“Comparative sociology is not a particular branch of sociology; it is sociology itself,” wrote Emile Durkheim in 1895. It can be argued that the ideology of international surveys reflects this vision of one of the scholars that began to look at society through the sociological lens. Comparative research allows to focus on the relationship between society and individual and to ask larger questions, such as how the organization of the welfare state impacts our educational opportunities or good health. The European Social Survey (ESS) is one of the best known international survey and the sociologist Rory Fitzgerald is its director. Sigrun sat down with Rory recently in London where she was attending a kick-off meeting of a three year H2020 grant from the European Commission that was awarded to selected ESS countries recently to develop best practices for survey research in the 21st century. They discuss, among other things, how ESS started, ways to secure cross-national comparability, some of the most important findings since its beginning and how the results can benefit policymaking and society in general.
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