Sociological Explanation

  • Tom Burns


Having to give an inaugural lecture is a rather daunting affair though, I am sure, a salutary one. Luckily, there is always tradition to sustain one and to afford some guidance. There are, one finds, models, or types, of inaugural lectures. I cannot claim to be a connoisseur, but, judging from a small and heavily biased sample, they seem to fall into three groups. There are those, to begin with, which announce new departures for a subject, new horizons, recent territorial acquisitions in teaching or research, perhaps a reformed constitution: they are, in short, manifestos — delivered, of course, modestly, even diffidently sometimes, and with proper deference to neighbours and previous tenants, but manifestos nevertheless; muted manifestos. The second kind defines itself more precisely. There is hardly a single field of scholarship or science in which the contribution of Scotland, of this university itself, has not been extensive and weighty — even, at times, momentous; very few branches of learning in which it is not possible to point to a noble and inspiring tradition of intellectual endeavour. There is special propriety on the occasion of an inaugural lecture, then, in recalling — invoking — the achievements of predecessors, of the giants on whose shoulders we presume to stand;


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    Jean Floud and A. H. Halsey, ‘The Sociology of Education’, ‘Current Sociology’, vii 3 (1958) 169.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Reinhard Bendix and Seymore M. Lipset, ‘Political Sociology’, ‘Current Sociology’, vii 3 (1958) p. 169.Google Scholar
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    Paul F. Lazarsfeld, B. Berelson and H. Gaudet, ‘The People’s Choice’, 2nd ed. (Columbia University Press, 1948 ).Google Scholar
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    W. G. Runciman, ‘Sociological Evidence and Political Theory’ in Peter Laslett and W. G. Runciman (eds.), ‘Philosophy, Politics and Society’ (Blackwell, 1962 ) pp. 42–3.Google Scholar
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    E. H. Carr, ‘What is History? ’ (Penguin Books, 1964 ) p. 52.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1970

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  • Tom Burns

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