The Ever Expanding Social Field and the (in)Capacity of Sociology to Respond to New Challenges

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 12:30
Location: Auditorium Maximum (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Margareta BERTILSSON, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
The “social” is ubiquitous these days. It permeates fields far beyond the human sciences: evolutionary biology and archeology, entomology, medicine…Not the least has Bruno Latour’s mockery of “the social” opened our eyes to the costs of disciplinary boundary work: loosening sights of essential entities (things!) that drive social fields in a myriad of shapes.

Late in my academic career, I have come to doubt the benefits of ordering fields in strict disciplinary manners in an attempt to weigh also the costs. I am especially concerned with that matter called “the social”. Various scholarly fields can be viewed on a (social) scale of their world-opening versus world-closing: extrovert vs introvert. An extrovert science such as i.e. anthropology excels in exploring new vistas and in opening up borders between humans and non-humans; an introvert science is keen on closing its doors, thus denying access to an ever-expanding social world “out there” and “inside us”.  I fear that academic sociology tends to evolve more towards an introvert side – I have no clear evidence, but will attempt to explore the dynamics. Could it be that the ubiquitous of the social – being everywhere and difficult to exactly pinpoint – overwhelms our discipline and puts us in a defensive? Clearly, academic pressures, citation records, and scholarly careers take their tolls; but how come that we have no equivalence to journals such as Science and/or Nature at our disposal in the social sciences? My plan is to look at the future of sociology as an important auxiliary field furnishing insights of various kinds (theory and methods) to neighboring fields in the human and natural worlds? To become a scaffolding science like logic and mathematics?  To serve mankind broadly speaking – rather than being “sui generis”.