This paper critically looks at the ways in which ‘global sociology’ has been debated and conceived in the past decades. It provides an historical overview of various proposals and ideas and the institutional contexts within which they are put forward and criticized. Two different periods are distinguished. Until the early twenty-first century, on the one hand, criticism of the ‘ethnocentrism of the West’ was often supported by ideas and pleas for an ‘indigenization’ of sociological knowledge. A commitment to the unity of science and to its universalist aspirations remained strong, however. In the course of the twenty-first century, on the other hand, criticism of the ‘northern dominance’ in sociology has become much stronger. Instead of a ‘multicultural’ understanding of global sociology, a ‘critical’ sociology that contributes to ‘global justice’ is now often advocated. Based on this historical overview, it is suggested that global sociology might contribute to more self-reflexivity within the discipline. It helps us to see how different contexts reverberate into the ways in which sociology itself is imagined in this world and provides an analysis of the debates for a better understanding of the challenges which sociology currently faces
Discourse and ideology are interrelated concepts in social sciences and the humanities and are even occasionally employed interchangeably. This paper sheds light on their relationship in academic discourse and examines the role of sociology as a scientific field in its conceptualization. Using bibliometric analysis, we examined 15,716 academic publications mentioning “discourse” or “ideology” in their title and written in English by American and British scholars between 1966 and 2015. The investigation focused on the two terms’ conceptual environment, areas of usage, journals, and the organizations to which the authors were affiliated. First, we conclude that although some sociology researchers have attempted to create a sociological definition for the concept of discourse, sociologists are not its most active users. The same is true for ideology. These concepts have established niches in other disciplines (political science and history for “ideology,” and educational science and linguistics for “discourse”). Second, throughout the years, the field of discourse studies has become more diversified and fragmented than that of ideology. Third, the leading organizations in both fields are prestigious American and British universities, which indicates that discourse and ideology are elements of the intellectual elites’ language. Fourth, the concept of discourse was more frequently applied than that of ideology in the years 2010–2015, and we expect that it will remain popular among scholars in the next decade. As for ideology, we believe that new social challenges could foster the rediscovery of this concept in the near future.
Sociology is facing difficult times: fragmentation within and between regional, national and international academic communities remains high while global interdependence and instability increase generating societal threats of unprecedented scale (progressing inequality, migration, ecological, political and economic crises). Ethical issues are very important for comprehending both: processes within sociology and transformations in the world around. Thus, we postulate the global ethical challenge for sociology, which requires: first, formulating the ethical stance of a sociologist towards the objects of disciplinary inquiry and the potentially involved social groups and, second, elaborating research tools adequate for studying the ethical dimension of the complex social reality. We demonstrate that dominating discourses in the current professional communities are largely inadequate and cannot effectively address this challenge. Drawing on Pitirim Sorokin’s theoretical heritage, as well as on John Meyer and Volker Schmidt ideas, we propose an alternative project of global sociology, emphasizing, first, solidarity-oriented and ethically contextualized sociological communication with various extra-academic audiences; and, second, sociologists’ ethical competence in exploring various localities and dimensions of global modernity with its progressively intersecting different (and sometimes contrasting) ethical systems.
Times of societal turbulence are painful for social theories tending towards optimistic accounts of the world. In the current sociological mainstream, so-called World Society Theory (WST), proposed by John W. Meyer and his colleagues, is one of the most contested examples. We discuss WST core conceptual assumptions with special emphasis on the concept of “Otherhood”, which receives limited attention in literature but is central for the “promise” of World Society Theory in times of multiple crises, associated with ongoing global pandemic and its expected consequences. Analyzing recent debates, we outline directions for World Society Theory further development. We argue that important contributions to WST scholarship may come from another “grand theory”, Integralism, elaborated by Pitirim Sorokin in middle twentieth century, which remains ignored in discussions about WST. Integralism, including its central concept of “Altruism”, may be helpful in comprehending ontological grounds of “Otherhood”, which may go beyond pure social construction. Integralism also allows expanding the analysis of causes, content, mechanisms and global macro-historical dynamics of “Otherhood”, stimulating its more nuanced comprehension, including theoretical and empirical distinction between its various types. Integration of Pitirim Sorokin ideas in debates about WST is important for its further elaboration, including its optimistic and, thus, highly valuable “promise” for the global world and related implications for the practical role that social science can play in global development.
The aim of this article is to highlight key features of the Russian sociological tradition and to demonstrate its relevance for certain ongoing international debates. In the current literature the image of “Russian sociology” remains fragmentary and incomplete. Different stages in the history of Russian sociology are usually considered as mutually antagonistic. We challenge this view by arguing that the Russian sociological tradition can be seen as a continuing trajectory of social thought development, lasting from the XIXth century until present days and unified by a set of underlying historically determined common features: publicism (an orientation to non-academic audiences and a desire to promote changes in the real world); moral and ethical concern (a clear expression of value orientations; the particular importance of ethical and moral issues); problem orientation (a focus on urgent social concerns with “problem” dominating over “method” in sociological research). We demonstrate the importance of these features for a better understanding of the perspectives and contributions of Russian sociologists to current international debates.
The present study demonstrates that the path of the “organic public sociology” (proposed by Michael Burowoy in his famous call of the 2004) as the dominating mode of sociological practice in the national context can be menacing with the serious pitfalls manifested in broad historical perspective. We reveal the four pitfalls basing on the analysis of the Russian experience through the last 150 years. First, the over-politicization and ideological biasness of sociological activities; second, the “personal sacrifice” of sociologist as a romanticized practice, potentially harmful for the discipline; third, the difficulties of the professional sociology institutionalization; fourth, the deprivation of the policy sociology development. Analyzing the history of Russian sociology in the context of the current international discussions, we give particular reference to the idea of the “Scientized Environment Supporting Actorhood” elaborated by John Meyer. We suggest the mode of communication between sociology and society, which, in our view, could be helpful for improving their interactions in various local, national and global contexts in the XXIst century. This mode escapes the political emphasis and ideological claims but rather concentrates on the more fundamental ethical issues. It also tries to overcome the limitations of the contemporary professional mainstream (instead of idealizing it). Finally, it presents itself to the publics in the understandable way, while remaining properly scientifically validated (however, avoiding the exaggerated accent on the statistical procedures and fitishization of the natural science’ principles (“numerology” and “quantofrenia”)). The public activities of the prominent sociologist Pitirim Sorokin in the American period of his career are a good example of this approach to the interactions with society.