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social theorists: i challenge you!!!

Last week, we discussed Omar’s essay on the end of the “theorist” in sociology. I share the concern of many people who don’t use the label of “theorists.” Theory is often presented in a way that obscure and appears disconnected from the core concerns of sociologists. In the comments, Omar responded to me, and others, by noting that one legacy of Parsons was the creation of the “theorist.” In other words, now that we have theorists, we need to give them something useful to do.

Here is my suggestion: Take a field that is empirically deep and important, but under developed theoretically. Then, work on a synthesis that ties it together and integrates it with current “theory.” Here are my candidates:

  • Demography
  • Public opinion
  • Health
  • Criminology

In each case, the topic is hugely important and well developed but even practitioners admit that it is fairly atheoretical. They need your help, theorists. So put that Judith Butler back on the shelf and return that Zizek to the library and show me what you can do.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 9, 2015 at 12:12 am

10 Responses

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  1. re: public opinion — none of these is a full sociological theory of public opinion, although Andy Perrin’s book touches on most of what I think is important.

    Manza, Jeff, and Clem Brooks. “How Sociology Lost Public Opinion A Genealogy of a Missing Concept in the Study of the Political.” Sociological Theory 30, no. 2 (June 1, 2012): 89–113. doi:10.1177/0735275112448054.
    Perrin, Andrew J. American Democracy: From Tocqueville to Town Halls to Twitter. 1 edition. Polity Press, 2014.
    Perrin, Andrew J., and Katherine McFarland. “Social Theory and Public Opinion.” Annual Review of Sociology 37, no. 1 (2011): 87–107. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102659.

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    Daniel

    March 9, 2015 at 11:03 am

  2. Links between health and social theory are only underdeveloped if you’re looking to American sociology (i.e., what you find in the pages of JHSB). Our European colleagues gotcha covered, Fabio.

    This is as good time to say it as ever: time to kick our habit of American provincialism!

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    Liza

    March 9, 2015 at 2:31 pm

  3. Liza: Please use the comments – tell me more!

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    fabiorojas

    March 9, 2015 at 4:32 pm

  4. This is definitely critical, especially in criminology. But where would one publish such a theoretical-empirical piece? The major journals are oriented around a hypothesis-testing model that does not provide space for alternative paradigms.

    Liked by 1 person

    Todd King

    March 10, 2015 at 2:48 am

  5. Todd: I am not a crim person, so I don’t know the subtleties of your field. But soc theory and theory and society would be obvious places. And they would probably count well on a crim Cv.

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    fabiorojas

    March 10, 2015 at 3:29 am

  6. Would the journals you listed facilitate an article with a complex quantitative empirical model, complete with equations? My understanding of Theory and Society, and similar publications, is that they are not set up for that kind of thing.

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    Todd King

    March 10, 2015 at 4:08 am

  7. Try AJS/ASR. This is not normal in soc (or crim) but the top two journals accept these types of papers. Soc Theory will accept these papers as well. Jorunal of math soc is another possibility.

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    fabiorojas

    March 10, 2015 at 4:24 am

  8. I know I am going to get some resistance to this, but, Foucault *was* a theorist of health and population.

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    Wisam

    March 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm

  9. That’s a fair point, but he mostly worked from historical records and was theorist of health in much the same way that Goffman was a theorist of health.

    Liked by 1 person

    fabiorojas

    March 10, 2015 at 6:32 pm

  10. How about William Cockerham? His stuff on health is very sophisticated and theoretical. Bourdieu and Weber have everything to do with health.

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    Liza

    March 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm


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