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Sociology on the Skids

an article by Joshua Glenn

(our site's article review)

The article outlines the identity crisis sociology has been having since the 90s. On the one hand, boring specialized jargon keeps everyone but other sociologists from reading papers and journals. But on the other hand, if it’s written so that it’s easily readable (e.g., the Tofflers’ prose style), then it’s labeled mere journalism. And there are too many specialized factions within the discipline. Worse, it has become “enmeshed in the politics of advocacy and the ideology of self-righteousness”. Even worse yet: “77 percent of sociologists perceive themselves as being politically on the left.” Emile Durkheim, the founder of sociology, and sociologists R.K. Merton, Talcott Parsons, and Erving Goffman are other examples of liberal sociologists.

Second Wave quantitative sociologists are trying to look scientific so they’re obsessing on numbers
Second Wave quantitative sociologists are trying to look scientific so they’re obsessing on numbers

The new-paradigm (ecological-holistic), Third Wave, systems thinkers in sociology are tugging one way toward holism, while the quantitative sociologists are trying to look scientific so they’re obsessing on numbers and quantification—thereby acting as Second Wave, old-paradigm (mechanistic-reductionistic) advocates. And the battle between objective and subjective still rages as well.

The good news is that the wisest of these academicians recommend two things: putting more humanistic thought into their subject's dryness and addressing malfunctioning families not just in terms of experts that can help them but in terms of creation of better and wider social networks using existing or potential social resources in the immediate or semi-immediate surroundings of said families. Systems sociology doesn't mean it's experts OR social network enhancement/empowerment. It means experts AND social network enhancement/empowerment initially, then social network only as soon as possible.