Professor Raf Vanderstraeten

Professor Raf Vanderstraeten

Visiting Professor

Department of Sociology

Dutch, English, French, German
Key Expertise
Theory-driven and historical sociology of education; religion; and science

About me

Raf Vanderstraeten studied at the universities of Leuven, Belgium (MA, PhD) and Bielefeld, Germany (Habilitation). He is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Theory at Ghent University (Belgium). In recent years, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the University of Lille (France), the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (Finland), and the University of Chicago (USA).

Raf (which is a short form for Raphael) has a strong interest in theory-driven and historical sociological research. As a former student of Niklas Luhmann, he particularly draws on the tradition of systems-theoretical research. In his own research, Raf studies historical transformations in three social ‘systems’, namely, education, religion and science. Over the years, his work appeared in a broad range of scholarly journals, such as The British Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Sociology of Education, European Educational Research Journal, Journal of Philosophy of Education and Review of Research in Education (for his work on education), Acta Sociologica, European Journal of Social Theory, Memory Studies, Soziale Systeme, and Thesis Eleven (for his work on religion), or Minerva, Science in Context, Scientometrics, Social Science History, Social Studies of Science, Sociology and Zeitschrift für Soziologie (for his work on science).

During his time at the LSE Raf is continuing to work on the historical transformations of science. He particularly intends to focus on the expansion and reconfiguration of the social sciences in the mid-twentieth century. This project will draw in part on archival materials.

Raf serves on the editorial board of The American Sociologist. He has also served on the Academic Board of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, both as member and chair.

Selected Publications


2018. Vanderstraeten, R. & Louckx, K. (2018). Sociology in Belgium: A Sociological History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

2015. Vanderstraeten, R. & Van der Gucht, F. (2015). De geschoolde maatschappij. Leuven-Den Haag: Acco.

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

2021 (in press). Niklas Luhmann and Talcott Parsons. In J. Trevino & H. Staubmann (Eds.), Routledge International Handbook of Talcott Parsons Studies. New York: Routledge.

2020. How does education function? European Educational Research Journal, 19.

2019. Systems everywhere? Systems Research & Behavioral Science, 36 (3), 255-262.

2018. Who had faith in sociology? Scholarly and ideological divergences in Belgium around 1900. Science in Context, 31 (4), 457-475.

2015. The making of Parsons’s “The American University”. Minerva, 53 (4), 307-325.

2014. Burying and remembering the dead. Memory Studies, 7 (4), 457-471.

2013. Talcott Parsons and the enigma of secularization. European Journal of Social Theory, 16 (1), 69-84.

2010. Scientific communication: Sociology journals and publication practices. Sociology, 44 (3), 559-576.

2007. Professions in organizations, professional work in education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 28 (5), 621-635.

2006. Soziale Beobachtungsraster: Eine wissenssoziologische Analyse von statistischen Klassifikationsschemata. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 35 (3), 193-211.

2006. The historical triangulation of education, politics and economy. Sociology, 40 (1), 125-142.

2004. The social differentiation of the educational system. Sociology, 38 (2), 255-272.

2002. Parsons, Luhmann and the theorem of double contingency. Journal of Classical Sociology, 2 (1), 77-92.

2001. The school class as an interaction order. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 22 (2), 267-277.

2000. Autopoiesis and socialization. On Luhmann’s reconceptualization of communication and socialization. British Journal of Sociology, 51 (3), 581-598.