It's been a while since I dipped into the pages of a sociology journal, and I did promise this was going to be a semi-regular feature. Remember, if you want a more complete and regular low down of what's happening in social science journals, Journal Flood is the blog for you. Now, where was I? Oh yes. During a quiet moment this afternoon, I thought I'd have a nose around the latest Sociological Review (Volume 56, number 3, August 2008). And there are a couple of articles that caught my eye.
First up is W.G. Runciman's provocative article, 'Forgetting the Founders' (abstract). Well, by provocative I mean pretty critical of the "founding fathers" of sociology - Marx, Weber and Durkheim. His is a well tread argument: the three were writing in a different time ... so much has changed since then ... we need to move on. Pity most of this "moving on" has resulted in a discipline-wide retreat from explanatory social theory, but I digress. Regardless of Runciman's opinion on the big three, he advocates a bold new direction for sociological research: Neo-Darwinism. Runciman argues this is being deployed in two ways - psychological and biological arguments concerning naturally-selected facets of human behaviour, and "the framing and testing of non-reductionist causal hypotheses about cultural and social evolution." He acknowledges these claims are controversial for sociologists, but this shouldn't be taken to assume some kind of genetic determinism. It's certainly an interesting argument and one that sociologists - including this one - will require a lot of convincing.
The second of my picks is 'Vive la (Sexual) Révolution: The Political Roots of Bourdieu's Analysis of Gender', by Gad Yair (abstract). As long-time AVPS readers know I use the work of Pierre Bourdieu in my PhD and so have an interest in any new scholarship that comes along. In this paper Yair courts controversy with the claim that the 1789 Revolution constitutes a deep cultural code that continues to structure French scholarly practice, and Bourdieu was no exception. His "preoccupation with the Revolution – and his analyses of its frustrations in the realm of the sexual division of labour – [could be read] as a reincarnation of a deep French cultural code which animated his writings." In other words, the code is so deeply embedded in the French intellectual habitus that this is refracted in all of Bourdieu's work on gender. After exploring the argument in more depth, this leads to a suggestion (not all that shocking, from a Bourdieusian point of view) that there may well be national peculiarities that are reflected in our social scientific output, undermining the discipline's image as a scholarly community imbued with a cosmopolitan internationalism. Interesting.
The full contents of this edition of The Sociological Review can be read here.