Canada's Impossible Science: Historical and Institutional Origins of the Coming Crisis in Anglo-Canadian Sociology (1)

Article excerpt

Abstract: Anglo-Canadian sociology is in a period of intense internal debate and generational transition, with signs of an institutional crisis on the horizon. This essay provides a reflexive sociological account of Anglo-Canadian sociology that stresses its potential for developing a unique, multi-method, theoretically diverse and critical sociological imagination. In the effort to stimulate further research and informed debate, historical and institutional explanations of English Canadian sociology's potential organizational crisis are outlined. Drawing on the sociology of education, historical-comparative sociology, organizational analysis, political sociology, the history of Anglo-Canadian sociology and the sociology of knowledge/intellectuals, three broad explanations are stressed. Sociology in English Canada runs the risk of becoming an "impossible science" because of the relatively flat nature of Canadian institutions of higher learning, the discipline's historical and contemporary colonial relationship with England and the starting point of the discipline in the social turmoil of the 1960s in a small social democratic oriented nation. Suggestions are made for an open and honest dialogue on the discipline's future among generations of Canadian sociologists.

Resume: La sociologie canadienne anglaise vit une periode de debat interne intense et de transition de generation, et des signes de crise institutionnelle se manifestent a l'horizon. Cet article se veut un releve sociologique autoreferentiel de la sociologie canadienne anglaise mettant l'emphase sur son potentiel de developper une imagination sociologique critique et theoriquement variee, unique et a plusieurs methodes. Afin de stimuler d'autres recherches et debats eclaires et des explications historiques et institutionnelles sur la crise organisationnelle potentielle de la sociologie canadienne anglaise y sont enonces. Trois grandes explications y sont donnees en faisant appel a la sociologie de l'education, la sociologie historique comparative, l'analyse organisationnelle, la sociologie politique, l'histoire de la sociologie canadienne anglaise et la sociologie du savoir et des intellectuels, Au Canada anglais, la sociologie coure le risque de devenir << une science impossible >> en raison de la nature relativement monotone des etablissements d'enseignement superieurs canadiens, de la relation coloniale historique et contemporaine de cette discipline avec l'Angleterre et du point de depart de cette discipline darts l'agitation sociale des annees soixante dans une petite nation d'orientation social-democrate. On y suggere un dialogue ouvert et honnete sur l'avenir de la discipline parmi des generations de sociologues canadiens.

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Recent discussions of the state of the discipline of sociology in English Canada suggest both a lively intellectual climate as well as a growing sense of institutional crisis. The American Sociologist and The Canadian Journal of Sociology, for example, recently both published special series on Canadian sociology (Brym 2002; Clement 2001; Cormier 2002; Cote, Jean-Francois and Daniel Dagenais 2002; Driedger 2001; Eichler 2002; Fournier 2002; Fournier 2001; Helmes-Hayes 2002; Hiller 2001; Hiller and Di Luzio 2001; Leroux 2001; Nock 2001; Nock 2002; Ogmundson 2002; Smith 2002; Stebbins 2001; Tindall and Wellman 2001; Wargon 2001). The Canadian Journal of Sociology On-Line has published biographical/thought pieces by the newest generation of Canadian sociologists that suggests a discipline with energy albeit one in transition and flux (Albert 2002; Beland 2002; Couton 2002; Conley 2002; Crocker 2003; Haythornthwaite 2002; Knaak 2002; Kowalchuk 2003; Westhaver 2002). Recent essays in Canadian sociology publications, however, also have sounded alarm bells about the institutional health of the discipline (Brym 2003; Curtis and Weir 2002).

What is the state of sociology in English Canada today? …