What are universities for? Sociology’s critical awareness of the present

Sociology’s Critical Awareness of the Present

In May 2015 Professor Keijo Rahkonen, Head of the Department of Social Research, organized an international seminar on What are universities for? Professor E.N. Setälä, then Minister of Education, complained in 1925 that university professors are loaded with so many responsibilities for teaching, administration, and other duties that they can hardly be expected to produce the knowledge that was necessary for the young nation. For this reason, strategic research was placed in state institutes.  By 1960, there were about 50 research units and laboratories in the country in agriculture alone. The most recent institute to be established was the Centre for Social and Health Research (Stakes) in 1992, soon (2009) to be merged with the National Institute of Health.

Since 2012 most research activity of the institutes has been moved back to universities. The reversal might seem flattering. However, at the same time science policy has been aggressively aimed against disciplinarity. This is not a true claim for practical knowledge, it is a false belief in the power of funding and management over what universities do.  Sociology is a case in point. Its ontology defines it as a critical awareness of the present that cannot be detached from its object, which is society, not behaviour. In today’s world this object of inquiry is even more challenging than it was when the discipline was founded in Enlightenment. Read more here Continue reading

NEW COURSE: Fighting Back the Anthropological Monster

NEW COURSE 2nd PERIOD 2015 (30 Oct – 18 Dec). The Sociological Promise from the Enlightenment to Postmodern Critics. Fighting Back the Anthropological Monster.

Presentation of the course
Why is it so difficult to deal with difference in modern societies? Do they, even the most liberal democracies, have a tendency to turn into totalitarian states? These are questions that arise today as we look around the world in which we live, but they are not new. The social thought in the Enlightenment formulated them on the basis of two starting points. First, societies are not held together by natural laws; they are man-made human constructions and therefore historical and variable. Second, not only are societies made by humans; also humans are made by societies. Calculative rationality is one of the ways in which societies “make man” but not the basis of social order.

NEW PUBLICATION: Proto-sociology of Hume and Smith

The Proto-Sociology of Mandeville and Hume

2500 words

Sociologists have for a long while largely turned their backs on the foundations of their discipline as a science of society. Two or three decades ago prominent authors such as Zygmunt Bauman (1991) and Nikolas Rose (1996) concluded that the end of society, even the social, has arrived. Niklas Luhmann’s (1989 [1986]) system theory advanced the idea that there is no integrating centre in modern society; differentiated subsystems function according to their own closed logic, interacting and vibrating in their environments but not needing any particular explanation for what holds the whole together. Many other more or less light-handed assertions of the end of society where heard. Why societies hold together is a pointless question if there is no society.

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For disciplinary identity!

For Disciplinary Identity in Sociology!

Trans- and inter-disciplinary research is the call today in almost any science policy documents , whether they are specific research programmes, more general national or European programmes for innovation policy or justifications for organisational and institutional reforms. University structures in particular have been encouraged to work in an interdisciplinary manner through mergers of departments, even faculties, at the expense of autonomous disciplines like sociology.  Continue reading