Sociology's malaise

March 24, 1995

While many of the points David Walker makes about sociology hit home (he is not alone in regretting the "lost vitality" of the discipline), the wish to pin the blame on sociologists, rather than on outside circumstances, seems unfair.

Surely, scholarship of the kind he wants can only flourish if funding and institutional support is available for research which has more than a narrow policy focus? This is certainly not the case in Britain today.

What also irritates is Walker's philistinism towards anything outside a narrow conception of sociological research (so that Marxism, ethnomethodology and "relativism" are all dismissed out of hand, as having nothing interesting to contribute to an understanding of British society).

Maybe, he should enrol in a sociology degree, or at least attend the British Sociological Association annual conference on contested cities at the University of Leicester next month, before rushing to judgement on the health of the discipline, or its relevance to his own concerns.

Max Travers

Lecturer in sociology

Buckinghamshire College

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