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- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- Good sociology is sociological work that produces meaningful descriptions of organizations and events, valid explanations of how they come about and persist, and realistic proposals for their improvement or removal.
- Howard S. Becker (1972) "'Radical politics and sociological research"
- The social sciences are granted eternal youth because findings must be revisited.
- To have given clear and unified answers in familiar empirical terms to those theoretical questions which most occupied men's minds at the time, and to have deduced from them clear practical directives without creating obviously artificial links between the two, was the principle achievement of Marx's theory. The sociological treatment of historical and moral problems, which Comte and after him, Spencer and Taine, had discussed and mapped, became a precise and concrete study only when the attack of militant Marxism made its conclusions a burning issue, and so made the search for evidence more zealous and the attention to method more intense.
- Isaiah Berlin Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 3rd edition (1967). Time Inc Book Division, New York. pp. 13-14
- I often say that sociology is a martial art, a means of self-defense. Basically, you use it to defend yourself, without having the right to use it for unfair attacks.
- Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.
- Within sociology there have been several system theories, differing from one another in the extent to which, for example, human agency, creativity, and entrepreneurship are assumed to play a role in system formation and reformation; conflict and struggle are taken into account; power and stratification are part and parcel of the theory; structural change and transformation – and more generally, historically developments – are taken into account and explained. What the various system theories have in common is a systematic concern with complex and varied interconnections and interdependencies of social life. Complexity has been a central concept for many working in the systems perspective. The tradition is characterized to a great extent by a burning ambition and hope to provide a unifying language and conceptual framework for all the social sciences.
- Tom R. Burns (2006) "System Theories" in: George Ritzer ed. The Encyclopedia of Sociology, Blackwell Publishing.
- Comte gave a powerful impetus to the development of sociology, an impetus which bore fruit in the later decades of the nineteenth century. To say this is certainly not to claim that French sociologists such as Durkheim were devoted disciples of the high priest of positivism. But by insisting on the irreducibility of each of his basic sciences to the particular science of sciences which it presupposed in the hierarchy and by emphasizing the nature of sociology as the scientific study of social phenomena Comte put sociology on the map. To be sure, [its] beginnings can be traced back well beyond Montesquieu, for example, and to Condorcet, not to speak of Saint-Simon, Comte's immediate predecessor. But Comte's clear recognition of sociology as a particular science, with a character of its own, justified Durkheim in regarding him as the father or founder of this science, in spite of the fact that Durkheim did not accept the idea of the three states and criticized Comte's approach to sociology.
G - L
- The year was 1968, and the fact that thirty-eight-year-old Levada called himself a sociologist, and his subject sociology, was almost revolutionary. Sociology was not exactly banned in the Soviet Union, but the name of the discipline had been reduced to something like a curse word. Lenin himself had inaugurated it as a Soviet insult. The problem with sociology was much the same as with psychoanalysis: the field of study refused to be a “science” that could be used to create a new society of new men. A year before the Philosophers’ Ship sailed, one of Lenin’s closest allies, Nikolai Bukharin, published The Theory of Historical Materialism, an attempt at a sort of Marxist textbook of everything, written in a folksy language intended for the proletariat. Three things that Bukharin did in this textbook proved deadly for Soviet sociology: he included new ideas that he believed advanced Marxist theory, he subtitled it A Popular Textbook of Marxist Sociology, and he proclaimed the supreme importance of sociology among the social sciences because it “examines not some one aspect of public life but all of public life in all its complexity.” Lenin hated the book, and the word “sociology” took the brunt of his rage. He underlined it throughout the book and supplied a small variety of comments in the margins: “Haha!” “Eclectic!” “Help!” and the like. In another eight years, when Bukharin was deposed in a Party power struggle, Stalin recalled Lenin’s skepticism by describing Bukharin’s work as possessed of “the hypertrophied pretentiousness of a half-baked theoretician.” Bukharin was eventually executed. Much earlier, sociology had had to go into hiding.
- Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, (2017)
- The critique of Parsons exploded sociological theory into a thousand glittering but laughably parochial fragments of nano-theories. The contemporary culture of sociology is to treat social theory as set of personal expressions of literati and pseudo-philosophers. Surveying contemporary sociological theory is like going to the art museum. There we see lots of brilliant works, each the product of an artist's imagination. Certainly there is no attempt by artists to form a unified aesthetic vision. Nor should there be. But science is not art. A science becomes mature when the efforts of all researchers are coordinated by an underlying core model. This truth is denied in contemporary sociological culture.
- Success in the sociologists' aim might lead, in T. S. Eliot's phrase, to "systems so perfect that no one would need to be good." This view forgets that men long ago committed themselves to the endeavor to control their own collective behavior, not only in the ways sanctioned by the churches but in others, by making it to men's interest to do good. And they have increasingly based the endeavor on an understanding of natural laws of human behavior, those of economics, for example. So that the question is not: Shall this kind of control be undertaken? but: Where shall it stop? A sociologist might also argue that his religious critics have more faith in him than in their own doctrine, the doctrine that man is infinitely tough and resourceful and is not easily cheated of his freedom to sin. What God has given no man can take away, certainly no sociologist. More seriously, he might argue that the social sciences are not in train to eliminate morality but to make greater demands of it. A sociology that shows us unsuspected or not hitherto understood ways in which men are bound up with one another invites more refined answers to the question: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
- The Black student movement ... raised the questions: Why should we study classical sociological theory and be taught nothing about the history of Black sociological thought, including the works of W. E. B. DuBois, Charles S. Johnson, E. Franklin Frazier, Oliver C. Cox and others? Why should we be taught courses on deviance, social disorganization and social problems which take as given that Blacks should be defined as the perpetrators and creators of social pathology and not as its victims?
- Joyce Ladner, Introduction to The Death of White Sociology (1973), p. xxv
- The social scientist is in a difficult, if not impossible position. On the one hand there is the temptation to see all of society as one's autobiography writ large, surely not the path to general truth. On the other, there is the attempt to be general and objective by pretending that one knows nothing about the experience of being human, forcing the investigator to pretend that people usually know and tell the truth about important issues, when we all know from our lives how impossible that is. How, then, can there be a "social science"? The answer, surely, is to be less ambitious and stop trying to make sociology into a natural science although it is, indeed, the study of natural objects. There are some things in the world that we will never know and many that we will never know exactly. Each domain of phenomena has its characteristic grain of knowability. Biology is not physics, because organisms are such complex physical objects, and sociology is not biology because human societies are made by self-conscious organisms. By pretending to a kind of knowledge that it cannot achieve, social science can only engender the scorn of natural scientists and the cynicism of the humanists.
- Richard Lewontin Sex, Lies, and Social Science (1995)
M - R
- Myth does not set out to give lessons in natural science any more than in morals or sociology.
- Sociology is the science which has the most methods and the least results.
- Henri Poincaré (1908) Science and Method Part I. Ch. 1 : The Selection of Facts, p. 19
- Whether sociology can ever become a full-fledged "science" (a description of a class of events predictable on the basis of deductions from a constant ra~onale) depends on whether the terms which sociologists employ to describe events can be analyzed into quantifiable observables.
- Anatol Rapoport, "Outline of a probabilistic approach to animal sociology: I." The Bulletin of mathematical biophysics 11.3 (1949): p 183
- Anyone who has studied psychology, sociology, anthropology, or any of the other wacko-and-wog disciplines knows the three great rules of the social sciences: Folks do lots of things. We don't know why. Test on Friday.
- P.J. O'Rourke (2007) Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut. p. 207
- The second item in the liberal creed, after self-righteousness, is unaccountability. Liberals have invented whole college majors— psychology, sociology, women's studies— to prove that nothing is anybody's fault. No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you'd have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.
- P.J. O'Rourke (2007) Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle. p. xxi
S - Z
- I understand the task of sociology to be description and determination of the historical-psychological origin of those forms in which interactions take place between human beings. The totality of these interactions, springing from the most diverse impulses, directed toward the most diverse objects, and aiming at the most diverse ends, constitutes "society."
- Georg Simmel, Superiority and Subordination as Subject-matter of Sociology (1896), p. 167