Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sociology still matters

I was told in 1988 my sociological method was good enough to get a 2:1 but was too "journalistic" to get a first. I took the hint, but in many ways I still think of myself as a practicing sociologist. I study interaction, networks and people. They happen to be in commercial and public service organisations, but it is people that make them work. Issues of leadership and human interaction remain central to the successful dynamics of winning organisations.

As a tool of analysis it certainly helps business journalists; it is certainly no worse than economics, which is at its best, when it observes social transformation.

Apart from not being clever enough, one of the reasons I probably never fancied taking further academic study was the turgid nature of dominant social theory in 1988. There was a bizarrely cultish Third World Marxist clique around our department: one academic was obsessed with Eritrea. But that was nothing compared to a very odd school of thought led by ideas of phenomenology, a dense and dreadfully subjective diversion from ethnomethodology. It seemed like theory had disappeared up the backside of its own importance and forgotten the basics of human interaction as a way of understanding societal conflict, or indeed cohesion.

Of all the sociologists I liked I always found the essence was captured so well by this guiding thought: "The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise. To recognize this task and this promise is the mark of the classic social analyst." - C. Wright Mills

Anyway, I've been enjoying this website - called, simply, The Sociological Imagination.

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