Pekka Sulkunen

President of the European Sociological Association (ESA) 2011-2013

Professor of Sociology, University of Helsinki since 2000; Kone Research Fellow at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies 2011-2014

Director of the University of Helsinki Centre for Research on Addictions, Control and Governance (CEACG)


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NEW COURSE 2nd PERIOD 2015 (30 Oct – 18 Dec). The Sociological Promise from the Enlightenment to Postmodern Critics. Fighting Back the Anthropological Monster.

Presentation of the course
Why is it so difficult to deal with difference in modern societies? Do they, even the most liberal democracies, have a tendency to turn into totalitarian states? These are questions that arise today as we look around the world in which we live, but they are not new. The social thought in the Enlightenment formulated them on the basis of two starting points. First, societies are not held together by natural laws; they are man-made human constructions and therefore historical and variable. Second, not only are societies made by humans; also humans are made by societies. Calculative rationality is one of the ways in which societies “make man” but not the basis of social order.

Read more HERE

Proto-sociology of Mandeville and Hume

Sociologists have for a long while largely turned their backs on the foundations of their discipline as a science of society. Two or three decades ago prominent authors such as Zygmunt Bauman (1991) and Nikolas Rose (1996) concluded that the end of society, even the social, has arrived. Many other more or less light-handed assertions of the end of society where heard. Why societies hold together is a pointless question if there is no society.

Historians, fortunately, have at the same time turned to what could be called the first classical period of modern social science in the 18th century with this very question in mind. Rousseau, Montesquieu, Mandeville, Locke and others in France and England; and Hume and Smith with their predecessors and contemporaries in Scotland have received new attention as theorists of a society that is constituted by autonomous agents. As Reinhard Koselleck (1988 [1959]) argued already in the 1950s, these authors were responding with their critiques to the crisis of sovereign absolutism and its Hobbesian justifications. Such a critique is more than wanted in the current world situation where fallen dictatorships tend to turn not into democracies but into battle fields that much resemble the bellum omnium contra omnes  to which Hobbes offered his solution and for which the 18th century philosophers were seeking alternatives.

Read more HERE

What I do in Sociology?

My research expertise consists of two lines: theories of addiction and public sector research. I am leader of an international Research Consortium “Theories and Images of Addiction” (Images) and supervisor in a research area of the FP7 Consortium ALICE RAP led by Prof. Peter Anderson. My reserach area in this consortium is coordinated by Dr. Matilda Hellman. Public sector research concerns a wide array of issues in which the state, the market and civic organizations control, care or cure the life of citizens. I am author of The Saturated Society: Governing Risk and Lifestyle in Consumer Culture (Sage 2009), editor of Projektiyhteiskunnan kääntöpuolia (Flipsides of the Project Society (with Kati Rantala, Gaudeamus 2007) and many articles concerning the role of the public sphere in contemporary capitalism.

What I think in sociology

I have strong opinions on what sociologists should do but they don’t.

see my blog

The Saturated society

This book contains dangerous material … flyer.


The University of Helsinki Centre for Research on Addictions, Control and Governance is a network-based structure within the Department of Social Research, Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Helsinki. Our research covers the theory of addictions, social control policy including criminology and sociology of law, as well as structures of governance. Read more HERE


Below is a list of some important publications and links to the full text versions. Here is the full list of my publications.


  • Sulkunen, Pekka: The Saturated Society: Regulating Lifestyles in Consumer Capitalism. Sage, London 2009.
  • “Johdatus sosiologiaan – käsitteitä ja näkökulmia” (Introduction to sociology – concepts and perspectives”) (1998, 9 editions), “Sosiolgian avaimet” (Keys to Sociology) (1994, 7 editions).
  • The European New Middle Class, Avebury 1992.
  • Edited with Christoffer Tigerstedt, Caroline Sutton and Katariina Warpenius: Broken Spirits. Power and Ideas in Nordic Alcohol Control, 2000
  • Rantala, Kati & Sulkunen, Pekka (eds.): Projektiyhteiskunnan kääntöpuolia. Gaudeamus, Helsinki 2006.
  • Edited with Jukka Törrönen:“Semioottisen sosiologian näkökulmia – sosiaalisen todellisuuden rakentuminen ja ymmärrettävyys” (Towards semiotic sociology – the construction and ynderstandability of social reality), Gaudeamus, 1997
  • Edited with Holmwood, John & Radner, Hilary & Schulze, Gerhard:Constructing the New Consumer Society. Macmillan, London 1997,
  • With Pertti Alasuutari, Ritva Nätkin and Merja Kinnunen: The Urban Pub, 1997(1985)
  • A la Recherche de la Modernité Consommation et consommateurs d’alcool en France, 1987.


Sulkunen, P. (2015). Images and Theories of Addiction. Summary of Results. Teoksessa Images and Theories of Addiction. Summary of Results. (Publications of the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki.).

Sulkunen, P. (2015). The Consumer Society and the Social Bond: the Neoliberal Turn in Norway. Teoksessa Consumer Culture. Festrschrift to Eivind Sto. (Sivut 149-164). Oslo: Akker Publications.

Sulkunen, P. (2015). The Images Theory of Addiction. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Research : The Official Journal of the International Drug Abuse Research Society, 4(1), 5-11.

Sulkunen, P. (2015). The Kurdish Question. The Black Holes of Democracy. Telos., summer 2015(171), 27-41.

Sulkunen, P. J. (2015).What is Neo-liberalism? Justifications of deregulating financial markets in Norway and Finland. (Prosjektrapport). Oslo: SIFO – National Institute for Consumer Research.

Sulkunen, P. (2014). Society on its own: The sociological promise today. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology , 1(2), 180-195. 10.1080/23254823.2014.956279

Sulkunen, P. (2014). The proto-sociology of Mandeville and Hume. Distinktion, 15(3), 361-365. /10.1080/1600910X.2014.897639

Ruuska, A., & Sulkunen, P. (2013). Addiktiosairaus ja moraali: Lääketieteellisen alkoholiajattelun kehitys. Teoksessa T. Tammi, & P. Raento (Toimittajat), Addiktioyhteiskunta: Riippuvuus aikamme ilmiönä. (Sivut 28-50). Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press.

Sulkunen, P., Majamäki, M., & Pöysti, V. K. (2013). Pathways and Speedways to Gambling Addiction. Addiction Research and Theory.

Sulkunen, P., & Ugland, T. (2013). Public Health and solidarity – how to succeed in the population-based prevention of alcohol problems. (All Well in the Welfare State? Welfare, Well-being and the Politics of Happiness). Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Nordic Centre of Excellence NordWel.

Sulkunen, P. (2013). Geographies of addiction. Nordisk Alkohol- och Narkotikatidskrift, 30(1-2), 7-12. 10.2478/nsad-2013-0002

Sulkunen, P. (2013). Commentary on Maclennan etal. (2013): Is local alcohol policy possible?. Addiction, 108(5), 898-899. 10.1111/add.12174

Pekka Sulkunen and Leena Warsell (2012) : Universalism against particularism. Kettil Bruun  and the ideological background of the Total Consumption Model. Accepted for publication, Nordic J. Alcohol and Drug Res. Vol 29 (3) pp. 217-232, 2012.

Sulkunen, P. (2012). Is Mass Society a Threat to Representative Democracy? Revisiting David Riesman’s “Other Directed Character”. RIMCIS – International and Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Sciences, 1(1), 5-30. 10.4471/rimcis.2012.01

Sulkunen, P. (2011) Autonomy against Intimacy. On the Problem of Governing Lifestyle Related Risks. Telos No 156 (Fall 2011): 99-112.

Sulkunen, P., & Rantala, V. (2011) Is Pathological Gambling an Addiction Or Just a Big Problem?. Addiction Research and Theory, 20(1), 1-10. 10.3109/16066359.2011.552819

Agency and Power: the contractual illusion. European Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 13, 2010.

Research Funding – a complex business. Commentaries. Addiction 105, 2010, pp. 201-202.

Reception Analytical Group Interview. A Short Introduction and Manual. Working Papers of Images and Theories of Addiction no 1. Research Reports no 260, Department of Sociology. Helsinki: Yliopistopaino, 2009. (with Michael Egerer)

The Relevance of Relevance: Social Sciences and Social Practice in Post-Positivistic Society. In Burawoy, M. (ed.): Facing an Unequal World: Challenges for a Global Sociology. Sinica University, Taipei 2009.

Vändpunkter inom forsknings och högskoleförvaltningen. Nya Argus, Nr 3, 2009, pg. 65-68.

Images of Addiction. Representations of Addictions in Film. Addiction Research & Theory, 2007, Vol. 15, no. 6, p. 543-559.

Arithmetic utopias: Comments on Anderson & Baumberg: Alcohol in Europe. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 2006, vol. 13, p. 503-507.

The ethics of not taking a stand: dilemmas of drug and alcohol prevention in a consumer society – a case study. International Journal of Drug Policy 15. 2004 (with Rantala, Kati and Mirja Määttä).

Translating back – evaluation as sociological intervention. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 20, 2003, pp. 161-168. (with Mirja Määttä and Kati Rantala)

Between culture and nature: intoxication in cultural studies of alcohol and drug use. Contemporary Drug Problems 29/Summer 2002.

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