A Life-Long Response to Talcott Parsons: The Global Sociology of Goran Therborn a Critical Yet Friendly Appraisal

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:50 PM
Room: 313+314
Distributed Paper
Sven HORT , Social Welfare, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Gunnar OLOFSSON , School of Social Science, Forum for the study of Professions, Linnaeus University, Sweden, Vxj, Sweden
Talcott Parsons represents the culmination of sociology as a paradigmatic science, its high tide during the late interwar and early post-war period. Goran Therborn is a still active global and public sociologist, a proponent of “world knowledge” which in his own words makes him more of a social scientist than a sociologist. This mix of presentation and self-presentation is challenged in this paper which outlines the amphibology of Therborn’s career as an academic sociologist and public intellectual, his occasional poems as well as his main oevre from the mid-1960s to the first decades of the new Millennium. In focus of this paper is his relationship to classical sociology as epitomized by Talcott Parsons and C Wright Mills as well as the movement the latter early on gave a strong voice. After a brief biographical note on his socialisation in the pre-university environment of Southeastern Sweden, Therborn’s face-to-face engagement with on the one hand the first generation of domestic sociology in the form of the eminent Swedish class analysist Gosta Carlsson, and on the other hand the internationalist new left movement after 1956, is conveyed. Thereafter follows a step by step close reading of Therborn’s major works whereby his main sociological motifs are portrayed: the discipline itself and its problem to identity its research object (“society”), and contrasting subject matters of closely related academic disciplines (economy, ideology, state, modernity, family and kinship, civilizations, and human inequalities). A tentative re-interpretation of Parson’s AGIL-scheme in light of Therborn’s life-long preoccupation with the same themes ends the paper. This brings us to the present state of the discipline, its relationship to the outer world and prospects for its future.