Sociological research addresses three main areas. The first focuses on the institutional and normative foundations of democracy. This comprises the studies of institutions and processes in the broadly understood institutionalisation of various spheres of life.
There are studies on:
- the formation of the post-transformation social order,
- issues of European integration,
- theory of contemporary civil society,
- social, political and cultural conditions of public discourse on the local and macro-social level (national and state),
- various forms of bottom-up mechanisms of democratisation.
The second broad research area concerns social structure and inequality in the context of systemic changes. The research in this area is carried out in several directions.
On the one hand the studies focus on the classical issues of social stratification, such as the evolution of the stratification patterns, the problem of the class barriers and inequality of sexes.
On the other hand, the research turns to the new phenomena engendered by the mechanisms of the capitalist market, the cultural dimension of poverty being coined “Polish poverty” and the creation of the new areas of social deprivation with a specific attention on the possibilities of the formation of the Polish variant of underclass and middle class. The third research area concerns culture and cultural aspects of systemic transformation. It includes:
- the destruction of social bonds, the collapse of traditional identity patterns and the emergence of a new-type bonds,
- the formation of new principles of social ordering of the world,
- new forms of individual and collective self-definition.
The developed in world sociology issues of globalisation with particular reference to its pace, range and consequences for Poland constitute a separate research area. In 2000-2002 the Institute was a participant of the international project “Social Sciences Infrastructure Network in a Growing European Community”. This project that embraced scientific institutions from France, Germany, the Netherlands and several other countries, was being implemented as a part of the 5th Framework Programme of the European Commission. Another international project within the 5th Framework Programme of the EU was the “European Civil Society” project: IFiS PAN participated in it in 2003-2005.
Since 2000 IFiS has been involved in the implementation of a “European Social Survey” (ESS), the most recent cross-national survey in Europe, covering 24 countries. The ESS is sponsored by the European Science Foundation and is aimed at a systematic collection of data on social phenomena in Europe, from the point of view of European integration.
In 2004-2005 the Institute participated in the international research project “European Quality of Life Survey” covering 28 countries. Empirical research is accompanied by methodological reflection. Within the Research Group of Methods and Techniques of Social Research, which concentrates on the introducing the new techniques of research and data analysis, identification of errors and assessment of errors’ impact on the validity of data as well as the methods of improving the work of interviewers.
IFiS PAN publishes three sociological journals, including two national – Studia Socjologiczne (Sociological Studies) and Ask: Społeczeństwo, Badania, Metody (Ask: Society, Research and Methods – and one (Sisyphus. Social Studie) published in English and aimed to the international audience.