Global or Local Sociology? the Battlefields of Theories in a Historical-Comparative View

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 45 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Frank WELZ, Innsbruck University, Austria
Global sociology does exist in two forms. First, it is often considered as a set of globally dominant, hegemonic theories. But in addition, second, it does also exist in the everyday practices in research and teaching of all sociologists. Usually theory aims to uncover the former; theoretical work then aims to construct or deconstruct the opposition between classical theory and its postcolonial critique or between one modernity and multiple modernities. In contrast to that, historical epistemology has to be concerned with the second form, the historical practices of concrete theory building in its historical and social contexts. It is obvious (for sociologists) that the actual freedom of choice in regard of the theoretical frame of reference of the individual sociologist is limited by her concrete embeddedness in her world of disciplinary paradigms, funding, scientific groups and communities etc. (to be uncovered, following Bourdieu, by reflexive sociology).

For practical reasons, my paper will combine both views on global sociology, the theoretical and the historical-epistemological one. ISA’s 1998 survey on the sociological “book of the century” is well-known, having presented Weber, Mills and Merton as the top three authors. In contrast to the ISA ranking, my report will refer to a new empirical analysis (undertaken in collaboration with national associations of sociology), that does not assume one singular space of global sociology (of the English-speaking sociologists, as ISA did). On the contrary, my analysis will approach the battlefield of theories in the international arena as battlefields, that is from several different angles, comparing regions and national traditions of sociological analysis in its given practices.