Academic journal article Journal of Sociology

On the Everyday Life of a Significant Sociologist: The Life-Work of Stephen Crook

Academic journal article Journal of Sociology

On the Everyday Life of a Significant Sociologist: The Life-Work of Stephen Crook

Article excerpt

As the memorial (1) to Stephen Crook (1950-2002) attest, he touched many lives in his roles as colleague, teacher, mentor, researcher, social theorist and professional sociologist. The decision to dedicate my Presidential Address to Steve's life work was not only to honour him, but was based in a firm belief that he had made a major impact on our discipline. His approach to blending interests in social theory with empirical research, and applying sociological knowledge to 'make a difference' are exemplars of sociological practice.

Steve always urged sociologists to show the utility of sociological theory and research by engaging with issues of importance and relevance to people in their everyday lives. He was not of the 'doom and gloom' school of sociology, but rather was of the 'glass half-full' variety. For him, this did not mean breaking with sociology's radical project--of seeking out 'alternative futures' (to use Giddens's phrase)--but instead concerned a focus on the utility of sociological analysis. Steve's contribution to studies of everyday life was acknowledged in a dedication to him of a special issue of the journal Cultural Studies on 'Rethinking Everyday Life' (see Gardiner and Seigworth, 2004). Using the theme of 'everyday life', I comment briefly on three facets of Steve's life-work: his scholarly life, professional life and life as a public intellectual.

Scholarly everyday life

Steve's first publication was a chapter in an edited collection on Goffman (Crook and Taylor, 1980). His major scholarly works included four books: Modernist Radicalism and its Aftermath: Foundationalism and Anti-foundationalism in Radical Social Theory (Crook, 1991), Postmodernization: Change in Advanced Society (Crook et al., 1992), an edited collection on Adorno (Crook, 1994), and a co-edited volume on environmental issues called Ebbing of the Green Tide? (Pakulski and Crook, 1998). Other substantive contributions can be found in an article called 'Minotaurs and Other Monsters: "Everyday Life" in Recent Social Theory' published in the journal Sociology (Crook, 1998b), two book chapters critically analysing postmodernism (Crook, 2000, 2001b), and a series of publications on environmental issues (see Crook, 1998a; Crook and Pakulski, 1995; Pakulski et al., 1998). As Pakulski and Tranter (2004) note, it was particularly in the study of environmentalism that Steve applied his theorization of the everyday practices of social differentiation.

Throughout his scholarly publications and conference presentations, Steve developed his own mid-range theory (2) between the extremes of foundationalism and anti-foundationalism, which he called post-foundational radicalism. Waters (2004) provides a detailed explication of Steve's perspective, but in brief this approach retained the modernist project of social reform, but within a contingent, reflexive and relational context. Steve's interest in empirical studies of everyday life concerned exploring what actually mattered to people and deconstructing what they did and thought. Having eschewed foundational 'theory of everything' approaches, with their grand meta-narratives and unitary explanatory principles, he was unconvinced by highly relativistic anti-foundational (postmodernist) approaches; which focused on the atheoretical documentation of the minutiae of everyday life (cf. Crook, 1991, 2000, 2001a, 2001b) and exalted 'taken-for-grantedness' and 'purity of the social' as the end-points of social analysis (see Crook, 1998b).

Steve (Crook, 2001a) argued, in line with authors such as Beck and Giddens, that the three dominant social processes of our times were individualization, informationalization and globalization (cf. Beck et al., 1994). These social processes combine to erode established structural determinants (such as class and patriarchy) and produce a sprawling fragmentation-pluralization of social life, in which life chances and identity become increasingly socially differentiated. …

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