The American Sociologist

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 294–308 | Cite as

Barbarians at the Open Gates

Public Sociology and the Late Modern Turn
  • Gábor ScheiringEmail author


Burawoy’s manifesto connects to a long series of debates on the role of science in society as well as on the myth of pure science. This paper argues that the gap between professional sociology and public sociology is far from being unbridgeable and that public sociology is not suppressed to the extent portrayed by Burawoy. In late modern societies a number of schools, including various scientific, public and intellectual movements have questioned the possibility, value position and social relevance of a functionally differentiated pure science by applying the sine qua non of modernity, i.e. critical reflection, to science. According to the argument developed here, also illustrated by a personal example, Burawoy could possibly prevent the gate-keepers of the empire of pure science from closing the otherwise open gates in front of his program and in front of critical reflection if only he used less harsh war-cries and were more careful in detecting the changes he himself urges.


Public sociology Burawoy Late modernity Social relevance Complexity Critical thinking 



The author is grateful to Miklós Hadas (Corvinus University) who helped in publishing this essay originally prepared as an exam paper.


  1. Ágh, A. (2003). Közpolitika [Public Policy]. In G. János (Ed.) Mi a Politika? Bevezetés a Politika Világába [What is Politics: Introduction to World of Politics] pp. 119–163. Budapest: Osiris.Google Scholar
  2. Arendt, H. (2005). The promise of politics. New York: Schocken Books.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, U. (1994). The reinvention of politics: Towards a theory of reflexive modernization. In U. Beck, A. Giddens, & S. Lash (Eds.) Reflexive modernization: Politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order pp. 1–55. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, U. (2005). How not to become a museum piece. British Journal of Sociology, 56(3), 335–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bevir, M., & Rhodes, R. A. W. (2001). A Decentered theory of governance: Rational choice, institutionalism, and interpretation. University of California, Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies, Working Paper (WP2001-10).Google Scholar
  7. Boda, Z., Scheiring, G., Hall, D., & Lobina, E. (2006). Social policy, regulation and private sector water supply: The case of Hungary. Geneva: UNRISD Working Papers.Google Scholar
  8. Braithwaite, J. (2005). For public social science. The British Journal of Sociology, 56(3), 345–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brint, S. (2005). Guide for the perplexed: On Michael Burawoy’s ‘public sociology’. The American Sociologist, 36(3–4), 5–26.Google Scholar
  10. Burawoy, M. (2005a). Third-wave sociology and the end of pure science. The American Sociologist, 36(3–4), 152–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burawoy, M. (2005b). For public sociology. The British Journal of Sociology, 56(2), 259–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deflem, M. (2006). Save sociology. Last retrieved at 1 May 2007,
  13. Dryzek, J. (1990). Discursive democracy: Politics, policy, and political science. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Etzioni, A. (2005). Bookmarks for public sociologists. The British Journal of Sociology, 56(3), 373–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. European Commission. (2007). Science and society portal. Last retrieved at 1 May 2007.
  16. Funtowicz, S. O., & Ravetz, J. R. (1993). Science for the post-normal age. Futures, 25(7), 739–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gagdil, M., Berkes, F., & Folke, C. (1993). Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio, 22(2–3), 151–156.Google Scholar
  18. Ghamari-Tabrizi, B. (2005). Can Burawoy make everybody happy? Comments on public sociology. Critical Sociology, 31(3), 361–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. International Science Shop Network. (2007). Mission statement. Last Retrieved 1 May 2007.
  20. Kalb, D. (2006). Uses of local knowledge. In R. E. Goodin, & C. H. Tilly (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis pp. 579–594. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kant, I. (1959). An answer to the question: What is enlightenment? In Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and What is Enlightenment? Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.Google Scholar
  22. Klein, N. (2000). No logo: No space, no choice, no jobs. New York: Picador.Google Scholar
  23. Kuhn, T. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lengyel, G. (2006). A Szociológia Integritásáért: Hozzászólás Michael Burawoy Írásához. [For the integrity of sociology: A reply to Michael Burawoy]. Replika, 54–55, 105–112.Google Scholar
  25. Leydesdorff, L., & Ward, J. (2005). Science shops: A kaleidoscope of science-society collaborations in Europe. Public Understanding of Science, 14(4), 353–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McLaughlin, N., Kowalchuk, L., & Turcotte, T. (2005). Why sociology does not need to be saved: Analytic reflections on public sociologies. The American Sociologist, 36(3–4), 133–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Némedi, D. (2006). A Civil Társadalom és a Társadalomtudományok: Megjegyzések Burawoy Közszociológiai Programjához. [Civil society and the social sciences: Comments on Burawoy’s public sociology program]. Replika, 54–55, 97–103.Google Scholar
  28. Richardson, J. (2000). Government, interest groups and policy change. Political Studies, 48, 1006–1025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scheiring, G. (2003a). A GATS és a Szolgáltatások Piacosítása a Fenntarthatóság Mérlegén [GATS and the commodification of services with a view to sustainability], KKF Szakmai Füzetek. Journal of Budapest Business School, 12, 19–36.Google Scholar
  30. Scheiring, G. (2003b). Közszolgálat és Emberi Jogok. [Public services and human rights]. Fundamentum, 7(3–4), 207–208.Google Scholar
  31. Simon, H. A. (1982). Általános Bevezetés. in Korlátozott Racionalitás. Budapest: KJK, 169–175. General Introduction, pp. XIII–XIX in Models of Discovery and Other Topics in the Methods of Science. Dordrect: Reidel, 1977.Google Scholar
  32. Tittle, C. (2004). The arrogance of public sociology. Social Forces, 82(4), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Turner, J. H. (2005). Is public sociology such a good idea? The American Sociologist, 36(3–4), 27–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social PolicyBudapest Corvinus UniversityBudapestHungary

Personalised recommendations