– or Sociology and the Beauty and the Beast
Those of you who met and knew Norbert Elias even a little bit will admit that he had been a personality with an attracting character. And even if one didn’t agree with what he said, he didn’t loose this attraction. And perhaps it had been exactly because he honestly encouraged disagreement, he never stopped to develop his thoughts, he always showed his open mind – open to engage real debate, though not to keen to engage in meaningless discourses.
And it had been this commitment – openness joined with precision in expression and readiness to decision and conviction – that is probably in a nutshell what good sociology is about. And in this tradition the Special Supplement 36 of the Newsletter of the Norbert Elias Foundation published considerations by Nico Wilterdink on sociology as
CONTROVERSIAL SCIENCE : GOOD AND BAD SOCIOLOGY
Probably it will be soon online
One of the beasts is surely the permanent effort of popularising sociological thought, presenting something that looks like sociology but is not much more than populist engagement. And it is just so delightful to see such procedere openly questioned, to witness the onset on the predestined gods of the discipline – predestined by their own discretion and by the ability to sell catchy formulation as witty insight: Bad sociology. So we read the dethroning of one of these authorities on page 8:
Apparently Beck conceives social structures as static, as opposed to social change. This makes social sociologically unexplainable; it is unclear where it would come from if not from ‘within’ social structures. Becks essentially static view of society also appears from the terminology of ‘first modernity’ and ‘second modernity’. It is on this basis that Beck can depict current social change as an extraordinary and sudden transition from ne to the other stage, a shocking, confusing, earthquake-like transformation. He projects his own static essentialism on historical reality in statements such as: ‘First modern society [that is, society in a phase of the first modernity] regards itself as the end and culmination of history, a social form that will last forever (Beck, Bonss, and Lau 2003: 6). This is bad sociology if only because ‘society’ is conceived here as a thinking entity, a reflecting being
(Beck, Ulrich, Wolfgang Bonss, Christoph Lau (2003) ‘The theory of reflexive modernization’, Theory, Culture&Society, 20(2): 1-33)
The beauty is seeing that still sociologists are ready to seriously engage in attempts to look for good sociology – and isn’t this actually very much: engaging in working for good society?
Of course, this means also in looking at the grand narrative but doing so by not forgetting the fact that sociology is about sociogenetic and psychogenetic moments of processes, the interlocking of people acting within certain structures and – as the creators of these structures – re-creating themselves. Reading work of good sociology always confirms me in looking for ways to further my own approach of looking at processes of relational appropriation. – Then the question if chicken, hen or egg came first can easily be answered. It is just real life – and it didn’t have any beginning as it existed by establishing itself. In other words, acknowledging the fact that there is no social space or time “without culture”.
Once met – truth … — it would be so good if such truth, the genuine sense for open discussio would return into academia rather than universities being a kind of amphithatre for international shows: shalow as Eurovision-contests, identified and assessed by international rankings rather than originality and genuine debate.