Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN29_03: Knowledge, Ideology and Method
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Esther Oliver, University of Barcelona
Location: GM.325
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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SN Eisenstadt and Zygmunt Bauman: The Possibilities of a Dialogue

Jack Dominic Palmer

University of Leeds, United Kingdom

This paper – based on research currently being undertaken for a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship called 'Zygmunt Bauman and the West: Exile, Culture, Dialogue' – discusses the relationship between the life and work of two sociological giants who seemed on the surface to have little to say to one another: SN Eisenstadt and Zygmunt Bauman. Indeed, when interviewed in 2011 by Shalva Weil for European Sociologist, Bauman was dismissive of Eisenstadt's work, and there are very few references to Bauman’s work in Eisenstadt’s sociology. Taking its point of departure from unseen correspondence found in the developing Janina and Zygmunt Bauman archive at the University of Leeds, the paper will address how, in the late-1980s, their social thought converged on several key themes including the postmodernity debate, the sociology of culture, and the Holocaust. They arrived at this dialogue from very different directions - Bauman via a confrontation with the Holocaust and Eisenstadt via comparative civilizational analysis - and seemed to cease communication soon afterwards. Nevertheless, taking this correspondence as a springboard, putting them into conversation again has great potential for informing key debates in contemporary sociology, including the problems of collective identity and the possibilities of barbarism in ‘multiple modernities’.

A Self-Delusive Account Of The Practice Of Philosophy

Francisco Javier Salinas Lemus1,2

1Institute of Education, University College London, United Kingdom; 2Instituto de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile

Philosopher Penelope Maddy recently published a book entitled What do Philosophers do? Skepticism and the Practice of Philosophy (2017) – here I would like to present the main arguments of this work and also offer some sociological observations to some of the gaps in Maddy’s depiction of the practice of philosophers. This book is interesting in at least three senses: (1) because it wonders about the obsession that philosophy has with questions; (2) tries to distinguish the figures of the Sceptic Philosopher to those of the Plain Man and the Plain Inquirer; and (3) it is aimed to a broader (non-philosophical) audience. I would argue that, despite the relevance of these three points, her arguments have many tweaks that make her proposal to what do philosophers do rather obscure and self-mystifying. Moreover, I would argue that she misses the opportunity of showing the concrete ways in which the abstract concepts and questions in the toolbox of philosophers relate either to the concrete problems of an abstract society or to the actual experiences of those working in the discipline. The result: in her work we do not seem to learn much about how philosophy is done in practice.

On The Methodological Significance Of Ontology and Normativity In Social Science

Mikael Carleheden

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Typically, method is discussed in association with empirical research and in contrast to theory. This understanding should be related to an epistemology that has dominated conceptions of science ever since the scientific revolution and Descartes. Commonly, knowledge has been understood as the inner depiction of an outer reality. Such an epistemology is probably the basic explanation why method so seldom has been reflected upon in the subfield of social theory. Method in the customary epistemological sense has been understood as a “technique” or a “machinery”, which ideally in an almost automatic way produces valid descriptions and explanations. Hence, it is implicated that methods are both value-neutral and ontologically empty, i.e. they presuppose nothing in particular about the research object and remains external to it. However, at least since the linguistic turn and the attempts to “overcome epistemology” in philosophy such a notion of method has been refuted persistently. Sociologists of science have shown that methods tacitly include particular ontological and normative presuppositions. In my paper, I will argue that such presuppositions should not be minimized or concealed, but theorized. My main claim will be that if we are able to relate epistemology, ontology and normativity in the right way, we can take a significant step towards a clarification of the role of theorizing in empirical research.

Sociology Of Detachment: Staging An Encounter Between Sociology Of Critique And Sociology of Knowledge

Jana Bacevic

University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

This contribution interrogates the epistemic and political implications of the relationship between critique and the production of knowledge, especially in contexts where sociologists are simultaneously participants in and observers of social and political processes. Later work in the pragmatic sociology of critique (e.g. Boltanski, 2009) has opened the question of ‘complex externality’, that is, the need to ground claims to epistemic authority of sociological knowledge in a context (or normative order) that is external to it. However, given that knowledge of this order is also an object of sociology, how do sociologists go about negotiating this boundary?

Engaging in a critical reading of some of the recent work that revisits Weber’s doctrine of ‘axiological neutrality’ (e.g. Hamati-Ataya, 2018, Hammersley, 2017), this contribution maps different routes of grounding epistemic positioning in the context of 21st century sociology. It discusses the possibilities and limitations of different theoretical approaches to the 'double bind', including Bourdieu's and Elias', and puts them in conversation with different forms of philosophical grounding of this problem, including Arendt's and Sloterdijk's. Illustrating this with own research on academic critique of neoliberalism, it discusses possibilities and limitations of different ways of approaching this issue, particularly in relation to shifting framing of expertise and the 'post-truth' epistemic landscape.

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