Contemporary articles citing Stinchcombe A (1968) Constructing Social
concept, second, power, others, help, first, why, explain, conceptual, political
- Jansen, Robert. 2011. "Populist Mobilization: a New Theoretical Approach to Populism." Sociological Theory. 29:2 75-96.
- Sociology has long shied away from the problem of populism. This may be due to suspicion about the concept or uncertainty about how to fit populist cases into broader comparative matrices. Such caution is warranted: the existing interdisciplinary literature has been plagued by conceptual confusion and disagreement. But given the recent resurgence of populist politics in Latin America and elsewhere, sociology can no longer afford to sidestep such analytical challenges. This article moves toward a political sociology of populism by identifying past theoretical deficiencies and proposing a new, practice-based approach that is not beholden to pejorative common sense understandings. This approach conceptualizes populism as a mode of political practice-as populist mobilization. Its utility is demonstrated through an application to mid-twentieth-century Latin American politics. The article concludes by sketching an agenda for future research on populist mobilization in Latin America and beyond.
- Colyvas, Jeannette & Stefan Jonsson. 2011. "Ubiquity and Legitimacy: Disentangling Diffusion and Institutionalization." Sociological Theory. 29:1 27-53.
- Diffusion and institutionalization are of prime sociological importance, as both processes unfold at the intersections of relations and structures, as well as persistence and change. Yet they are often confounded, leading to theoretical and methodological biases that hinder the development of generalizable arguments. We look at diffusion and institutionalization distinctively, each as both a process and an outcome in terms of three dimensions: the objects that flow or stick; the subjects who adopt or influence; and the social settings through which an innovation travels. We offer examples to flesh out these dimensions, and formulate testable propositions from our analytic framework that could lead to further theoretical refinement and progress.
- 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.
- Abbott, Andrew. 2007. "Against Narrative: a Preface to Lyrical Sociology." Sociological Theory. 25:1 67-99.
- This article develops a concept of lyrical sociology, a sociology I oppose to narrative sociology, by which I mean standard quantitative inquiry with its ``narratives'' of variables as well as those parts of qualitative sociology that take a narrative and explanatory approach to social life. Lyrical sociology is characterized by an engaged, nonironic stance toward its object of analysis, by specific location of both its subject and its object in social space, and by a momentaneous conception of social time. Lyrical sociology typically uses strong figuration and personification, and aims to communicate its author's emotional stance toward his or her object of study, rather than to ``explain'' that object. The analysis considers many examples and draws on literary criticism, the philosophy of time, and the theory of emotion. It also addresses contemporary debates in ethnography.
- 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.
- Leach, DK. 2005. "The Iron Law of What Again? Conceptualizing Oligarchy Across Organizational Forms." Sociological Theory. 23:3 312-337.
- The debate around Michels's ``iron law of oligarchy'' over the question of whether organizations inevitably become oligarchic reaches back almost a century, but the concept of oligarchy has frequently been left underspecfied, and the measures that have been employed are especially inadequate for analyzing nonbureaucratically structured organizations. A conceptual model is needed that delineates what does and does not constitute oligarchy and can be applied in both bureaucratic and nonbureaucratic settings. Definitions found in the research are inadequate for two reasons. First, treating oligarchy solely as a feature of organizational structure neglects the possibility that a powerful elite may operate outside of the formal structure. A democratic structure is a necessary precondition, but it does not guarantee the absence of oligarchy. Second, studies that equate oligarchy with goal displacement and bureaucratic conservatism cannot account for organizations with radical goals that are nonetheless dominated by a ruling elite. This article presents a model that distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate forms of formal and informal power to define oligarchy as a concentration of illegitimate power in the hands of an entrenched minority. The model is intended for use in organizations that are nominally democratic to determine whether a formal or informal leadership has in fact acquired oligarchic control. By providing a common framework for tracking fluctuations in the distribution and legitimacy of both formal and informal power, it is hoped that this model will facilitate a more productive bout of research on the conditions under which various forms of democratically structured organizations may be able to resist oligarchization.
- Beland, D. 2005. "Insecurity, Citizenship, and Globalization: the Multiple Faces of State Protection." Sociological Theory. 23:1 25-41.
- Adopting a long-term historical perspective, this article examines the growing complexity and the internal tensions of state protection in Western Europe and North America. Beginning with Charles Tilly's theory about state building and organized crime, the discussion follows with a critical analysis of T. H. Marshall's article on citizenship. Arguing that state protection has become far more multifaceted than what Marshall's triadic model suggests, the article shows how this protection frequently transcends the logic of individual rights while increasing the reliance of citizens on the modern state. The last section formulates a critique of the idea formulated by theorists like Manuel Castells that globalization favors a rapid decline of state power. Yet, state protection may not necessarily grow indefinitely, and tax cuts, for example, the ones recently enacted in the United States, could seriously jeopardize a state's capacity to raise revenues and effectively fight older and newer forms of insecurity.
- Li, JL. 2002. "State Fragmentation: Toward a Theoretical Understanding of the Territorial Power of the State." Sociological Theory. 20:2 139-156.
- In existing theories of revolution, the state is narrowly defined as an administrative entity, and state breakdown simply refers to the disintegration of a given political regime. But this narrow definition cannot deal with this question: Why, in a revolutionary situation, do some states become fragmented and others remain unified? I would therefore argue for the broadening of the concept of state breakdown to include the territorial power of the state and to treat the latter as a key analytical dimension in the study of state fragmentation. The dynamics of territorial state power involve the control of critical territories and valuable resources associated with the spatial position of a given state in the interstate system. A strong territorial state is able to maintain its organizational coerciveness and territorial integrity, whereas a weak territorial state is vulnerable to fragmentation. The overall state crisis derives from the accumulated effects of geopolitical strain by which territorial fragmentation unfolds.
- Black, D. 2000. "Dreams of Pure Sociology." Sociological Theory. 18:3 343-367.
- Unlike older sciences such as physics and biology, sociology has never had a revolution. Modern sociology is still classical-largely psychological, teleological, and individualistic-and evert less scientific than classical sociology. But pure sociology is different: It predicts and explains the behavior of social life with its location and direction in social space-its geometry. Here I illustrate pure sociology with formulations about the behavior of ideas, ideas, including a theory of scienticity that predicts and explains the degree to which an idea is likely to be scientific (testable, general, simple, valid, and original). For example: Scienticity is a curvilinear function of social distance from the subject. This formulation explains numerous facts about the history and practice of science, such as why some sciences evolved earlier and faster than others and why so much sociology is so unscientific. Because scientific theory is the most scientific science, the theory of scienticity also implies a theory of theory and a methodology far the development of theory.
- Borocz, J. 1997. "Stand Reconstructed: Contingent Closure and Institutional Change." Sociological Theory. 15:3 215-248.
- The process is traced whereby crucially important, multiple denotations of classical sociology's key notion referring to social position-the Weberian German concept of Stand-have been stripped to create a simplified and inaccurate representation of social inequalities. Some historical material from central Europe is surveyed, with a brief look at Japan, to demonstrate validity problems created by blanket application of the culturally specific, streamlined notions of status/class. As an alternative, a notion of contingent social closure argues that relaxing the modernizationist assumptions of a single transition from estate to status/class increases the comparative-historical sensitivity of research on social structure, inequality, and stratification. A dynamic reading of Polanyi suggests a reconceptualization of institutions as the ``raw material'' of social change. This might help to avoid the outdated contrast of the ``West'' vs. its ``Others''.