Drama isn't a crisis

April 2, 2004

Reporting that "Sociology has an identity crisis" (March 26) suggests that it had a coherent identity. But there has always been vigorous debate about the nature of the subject, its boundaries and contributions.

Such debate is positive and is evidence of a reflective discipline. Why should there be consensus among sociologists about their discipline? Are other disciplines free of such debate?

Jennifer Platt is right about the detrimental impact of the research assessment exercise on teaching and research. Since arriving in the UK from Australia three years ago, I have discovered just how pernicious this auditing exercise is. The emphasis on externally funded research and quick publications has resulted in much mindless empiricism and stifled critical and theoretical work.

The more critical and theoretically inclined scholars have had to defend their work from the bean-counters. But this debate cannot be portrayed as an "identity crisis".

Alan Petersen
Faculty of Social Science and Business
Plymouth University

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