Dr Matthias Benzer

Lecturer in Sociology

(BSc Sociology (LSE); PhD Sociology (LSE))

Matthias Benzer photo

Email: m.benzer@sheffield.ac.uk
Room: Elmfield, LG16 | Telephone: 0114 222 6406 (external), 26406 (internal)

Academic Profile

Matthias joined the Department of Sociological Studies in 2012. He previously held the Peacock Fellowship at the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, London School of Economics (2010-2012), and a Lectureship in Sociology at the University of Manchester (2008-2010). Matthias obtained a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics in 2008 with a thesis in Sociological Theory. When studying for his doctorate, he worked as a Course Director for LSE’s Widening Participation Programme and as a Teaching Assistant in Sociological Theory.

Research

Matthias’s research has focused on contemporary Sociological Theory and Social Science Methodology. His work explores the potential contributions of Critical and Poststructuralist Social Theory to the sociological study of contemporary capitalist society: of its dominant social relations and of their implications for human life and thought. Moreover, Matthias has examined the methodological challenges of 20th and 21st century Social Theory to Sociology’s epistemological, empirical and methodical, interpretive and analytical, socio-critical and normative, and textual dimensions.

Matthias’s current research project centres on a sociological inquiry into the operations of quality of life ideas in the health sector, notably in healthcare regulation. His analyses focus on: definitions of quality of life; measurement and valuation instruments; operationalisations of quality of life conceptions in regulatory work, especially in cost-effectiveness analysis; and connections between quality of life ideas and approaches to human suffering and death. Operations of quality of life ideas are investigated in view of their underlying knowledge base, their implicit normative commitments and value judgements, their governing bioethical principles, and their political orientations. The project addresses discussions on capitalism’s dominant modes of valuing human life and of conceptualising happiness and the good life as well as damaged and bad life, responses to human suffering, and approaches to finitude, dying, and death. The project seeks to intervene in the sociological debate on prevalent biopolitical configurations with a view to the conceptions of, and interventions in, individual and population life they entail.

Matthias is currently writing a book with Kate Reed on contemporary socio-theoretical problematisations of human life.

Matthias is co-convenor (with Julia Moses) of the "Risk, Policy and the Law" research strand of Sheffield’s Centre for Medical Humanities.

From 2011 to 2012, Matthias was the editor of Risk&Regulation, the biannual magazine of the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the London School of Economics.

Matthias occasionally works as a translator of social science writings. Among the texts he has translated into English are essays by Ulrich Beck and Boris Groys.

Research areas:

  • Sociological Theory
  • Sociological Methodology
  • Cultural Theory
  • Quality of Life Debates
  • Biopolitics
  • Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Sociology of Suffering, Dying, and Death
  • Regulation Studies
Funded Research Projects
Date Sponsor Details
2013-14 New Directions Award, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield QALY Power: The Biopolitics of Quality-Adjusted Life Years
2010-11 Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (LSE); Peacock Foundation Quality of life and risk conceptions in UK healthcare regulation: their implications for understanding contemporary valuations of human life, conceptions of good and bad life, approaches to suffering, and responses to mortality.

Teaching

Matthias currently teaches courses for first, second, and third year undergraduates. His teaching focuses on decisive interventions in sociological and cultural theory and on recent developments in the sociological study of biopolitics. The courses place emphasis on examining the key ideas, concepts, and substantive arguments as well as the modes of analysis and methodological considerations that have shaped those areas of sociology. Students are encouraged to problematise the relationship between theoretical and empirical social research as well as to assess the relevance of sociologico-theoretical ideas for their own observations of, and experiences in, everyday social life. Lectures are constructed around exposition, clarification, contextualisation, critical analysis, and illustrations of theoretical ideas. Seminars centre on exercises closely tailored to the course substance which engage students in guided explorations and discussions of sociologico-theoretical texts. Matthias is particularly keen to assist students in gaining skills for researching, interpreting, and critically evaluating primary theoretical texts as well as in developing their ability to structure their arguments, presentations, and written work on sociological theory. Matthias’s teaching is led by his research on critical and poststructuralist social theory as well as by his investigations of contemporary sociological debates on biopolitics.

  • SCS 1011 Classical Social Theory (lecture series) and SCS 1012 Exploring Classical Social Thought (seminar series). These Level 1 undergraduate modules introduce students to the foundations of Sociological Theory. They focus on the ideas of Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Georg Simmel.
  • SCS 2008 Power over Life and Death. This Level 2 undergraduate module centres on sociological analyses of the ways in which contemporary societies have sought to shape human life. Substantive topics include: approaches to steering individual and population life, the social management of risk, social responses to human suffering, and collective modes of dealing with mortality.
  • SCS 3029 Leisure, Gifts, and Terrorists: Exploring Contemporary Cultural Thought. This Level 3 undergraduate module examines decisive 20th and 21st century advances in the sociological analysis of culture. Topics include Kracauer’s interpretations of mass ornaments, Benjamin’s study of photography, Adorno’s critique of astrology and leisure activities, Mauss’s and Bataille’s works on gift exchange and destruction, and Baudrillard’s analyses of terrorism.
  • SCS 6049 Cultural Theory. This course for Masters students involves advanced examinations of cultural theory.

Postgraduate Supervision

To find out more about our PhD programmes, go to:
Studying for a PhD in Sociology

Publications since 2005

Book

Benzer, M. (2011) The Sociology of Theodor Adorno. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Articles

Benzer, M. (2013) 'Independence in Dependence: Health Technology Assessment, Quality of Life, and the Position of the Patient'. Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation Discussion Paper 73. [http://www2.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/CARR/pdf/DPs/DP73-Matthias-Benzer.pdf]

Benzer, M. (2012) ‘Lifelong Death Penalty: Adorno, Beckett’s Drama, Sociology’. Journal of Classical Sociology 12(1): 94-121. [http://jcs.sagepub.com/content/12/1/94.full.pdf+html]

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Social Critique in the Totally Socialized Society’. Philosophy & Social Criticism 37(5): 575-603. [http://psc.sagepub.com/content/37/5/575.full.pdf+html]

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Quality of Life and Risk Conceptions in UK Healthcare Regulation: Towards a Critical Analysis’. Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation Discussion Paper 68. [http://www2.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/CARR/pdf/DPs/Disspaper68.pdf]

Abdullah, H. & M. Benzer (2011) ‘Thinking the New: Introduction to “…Our Fate as a Living Corpse…”’. Theory, Culture & Society 28(2): 70-3.
[http://tcs.sagepub.com/content/28/2/69.full.pdf+html]

Benzer, M. (2009) ‘Метафизика в ловушке: философские аспекты вызова, брошенного Бодрийяром гиперсовременности’. ХОРА 2(8): 35-57. [‘Metaphysics in Ambuscade: The Philosophical Aspects of Baudrillard’s Challenge to Hypermodernity’. Khora 2(8): 35-57.]

Other

Benzer, M. (2013) 'Book Review Essay "Guilt and Defense", "Group Experiment"', Social Forces 91(4): 1553-8 [http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/91/4/1553.full.pdf+html]

Benzer, M. (2012) 'Idea Proposal Production [Excerpt]', in Chan, S. and J. Bushnell (eds.)  A Hundred Seas Rising. Portsmouth: Aspex, pp. 74-5.

Benzer, M. (2012) 'Idea Proposal Production', voice recorded lecture, in Chan, S. A Hundred Seas Rising, 100 channel sound installation. Portsmouth: Aspex, 4th May - 2nd September 2012.

Benzer, M. (2011) 'Constructing Stakeholders'. Risk & Regulation 22: 20-21. [http://www2.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/CARR/publications/magazine.aspx]

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Adorno, Theodor’, in Southerton, D. et al. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Vol. 1. London: SAGE.

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Benjamin, Walter’, in Southerton, D. et al. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Vol 1. London: SAGE.

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Horkheimer, Max’, in Southerton, D. et al. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Vol 2. London: SAGE.

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Mass Culture (Frankfurt School)’, in Southerton, D. et al. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Vol 2. London: SAGE.

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Mauss, Marcel’, in Southerton, D. et al. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Vol 2. London: SAGE.

Benzer, M. (2011) ‘Potlatch’, in Southerton, D. et al. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Vol 3. London: SAGE.

Benzer, M. (2010) ‘Metaphysics’, in Smith, R. G. (ed.) The Baudrillard Dictionary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 124-6.