One of the main practical consequences of a heightened awareness of language and modes of representation in general in the twentieth century has been to encourage a greater sensitivity to communication, not just to what is said overtly but to what is connoted or implied, not just to the content of representations but to their form and context. As well as focusing critically on the representations of others — in what has been referred to as a ‘critique of representation’ — this awareness also raises the question of the responsibility of each speaker for his or her own language. To see a language, like that of sociology, as constructive, not only in its descriptive but also its analytical and critical forms, is to intensify the discipline’s sense of social and ethical responsibility beyond the usual ways in which this is thought about and practiced, that is, in terms of the background commitments, the ideology or prejudices of individual researchers, or the explicit purposes served by research projects. Sociology and social theory are understood not just to report upon social action or to shape it, but to be forms of social action.
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