HOW IDEOLOGY HAS HINDERED SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT1How Ideology HasHindered Sociological InsightChris C. Martin*Department of Sociology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA*[email protected]Acknowledgments: I thank John Boli and Christian Smith for their comments on earlier drafts.Version Notes: The final publication is available at link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12108-015-9263-z
HOW IDEOLOGY HAS HINDERED SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT2AbstractAmerican sociology has consistently leaned toward the political Left. This ideological skewhinders sociological insight in three ways.First, the scope of research projects is constrained:sociologists are discouraged from touching on taboo topics and ideologically unpalatable facts.Second, the data used in sociological research have been limited. Sociologists neglect data thatportray conservatives positively and liberals negatively. Data are also truncated to hide facts thatsubvert a liberal narrative. Third, the empathic understanding of non-liberal ideologies isinhibited. Sociologists sometimes develop the erroneous belief that they understand alternativeideologies, and they fail to explore non-liberal ways of framing sociological knowledge. Somecounterarguments may be raised against these theses, and I address such counterarguments.Keywordssociology of knowledge, sociology of ideas, American sociology, ideology, methodology
HOW IDEOLOGY HAS HINDERED SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT3Sociology is a discipline that has historically leaned toward liberalism and progressivism,and it continues to do so today. In the United States, all academic departments tend to containmore Democrats than Republicans, but this skew is most pronounced in sociology (Cardiff andKlein 2005). According to some historians, this imbalance occurred in the 1960s when liberalstook over academic sociology (Calhoun and VanAntwerpen 2007), but others have pointed to theeven older link between sociology and social work in the United States (Lengermann andNiebrugge 2007). At least one historian of sociological knowledge has claimed that Americansociology was, during its foundational era, entirely practiced by non-academic social activists(Turner 2013). In this respect, American sociology was not that different from Europeansociology, whose nominal founder Auguste Comte simultaneously created a social-sciencediscipline and advocated a social doctrine.This leftward tilt has now been institutionalized: prominent sociologists including apresident of the American Sociological Association have advocated for public sociology, a formof sociological research focusing on activist solutions to social problems and concerns in thepublic sphere (Burawoy 2002; Gans 2002). Admittedly, a few sociologists have turned awayfrom a problem-centered approach, and exhorted their colleagues to practice sociology in a spiritof camaraderie and joy (Jeffries 2014).