restricted access 5. External Influences on Sociology (1990)
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116 It is common—and helpful—to distinguish between internal or autonomous forces that shape the development of scientific inquiry on the one hand and those that arise externally in the cultural and social milieus of that scientific enterprise on the other. By the former we refer to the power of unsolved paradigmatic puzzles and implications to drive scientific thought. The readiest of examples come from the “pure” sciences of mathematics , logic, and philosophy. Efforts to solve Zeno’s paradox, efforts to fathom the nature of infinity and the logic of negative numbers, and (perhaps ) efforts to divine the existential characteristics of an omnipresent God come to mind. By the latter we refer to those factors that are subsumed under the heading of the sociology of knowledge; these include the influences found in the larger cultural and linguistic contexts within which scientists work, the influences imparted by the social origins and positions of scientists, the hostility or receptivity of the political environment , and the organizational setting (e.g., university, research academy, industry, government) in which the scientific work is executed. 5 External Influences on Sociology (1990) From Sociology in America, edited by Herbert Gans, 49–60. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1990. e x t e r n a l i n f l u e n c e s o n s o c i o l o g y 117 It is not always easy to observe this distinction in practice. For example, it is apparent that the main “forces” that have shaped neo-Marxist sociological thought have been scholars’ efforts to come to terms with the fact that many of the predictions that Marx derived from his theoretical diagnosis of capitalism have apparently not come to pass historically—the failure of the major capitalist classes to polarize because of the internal differentiation of each, the failure of the proletariat to develop into a world revolutionary force, and so on. That is to say, new theoretical work has arisen as the original Marxian paradigm has been adapted or elaborated to account for these evident predictive failures. But are those “forces” internal or external to Marxian thought? They are internal in that they are logical parts of the organized corpus of that theory, and any change in their validity status rami- fies out and presses for change in its theoretical foundations. They are external , however, in the sense that they are the products of independently generated historical processes that are observable in the development of capitalist societies. This apparent ambiguity complicates any neat effort to identify the precise status of the factors that have influenced the historical development of a field like sociology. In this essay I will allude to the ambiguity from time to time but will make an effort to identify factors that appear to be primarily external to sociology. There is a certain tradition of inquiry in the sociology of sociology with respect to these external factors. We have interpretations of early industrial sociology (that of Mayo [1949] and Roethlisberger and Dickson [1944]) as “managerial sociology” (e.g., Burawoy 1979), suggesting either a direct or an indirect domination of the subfield by the ideology and interests of the business classes; we have Gouldner’s critique (1970) of Parsons’s sociological theory as directed toward fending off, if not denying , the crisis-revolutionary forces in American society associated with the Great Depression and subsequent developments; we have a general book on Western sociology (Reynolds 1977) that is also critical in tone, suggesting the domination of the field by establishmentarian forces; we have the critique by Habermas (1973) and other critical theorists, who regard mainline (i.e., positivist) sociology as a kind of handmaiden of the instrumental/rational/technological interests of the postindustrial state apparatus; and we have at least one example of an analysis that regards 118 l a t e r e x p l o r a t i o n s sociological developments mainly as a result of sociometric and generational dynamics (Mullins 1973). Most of these treatments—and my illustrations are not exhaustive—are critical in character and focus on the business and/or political establishment as the main determining forces in question. As such they tend to be somewhat one-dimensional in character, and can be thus criticized. Reflection alone should tell us that there is a multiplicity of cultural, economic, political, and organizational influences involved in the evolution of...