Wednesday, January 21, 2004

more social-scientific heresy...

from a list I subscribe to, I am responding to the following:

> I'm pretty sure that most sociologists have the aim in mind of using
> their results for bettering society (and of course for earning a
> living).

Yes, what I meant was that there are sociologists who are rather vehemently opposed to the notion of "applying sociology" and see our discipline as one that is "pure" science, i.e., a rigorous attempt at understanding what is going on. Their interest is NOT application, but is generating "knowledge," understanding, whatever. They don't see their purpose as sociologists to improve social life, but rather to merely understand "what is going on."

I would also say that if I, as a sociologist, use my sociological knowledge to increase profits for some company at the expense of corporate social responsibility, the environment, human rights violations, etc., that I am not using my sociology to improve social life. Yes, for some (those who directly benefit from increase profits -- comparatively, a few), but not for the majority. I realize that this is an individual decision and discrimination is involved (as well as values) and as such, I am not making a generalization about the use of sociological knowledge -- I am sure that there are many who would disagree with me on this point.

I certainly agree that it can be both a rigorous science and humanistic, with the exception of the notion of any research being value-free and/or unbiased (again, I refer to Dorothy Smith and other feminists, who, in my opinion make a rather strong and convincing argument that social position has much, if not all, to do with one's world view and subsequently, one's choice of what to research, what to find out, and how to make sense out of the entire process) and/or referencing anything known as "objectivity." I do not think that there is such a stance, nor would it be knowable conceptually, i.e., if there is such a stance as objectivity, it would, by its very nature, have to be NON-conceptual. Why? Because concept implies language, which implies culture, which implies group, which implies context, which denies something called, "objectivity."

I have also noted previously that consumption is a political act. All people consume, regardless of their profession, intellectual standpoints, desire to ensure "objectivity," etc. As such, there is no non-involved or detached stance -- we are all in this together. Again, no way, IMO to not have ALL of one's actions be contextual, value-laden and "biased" if you will.

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