Uses and Limits of Concepts in Social Sciences and Humanities

CEFRES Epistemological Seminar 2016-2017

Conveners: István Pál Ádám (CEFRES), Clara Royer (CEFRES) and Tomáš Weiss (IMS FSV UK)
Where: CEFRES library – Na Florenci 3, 110 00 Prague 1
When: every second Thursday from 3:30 pm to 5 pm
23 February,  9 & 23 March, 6 & 20 April, 11 May
Language: English

The program of the Summer Semester 2016-2017 is already available on our calendar!


This seminar wants to provide young researchers with a theoretical background and help them to reflect upon how they use and elaborate relevant concepts for their PhD research. It will also highlight the differences and similarities in using concepts in different disciplines.

Each session will be led by a young researcher, who will comment on a theoretical text introducing a key-concept for his/her field and open it for discussion. Therefore, various concepts will be presented through their definitions, uses and limits. Concepts can’t be considered as a permanent “tool box” to which a social scientist could turn each time he/she conducts research, hence the necessity to think upon concept formation. The seminar aims at preventing the pitfalls of flat empiricism, words confusion, over-theorization, and at thinking through the uses and misuses of concepts. It could touch upon concepts such as “identity”, “modernity”, “moral behaviour”, “security”, “society”, “culture”, “form”, “gender”, “church”, “capitalism”, “professionalism”, and so forth.

Seminar is open to PhD students and post-doctoral scholars. Each session will begin with an overview of one selected reading mainly in English, followed by a discussion. The reader with texts will be available in electronic form. Please write to Claire Madl to get the reader :

A few texts on concepts

  1. Bastien Bosa, “Des concepts et des faits”, Labyrinthe [online], 37 | 2011 (2), online on 01/08/2013.
  2. John Drysdale, “How Are Social-Scientific Concepts Formed? A Reconstruction of Max Weber’s Theory of Concept Formation”, Sociological Theory 14, no. 1 (1996), pp. 71-88.
  3. Bernard Fradin, Louis Quéré, Jean Widmer (eds.), L’enquête sur les catégories. De Durkheim à Sacks, Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, 1994.
  4. John Gerring, “What Makes a Concept Good? A Criterial Framework for Understanding Concept Formation in the Social Sciences”, Polity 31, no. 3 (1999), pp. 357-93.