Sociology provides us with esoteric theories by the score. No one doubts that. But can it illumine the rocky terrains of politics and morality that our fellow citizens tread daily? Above all, can sociology explain accurately, fairly, and expansively the times we live in – the age of Donald Trump, Brexit – and so much more? That task is threatened by some of sociology’s current attitudes and by the growing authoritarian culture of Western universities, the historical home of our discipline.
This article outlines six rules of relevance which prioritize understanding over unmasking, independence of mind over groupism, and which acknowledge a world in which public disagreements about the goods of life are both principled and irreconcilable. These rules offer an alternative to many entrenched sociological prejudices. The rules are alternative not because they are truly original – many are recovered or adapted from the classical tradition – but because they invoke tragic, conflicted and paradoxical perspectives on society that sociology’s progressive reflexes routinely obscure.
24 Jan 2017
HKU Sociology Seminar: Rules of relevance : A critique of current sociology and a reaffirmation of its potential