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Rip it up and start again: detoxing academic professionalism for a future public sociology

Marinetto, Michael John Paul ORCID: 2010. Rip it up and start again: detoxing academic professionalism for a future public sociology. Presented at: XVII World Congress of Sociology: Future Moves, Gothenburg, Sweden, 11-17 July 2010.

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The present generation of academic sociologists is the most highly trained, resourceful, productive and capable in the history of the discipline. The current generation of sociologists is especially prolific in the one currency that matters within modern academia: publications. And yet judging by recent professional discussions (see Michael Burawoy’s 2004 ASA presidential address), there is a concern that the discipline has become detached from the public and from political engagement. There are a number of salient reasons why sociology has been debased as a public project. As Russell Jacoby shows in his book The Last Intellectuals, the post-war expansion of the university system dealt a death blow to public intellectuals. Jacoby’s is a pessimistic, though pertinent, critique of modern academe, including academic sociology. As universities expanded, so did the opportunities for academic career progress. And such professional advancement is largely peer-controlled in universities. Hence, academics write not to be generally read but to build academic empires. And the best way of creating such empires—based as they are on the quantity of publications churned out—is to create highly specialized disciplinary fields that rely on jargon-laden prose, which can only be appreciated (or deciphered) by fellow academic peers. The advance of professionalism, which has been coupled by a retreat from the broader public, has certainly marked the post-war development of academic sociology. The discipline, it seems, is politically and ethically redundant: sociology has come to serve the interests of the profession rather than the public. The argument of this paper is that a public sociology is a political and ethical necessity. It is also a practical possibility, despite the pessimism from the likes of Jacoby, providing the discipline undergoes a course of professional detoxification. The life and career of Georg Simmel stands as prime exemplar of the professionally detoxed sociologist. The paper will explore what Simmel’s professional modus operandi means for academics today, and whether there are any contemporary examples of ‘professionally detoxed’ sociology, which may potentially demonstrate how a public sociology may emerge as more prominent in the future.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2022 09:55

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