Sociologiens problemer i en social verden uden grænser


  • Margareta Bertilsson



An unrestricted social world and the problem(s) of sociology Sociology has been characterized as an embattled science all through its century-long history. Now, by the turn of the mil¬lennium it is still considered a controver¬sial science: contemporary discussions in the USA have made it clear that so¬ciology risks implosion from the inside either because it is evolving into a science of cultural differences mirroring the ma¬ny forms of contemporary moral redresses or else as an esoteric symbol system out of touch with social reality. The article starts out with surveying some such con¬temporary arguments, raised by socio¬logists and directed against the sociolo¬gical discipline in the 90´s. Seen from within the system of the modern sciences, sociology is typically what has been called an “unrestricted” science. It harbours a wide variety of theo¬retical and methodological approaches without any real centre. Profound que¬stions have recently been raised if socio¬logy as a discipline is falling apart in various specialties with regard to sub¬stances, theories, and methods. Network arrangements among cognitive special¬ties threaten the classic disciplinary mo¬del of science today in general, and so¬ciology is especially threatened by such de-centring tendencies. But the thrust of the argument in this article is to view the alleged dissolution of sociology in light of the wider theme of an eventual dissolution of the notion of the “social”. Could it be, by the end of the 20´s century, that our social world assumes different characteristics than those contained in the old framework of the nation-state. Many different notions of the term social are then listed aiming at the question if the term social itself is but a late historic construction, pertai¬ning in particular to the glue that was to hold the territorial state together. As a “resource” the social world is a precondi¬tion of human life, but as a “topic of dis¬course”, and a theme of sociology, em¬ployments of the term social need consi¬dering a future social world without de¬finite borders. Due to the expansion not the least of mass technology, the social world has been transformed immensely. The expan¬sion process can be captured as a three¬fold process: individualization, contrac¬tualization, and mediatization. Whereas the old container theory stipulated a more or less unified model of the social, a new vision of the social requires us to accom¬modate to this overriding and threefold expansion process. However, these diffe¬rent processes may pull in different cog¬nitive directions - and the question will be raised in the end if the future of socio¬logy can find a “reflective equilibrium” and maintain its disciplinary bounda¬ries or if the discipline will dissolve as a consequence of the dissolution of its own subject-matter?