Tuesday, April 03, 2007

public sociologist

I just came across the competition.


When I looked into a title for this column, I used public sociologist. Partly I was trying to carve out a space in the digital world, partly I was trying to supplement what I was doing in the universities. Partly I was trying to raise the visibility of sociology to the public (yes I realize I was indulging myself with that one).

Part of the problem with being a public sociologist is that Sociology does not want to engage the public. In a meeting discussing the death of Symbolic Interaction (SI), one of my favorite perspectives, I ran into a very heated gentleman of the boomer academic flavor. I have run into him, or someone like him, at many conferences. Those who wanted to save SI said we needed to return it to its grassroots radical beginnigns. I couldn't help but think that these guys were out of touch. The grassroots is not radical in the same way it was in 1968. Further, when I suggested that SI would be well served if we could build demand for the major by helping our students find work (more demand for soc grads = more demand for soc majors = more demand for soc profs...), I almost started a fight. Turns out that our fellow Boomer SI Sociologists (at least some of them) are proud to "not be running an employment service".

So then I reread Burawoy's speech where "public sociologist" was laid out. Allright - it was the first time I read it. But it turns out that Burawoy's take is decidedly left. So, if you want a piucture of what the American Sociological Association president had in mind in mentioning the "public sociologist," read the above kid's column.

I can't help but think we (the discipline) are misguided. The paying public has turned much more conservative since 1968 when these guys were in grad school. What good does it do us Sociologists to maintain a track so different than the one the public is following? Well we get to feel special, wear earrings, and bitch about republicans - but otherwise no one is listening.

OTOH, in private industry, I am currently involved in a variety of qualitative research projects. These projects retail from between 25k to +300k each. People are willing to pay quite a lot for our research. It is our own fault if we let these opportunities go by. We need to overcome the disconnect between academic sociology which at times disdains to deal with the rest of the world, and which doesn't care if its graduates can get jobs, and sociological research that ppl are willing to pay for.

Hope the revolution goes well.


Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha!
Funny how the disconnect between academe and the reality of our society gets larger and larger.....

I know we have talked about this before....but It's so important that we guide students into a place in society....show 'em some possibilites.
I could have (and still could) used some real guidance....it's not doing anyone a service,by letting students take underwater basketweaving.... OTOH, underwater basketweaving is a fine skill...but yet, oh, so, impractical. I suppose you could say the same for music classes, or art classes....so I am not sure why I go to work everyday either....but hell, what other kind of living are you going to make in music?
I could have been a rock star, or the Next Becky Chapin Carpenter....and while these are still possibilities.....my boys have to eat, the shirts have gotta get ironed...and I think there's a mortgage to be paid!

I have been thinking I should get into meditational ambience, and learn how to play the Native American flute....I'll invite people over, let 'em sit lotus style for a while, and play pretty music............and charge them lots of money....in the name of therapeutic relaxation....I might even be able to claim it on their insurance tabs.....If a bandaid costs $6.00, then a warming pillow, acupressure massage socks, and a light-darkening blindfold...might be costly.
Donald Trump eat your heart out!

I better call my HR people....let 'em know I'm outta here!

Love ya!!!!

Anonymous said...

oh yeah....somebody forgot to tell you.....night time is for sleeping. What the heck are you do ing up at 12:28 am anyway? Go to bed.
S L E E P IS G O O D ! ! !

Mary said...

Remember UNO? It is hairy Mary here. Glad to see you haven't lost the edge of your early 20s. Hope your beautiful and accomplished wife is enjoying life and that you are too. I'm STILL working on the Ph.D......
If you can't remember me = that's okay. I've been told I;m quite forgettable!