Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Whatever happened to ..... Sociology?

In the 1970s you couldn't turn the radio or the television on without a Sociologist popping up. The new concrete universities fell over themselves offering Sociology degrees, thousands of students read the same half-dozen entry level textbooks then available and academic reputations were built on more-radical-than-thou self publicity. Although many did become social workers of one variety or another, many more became civil servants. The discipline was universally left-wing in the UK; the credo of sociology was based on the power of the State and the right of the State to regulate other people's lives based on the sound scientific principles of Sociology. But there was a problem. Real scientists (of whom there were still a few about in the 1970s) denied that it was a science at all, and placed it firmly in the arts / humanities schools. The term 'social science' was therefore coined, meaning stuff that couldn't be verified by independent experimentation, but that claimed scientific credentials nonetheless.


And so it was to a large extent across the Atlantic. UCLA and Sociology went together like pork and beans. Except the Americans produced the curiosity that never survived in Britain; a right-wing sociologist. Robert Nisbet was schooled on Edmund Burke and de Tocqueville rather than Max Weber or Karl Marx. And he had the temerity to write
The greatest single revolution of the last century in the political sphere has been the transfer of effective power over human lives from the constitutionally visible offices of government, the nominally sovereign offices, to the vast network that has been brought into being in the name of protection of the people from their exploiters. It is this kind of power that Justice Brandeis warned against in a decision nearly half a century ago: "Experience should teach us to be most on guard to protect liberty when the governments' purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachments by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
In fact, if there's one essay I would urge you to read this year, if you're not already familiar with it, it's Nisbet's 1976 "The New Despotism". Not only does it stand the test of time, but it sets out clearly, succinctly and unambiguously the ideals and the threats that are more significant than ever and that have brought many true Liberals together on 'Orphans of Liberty'


As for sociology, it is so equated with the evils of Rousseau, Marx, Central Statism and the tyranny of Welfarism backed by the law (see Booker's various columns) that it's out of tune with both Blue Labour and Blond's Red Tories, both of which movements are communitarian rather than Statist, local rather than central, horizontal rather than vertical in approach. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Social sciences, humanities departments also bred another new faculty, that of environmental science, whereby 'social and socialist ethics?' and other vile and nefarious 'principles' were tacked onto a miasma of bastardized subjects; ecology, biogeography, economic geography and the like.

Environmentalism: Humanist, anti-religion, yet ironically embracing a quasi religious crusading ethos.
Like; save the Panda, save the world, save the starving in Africa and mixed up with all types of environmentalist jiggery pokery, acid rain, Ozone holes, DDT spraying etc.
All of these above, have caused billions to be spent, with nothing of value achieved.

Unfortunately, out of environmental studies, came it's bastard son: climatology.

Propitiously, because a new arm of social science had to have something to cut it's new incisors on, a new crusade had to be brought about/invented.
Preternaturally, like a divine message from the prophets of doom, up popped man-made GW - the World crusade.... .

An enviromentalist/climatologists' wet dream and a new religion for the, "I wear my hair shirt in public brigade" [look at me!.... aren't I a chaste and perfect girlie/boy?].... seeking to assuage 'man's guilt'.

Luvvies, luv it.

DP111 said...

Raedwald

Thanks for the Nisbet link.

Anon

The question is, can we destroy the monster by some means, or do we have to adopt the very strategy that the monster uses, to destroy it.

Gordo said...

The monster was well funded on it's long march, we ain't.

Anonymous said...

Close down the Grauniad newspaper and the monster will have nothing to feed off and no organ to publicise itself.

Coney Island

Span Ows said...

...Unfortunately not so, the BBC is the bastard child/Siamese twin/blood brother of the Guardian.

Social scamologist said...

What happened to Sociology?

I would have thought that was rather obvious. It grew up (in age, not wisdom) and became mainstream politics-for all three parties.

Manganese said...

Anthropology is the new Sociology. Not quite the same thing but I rather suspect it attracts the same crowd.

Rarely does anything change in substance - but new words are dreamt up to give the illusion that there is fresh insight into the subject.

But beware of the insidious tactic of keeping a name the same but changing the substance of the subject to suit a political agenda.

Bill Sticker said...

A toilet roll dispenser in the Engineering department at the University of Warwick was once graced with the motto; 'Sociology degree, please take one'.