American sociology and the limits of partisan expertise

William Peter BAEHR

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Stephen Turner's brief history of American sociology culminates in a description of its current state and prospects. The collapse of the behavioral science ideal, and the aversion to big theory, Turner argues, suggests that sociology is ever more approximating what it was in its early reformist days: a partisan endeavor, oriented to social justice, guided by and legitimized by fact-producing techniques of broadly sociological provenance. The demographic ascendancy of women in the discipline, Turner continues, is likely to accentuate this development and will parallel, rather than transform, the caste-like exclusivity of the top twenty sociology departments and the AJS/ASR nexus. This article examines Turner's analogy of previous partisan expertise with its contemporary manifestations. It argues that the analogy is misleading, and that the 'post-normal' sociology Turner sketches is of doubtful expertise precisely because of its antipathy to serious critical thought and open enquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-50
Number of pages11
JournalThe American Sociologist
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


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