Sociologists face difficult tasks at the turn of the century. Sociology needs conceptual breakthroughs in order to keep pace with accelerated social change. Global trends require new visions about social action and social or- der. Evolving patterns of regionalisation and specific developmental paths of societies demand careful elaboration on relationships between local, regional and global processes. Deepening social differences and efforts to re-integrate social structures foster comparative research. The growing complexity of networks involving individuals, groups, organisations and societies calls for interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary studies. They have to respond to widespread expectations for policy orientation and practical relevance of so- ciological research. Together with the spread of ideas and practices of sus- tainable development, there is an increasing pressure on sociology to incor- porate closer links to nature and technology in its conceptualisations and to strengthen their normative content. There is evidence to suggest that the international sociological commu- nity has difficulties in coping with the complexity and urgency of the above tasks. Narratives often overshadow analysis and explanations in sociological discourse as well as debates on current social processes. Sturlies and teach- ings in the field of sociological theory have turned into a self-satisfactory enterprise, receiving its inspiration from the classics of the discipline and much less from the burning social problems surrounding us. Empirical stud- ies, having only symbolic connection to sociological concepts or to the need of practical solutions, are abundant.
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