Radical Sociology

By J. David Colfax; Jack L. Roach | Go to book overview

PART I · The State of
Bourgeois Sociology:
A Radical Critique

AN appreciable part of the sociological literature has traditionally been devoted to what indulgently may be called self-criticism. Whether circumscribed in scope or presumably fundamental to the destiny of sociology, such critical writing falls largely into two closely related but separable categories. The first deals with technical issues related to the status of sociology as a scientific, scholarly enterprise. The second pertains to the calling or purpose of the discipline.

The former consists of arguments of little concern to outsiders, particularly the general public. As is the case with so many family arguments, these controversies generate considerable passion. Such questions as whether or not functionalism is or should be the official creed, or the perennial squabbles about the relative importance, adequacy, and proper relationships among methodology, empiricism, and theory have verged on internecine warfare. The immediate aim of this kind of criticism is ostensibly improvement of the discipline; toward what ultimate end is usually not made explicit.

Our interest here is primarily in critical writing about the proper calling of sociology. What should be the role of the sociologist vis-à‐ vis the society in which he lives and works? How might he best carry out this role? Is there an inherent antipathy between objective scholarship and participation in social reform? Should the sociologist help shape social policy, or should he confine himself to providing data for use by policy-makers? Questions such as these have surfaced repeatedly throughout the history of American sociology and are again the

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