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What was sociology?

Fitzgerald, Des ORCID: 2019. What was sociology? History of the Human Sciences 32 (1) , pp. 121-137. 10.1177/0952695118808935

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This article is about the future of sociology, as transformations in the digital and biological sciences lay claim to the discipline’s jurisdictional claim over ‘the social.’ Rather than analyse the specific of these transformations, however, the focus of the paper is on how a narrative of methodological crisis is sustained in sociology, and on how such a narrative conjures very particular disciplinary futures. Through a close reading of some texts, the paper makes two central claims: (1) that a surprisingly conventional urged towards disciplinary reproduction can sometimes animate accounts of sociology’s crisis; (2) that these same accounts are often haunted by a hidden metaphorical architecture centred on biology, vitality, and images of life. The basic claim of the paper is that foregrounding this image of life might offer a less reproductively conventional way of understanding –and intervening in – the methodological ‘crisis’ at stake. Drawing on my own recent work on urban stress, and on the work of Stefan Helmreich (2011, 2016), the papers ends with a speculative call for a ‘limit sociology’ – a form of attention that could expand rather than contract the methodological and ontological potential of the present. At the heart of the paper is a hope that thinking with such a limit may help us to imagine a less deadening future than that on offer from a canonised discipline cathected by endless crisis-talk.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)
ISSN: 0952-6951
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 July 2018
Date of Acceptance: 26 June 2018
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 13:43

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