No Path to Paradise: Deconstructing the Promise of Public Sociology

Christensen, Tony
March 2013
American Sociologist;Mar2013, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p23
Academic Journal
This essay treats Burawoy's advocacy for public sociology as a social problems claim. Using a social constructionist approach, I examine the rhetorical strategies Burawoy uses to construct the discipline in a way that makes public sociology seem not only relevant, but integral to what sociologists do. Sociology's history, ethos and practitioners are framed in ways that make its commitment to the civil sphere appear as a 'natural' direction for the discipline. Certain features of the discipline are foregrounded. Motives and desires are imputed. Villains are constructed and the paths to progress are outlined. By examining the framing strategies Burawoy uses to present his vision, the promise of public sociology is called into question. I do not argue that public sociology is without value. Rather, I unpack the claims its advocates make and question whether public sociology can deliver on its promise of a better sociology or a better society.


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