Alberto L. Bialakowsky & Alicia I. Palermo: Todos los Foros un fórum

Puente -ausschnitt

All Forums one forum

Ingles | Todos los Foros un fórum (español)

Alberto L. Bialakowsky

Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Alicia I. Palermo

Universidad Nacional de Luján, Argentina


Based on the experience in the local organization of the Second ISA Forum 2012 in Argentina on “Social Justice and Democratization” and in view of the upcoming Third ISA Forum 2016 on “The Futures We Want”, we reflect in this essay along three axes: (a) the meaning of the Forum as an assembly; (b) the idea of a “global sociology and the struggles for a better world”; and (c) the bridges in the sequence of ISA’s past and forthcoming forums.

Regarding the first axis, reflections on the signifier and signified of forums have a long history. The signifier carries political images of the Greek agora with its evolving horizontality of popular voices, i.e. voices without pedestals, voices in a circle of interaction with the corporeal playing a vital role. The circular contains spiral significations, concentric and eccentric at once, because the discussed cannot but be destined to the “Other” of such dialectic interaction. It is reflected in human history, resembling a congregation, an assembly without preferential terms, an egalitarian dialogue of many voices.

In terms of political development, democracy strives to let power rise from its wide diversity by direct consensus, but unfruitfully so, as representation replaces or suppresses the forum, moving further away from its germinating utopia.

In terms of science, history marks a zigzag route, tensions are always generated between the insularity of discovery and the need for legitimation through a consensus among equals. Let us mention the assertion of Thomas Kuhn in his famous postscript of 1969: “Scientific knowledge, like language, is intrinsically the common property of a group or else nothing at all.”

We have not abandoned the emphasis over the yearning for future scientific progress. This is how the re-emergence of the Forum has to be considered in the contexts of crises and renovated utopias such as the World Social Forum with its motto that “Another World Is Possible”. The international gatherings and the project of social transformation unify the same horizon of expectations that is broadened by the multi-universality of social movements.

From these perspectives, we interpret, ISA Forums inaugurate a distinct instance that differs from the ISA World Congress. All congresses, we think, have also aspects of a forum, and all forums have academic and associative contents of congresses. Yet this does not invalidate, but it does promote, their different motivations. Whereas a congress provides a platform for expositions, both in plenary meetings and in the research committees themselves, the forum tends to foster more interactive circulation. These different but mutually necessary conditions are vital for scientific development. Both are necessary spaces for the sociological community.

This brings us to the second axis noted above, regarding the Call for Papers about “The Futures We Want.” The forum is a unique opportunity for the exercise of collective intellect to imagine alternative scenarios “beyond abysmal thought” (Boaventura de Sousa Santos), for a socialized intellect aware of the current limits of the existing paradigms for change, for new thoughts and new praxis. Desired futures warrant, or demand, multiple entrances to other possible worlds. Today the symptoms of dramatic conservative restoration are being suffered across the globe and with them, critical scientific utopias of change show its limitations framed in an unipolar matrix (Aníbal Quijano).

Every intellectual praxis constitutes a provisional point of departure, a turn toward a new theory, a demonstration of a new scientific and social authentication (Zygmunt Bauman). In this sense, the macro meaning of praxis is always a social intellectual essay. Nothing can abstract it from this reality. It is natural, then, to eccentrically interrogate the composition of the corpus among peers, i.e. to question the ongoing domination of the colonized intellect in its guises of competition, isolation, and hegemony.

Why, then, do we say that we also want to reflect on the bridges between the past and upcoming Forums? It begins with the first ISA Forum, held in Barcelona in 2008 on the theme of “Sociological Research and Public Debate.” At its opening, the president of that moment, Michel Wieviorka emphasized: “Although our forum is a meeting of sociologists, we also want to discuss with other representatives of social knowledge or action. Our social sciences have much to gain from such a broader debate.” This helped to establish a crucial scaffolding for the construction of collective thinking towards desired futures.

The Second Forum in Buenos Aires on social justice and democratization is inherently connected to the debate about desired and imagined social and sociological futures. A future that has no chance of happening from the exclusive viewpoint of isolated scientific thought calls for a collective, social, and socialized intellect, encompassing not only other researchers but also other “social actors (which) aspire, desire, contemplate, hope, fear, imagine, anticipate, plan, reject, support and combat possible futures,” as noted in the Call for Papers for the upcoming Forum in Vienna 2016.

We want to, as a closure to these synthetic reflections, remember the words, which are still alive, with which we concluded our welcome to the second ISA Forum in Buenos Aires: “We have gathered here multitudinously to reflect jointly together. The Forum is an outcome, a result of an action, of a multiple associative will, to expand, recover and renew our common horizon.” We yearn that this upcoming forum 2016 in Vienna can constitute a new horizon in which this will can further expand, recover and renew these bridges that, further reinforced, can foster a future nourished by the sociological intellect of peers and boundary-crossing projects reflected in common.



Bauman, Zygmunt (1977) Para una sociología crítica. Buenos Aires: Marymar Editions.

Kuhn, Thomas S. (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2nd ed).

Quijano, Aníbal (2014) Cuestiones y Horizontes: De la dependencia histórico-estructural a la colonialidad/descolonialidad del poder. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (2009) “Más allá del pensamiento abismal: De las líneas globales a una ecología de saberes”, in Pluralismo epistemológico. La Paz: CLACSO, Muela del Diablo Editores, CIDES-UMSA.



Bialakowsky_Alberto_bwfAlberto L. Bialakowsky. Professor and Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Doctor Honoris Causa. Former President Latin American Sociology Association (ALAS). Chair of the Local Organizing Committee II ISA Forum of Buenos Aires 2012. Honorary Member Argentinean Association of Sociology.




Palermo_Alicia_bwfAlicia Itati Palermo. Professor and Researcher, National University of Luján, Argentina. PhD, National University of Buenos Aires. President of the Argentinean Association of Sociology. Co-Chair of the Local Organizing Committee II ISA Forum of Buenos Aires 2012. Coordinator of the Network of National Associations of Sociology of the Latin American Sociological Association (ALAS).



Banner Image: “Puente II” (“Bridge II,” detail) by Argentinian artist Guillermina Victoria, 2012.

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