Some Needed Disciplinary Changes for Creating Public Sociology

Herbert J. Gans in Transformations of the Public Sphere:

Gans Michael Burawoy’s dramatic reinvention of and powerful advocacy for public sociology at the ASA’s 2004 annual meetings has set off a process to incorporate public sociology into the current discipline. Although it is too early to determine what paths that process will take, so far there seems to be more discourse about public sociology than activity to advance it, or for that matter, a new outpouring of high quality public sociology. This essay argues that such activity–and outpouring–require some serious structural changes in the discipline and describes several urgent ones, both in the organization of the discipline and in sociological graduate education.

I emphasize urgent because the active development of public sociology is essential to the healthy future of the discipline. Although sociology is growing numerically in a variety of ways, its status in the social sciences and in American intellectual life has not kept up with that growth. Exciting intellectual work is being done in a number of sociology’s fields, but it does not show up often enough in the journals that speak for the entire discipline or in the now existing varieties of public sociology.

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