The American Sociologist

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 235–248 | Cite as

The Contradictions of Public Sociology: A View from a Graduate Student at Berkeley

Article

Abstract

Reflecting on my experiences as a graduate student, I argue that the terminology of public sociology should be dropped. The public sociology rhetoric is at odds with the fundamental professional reality in the discipline. Sociology, as a “hyper-professionalized” endeavor, primarily values abstract, explanatory theories, even if those theories make the world less descriptively comprehensible to people seeking to act in the world. Moreover, I question whether sociologists, as a professional class, should or can take on the public position as the partisan representatives of civil society and marginalized peoples. Instead, I argue for a greater openness within professional sociology to descriptive work, as well as more departmental supports for graduate students to pursue careers outside of sociology. Sociologists interested in public engagement should focus primarily on cataloguing and practical evaluation of engaged research tactics and community oriented teaching strategies, rather than theoretical discussions of what sociology can or should be.

Keywords

Public sociology Sociological training 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUCBerkeleyUSA

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