Mapping the Social Space of Opinion: Public Sociology and the Op-Ed in Canada

Lisa Kowalchuk, Neil McLaughlin

Abstract


This special issue of CJS illustrates the international spread of an empassioned debate among sociologists about the future direction of their discipline ignited by Michael Burawoy’s call to elevate the presence and status of public sociology. Burawoy’s program entails a greater engagement by sociologists with civil society (non-governmental organizations, communities, movements) in the development of their research agenda, and the production of research outputs that are more accessible, relevant, and useful to non-academic audiences. Burawoy and his supporters see the emphasis on public sociology as a way to revitalize the discipline, in particular, to solve several inter-related problems that it faces, at least in the U.S: a lack of internal coherence, declining public legitimacy, public misapprehension of what sociologists do, and minimal influence on policy-making (Burawoy 2004a, Turner 2006, Boyns and Fletcher 2005). Skeptics and critics within the discipline, conversely, argue that “going public” will only hurt sociology’s public legitimacy, insofar as it constitutes a kind of left-liberal moralizing that is out of sync with majority currents of opinion.

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