The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science
In Memory of Thomas Luckmann (1927-2016)
We commemorate Thomas Luckmann who passed away on May 10, 2016 at the age of 88. Thomas Luckmann (born at the 14th of October, 1927 in Jesenice/Slowenia) studied Philosophy, German Literature, Romance Philology and Psychology at the Universities of Vienna and Innsbruck and the New School for Social Research, where he studied with Alfred Schutz. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology in the year of 1956, and from 1960-65 he taught at the New School. When in 1965 he was offered a professorship at the University of Frankfurt, he returned to Europe. In 1970 he transferred to the University of Konstanz where he worked as a professor in Sociology until his retirement in 1994.
Thomas Luckmann is one of the most significant representatives of German after-war Sociology and already during his lifetime has been considered one of classical thinkers of the sociological discipline. His major publications are The Social Construction of Reality (1966) together with Peter L. Berger, establishing a new sociology of knowledge; The Invisible Religion (1967), which refounded the sociology of religion, and the standard work The Structures of the Life-World (1975/1984), initiated by his teacher Alfred Schutz and completed by Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality is one of the most influential publications of the sociological discipline; the American Sociological Association considers it to be one of the ten most important books in Sociology and it was translated into thirteen different languages.
With the death of Thomas Luckmann, we lose an outstanding and exceptional thinker of the human sciences and one of its finest persons.
“The Symbolic Construction of Reality”
III. Conference of The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science
Tokyo, May 6-8, 2016, Waseda University
The concept of “symbol” is without doubt in the core of the theoretical framework of the human sciences. In order to highlight the significance of symbols for the constitution of human life, Ernst Cassirer defined the human being as “animal symbolicum,” because he considered the concept of rationality as inadequate to describe human cultural forms and realities. Its relevance is beyond question and a great variety of differing notions of the symbol were developed by social behaviorists, pragmatists, cultural anthropologists, psychoanalysts, literary theorists, philosophers of life, semioticians and many more. Yet, it remains unclear how these theoretical positions are connected to each other and to what extent they can be combined with each other. Furthermore, a concise and systematic theoretical examination of the concept of symbol is rather underrepresented.
An utmost important symbol conception was developed by Alfred Schutz at the interface of phenomenology and the social sciences, which offers the particular potential to influence and enrich diverse disciplinary perspectives. He parts from the idea that symbols as elements of our life-world allow us to communicate everyday transcendent experiences. They allow us to mutually and collectively experience religious and aesthetic ideas, political ideologies, scientific thoughts, etc. They make it possible to share with othersthe variety of the multiple realities we live in. Furthermore and specifically important for the social sciences, the functioning of symbols is the basis for establishing constructed social entities such as society, community (the nation), social groups, or personal relationships such as love, friendship, etc. On the other hand, symbols are also struggled for as demonstrated by terrorism which focuses on targets with a strong symbolic relevance such as the World Trade Center. The strong impact of the Schutzian concept of symbol becomes recognizable in the modern sociology of knowledge (Berger/Luckmann), ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, social scientific hermeneutics, and as well in the reception theory of the literary sciences.
For its third conference The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science calls for papers with a focus on “The Symbolic Construction of Reality.” Both empirical and theoretical papers will be acceptable. Different kinds of academic perspectives from the social sciences, philosophy, history, art theory, etc., are in the same way welcome as concrete analyses of symbolic forms. Inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives are also encouraged as well as critical approaches. Besides the general focus on “The Symbolic Construction of Reality,” there will be sessions in addition that are principally open to other topics within the Schutzian paradigm. Paper proposals are not necessarily bound to the main topic of the conference. Session proposals are also welcome.
Local Organizer: Hisashi Nasu, Waseda University (Tokyo)
Organizers / Executive Committee: Jochen Dreher (Chair), Michael D. Barber, Hermílio Santos, Andreas Göttlich