The Arrogance of Public Sociology

Tittle, Charles R.
June 2004
Social Forces;Jun2004, Vol. 82 Issue 4, p1639
Academic Journal
This section comments on the article Public Sociologies: Contradictions, Dilemmas, and Possibilities, by Michael Burawoy, which appeared in the June 2004 issue of the journal Social Forces. Criticizing Burawoy's argument in a cogent way is difficult because his position is not entirely clear. Because what he means by public sociology is somewhat problematic, almost anything to say can be countered by a disclaimer that the object of my comment is not, in fact, part of his position or that it is not what he meant. If the interpretation of the meaning of public sociology is correct, then a program encouraging sociologists to become more public would appear to be a mistake. As an opinion, public sociology involves some false assumptions, endangers what little legitimacy sociology has, thereby helping to undermine the chances of sociological knowledge ever being taken seriously in public arenas, and is, in fact, incompatible with good professional sociology. Moreover, urging public sociology is contrary to one of the bases of a good society that Burawoy would probably endorse, participation on a more or less equal basis by all citizens. The complaint with public sociology does not stem from lack of feeling or from lack of concern about the human condition. Rather, it flows from what is regarded as defects in the notion itself.


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