The Unintended Consequences of Unanticipated Consequences: A Mertonian View on How Merton Has Been Treated By Sociology

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Martin REINHART, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, Germany
This contribution will use the concept of „unanticipated consequences of purposive social action“, from Robert Merton's early paper with the same title, for two purposes: First, based on a citation analysis of the paper, the impact of the concept will be tracked quantitatively across the sociological subdisciplines and across time, up to the present. Special attention will be paid to the issue of "obliteration by incorporation" (another Mertonian concept) by comparing the sociological literature that cites the Merton paper explicitly and that which uses the concept without citing. This quantitative analysis will be extended by analyzing qualitatively how usage of the concept has changed over time. Second, the usage of Mertons concept will be used to discuss how a sociology of science that takes theoretical work in the social sciences as its object of study could look like. The neopragmatist sociology of critique will be used to elaborate on the premise that the social sciences have less control over their vocabulary and their theoretical concepts than is usually acknowledged.