What’s the value-added of sociologists stressing the ‘complexity’ of things, unless they highlight certain factors in the complexity as being salient for some larger prospect? None, says Steve Fuller in his key note at the British Sociological Association Conference, titled “Changing Society”. In fact: “Social research without sociology is precisely what an artificial researcher will eventually be programmed to do.” Sociology, in contrast to social research, needs to regain its normative stance in projected utopias, “mobilising our best scientific knowledge to enable humanity to be all it can.” Rather than just stating the obvious that things are complex and a mess, observations non-academics are perfectly able to make for themselves, sociologists should state something more definite about this larger prospect. “Of course, any judgements pretending to be definitive will be contested and eventually be shown fallible. But the only way that sociology can contribute to social progress is by the public airing of such conflicts, with the onlookers deciding as they will about to what to make of it all.”
Reed Steve Fuller’s reflections on his key note here.