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Sociological Research Online 4 (3) hammersley
Keywords: Constructionism; Reflexivity; Sociological Theory; Sociology's Role; Value Neutrality
Abstract: In this paper I argue against the influential 'mission statement' offered by Alvin Gouldner in his book For Sociology. This treats the discipline as supplying a reflexive perspective on social life that will lead political action towards the realisation of Enlightenment ideals. I point out that Gouldner is inconsistently reflexive, preserving his own position from the corrosive effects of the kind of sociological analysis he applies in criticising others. I contrast this with the reflexivity advocated by Steve Woolgar, deriving from the sociology of scientific knowledge. Woolgar suggests that reflexivity is always selective, and that (contrary to Gouldner) there is no sociological essence to be realised. Instead, the task for sociologists is to construct and reconstruct both sociology and its context, so as to bring off a practically successful mode of knowledge production. I argue that while Woolgar's position points to some genuine problems, it too is unsatisfactory. This is because he shares with Gouldner the assumption that a sociological perspective can be the basis for action in the world; what might be called the 'grand conception' of its role. I conclude that a more modest approach is required, similar to the position taken by Max Weber. This treats sociology as no more than a source of specialised factual knowledge about the world. Its practical value is considerable, but nevertheless limited. Above all, it cannot offer a self-sufficient answer to questions about 'what's wrong?' or 'what is to be done?'.
Sociological Research Online 8 (4) anderson
Keywords: Bias; Embedded Journalists; Impartiality; Journalism Of Attachment; Media Effects; News Media; Objectivity
Abstract: The recent war in Iraq has generated much discussion about the role of the news media in representing war. This piece calls for greater sociological intervention into this debate. In particular, it cautions against exaggerating the ideological effects of media propaganda on public attitudes to war. The decision to go to war generated unusually high levels of public opposition. In times of war it is commonplace for policymakers and military personnel to attack the media for bias and credit them with a determining influence on public opinion. However, this piece suggests that there is a need for greater critical engagement with developments in audience research. Also, current debates also exhibit considerable confusion over concepts of ‘objectivity’, ‘impartiality’ and ‘bias’. Recent sociological work reveals both the complexities arising from the ambiguity of concepts of ‘objectivity’ and ‘bias’, and the need for a more fine-grained approach towards media effects.
Sociological Research Online 14 (4) 2
Keywords: Public Sociology; Professional Sociology; Critical Realism; Governmentality; Second Modernity; Public/private; Michael Burawoy
Abstract: This article encourages sociologists to take a hybrid approach to the incorporation of public sociology into the discipline. The idea of public sociology rests upon a double conversation between sociologists as public actors, and the involvement of the 'extra-academic' world into the dialogue. However, the separation of public sociology from professional sociology is artificial. The division of labour between those working solely in academia, and those reaching out to the public at large is imaginary: sociologists do work in both the public and private. By blurring the line between public sociology and professional sociology (which constitutes a 'privacy' of sorts), sociology is able to reach a larger audience. To illustrate this argument, I examine how three theoretical approaches within sociology, governmentality literature, critical realism and second modernity, exemplify both public and private sociology, while remaining methodologically coherent and rigorous. These approaches show sociology to be a field in which disparate, multiple, fluid theories and metatheories exist side-by-side in work that is both public and professional.
Graham Crow and Naoko Takeda
Sociological Research Online 16 (3) 11
Keywords: Pahl, Impact, Interdisciplinary, Public Sociology
Abstract: The history of a discipline records the careers of its practitioners as well as providing an account their ideas. Studying these careers reveals much about the particular people and their work, and also provides insights into general questions such as how disciplines evolve, and how impact can be achieved amongst and beyond academic peers. This article focuses on the career of R. E. (Ray) Pahl. It argues that his position in British sociology over the last half century can be attributed in particular to two things. First, Pahl was committed to asking sociological questions whilst being open to other influences; we call him an interdisciplinary sociologist. Secondly, his approach engaged simultaneously with theoretical, methodological and substantive elements of the discipline rather than treating them as areas of separate expertise. These key facets of his work help in understanding why his work has reached such a wide range of audiences, and in explaining his distinctive record as a sociologist within and beyond the academy, which long pre-dates current concerns with 'impact'.
Lee F. Monaghan
Sociological Research Online 16 (3) 5
Keywords: Public Sociology; Neoliberalisation; Money; Protest; the Internet
Abstract: It is not just publicly funded universities that are facing a cold and hard future in the aftershock of the 2008 global banking crisis. Nations, such as Ireland, are similarly affected as states seek to appease 'the markets' and cover private banks' losses at the public's expense. As this wave of neoliberalisation, or market fundamentalism, proceeds we may ask: what is the role of sociology? Drawing from an exploratory study of financial activism, notably silver vigilantism and the Crash JP Morgan Campaign, this paper endorses global public sociology among threatened publics. As per Michael Burawoy's calls for public sociology, this entails promoting reflexive knowledge and democratic dialogue in the defence of civil society. After outlining the core tenets, strengths and weaknesses of silver vigilantism, the role of public sociology and the need for further research are underscored as the economic crisis continues in post 'Celtic Tiger' Ireland and beyond.
Yvette Taylor and Michelle Addison
Sociological Research Online 16 (4) 6
Keywords: Public Sociology, Use, Impact, City Publics, Class, Gender
Abstract: This article raises questions about who becomes the proper subject for (non)academic attention in a time when 'city publics' might be positioned as democratising and open or, conversely, as curtailed and shaped through specific and pre-determined economies of value and use. The use of the city and its residents are echoed in regeneration politics and objectives, attached to and brought forward by specific 'regenerative' subjects, now deemed 'resilient' and capacitated. Such rhetorics of inclusion and measurable impact are echoed within ideas of a 'public sociology', which the engaged researcher should practice as she re-engages differently located spaces and subjects. Here, questions are raised about the place of a 'public sociology' as part of a 'city publics', where understanding local disseminations and disparities is important in considering where different users, interviewees and indeed researchers are coming from. Having situated the fieldwork site, we initially focus on the expert advisory group and their constructions of the project's 'use-value'. We then consider the background 'shadows' in and out of 'expert' space, as a trailing presence of research intentions and trajectories. Ideas of public sociology – as with an open 'city publics' often assumes that all users are interested, willing to hear and appear as equal members of a 'community'. In contrast, the experience of engaging a user group may involve dis-engaging the research-researcher-researched and here we provide disruptions to a straightforward 'travelling through' research space as we walk through our research methodologies. This article presents professional and personal reflections on research experience as well as interpretative accounts of navigating fieldwork and city space.
Sociological Research Online 22 (1) 7
Keywords: Max Weber, Value Neutrality, Value Relevance, Objectivity, Public Sociology
Abstract: Weber's proposal that social science should aim to be value neutral is now widely rejected. However, I argue that his position was more sophisticated than is generally recognised, and that it is for the most part sound. Clarification of his position is provided, along with an outline of the reasons why it came to be rejected. I suggest that these are, for the most part, based upon misconceptions. I also demonstrate that there are fundamental problems with any notion of normative sociology, ones that are rarely addressed and have not been resolved.
John Stephen McKenzie
Sociological Research Online 22 (1) 8
Keywords: Emotional Reflexivity, Emotions, Field Position, Guiding Principle of Objectivity, Reflexive Turn
Abstract: This paper demonstrates how emotional reflexivity can help researchers aspire to the benchmark of objectivity. It will be argued that emotional exchanges during interviews with research participants can enhance understanding based on the author’s research experiences in an inter-disciplinary, multi-method, longitudinal study of low-energy, social housing in Aberdeen, Scotland. It will then be demonstrated that emotional reflexivity allowed the researcher to identify how his feelings of empathy with the household occupants, who had had a negative experience, developed and how he began to share their frustrations and disappointments with the Council. This allowed him to locate himself within the research field, and help him understand how this influenced his representation of this group. This consequently allowed him to moderate his focus on the negative experiences of some occupants and produce a more comprehensive account of the full range of the householders’ perspectives. In conclusion, it will be argued that emotional reflexivity can help researchers maintain the guiding principle of objectivity whilst locating the researcher within the field and therefore can provide an effective means of negotiating the pitfalls of the reflexive turn.