Activism, Professionalism, or Condominium?

  • Stephen Turner
Part of the Sociology Transformed book series (SOTR)


Characterizing present sociology requires a change in historical perspective from a focus on ideas and programs. The relevant features are politicization, feminization, and caste-like hierarchy, which are not entirely consistent with one another. But if we put aside nostalgia for the idea of sociology as a science, sociology can be understood as a politically identified discipline oriented to fact. There are antecedents to this in the history of sociology, such as the pre-1945 field of rural sociology. This outcome is consistent with the preservation of the caste system, but allows sociology to appeal to student audiences.


activism feminist sociology Moynihan report rural sociology scientism 


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  1. 1.
    Steinmetz and Horowitz nevertheless agree on the historical outcome. American sociologists are consumers rather than participants in whatever debates now go on in social theory and about the nature of social knowledge. As Steinmetz (2005) observes, ‘When sociologists look for their contemporary theorists nowadays they are likely to turn to Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, Ulrich Beck, or Niklas Luhmann, or to look to the more distant past (Weber, Durkheim) or to other disciplines. A small number of U.S. sociology departments nurture theory as a legitimate activity in its own right, but graduate students writing purely theoretical Ph.D. dissertations are still unlikely to find employment’ (p. 505, n33).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fred Lynch ([1989] 1991, 2001), who published tw ? o highly praised books on affirmative action, was never hired in a sociology department, but eventually had an appointment in political science.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Turner 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South FloridaUS

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