Varieties and Prospects
of "Radical Scholarship"
J. DAVID COLFAX
Perhaps it is premature to attempt to identify some of the central themes and basic issues which are raised by what is loosely termed "radical scholarship" in contemporary sociology. Nevertheless, in this paper I shall attempt to identify what I believe to be some of the strengths and weaknesses of several styles of radical scholarship and to show how they relate to conventional academic sociology, on the one hand, and radical political practice, on the other. Drawing upon that discussion, I shall attempt to distinguish a methodologically and politically informed radical scholarship from other forms of sociological analysis and practice, and to consider some of its implications for the future of academic sociology. I shall contend that much of what passes for radical scholarship in current sociology represents a defense of sociological hegemony over and against the claims of an emerging form of social analysis and practice which is methodologically and conceptually eclectic, politically oriented, and, in general, unconcerned with the kinds of values and interests which characterize much of contemporary academic sociology. To the extent that this discussion stimulates interest in the development of a genuinely radical scholarship—whether nominally sociological or not—and radical practice, it will have served its purpose. 1
Not the most conspicuous but certainly the least legitimate in terms of contemporary professional standards is the scholarship of participa