Public Sociology and Democratic Theory

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Burawoy, Comte, democratic theory, foundations, liberal democracy, political neutrality, public sociology, standpoint theory, value-neutrality

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Sociology, as conceived by Comte, was to put an end to the anarchy of opinions characteristic of liberal democracy by replacing opinion with the truths of sociology, imposed through indoctrination. Later sociologists backed away from this, making sociology acceptable to liberal democracy by being politically neutral. The critics of this solution asked `whose side are we on?' Burawoy provides a novel justification for advocacy scholarship in sociology. Public sociology is intended to have political effects, but also to be funded by the politically neutral state. He argues that public sociology is institutionally neutral, but that committing to an organic relation with a social movement is legitimate as a matter of the sociologist's personal value choice. Although this produces side-taking sociology, by improving the case for particular standpoints it ser ves to improve democratic discussion generally, which is an appropriately neutral public aim.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Sociology, v. 41, issue 5, p. 785-798