Speaking Truth to the Public, and Indirectly to Power

Arthur L. Stinchcombe

in Public Sociology

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780520251373
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940758 | DOI:
Speaking Truth to the Public, and Indirectly to Power

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If we do not value “the idle curiosity” of leading scholars and “stick them in ivory towers with tenure and without questions on the bottom line,” we will not have any truth to speak to power. This chapter adds one more twist to this argument. Where Burawoy and most of his critics agree that sociology does have something important to say to various publics, this chapter notes that the relevant truths of sociology are truths about the future, but such truths are elusive. And to get accepted, even the limited truths of most social processes would require an understanding of how different bureaucracies institutionalize their own views of the future. As a result, the chapter suggests, people have nothing to tell public audiences about how to free up money from Star Wars to close the race and class gaps in academic achievement test scores, even if they knew how to close them.

Keywords: Michael Burawoy; sociological truths; bureaucracies; sociology

Chapter.  4470 words. 

Subjects: Comparative and Historical Sociology

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