Sociological Theory 12 (2):126-139 (1994)

Ever since the inception of its academic career, sociology has approached its subject-matter in two different ways; one positivist, the other critical. Important theories, such as those of Karl Marx or Emile Durkheim, have always emphasized either one of these perspectives, but could never completely ignore the other one. The result was that as an empirical science, sociology has been interested in latent structures, while as critical theory, it has pointed out that social reality is not what it seems to be. Therefore, all attempts at building a unified theory of society on the basis of the critical/positivist distinction had to lead into the paradox of treating appearance and reality, or latent and manifest structures, as one and the same thing. This situation is now changing in radical ways which sociology has yet to appreciate. I am referring to recent interdisciplinary discussions about theories of self-referential systems, autopoietic system closure, the second-order cybernetics of observing systems, and constructivist epistemology and information processing. We can draw upon these recent discussions in order to understand society as a self-observing system that defines its own identity while, at the same time, leaving an "unmarked space" for the possibility to describe society in quite different ways
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DOI 10.2307/201859
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Against Capital-S Sociology.Charles Lemert - 2003 - Sociological Theory 21 (1):74-83.

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