IN PRAISE OF SOCIOLOGY In the era of post-truth politics and tabloid media, what is the relevance of social science? Research-based knowledge does matter, and it matters especially for democratic projects and movements for social justice. Yet we can’t settle for a complacent defence of ‘science’. We have to recognize that mainstream disciplinary knowledge does have serious problems. It is concealed behind paywalls; it is linked with social privilege; it is embedded in a highly unequal global economy of knowledge; and its workforce is now in an unsustainable situation thanks to neoliberal policies in higher education.
These are precisely the kinds of problems that sociology can illuminate. Empirical sociology is useful for policy issues in health, education and other fields. However its major value comes when close-focus research is embedded in a larger project of understanding the world. In this more ambitious sense, sociology can be a central part of the democratic self-knowledge of society.