14 ESA Social Theory Conference, Innsbruck, September 11-13, 2008
well as theories
versus explanation versus practices can’t
The Autology/Ontology-Paradox. On latent structures of the social theory discourse
The discourse on social theory appears to be an extremely heterogeneous controversy and (besides some usual themes and topics) therefore seems to bare a systematic order or historical logic. Nevertheless, as I suggest, it contains an implicit difference that constitute its latent unity: a distinction concerning two aspects, which can be called ‘autology’ and ‘ontology’. Reflections about the historical circumstances of philosophy and the role of social theory in society are confronted with an endless debate on the object of sociology, the existence of social structures and construction of cultural realities. The relationship between ideology and scientific objectivity,
be discussed without both reclamation of objectivity and a reference to cultural contexts of social theory. So what seems to be a theory is always a performance too. Furthermore, I will argue, the first (and maybe only) program of social theory that postulates an explicit solution to the autology/ontology-paradox was Auguste Comte’s positivism. Comte’s scientific system established rigid distinction between social and physical world as well as between social and biological life and (quite similar to that of Herbert Spencer) it claimed strong political pretensions. As a matter of course their intrinsic consequence went beyond the professional
scope of academic standards. Comte’s ideas couldn’t be ignored, but for all weren’t they acceptable for social theory
and Spencer’s their influence in general. So,
in a structural scapegoats.
Hazards and Challenges for Sociology: New Configurations in Social Sciences Claim New Domains within the Academic Division of Work
Sociology as academic term and area exists already since about 120 years, depending on definition. Since the middle of 20* Century a continuous increase of sociology has occurred in which the field has multiplied with respect to topics and related subfields and to people being involved. In that course the question has come up if sociology is still a homogenous unit or if one has to talk about sociological disciplines. The claim for fostering interdisciplinary research which we find nowadays reflects the diagnosis that our islands of shared knowledge have become too fragmented. With respect to social theory increasing talk about a need for a „dialogical turn" (Levine) is on the agenda which claims more basic discussion on sociology within the division of the academic landscape of social sciences. Especially, the relationship of sociology to history, psychology, or economics has to be explored more detailed in order to locate the sociological position within the "space-time-matrix" (Wallerstein). What is the concrete object when talking sociology ? Is their a
common approach including inductive versus deductive methods or empirism versus abstract theorizing ? Is there a specific social object which can be considered as being an exclusive research domain of sociology in relation to "neighbouring subjects" ? Finally, is sociology primarily a clear subject, a research method or a philosophical-political program ? The paper tries to take up those questions more systematically combining them with the development of sociology for the last 100 years and by highlighting the links to history, economics and psychology. What appears to be interesting is that in those other academic subjects the same discussions can be found claiming for opening and reintegration processes into the opposite directions. New assessments come up which provide hazards as well as chances for sociology in its current Performance. In times of globally converging dynamics, sociology seems to be at a crossroad towards a key discipline theorizing that "sociology matters" on the one side or of becoming a service Provider for diverse applied Utilities on the other. A profound sociology of sociology has to deal with those challenges which are of theoretical nature.