Contemporary articles citing Steinmetz G (2005) Politics Method Huma
epistemological, second, understanding, highly, cases, help, first, u.s, knowledge, explain
- Reed, Isaac. 2010. "Epistemology Contextualized: Social-scientific Knowledge in a Postpositivist Era." Sociological Theory. 28:1 20-39.
- In the production of knowledge about social life, two social contexts come together: the context of investigation, consisting of the social world of the investigator, and the context of explanation, consisting of the social world of the actors who are the subject of study. The nature of, and relationship between, these contexts is imagined in philosophy; managed, rewarded, and sanctioned in graduate seminars, journal reviews, and tenure cases; and practiced in research. Positivism proposed to produce objective knowledge by suppressing the nonlogical and nonobservational aspects of the contexts. Attacks on positivism disputed the effectiveness and rationality of this strategy. Thus ``postpositivism'' can be understood as a series of attempts to reconstitute the relation between the contexts as the basis for accurate social knowledge. Two of the most important of these attempts-grounded theory and postmodern anthropology-are considered, and a synthesis, which draws from the insights of cultural sociology, is proposed.
- Reay, Mike. 2010. "Knowledge Distribution, Embodiment, and Insulation." Sociological Theory. 28:1 91-107.
- This article looks at how parts of a social stock of knowledge can become insulated from each other via their uneven distribution both ``horizontally'' across time and space, and ``vertically'' with respect to degrees of embodiment in unconscious habits and routines. It uses ideas from Alfred Schutz, Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, Michael Polanyi, and others to argue that this insulation can produce a highly dynamic structuring of knowledge, awareness of which has the potential to help explain the existence of ignorance, misperception, and multiple interpretations in different social settings. This potential is illustrated with examples taken from a study of American economists, showing how an approach considering insulation can improve understanding of at least one currently influential branch of knowledge. The article also suggests briefly how such an approach might augment recent theories of habitual action by accounting for both stability and change, and even help with some longstanding epistemological problems in social theory.
- Steinmetz, George. 2009. "Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom." Sociological Theory. 27:1 85-89.
- Reed, Isaac. 2008. "Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation." Sociological Theory. 26:2 101-129.
- In the context of calls for ``postpositivist'' sociology, realism has emerged as a powerful and compelling epistemology for social science. In transferring and transforming scientific realism-a philosophy of natural science-into a justificatory discourse for social science, realism splits into two parts: a strict, highly naturalistic realism and a reflexive, more mediated, and critical realism. Both forms of realism, however, suffer from conceptual ambiguities, omissions, and elisions that make them an inappropriate epistemology for social science. Examination of these problems in detail reveals how a different perspective-centered on the interpretation of meaning-could provide a better justification for social inquiry, and in particular a better understanding of sociological theory and the construction of sociological explanations.
- Abend, Gabriel. 2008. "The Meaning of `theory'." Sociological Theory. 26:2 173-199.
- `Theory' is one of the most important words in the lexicon of contemporary sociology. Yet, their ubiquity notwithstanding, it is quite unclear what sociologists mean by the words `theory,' `theoretical,' and `theorize.' I argue that confusions about the meaning of `theory' have brought about undesirable consequences, including conceptual muddles and even downright miscommunication. In this paper I tackle two questions: (a) what does `theory' mean in the sociological language?; and (b) what ought `theory' to mean in the sociological language? I proceed in five stages. First, I explain why one should ask a semantic question about `theory.' Second, I lexicographically identify seven different senses of the word, which I distinguish by means of subscripts. Third, I show some difficulties that the current lack of semantic clarity has led sociology to. Fourth, I articulate the question, `what ought ``theory'' to mean?,' which I dub the `semantic predicament' (SP), and I consider what one can learn about it from the theory literature. Fifth, I recommend a `semantic therapy' for sociology, and advance two arguments about SP: (a) the principle of practical reason-SP is to a large extent a political issue, which should be addressed with the help of political mechanisms; and (b) the principle of ontological and epistemological pluralism-the solution to SP should not be too ontologically and epistemologically demanding.
- Abend, G. 2006. "Styles of Sociological Thought: Sociologies, Epistemologies, and the Mexican and Us Quests for Truth." Sociological Theory. 24:1 1-41.
- Both U.S. and Mexican sociologies allege that they are in the business of making true scientific knowledge claims about the social world. Conventional conceptions of science notwithstanding, I demonstrate that their claims to truth and scientificity are based on alternative epistemological grounds. Drawing a random sample of nonquantitative articles from four leading journals, I show that, first, they assign a different role to theories, and indeed they have dissimilar understandings of what a theory should consist of. Second, whereas U.S. sociology actively struggles against subjectivity, Mexican sociology maximizes the potentials of subjective viewpoints. Third, U.S. sociologists tend to regard highly and Mexican sociologists to eagerly disregard the principle of ethical neutrality. These consistent and systematic differences raise two theoretical issues. First, I argue that Mexican and U.S. sociologies are epistemologically, semantically, and perceptually incommensurable. I contend that this problem is crucial for sociology's interest in the social conditioning of scientific knowledge's content. Second, I suggest four lines of thought that can help us explain the epistemological differences I find. Finally, I argue that sociologists would greatly profit from studying epistemologies in the same fashion they have studied other kinds of scientific and nonscientific beliefs.
- Steinmetz, G. 2005. "Return to Empire: the New Us Imperialism in Comparative Historical Perspective." Sociological Theory. 23:4 339-367.
- The widespread embrace of imperial terminology across the political spectrum during the past three years has not led to an increased level of conceptual or theoretical clarity around the word ``empire.'' There is also disagreement about whether the United States is itself an empire, and if so, what sort of empire it is; the determinants of its geopolitical stance; and the effects of ``empire as a way of life'' on the ``metropole.'' Using the United States and Germany in the past 200 years as empirical cases, this article proposes a set of historically embedded categories for distinguishing among different types of imperial practice. The central distinction contrasts territorial and nonterritorial types of modern empire, that is, colonialism versus imperialism. Against world-system theory, territorial and nonterritorial approaches have not typically appeared in pure form but have been mixed together both in time and in the repertoire of individual metropolitan states. After developing these categories the second part of the article explores empire's determinants and its effects, again focusing on the German and U.S. cases but with forays into Portuguese and British imperialism. Supporters of overseas empire often couch their arguments in economic or strategic terms, and social theorists have followed suit in accepting these expressed motives as the ``taproot of imperialism'' (J. A. Hobson). But other factors have played an equally important role in shaping imperial practices, even pushing in directions that are economically and geopolitically counterproductive for the imperial power. Postcolonial theorists have rightly emphasized the cultural and psychic processes at work in empire but have tended to ignore empire's effects on practices of economy and its regulation. Current U.S. imperialism abroad may not be a danger to capitalism per se or to America's overall political power, but it is threatening and remaking the domestic post-Fordist mode of social regulation.
- 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.