
  • Quali sono le condizioni per la costruzione di sapere a partire dalle nuove fonti di informazione e di produzione di dati per la ricerca scientifica e sociale (il web, i social media, etc.)?
  • Fino a che punto è possibile ricostruire le operazioni effettuate dagli algoritmi che sembrano essere essenzialmente opache, in un ambiente strutturato anche da strati multipli di software?
  • Quali sono i meccanismi alla base dell’estrazione di valore delle nuove piattaforme digitali e le conseguenze delle scelte automatizzate sulla configurazione del mercato?

Se gli algoritmi non sono neutrali né guidati da scelte meramente tecniche la comprensione dei fenomeni sociali passa attraverso la con­sapevolezza (anche tecnica) delle operazioni logico-matematiche che ne strutturano il funzionamento e generano effetti. Per l’interconnessione in­trinseca del tema si prediligono contributi con approcci multidisciplinari.

Deadlines e linee guida

Deadline per l’invio degli abstracts:  2 maggio 2018

Selezione degli abstracts:                     14 maggio 2018

Deadline per l’invio dei papers:          1 ottobre 2018

Selezione dei papers (max. 10):           1 novembre 2018

Pubblicazione della rivista:                 7 gennaio 2019

Gli abstracts devono essere al massimo di 500 parole, scritti in lingua italiana e inglese e corredati da 5 keywords.

I papers devono essere al massimo di 60.000 caratteri, spazi inclusi, comprensivi di note e riferimenti bibliografici e vanno scritti in lingua italiana.

I papers saranno sottoposti a doppia valutazione, da parte dei curatori del numero monografico e di due referee anonimi scelti tra esperti del tema.

I proponenti sono pregati di seguire le norme redazionali della rivista


Enrico Campo è dottorando in “Scienze politiche” presso il Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche dell’Università di Pisa. I suoi interessi di ricerca riguardano prevalentemente la teoria sociologica e la sociologia della cultura, in particolare il rapporto tra cultura e cognizione.

Luca Ciccarese è dottorando in “Scienze politiche” presso il Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche dell’Università di Pisa. I suoi in­te­res­si scientifici si collocano in ambito metodologico, con particolare riferi­men­to a grounded theorySymbolic interactionism e social network analysis.

 Antonio Martella è dottorando in “Scienze politiche” presso il Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche dell’Università di Pisa. Si occupa prevalentemente di comunicazione politica e big data. Il suo progetto di ricerca verte sul populismo, i leader politici e i social media.


Enrico Campo:

Luca Ciccarese:

Antonio Martella:


Call for Papers: File pdf

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