Although science was once seen as the product of individual great men working in isolation, we now realize that, like any other creative activity, science is a highly social enterprise, influenced in subtle as well as obvious ways by the wider culture and values of its time. Scientific Knowledge is the first introduction to social studies of scientific knowledge. The authors, all noted for their contributions to science studies, have organized this book so that each chapter examines a key step (...) in the process of doing science. Using case studies from cognitive science, physics, and biology to illustrate their descriptions and applications of the social study of science, they show how this approach provides a crucial perspective on how science is actually done. Scientific Knowledge will be of interest not only to those engaged in science studies, but also to anyone interested in the practice of science. (shrink)
Originally published in 1974. Scientific Knowledge and Sociological Theory centres on the problem of explaining the manifest variety and contrast in the beliefs about nature held in different groups and societies. It maintains that the sociologist should treat all beliefs symmetrically and must investigate and account for allegedly "correct" or "scientific" beliefs just as he would "incorrect" or "unscientific" ones. From this basic position a study of scientific beliefs is constructed. The sociological interest of such beliefs is illustrated and a (...) sociological perspective upon scientific change is developed. (shrink)
Is human freedom and choice exaggerated in recent social theory? Should agency be the central in sociology? In this, penetrating and assured book, one of the leading commentators in the field asks where social theory is going. Barnes argues that social theory has taken the wrong turn in over-stating individual freedom. The result is that social contexts in which all individual actions are situated, is dangerously under-theorized. Barnes calls for a form of social theory that recognizes that sociability is the (...) essential characteristic of human life. It is our capacity to communicate with each other, and plan for each other’s welfare, that makes us truly human. Once this is allowed, notions of “agency”, “freedom”, and “choice” lose their connotation with free-floating individualism. Instead the embedded character of agency is starkly revealed. This is a model of well-informed and balanced analysis. It will be of interest to students of sociology, philosophy and social theory. (shrink)
University Of Exeter, England The central argument of this article is that there is no fact of the matter, no evidence, however tentative or questionable, that will serve adequately to identify actions "chosen" or "determined" for the purposes of sociological theory. This argument will be developed with reference to the two theorists of the greatest importance in advocating the sociological value of the concept of agency: Talcott Parsons, with his "voluntaristic theory of action," set the scene for the whole agency (...) and structure debate in modern sociology, and Anthony Giddens, in his theory of structuration, provides the most comprehensive recent account. Both theorists put forward grounds and justifications for their use of the concepts of "choice" and "agency," but it will be argued here that in the last analysis, none of them has any sociological merit. (shrink)
: "Technoscience" is now most commonly used in academic work to refer to sets of activities wherein science and technology have become inextricably intermingled, or else have hybridized in some sense. What, though, do we understand by "science" and by "technology"? The use of these terms has varied greatly, but their current use presumes a society with extensive institutional and occupational differentiation. Only in that kind of context may science and technology be treated as "other" in relation to "the rest" (...) of the social order; whether as differentiated sets of practices or as specialized institutional forms. References to "technoscience" may then be taken to imply a reversal of earlier processes of cultural and institutional differentiation and/or a recombination of separate bodies of practice and skill. Either way a move back to a less differentiated state is implied, which makes it surprising that we appear to have very few memories of technoscience in periods less culturally and institutionally differentiated than our own and a lower level of technical and intellectual division of labor. However, the elusiveness of our memories of technoscience may be significant mainly for what it suggests about our ways of conceptualizing the past, rather than for any insight it offers into that past "itself." We tend to identify practices and networks of practices in terms of functions. And it may be because, at different times, different functions have been selected as constitutive of practices, that "technoscience" has come to be regarded as something especially characteristic of the present. (shrink)
The paper recalls my response to Berger’s and Luckmann’s book on reading it shortly after its initial publication. It seeks to convey why it was that I failed to make use of the book at that time, even though I recognised it as an outstanding contribution to my intended field of research, and how later I came to see that this may have been a lost opportunity. The story touches upon diverse important issues including the relationship between epistemology and the (...) sociology of knowledge; the epistemic authority of the natural sciences; the relevance of causal accounting as topic and resource in sociology; the importance of Durkheim in the sociology of knowledge; and the great value of Berger’s and Luckmann’s book as a corrective to the undue individualism that has long been a feature of the social sciences in the English-speaking world. Even so, the paper is more recollection than analysis, and unreliable recollection at that, after many decades in which there has been time to forget, or even to reconstruct, a very great deal. (shrink)
Reviews the book, The road since structure: Philosophical essays, 1970–1993, with an autobiographical interview by Thomas S. Kuhn, James Conant, and John Haugeland . This marvelous collection consists of three distinct sections, containing five self-standing essays in which Kuhn refines and clarifies many of his most basic concepts , lengthy replies to some of his most famous critics and contemporaries , and a remarkable autobiographical interview conducted just over a year before his death.
This paper focuses on what could be learned about statuses and status groups from the work of Randall Collins in the 1980s, and in particular from Weberian Sociological Theory. I mention how I myself found this book useful at that time to further my own work in the sociology of science and in sociological theory, and emphasise its value in appreciating the fundamental and irremediable deficiencies of individualistic rational choice theory in both contexts. I go on to note how Collins, (...) a ‘macro’ sociologist in the 1980s, was nonetheless well aware of the indispensable role of micro-sociology in advancing the fundamental understanding of the field as a whole, and his singling out of Erving Goffman and Harold Garfinkel as primus inter pares for their special theoretical importance at this time. I say a little about why these two did indeed have much to contribute to an understanding of statuses and of status groups and still do even today, and end by noting how effectively Collins has used and built upon the work of Goffman in particular since the 1980s. (shrink)