The Struggles for European Science. A Comparative Perspective on the History of European Social Science Associations

Thibaud Boncourt


How and in what way are the social sciences becoming European? This paper answers this question by comparing the creation and development of eight European associations rooted in five disciplines (sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, psychology). It shows that the Europeanisation of the social sciences is linked to different types of competitions: rivalries between scientific paradigms, competitions between academic institutions, as well as geopolitical tensions. Europeanisation works as a resource that can be used on these different stages, in the framework of pre-existing institutional, intellectual and political conflicts. However, the use of this resource sometimes has unforeseen consequences. As associations grow, their objectives, practices and agendas become increasingly autonomous from what their founders intended. Scientific Europeanisation thus progressively spirals out of its initiators’ control.

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