Sociology's malaise

March 24, 1995

May I say, as a now formally retired sociologist, how very much I agree with David Walker's criticism of the profession.

What we have now are, on the one hand, so-called policy oriented quantitative research which never looks critically at the terms in which problems are posed to the sociologist, and, on the other, theory which seems more concerned with establishing its credentials with the latest in British or, especially, French, philosophy, than with doing much in the way of research or commenting on the pressing structural problems of our society. This is as true of Marxist approaches as it is of the mainstream, since most of those who propagated an impoverished form of Marxism in the 1970s have now really given up politics.

Unfortunately young sociologists coming into the profession quickly recognise that there is a greater career advantage in aligning themselves with the now established apolitical paradigms than with addressing in a controversial and theoretically informed way the actual problems which confront us.

It is unlikely that David Walker will hear much from them unless some of them will dare to risk unpopularity and revolt against the subtle intellectual controls to which they are now subject.

John Rex

Centre for research in ethnic relations

University of Warwick

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