Contemporary articles citing Rorty R (1979) Philos Mirror Nature
understanding, studies, science, forms, society, knowledge, culture, approach, nature, empirical
- Mirchandani, R. 2005. "Postmodernism and Sociology: From the Epistemological to the Empirical." Sociological Theory. 23:1 86-115.
- This article investigates the place of postmodernism in sociology today by making a distinction between its epistemological and empirical forms. During the 1980s and early 1990s, sociologists exposited, appropriated, and normalized an epistemological postmodernism that thematizes the tentative, reflective, and possibly shifting nature of knowledge. More recently, however, sociologists have recognized the potential of a postmodern theory that turns its attention to empirical concerns. Empirical postmodernists challenge classical modern concepts to develop research programs based on new concepts like time-space reorganization, risk society, consumer capitalism, and postmodern ethics. But they do so with an appreciation for the uncertainty of the social world, ourselves, our concepts, and our commitment to our concepts that results from the encounter with postmodern epistemology. Ultimately, this article suggests that understanding postmodernism as a combination of these two moments can lead to a sociology whose epistemological modesty and empirical sensitivity encourage a deeper and broader approach to the contemporary social world.
- Steinmetz, G. 2004. "Odious Comparisons: Incommensurability, the Case Study, and ``small N's'' in Sociology." Sociological Theory. 22:3 371-400.
- Case studies and ``small-N comparisons'' have been attacked from two directions, positivist and incommensurabilist. At the same time, some authors have defended small-N comparisons as allowing qualitative researchers to attain a degree of scientificity, yet they also have rejected the case study as merely ``idiographic.'' Practitioners of the case study sometimes agree with these critics, disavowing all claims to scientificity. A related set of disagreements concerns the role and nature of social theory in sociology, which sometimes is described as useless and parasitic and other times as evolving in splendid isolation from empirical research. These three forms of sociological activity-comparative analysis, studies of individual cases, and social theory-are defended here from the standpoint of critical realism. In this article I first reconstruct, in very broad strokes, the dominant epistemological and ontological framework of postwar U.S. sociology. The next two sections discuss several positivist and incommensurabilist criticisms of comparison and case studies. The last two sections propose an understanding of comparison as operating along two dimensions, events and structures, and offer an illustration of the difference and relationship between the two.
- Breslau, D. 2000. "Sociology After Humanism: a Lesson From Contemporary Science Studies." Sociological Theory. 18:2 289-307.
- The field of science studies is the site of an explicit reflection on the ontological premises of sociology, with rival approaches defined by distinctive ways of specifying the basic constituents of reality. This article takes advantage of this debate to compare three types of ontological schemes in terms of their internal coherence and their consequences for sociology. Sociological in terms of their internal coherence and their consequences for sociology. Sociological humanism-represented by proponents of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK)-distinguishes between an immanent domain of social relations, a transcendent and meaningless material reality, and an intermediate, socially constructed level of knowledge, meaning and culture. Symmetrical humanism-as found in the recent writings of Andrew Pickering-insists that society too should be placed among the constructions, thereby disqualifying it as a source of explanations of human agency and leaving a detached and self-moving human agent. The relational ontology-exemplified by the ``actor-network'' approach of Bruno Latour adn others-make no a priori distinctions between humans and others, or between trandscendent reality and construction, treating these properties as outcomes. The two humanist approaches are found to be incoherent as ontological schemes and also, contrary to the antisociological stance of the actor-network approach, it is found that the relational ontology provides a consistent basis for sociological explanations of human practices.
- Lemert, C. 1999. "The Might Have Been and Could Be of Religion in Social Theory." Sociological Theory. 17:3 240-263.
- Religion may well be the most inscrutable surd of social theory, which began late in the 19(th) century dismissing the subject. Not even the renewal of interest in religion in the 1960s did much to make religion a respectable topic in social theory. It is possible that social theory's troubles are, in part, due to its refusal to think about religion. Close examination of social theories of Greek religion suggest, for principal example, that religion is perfectly able to thrive alongside the profane provided both are founded on principles of finitude, which in turn may be said to be the foundational axiom of any socially organized religion. The value of a social theory of religion, thus defined, may be seen as a way out of the current controversies over the politics of redistribution and politics of recognition. Any coherent principles of social justice, whether economic or cultural, may only be possible if one begins with the idea that all human arrangements are, first and foremost, limited - that is to say: finite; hence, strictly speaking, religious. Durkheim got this only partly right.
- Burawoy, M. 1998. "The Extended Case Method." Sociological Theory. 16:1 4-33.
- In this article I elaborate and codify the extended case method. which deploys participant observation to locate everyday life in its extralocal and historical context. The extended case method emulates a reflexive model of science that takes as its premise the intersubjectivity of scientist and subject of study: Reflexive science valorizes intervention, process, structuration, and theory reconstruction. It is the Siamese twin of positive science that proscribes reactivity but upholds reliability replicability, and representativeness. Positive science, exemplified by survey research, works on the principle of the separation between scientists and the subjects they examine. Positive science is limited by ``context effects'' (interview: respondent, field, and situational effects) while reflex ive science is limited by ``power effects'' (domination, silencing, objectification, and normalization). The article concludes by considering the implications of having two models of science rather than one, both of which are necessarily flawed. Throughout I use a study of postcolonialism to illustrate both the virtues and the shortcomings of the extended case method. Methodology can only bring us reflective understanding of the means which have demonstrated their value in practice by raising them to the level of explicit consciousness; it is no more the precondition of fruitful intellectual work than the knowledge of anatomy is the precondition of ``correct'' walking.
- Weinberg, D. 1997. "Lindesmith on Addiction: a Critical History of a Classic Theory." Sociological Theory. 15:2 150-161.
- The evolution of Alfred Lindesmith's classic theory of addiction is analyzed as a product of the particular intellectual currents and controversies in and for which it was developed. These include the conflicts that pitted qualitative against quantitative sociology; the fledgling discipline of sociology against medicine, psychiatry, and psychology; and advocates of therapy for addicts against those who would simply punish them. By casting the meaningful experience of drug effects exclusively in terms of symbolically mediated mental representations of brute physiological sensations, Lindesmith's theory posits an epistemologically untenable dualism between mental and bodily perception that unnecessarily limits the explanatory scope of sociological research. As an alternative to this dualism, a praxiological approach to the meaning of drug-induced behavior and experience is proposed.
- Jacobs, RN & P Smith. 1997. "Romance, Irony, and Solidarity." Sociological Theory. 15:1 60-80.
- Contemporary social theory has turned increasingly to concepts such as civil society, community, and the public sphere in order to theorize about the construction of vital, democratic, and solidaristic political cultures. The dominant prescriptions for attaining this end invoke the need for institutional and procedural reform, but overlook the autonomous role of culture in shaping and defining the forms of social solidarity. This article proposes a model of solidarity based on the two genres of Romance and Irony, and argues that these narrative forms offer useful vocabularies for organizing public discourse within and between civil society and its constituent communities. Whilst unable to sustain fully-inclusive and solidaristic political cultures on their own, in combination the genres of Romance and Irony allow for solidaristic forms built around tolerance, reflexivity, and intersubjectivity.
- Somers, MR. 1995. "Narrating and Naturalizing Civil Society and Citizenship Theory: the Place of Political Culture and the Public Sphere." Sociological Theory. 13:3 229-274.
- The English translation of Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere converges with the revival of the `'political culture concept'' in the social sciences. Surprisingly Habermas's account of the Western bourgeois public sphere has much in common with the original political culture concept associated with Parsonian modernization theory in the 1950s and 1960s. In both cases, the concept of political culture is used in a way that is neither political nov cultural. Explaining this peculiarity is the central problem addressed in this article and its companion piece, which appeared in Sociological Theory, volume 3, number 2 (1995). I hypothesize that this is the case because the concept itself is embedded in an historically constituted political culture (here called a conceptual network)-a structured web of conceptual relationships that combine into Angle-American citizenship theory. The method of an historical sociology of concept formation is used to analyze historically and empirically the internal constraints and dynamics of this conceptual network. The method draws from new work in cultural history and sociology, social studies, and network, narrative, and institutional analysis. This research yields three empirical findings: this conceptual network has a narrative structure, here called the Angle-American citizenship story; this narrative is grafted onto an epistemology of social naturalism; and these elements combine in a metanarrative that continues to constrain empirical research in political sociology.
- COULTER, J. 1995. "Conceptual Transformations." Sociological Theory. 13:2 163-177.
- Are the words in our natural language which we use to speak about natural and social phenomena actually laden with preexisting (and hence corrigible) theoretical commitments, full-blown `'ontologies,'' or even metaphysics Or can we appeal to rules for their use in adjudicating the sense (or otherwise) of any scientific or philosophical innovation? These questions arise most commonly in the context of claims about scientific `'transformations,'' especially `'scientific revolutions.'' Cognitive science, for example, announces such a `'revolution'' in its conceptualizations of the true nature of the `'mind,'' `'thought,'' `'intelligence,'' `'understanding,'' and so on. In this paper I shall argue that Wittgenstein's reflections on `'grammar'' enable us to dissolve many of the perplexities that confront us when we invoke Kuhnian `'incommensurability'' in distinguishing between genuine scientific revolutions and pseudo-revolutions. Indeed, the Kuhnian thesis itself is seen to depend on a range of contestable claims about `'words'' and `'meanings.''