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  1. Thanks for saying what has been needed to be said for a very long time. I believe that ‘public sociology’ tends to become just another discursive rabbit hole for sociologists rather than actual acts of public sociology because people feel they can’t be ‘public sociologists’ unless they’re speaking in the name of the discipline (or at least in terms of findings, etc. that have passed peer review within the discipline). This is an enormous liability. As a result, sociologists such as Frank Furedi (I could name others) are not credited as ‘always already’ public sociologists. People like Furedi — who I think of as among the true public sociologists in our time — act as professionals (imagine lawyers) who because of their accreditation in the field (both through education and employment) are licensed to practice the discipline as they see fit. Such people should not be automatically chastised for failing to represent ‘latest research’ in the field — especially when their pronouncements appear politically uncomfortable. This simply undermines the impact of sociology as a whole, both by leaving the external impression that we’re in disarray and the internal impression that no one should venture forth unless they’ve checked that they’ve name-checked all the right academic sources. Much more productive would be for those who don’t like de facto public sociologists like Furedi to develop exactly the sorts of interventionist skills that Mark suggests, and then practice some public sociology in the press, etc.against people like Furedi. In that case, sociology will be truly conducted in public — which is what I thought ‘public sociology’ was supposed to be about. (By the way, much of what Furedi says is spot on, but I raise him as an example for purposes of the likely audience for this message.)

    • I couldn’t agree more! I’ll be trying to explore the distinction between ‘doing sociology in public’ and ‘public engagement’ in the paper on digital public sociology I’m planning later this year, with a particular focus on how social media massively reduce the costs entailed by doing formerly private activity out in the open. There still seems to be a lot of resistance though. I wrote the post above a couple of months after hearing someone described (with real venom) as a ‘media whore’ at a conference – perhaps naively I was really taken aback by this. I’m not sure how widespread the attitude is but it really frustrates me, not least of all because of the wilful self-marginalisation it entails.

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