Eddie Hartmann

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline Sociology
Assistant Professor, University of Potsdam

Research project

The Social Order of Violent Action. A Theoretical Framework for the Microfoundation of Collective Violence


At least since the beginning of this century, the international research community has been studying the subject of violence in detail. This research trend can be interpreted above all as a reaction to a global development characterized by numerous and increasingly also violent political and social conflicts. However, it can be seen in the social sciences that decades of neglecting violence as a research subject have led to considerable theoretical and methodological gaps. One of these, perhaps the decisive gap for sociology, concerns the question of under what conditions exercising physical violence is to be viewed as social action and not primarily as a political, moral or even genetic problem: to what extent can the violence of individual actors (micro level) be attributed to the involvement of individuals in social relationships and collective structures (macro level) and also only be adequately explained by these factors? In other words, how can physical violence be defined as a genuinely social fact and thus also be clearly differentiated analytically from other forms of violence? The current state of theoretical and methodological debate does not allow the research community to answer these questions at present. In order to be able to close this gap in the research, first and foremost, the shortcomings of action theory in violence research need to be addressed. This requires a new kind of interdisciplinary approach which is able to link the cognitive and affective mechanisms of physical violence with the social processes through which actors are involved in collective practices and structures, processes which make such a major contribution to the genesis of cognitions and affects specific to violence. Consequently, the proposed project focuses on developing a research programme in the sociology of violence, grounded in action theory, which links the micro level of actors with the macro level of social and cultural orders. Through the development of an interdisciplinary interface between sociological action theory, the sociology of violence and the cognitive and neurosciences, the project will make it possible to interrelate cognitions and affects specific to violence as well as collective contexts of order and practice in practical research. This gives rise to a concept of violence as a social fact which opens up an interdisciplinary research perspective on the specific group affiliations between actors and the resultant relational resources which must generally mobilise actors to exercise physical violence. This analytical approach forms the foundation for a comparative research design based on the empirical analysis of six cases of violent action in order to be able to also empirically support the theory development which is the objective of the project.




Eddie Hartmann is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Potsdam, Germany. He studied sociology, political sciences and philosophy at the University of Hamburg, the Institut dʼÉtudes Politiques of Paris and the Free University Berlin. In 2010-11 he both defended and published his PhD thesis entitled “Strategies of Counteraction” (Strategien des Gegenhandelns. Zur Soziodynamik symbolischer Kämpfe um Zugehörigkeit, Konstanz 2011), a sociological analysis of the social conflict and mobilization processes behind the violent unrest which occurred in 2005 in suburban France. This research was conducted within the Cotutelle-de-Thèse, an international PhD program run as a partnership between the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (EHESS). 


Selected publications


'Symbolic Boundaries and Collective Violence. A New Theoretical Argument for an Explanatory Sociology of Collective Violent Action', Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour (forthcoming).


'Violence', with J. Mackert, in J. Baxter (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology, Oxford University Press, New York, 2015.


Violence et sciences sociales. Plaidoyer pour un relationnisme méthodologique, (ed.), Revue de synthèse, vol. 4, 2014.


'Ordre social, légitimité et violence. La violence physique comme fait social', Revue de synthèse, vol. 4, 2014, pp. 297-330.


Ordnung und Gewalt. Schwerpunktheft, with J. Mackert (eds),  Berliner Journal für Soziologie, no. 1, 2013.


'Soziale Ordnung und Gewalt. Anmerkungen zur neueren Literatur in der Gewaltforschung', Berliner Journal für Soziologie, no. 1, 2013, pp. 115-131.


Strategien des Gegenhandelns. Zur Soziodynamik symbolischer Kämpfe um Zugehörigkeit,  Universitätsverlag Konstanz, Konstanz, 2011.



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