Knowledge for Change #3 Professor Göran Therborn

Göran Therborn, Professor Emeritus in Sociology at Cambridge University.

Title: Urban Imaginations and the social dynamics of the 21st century.
When? January 18, 2018, 15.15-17.00
Where? Niagara, room B2, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, Malmö. 

The event will be moderated by Tapio Salonen, Professor in Social Work and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Malmö University.

Urban Imaginations and Social Dynamics of the 21st Century.
How can knowledge, in this case, social knowledge, become ”for change”?Something of the specificity of social knowledge has to be spelled out, such as: How to relate to its abundance? Where to locate society and the social in this world? For what kind of change do we want to know? Knowledge has an intrinsic ambiguity of social implication, which the current ”knowledge economy” and ”knowledge city” illustrate.

Social cognition is very much a process of handling contradictions and conflicts. We have then to be aware of the dialectics of social cognition.

The kind of change this lecture will focus on is urbanisation and re-urbanisation. Urbanisation has succeeded globalisation as the buzzword of social discussion, and re-urbanisation, the transformation of post-industrial cities, has become a major preoccupation of the already urbanised world, not the least in Malmö.

Cities are where strangers meet, and where different imaginations meet and compete. The international urbanist literature is currently dominated by three perspectives: by an eagle, a creator, and by a frog perspective. They have all their strengths and flaws. Here a fourth imagination will be added, which owing to its origin, with the same tongue-in-cheek respect as the others, will be called the perspective of the political flâneur. In this view, cities are seen as manifestations and representations of power, and situated in historical contexts of power. These contexts may be analytically approached as triangles of territory, capital, and people. Along these lines and within this kind of triangle, the urban social dynamics of the 21st century is operating.

The lecture concludes by underlining what to the author seems to be the triple vocation of Malmö University, the Self-Reflective, the Global, and the Urban.

As one of the most highly-cited contemporary Marxian-influenced sociologists, Göran Therborn is renowned for his writings and observations on issues such as the function of state, class, inequality and the future of the Marxist tradition. Previous to his post at Cambridge University, he was co-director of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala, and University Professor of Sociology at Uppsala University.