Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 106–120 | Cite as

Responsibility and sociological discourse

  • Michael A. Overington


This article reads Chaim Perelman's theory of argumentation in order to formulate the task of social theorizing as responsible discourse. Taking rationality as sound argument which proceeds in terms of a link between speaker's intentions (the audience) and the public, the first part examines Perelman's notions about the relativity of facts to particular traditions of communication which link speakers, argumentation, and publics. Accepting that this view, shared by many sociologists, allows for no general criterion of rationality to be used as a principle for responsible speaking, the second part discusses how a choice for one or another tradition of reasoning in sociology might responsibly be made. This criterion for choosing is presented in terms of the relative generality and breadth of intended audiences and the relative openness to criticism of traditions of discourse.


Relative Generality Social Psychology Social Issue Relative Openness Social Theorize 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Overington
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.St. Mary's UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.University of BathUK

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