Public Sociology

In the last several years, the term “public sociology” has become progressively typical among sociologists. As President of the American Sociological Organization in 2004, Eileen Burawoy motivated sociologists to think beyond the educational custom of discussing our concepts only with other experts in educational publications. Burawoy described public sociology as “a conversation between sociology and publics” which could take on many forms: a weblog like this, which is designed to discuss concepts from sociology to sociologists and non-sociologists as well, for instance; and community activism, where sociologists use theory and analysis outcomes to create social transformation. Even educating our classes can be regarded a way of public sociology; most learners who take sociology programs do not become sociologists, but they are all members of a community. Considering sociologically is a device to analyze our lifestyles and our group more seriously.

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Doing “public sociology” provides some difficulties too. First, discussing our analysis beyond the limitations of the self-discipline can mean our outcomes are misunderstood or misstated, sometimes in an attempt to make them easier to comprehend by laypeople. Part of what sociologists do is to try and comprehend these technicalities and to offer detail to daily problems that seem easy. The task of public sociology is to do our best to describe complex problems simply. We want sociological thinking to be part of the story, we just cannot always control how much sociology penetrates in.

We might scale from current analysis, but it is not unusual for journalists to ask us to talk beyond our specialty. A few decades ago, while discussing to a writer about analysis outcomes just like her story, she pointedly said, “you have not responded to my query,” as though I was an elected politician intentionally concealing something from her. We cannot always answer their questions, nor should we if they are too far beyond the opportunity of the analysis we are acquainted with. Another challenge with introducing sociological ideas in a community is that public discussion itself can be harmful, especially when governmental issues are involved. One sociologist who studies governmental motions was a regular target of a talk radio host and even got death threats.

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