University of California,
In the first part of this essay (Perspectives, Fall 2015), I suggested things are looking pretty good for sociological theory, an optimism grounded in my appreciation of emergent sociological sub-fields where interesting theoretical work is being paired with innovative new measurement regimes to create different kinds of sociological insights. I pointed to the field of computational sociology (or Big Data social science) as an example. In this second part, I offer a few reasons why I think this area of research will continue to need more and better theory in the years ahead. I highlight three causes, what I call: (1) the paradigm effect, (2) the data effect, and (3) the culture effect.
In light of Theory Section Chair John Mohr’s focus this year on Big Data, we the Editors approached scholars from a variety of different subdisciplines to ask for their perspective on how Big Data might shape the future of theory and theorizing in their subdiscipline. In the spirit of Big Data, we asked them to “tweet” their thoughts—though instead of 140 characters, we asked for around 140 words. Ten scholars were gracious enough to respond. Their takes range from celebratory and optimistic to wary and cautioning, but each draws attention to important features of Big Data and how they might interface with theory.
Featuring Julia Adams and Hannah Brueckner on the sociology of knowledge, Adina D. Sterling on organizations and inequality, Elizabeth Popp Berman on education, Neal Caren on social movements, Mara Loveman on comparative historical sociology, Deborah Lupton on health, Robin Wagner-Pacifici on culture, Gary Alan Fine on ethnography, and Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra on economic sociology and science studies.
Newtonianism lurks every-where in social science today. Most forms of conflict theory and political realism, whether in sociology or political science, are Newtonian, as is analytical sociology’s theory of mechanisms, processes, and networks. For Wendt, these familiar features of the discipline rest on a flawed ontological foundation, one which does not adequately measure, interrogate, and wrestle with the quantum foundations of social life, such as the sentience, sociality, and spontaneity of human beings equipped with the faculties of consciousness that Wendt calls “quantum mind.”
Click below to see the intellectual abundance of the theory section at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Seattle. Save time skimming the giant program, we've got all you need to know about Theory Section sponsored events, including:
Read on to see the great newly published books, articles, and other significant events from the members of the section.
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Letter from the Chair (Hall)
Breaking Down the Iron Cage (Chen)
It's the Political Economy, Stupid (Pacewicz)
What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution? (Swedberg)
Ethnography and Theory (Shestakofsky)
ASA Section Sessions