Ideology and the Social Sciences

By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan | Go to book overview

8
The Paths of Recognition: Boudon, Bourdieu, and the "Second Market" of Intellectuals

Jacques Coenen-Huther

In the conclusion of The Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim ([ 1895] 1982) strongly suggested that by developing a method of their own, sociologists should not expect to popularize curiosity for sociological topics. But he added that addressing a limited audience of scholars would be the best option for the sociologists of his time. He was indeed convinced that overreaching would be detrimental to the progress of sociological knowledge. For him, a major precondition for sociology to be able to carry on a scientific program was to deliberately shun popular success and to take the same esoteric character as any other science. However, time and again since the publication of The Rules, sociologists, more than other scientists, found themselves torn between the requirements of good scholarship and the wish to attract the attention of a broad audience of laymen. Nowadays, this urge to seek an enlarged audience translates into the lure of quick success through the media. Some decades ago, Ralf Dahrendorf ( 1961) seemed to believe that the responsibility for such an uncomfortable position lay solely with the naïve expectations of journalists and the public at large. "Like an angry creditor," wrote Dahrendorf, "the public pursues the sociologist's every move in order to lay its hands on every penny he may produce. Is it surprising that under these conditions many a sociologist has begun to forge currency? The public deserves no better" ( 1961: vii). This statement may reflect Dahrendorf's experience in the 1950s. In the following decades, however, no prodding was needed any longer to convince numerous sociologists that the "pedestrian path of science" ( Dahrendorf 1961: vii) was indeed long and boring. Many of them began to seek recognition, no longer

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