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The American Sociologist

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 456–487 | Cite as

The More American Sociology Seeks to Become a Politically-Relevant Discipline, the More Irrelevant it Becomes to Solving Societal Problems

  • Jonathan H. TurnerEmail author
Article

Abstract

The long-standing divide between sociology as an activist discipline vs. sociology as a science is examined in light of the current trend for American sociology focus on a limited set of justice issues resulting from inequalities and discrimination against certain categories of persons. Increasingly, this trend is pushing sociology toward become an activist discipline and, as a result, an ideologically-oriented discipline in its teaching and research activities. The outcome of this trend is the growing marginalization of those committed to sociology as a science in departments and academic meetings, resulting in demoralization of sociology’s scientists and their escalating concern over their fate in a discipline increasingly mimicking a social movement organization. Even more damaging to sociology will be a loss of respect inside academia and a loss of relevance among publics not sharing American sociology’s political biases. Furthermore, the chance for sociology to use its vast store of knowledge to help clients of all types solve their organizational problems will be lost if sociology is defined as a political rather than scientific enterprise. Sociology will thus willingly leave the vast resource niche for applications of social science knowledge to disciplines that know little about social organization (i.e., economics and psychology). Sociology will endure, of course, but it will not realize its enormous potential for reshaping societies.

Keywords

Activism Justice Inequality Science Sociology’s Future Social Engineering 

Notes

Acknowledgements

My thanks to Stephen F. Steele for making many useful suggestions for the manuscript as well as for providing me with information on existing applied sociology programs and efforts to certify sociologists engaged in various forms of sociological practice. See his and coauthors useful books. Also, thanks to my academic daughter, Patricia Turner, for making suggestions to tone down my polemics.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Theoretical Social SciencesSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaRiverside and Santa BarbaraUSA

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