Computational Social Science and the Collapse of Sociology

An interesting footnote in On Sociology by John Goldthorpe speculates on the possibility of Sociology’s collapse. From pg 9:

Such a collapse could conceivably come about through a series of ‘secessions’. For example, some university departments of sociology have already became in effect departments of ‘cultural studies’, and this could then prompt sociologists committed to quantitative analysis and ‘theory-for-explanation’ to seek new homes within social-sciences faculties that would allow them to work more closely with economists, political scientists, demographers, or social statisticians. However, what chiefly militates against such a scenario is sociology’s previous institutional success and the very fact that sociology departments do now exist. Changing the disciplinary organization of a university is, as a colleague once remarked, like ‘moving a cemetery’.

Do these conditions still obtain? Yes but I think their influence is waning. We’re currently seeing a shift in the underlying plate tectonics of the disciplinary system, one driven by but not reducible to computational innovation. I suspect that the emergence of computational social science could be the initiating factor which, as the conditions elucidated by Goldthorpe continue to wane in their influence, leads to these ‘secessions’.


Categories: Digital Sociology

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