Are disciplines too big to grasp?

I saw an interesting talk recently given by W.G. Runciman on Evolutionary Sociology. The whole notion was very thought provoking but there was one particular aspect that was curious. He described the central conflict facing the discipline being one of Evolutionary Sociology in confrontation with Rational Choice Theory. But I’d never heard of Evolutionary Sociology prior to this talk and I rarely encounter Rational Choice Theorists. If you’d asked me what about the central conflict that would define the future of the discipline I’d have told you it was one of how we interpret and use transactional data. This left me wondering how perspectival our accounts of these issues will inevitably be. Are disciplines as a whole too big to grasp?

Categories: Higher Education

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2 replies »

  1. I can relate to that because I spent much of my working life trying to incorporate my interest in symbolic interactionism into my housing and urban sociology, and largely failing because housing and urban studies were incorrigibly positivistic. It is somewhat better now but the bias is still there.

  2. Disciplines feel arbitrary. Sociology so often verges with psychology. Why is there a distinction between mathematics and statistics? From the perspective of doctoral education, the doctoral researcher most often develops niche knowledge that may be applicable to one scholarly journal in the world. To describe this person as a steward of a vast and ever-expanding discipline hardly fits.

    Without disciplinary silos, how would universities ever teach undergrads?

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