Contemporary Social Theory and Structural Transformation

Mar 8, 2024, 10:00 am5:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public


Event Description


Part of the task of political theory is to understand the processes and conditions of historical change. In particular, radical social change–broadly, the transition to new and perhaps better forms of social organization, social structures and institutions, and ways of living and relating–is at the center of much recent work across the social sciences and humanities. Understanding what such transformation requires and how we might achieve it requires a theory of the social: what exactly is it that we seek to transform, and how can human agency remake the social in all of its complexity? Yet this ontological question is currently discussed in disciplinary silos, with little engagement between sociology, philosophy, comparative literature, history, and political theory. 

This conference aims to pull these threads together by putting leading social theorists from across the academy into conversation on the what, how, and why of radical social change. What are the different social ontological assumptions and concerns that characterize prevailing discussions of structural transformation across the academy, and how might these differences illuminate the various dimensions of such radical change.


William Clare Roberts, McGill University
Sally Haslanger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Geoff Mann, Simon Fraser University
Eva von Redecker, Humboldt University of Berlin 
Paul Raekstad, University of Amsterdam 
Sam Bagg, University of South Carolina 
Gaby Nair, Princeton University
Sonny Kim, Princeton University


10 a.m. – Welcome remarks (Gaby Nair and Sonny Kim)

10:15 a.m. – Panel 1: Materiality and Uncertainty (Will Roberts and Geoff Mann)
In what ways is the social world fundamentally material and uncertain, and how must we grapple with this fact?
1 p.m. – Panel 2: Changing What System? (Sally Haslanger and Eva von Redecker)
What is the system we seek to transform? Is it “capitalism”?
3 p.m. – Panel 3: Realism and/as Social Ontology (Samuel Bagg and Paul Raekstad)
What–if anything–about our social world demands a realist approach to radical social change?
4:45 p.m. – Roundtable Discussion: Agency and Radical Social Change (all speakers)
(When, Where, How) Can human and non-human agency create radical social change?