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1

Too Much Sociology
by n+1, n+1

1
terms
3
notes

, n. and , n. (2013). Too Much Sociology. n+1, 16, pp. 1-5

the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts

1

the dead ends of certain kinds of European hermeneutics — the realization that repeated analyses of Balzac novellas might not shake the foundations of the subject, let alone those of capitalism

—p.1 by n+1, n+1
notable
6 months, 1 week ago

the dead ends of certain kinds of European hermeneutics — the realization that repeated analyses of Balzac novellas might not shake the foundations of the subject, let alone those of capitalism

—p.1 by n+1, n+1
notable
6 months, 1 week ago
3

The danger is that the critical insights of what was called “critical sociology” have been repurposed as the status-quo thinking of “concerned liberalism”—the very thing that it set out to subvert. Thinking of everything as a scripted game show hasn’t led to change. Instead, sociological thinking has hypostatized and celebrated the script. Or to put it another way: hate the players, love the game. Even the sinister David Brooks managed to use (and only partly travesty) Bourdieu, when he suggested that the rise of “bourgeois bohemians” had largely solved the titanic conflicts of the Sixties. In such instances, sociology, which intended to explain in order to criticize the glacial stability of bourgeois society, has passed almost seamlessly into the hands of those wanting to justify that society.

—p.3 by n+1, n+1 6 months, 1 week ago

The danger is that the critical insights of what was called “critical sociology” have been repurposed as the status-quo thinking of “concerned liberalism”—the very thing that it set out to subvert. Thinking of everything as a scripted game show hasn’t led to change. Instead, sociological thinking has hypostatized and celebrated the script. Or to put it another way: hate the players, love the game. Even the sinister David Brooks managed to use (and only partly travesty) Bourdieu, when he suggested that the rise of “bourgeois bohemians” had largely solved the titanic conflicts of the Sixties. In such instances, sociology, which intended to explain in order to criticize the glacial stability of bourgeois society, has passed almost seamlessly into the hands of those wanting to justify that society.

—p.3 by n+1, n+1 6 months, 1 week ago
4

IT SEEMS THERE’S NO WAY out of sociology; nevertheless sociology cannot provide us with internal reasons for its ever-rising prestige. Surely we want to be able to say that the sociology of culture is valuable because it’s true or insightful. However, a culture that blithely accepts a sociological account of itself is one that appears to have foundered in the straits that have always bedeviled sociology: the attempt to negotiate the relations between structure and subject, or society and agent. How to account for human freedom and also the determining power of the social world? Can we no longer really provide good-faith reasons for our cultural preferences, reasons rooted in private and idiosyncratic experience but articulated in a common language, and therefore also capable of noncoerced, voluntary change?

In spite of the strenuous attempts by sociologists to preserve some autonomy for the acting subject — Bourdieu’s “habitus,” Latour’s “actor-network” theory — popularization has inevitably resulted in more weight being thrown on the structuring side of things, the network over the actor. The only quantum of freedom left then belongs to the sociologist himself. It is the sociologist who is uniquely qualified to provide explanations for us, which have to do with feelings of status or desire for recognition, sublimated self-interest. [...\

—p.4 by n+1, n+1 6 months, 1 week ago

IT SEEMS THERE’S NO WAY out of sociology; nevertheless sociology cannot provide us with internal reasons for its ever-rising prestige. Surely we want to be able to say that the sociology of culture is valuable because it’s true or insightful. However, a culture that blithely accepts a sociological account of itself is one that appears to have foundered in the straits that have always bedeviled sociology: the attempt to negotiate the relations between structure and subject, or society and agent. How to account for human freedom and also the determining power of the social world? Can we no longer really provide good-faith reasons for our cultural preferences, reasons rooted in private and idiosyncratic experience but articulated in a common language, and therefore also capable of noncoerced, voluntary change?

In spite of the strenuous attempts by sociologists to preserve some autonomy for the acting subject — Bourdieu’s “habitus,” Latour’s “actor-network” theory — popularization has inevitably resulted in more weight being thrown on the structuring side of things, the network over the actor. The only quantum of freedom left then belongs to the sociologist himself. It is the sociologist who is uniquely qualified to provide explanations for us, which have to do with feelings of status or desire for recognition, sublimated self-interest. [...\

—p.4 by n+1, n+1 6 months, 1 week ago
4

Arguing that an epiphenomenon of an unjust society exists to rationalize that society’s injustice: it’s a silencing maneuver that cultural sociologists have perfected, making them unbeatable on their own terms. The ordinary person, genuflecting before his unfreedom, cries “uncle”—which the sociologist reads as a cry for more sociology. The form of this move can be glimpsed in Guillory’s explanation for the rise of French theory during the period he covers. Theory, according to Guillory, was perfectly in keeping with a “technobureaucratic” turn in intellectual work itself and in the economy overall: “The emergence of theory,” he writes, “is a symptom of a problem which theory itself could not solve.” Well, if theory can’t solve this problem, nobody can. But wait — who’s that tweedy figure in the sky, with his WebCASPAR data sets, coming to save us?

Being no closer to a society free of domination, injustice, and inequality than we were in 1993, we may ask whether the emergence of cultural sociology is a symptom of a problem that sociology itself cannot solve. Anyone who’s spent some time soaking up the discourse can point out that access to critical sociology is now one of the goods people purchase with their tuitions at elite institutions of American higher education. Of course the question and the observation that leads us to ask it turn out to be framed in sociological terms.

not exactly unpretentious but i love it

—p.4 by n+1, n+1 6 months, 1 week ago

Arguing that an epiphenomenon of an unjust society exists to rationalize that society’s injustice: it’s a silencing maneuver that cultural sociologists have perfected, making them unbeatable on their own terms. The ordinary person, genuflecting before his unfreedom, cries “uncle”—which the sociologist reads as a cry for more sociology. The form of this move can be glimpsed in Guillory’s explanation for the rise of French theory during the period he covers. Theory, according to Guillory, was perfectly in keeping with a “technobureaucratic” turn in intellectual work itself and in the economy overall: “The emergence of theory,” he writes, “is a symptom of a problem which theory itself could not solve.” Well, if theory can’t solve this problem, nobody can. But wait — who’s that tweedy figure in the sky, with his WebCASPAR data sets, coming to save us?

Being no closer to a society free of domination, injustice, and inequality than we were in 1993, we may ask whether the emergence of cultural sociology is a symptom of a problem that sociology itself cannot solve. Anyone who’s spent some time soaking up the discourse can point out that access to critical sociology is now one of the goods people purchase with their tuitions at elite institutions of American higher education. Of course the question and the observation that leads us to ask it turn out to be framed in sociological terms.

not exactly unpretentious but i love it

—p.4 by n+1, n+1 6 months, 1 week ago