Public Sociology

Aileen Michael Burawoy is an marxist sociologist based at the University of Berkeley. He is probably best known for a book he wrote called ‘Manufacturing Consent. Changes in the Labor Process under Monopoly Capitalism’ which aimed at explaining why is it that workers work as hard as they do (he uses the metaphor of a game, which reminds me I must also blog about The Wire). More recently he used his 2004 presidential address to the American Sociological Association to call for a more public sociology. This sparked a flurry of debates, and (a certain amount of hostility), with the British Journal of Sociology, Critical Sociology, Socio-Economic Review and The American Sociologist devoting special issues to the topic . The sociology department at NUI Maynooth held a symposium on Public Sociology 2005, and of course the socio-blogisphere has been debating the issue. All this is way of an introduction to a very good blog from Older Woman on Scatterplot.

Many excellent points are made, one of them is that tenure (which is the American way of saying a permanent academic job) is one of the things that allows public sociology to exist as academics can speak without fear of job loss should they upset the powers that be. That should give us pause for thought. In Ireland there has been a marked shift in the academic job structure in the last ten years as many of us bounce between one one year teaching contacts and one to three year research contracts. However all is not lost in terms of civil engagement, read her post, it is very good.