Social Sciences between Universalism and Differentialism: The Revival of the National Schools?

Madalina Vartejanu-Joubert's picture
Call for Publications
March 31, 2023
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Intellectual History, Political Science, Research and Methodology, Social Sciences

The electronic peer review Sociétés plurielles / Plural Societies calls for contributions to the thematic issue "Social Sciences between Universalism and Differentialism:  The Revival of the National Schools?" 

In the social sciences, the debate on 'differentialism' - the irreducibility of differences between human groups and its consequences for analysis, particularly as an impediment to the development of universally transposable concepts - recurs periodically.

The recognition of the 'right to difference' in the 1950s introduced a form of cultural relativism against the colonial and Westernist biases that marked the evolutionary approaches then prevalent in ethnology. However, while protesting against the idea of a hierarchy of cultures and societies, the social sciences have also tempered the idea of irreducible differences by demonstrating the mutual influences that mark cultural groupings, characterized by superimpositions and interconnections rather than by a formation in separate blocks.

This does not prevent the idea of differentialism from coming back, at regular intervals, often carried by nationalist political agendas claiming to evade obligations held to be universal, particularly in terms of respect for human rights. Obvious in history or geography, the mobilization of social sciences in the service of nationalist agendas also affects sociology, anthropology, or the study of international relations. In a distant echo of the notion of "Asian values", popularised in the political field during the 1990s and since fallen into desuetude, we have been witnessing, for example, for the past twenty years, the re-foundation of national or regional schools that intend to contribute to the emergence of alternative and nationally anchored conceptions of the various disciplines of the human and social sciences. These schools appear to be particularly active in the context of emerging states with a reformist and critical agenda of universalism, which is considered Western domination. They are often supported by academies that are active in the elaboration of an intellectual production that confers scientific legitimacy to national discourses, as is the case, for example, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Russian Academy of Sciences, or the Indian Social Sciences Academy.

This call for papers is open to monographic and comparative works highlighting the evolution of social science production in different national contexts, the links between knowledge and power through the functioning of national academies of social sciences and the themes privileged by their publications, or the relationship maintained in different contexts with the debate on cultural differentialism on the one hand and political and scientific universalism on the other.

Contact Info: 

Proposals in English, French, or German, can be sent to the editorial office at

Instructions for authors are provided in the attachment.

For articles: send a one-page text with a short biography by March 31st, 2023.

For reviews and cross-readings: send directly the text of 10-15,000 characters, with a short biography before May 15th, 2023.

For abstracts of recently defended theses: send a text of 10,000 characters, accompanied by a short biography before May 15th, 2023.