Intellectual engagement and public sociology

01.10.2009
The March 2009 issue of "Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales" is dedicated to the question of intellectual engagement and political agency in (the) public (field of) sociology. An outlook.

Gisèle Sapiro: Modèles d’intervention politique desintellectuels. Le cas français

The article addresses the forms and modes of political intervention by intellectuals by focusing on the French case. Such interventions vary according to three factors that structure the intellectual field: symbolic capital, the autonomy vis-à-vis political demand, and the degree of specialization. The different combinations between these three factors generate eight ideal-typical models of intervention, that are analyzed in a social and historical perspective: the universalistic critical intellectual, the specialized critical intellectual (what Foucault called the “specific intellectual”), the moralizing defender of the established order, the specialist advising the government (the “expert”), the universalistic critical intellectual collective (often represented by the “vanguard,” but also by collectives defending a universal cause), the specialized critical collective (that Bourdieu called the “collective intellectual”), the generalist institutional intellectual, and the specialized institutional intellectual.

Michael Burawoy: Pour la sociologie publique

Responding to the growing gap between the sociological ethos and the world we study, the challenge of public sociology is to engage multiple publics in multiple ways. These public sociologies should not be left out in the cold, but brought into the framework of our discipline. In this way we make public sociology a visible and legitimate enterprise, and, thereby, invigorate the discipline as a whole. Accordingly, if we map out the division of sociological labor, we discover antagonistic interdependence among four types of knowledge: professional, critical, policy, and public. In the best of all worlds the flourishing of each type of sociology is a condition for the flourishing of all, but they can just as easily assume pathological forms or become victims of exclusion and subordination. This field of power beckons us to explore the relations among the four types of sociology as they vary historically and nationally, and as they provide the template for divergent individual careers. Finally, comparing disciplines points to the umbilical chord that connects sociology to the world of publics, underlining sociology’s particular investment in the defense of civil society, itself beleaguered by the encroachment of markets and states.