what should sociology’s image be?

Previously, I have argued that sociology has an image problem. Too much social problems, not enough science. But that still leaves the question open: what, specifically, should our public image be? A few suggestions:

  • Openly embrace positivism/science as our motivation and professional model.
  • The use of science to study social problems, not the science of social problems.
  • The holistic social science that employs different types of data for a rich picture of human life.
  • “The crossroads of the academy:” We legitimately can speak to fields ranging from the biomedical sciences to the most interpretive of the humanities.
  • Offer a few, simple to understand tools for those in the policy world that are focused on either policy evaluation or measuring social well being (i.e., go beyond “social studies of policy”).

Of course, we already do a lot of this in our research, we just don’t tell the public about it. In other words, sociology should be the queen of the social sciences, not the museum of social dysfunction.

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Written by fabiorojas

December 16, 2015 at 12:01 am

8 Responses

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  1. Positivism?

    Really? You don’t have an image problem. The image is entirely accurate. You just have a problem.



    December 16, 2015 at 3:07 pm

  2. What is wrong with positivism (or “post-positivism”)? Most of empirical sociology falls into this category, although many authors try to obscure this fact because they are afraid of the high-theory thugs that beat everyone up who fails to pay lip service to “constructivism” or whatever the “anti-positivistic” nonsense de jour is called



    December 16, 2015 at 6:13 pm

  3. Here’s is a starting point:
    I just skimmed through it, but it looks legit.
    Really though, it is as if you haven’t been living upon this earth, with our largely positivist governments over the years.



    December 16, 2015 at 7:36 pm

  4. Whatever is exactly on target. Open up our journals. Most of the time, the research is done in a positivist mode – you got some hypotheses, you got some data, and then you compare. Coming up with some alternative theory of science is massively confusing and misleading.



    December 16, 2015 at 8:13 pm

  5. August, no name calling. This isn’t some cesspool rumor page. IF you can write a comment without name calling, I am happy to post it.



    December 16, 2015 at 10:58 pm

  6. In the post it is argued “that sociology has an image problem. Too much social problems, not enough science.”

    Then in the thread below the post, it is asserted (including the latter comment by the author of the post himself) that:

    “Most of empirical sociology falls into [positivism]”


    “Open up our journals. Most of the time, the research is done in a positivist mode”

    It seems that if sociology has an image problem, it cannot be from a lack of positivism, if those advocating positivism here are to believed that sociology is already heavily “positivist.”



    December 17, 2015 at 12:52 pm

  7. I like where you are going with that thought, Austen, but it is even worse. None of those studies are positivist. Not a single one. They may be done by people who imagine themselves positivists, in which case they usually suffer from a large dose of unexamined or unadmitted assumptions.

    This is a deep error. This ‘name calling’ isn’t really. I can no longer assume poor or inaccurate statements are being made because of ideology or tribalism.



    December 17, 2015 at 4:29 pm

  8. @August and Austin – I think he may be referring to a disconnect between how sociology is actually practiced as a research discipline and how it is taught to undergraduate students (this forms the basis of most people’s public perception of the field).



    December 17, 2015 at 10:12 pm

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