Week 0 – Reading Sociology Part 1

Estimated Reading Time 00:03:21

Reading Sociology

Part 1. What is sociology?

Chapter 1: Intellectual Citizenship and Innovation: A Reply to Stanley Fish
by Peter Eglin

Fish’s position:

  • Professional academics should disengage emotionally.
  • Echoes Weber’s position.
  • Academia should be separate from the politics

Chomsky’s position:

  • Intellectuals have moral responsibility: the more you know, the more power you have to (potentially) do good, the greater the moral responsibility lies on your shoulders

Eglin’s position:

  • Distinction between politics 1 (fundamental human rights) and politics 2 (parliamentary democracy; partisanship).
  • Academics have moral responsibility to advocate and fight for politics 1, but not so much for politics 2.

Notable quotes:

Not only is pronouncing non-academic matters of fundamental human rights a legitimate exercise of academic freedom, it is the responsibility of professors and universities to do so.

-Peter Eglin

Chapter 2: Anticipating Burawoy: John Porter’s Public Sociology
by Rick Helmes-Hayes

Basically a review of John Porter’s sociology. Helmes-Heyes has no opinion of his own! I thought regurgitating is only for junior high school students stuck writing English essays. How did this H.H. get published in the first place?!

Burawoy’s theory:

  • Sociology has four faces: professional, critical, policy, public
  • Policy is applied professional; public is applied critical
  • Wants to combine all four into “Value Science” — under the umbrella of public with a core of the rigourous scientific professional.
  • Post-positivist.

John Porter

  • Lots of details I’m not really interested in


  • John Porter was really smart and his theories anticipated that of Burawoy. Cool story.

Notable quotes:
None. This author sucks.

Chapter 3: Indigenous Spaces in Sociology
by Patricia D. McGuire

What a rambling mess! What’s she trying to say?


  • Western social theory is the pinnacle of sociological development.
  • But it’s important to recognize social theories from other cultures too! e.g. Aboriginal social theory.
  • World is not binary. You shouldn’t think the world as binary. Western sociologists think the world is binary. They are wrong. Time to be more relativistic.
  • Universalism and particularism is the crux of this debate. (But she didn’t even outline clearly what “this debate” is!)

Notable quotes:

The power of Western science is its ability to depict its findings as universal knowledge. … Yet, alternative knowledge(s) exist in spite of this situation.

Patricia D. McGuire

Chapter 4: Reading Reflexively
by Bruce Curtis

Finally a convincing article for a change. The name Talcott Parsons is bolded for some reason.


  • Social science is a narrative.
  • In fact, census data, though seemingly statistical and objective, are narratives as well.
  • Many sociologist don’t even know how census data is generated.
  • A smooth data set (sets that repeat a story consistently) is insufficient grounds to believe that data is reliable
  • Advocates reflexive sociology.
  • Don’t throw away numbers and statistics, but read into it more carefully and critically.

Notable quotes:

My recent work shows that the numbers are indeed narratives, and it has been revealing to me to see how shocking it is to some researchers when first they notice that census numbers were in fact reports of reports of reports with oral history accounts at the bottom, given the denigration of popular memory by those who want to privilege the numerical form as “hard data”.

– Bruce Curtis

Chapter 5: Francophone and Anglophone Sociologists in Canada: Diverging, Converging, or Parallel Trends?
by Jean-Philippe Warren


  • The development of science has two simultaneous paradoxic impulses: nationalization and internationalization
  • Nationalization: in Canada, French and English sociologists don’t talk to each other.
  • Internationalization: both French and English sociologists in Canada want to get published in foreign (esp. American) journals

Notable quotes:

What I wish to draw attention to is the fact that French-Quebec sociologists and English-Canadian sociologists have — ironically — never been so isolated from one another as they are now that their works are increasingly influenced by the same authors and the same sources. … The two solitudes are dancing with the same partner, so to speak.

Jean-Philippe Warren

Creative Commons License
SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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