We will know we have a successful sociological science when
the most remote societies and the most striking changes are no longer
occasions for theoretical surprise.

  1. Why Is Sociology Not Science?

# Hypostatization versus Reductionism
# The Critique of Modernity
# Interpretive Social Psychology
# Historicism

Why Is Sociology Not Science?

Too young? More humanities or ideology? No. Can be, but needs to clarify what it's doing. Basics are there but we have been distracted from goal of genuine explanation (2.3). Need to distinguish "explanatory, practical, ideological, and aesthetic aspects of the social sciences" (1.7).


What is it: causal statements derived from experience, common principles that transcend particulars (2.4).
Basic logic of "contingency theory": A leads to B depending on C.
Need to "defend" the scientific ideal (3.3).
Basics: generating "economical yet generalized, causal, empirical explanations" (4.1)
Basic method: controlled comparison.
Error 1: science = practical (3.5), here and now as opposed to big questions. Error 2: science = rationality (science can answer both is and ought) (3.7). Error 3: science = measurement, numbers, formulae.
Comparison of imprecise data better than precise data without comparison (5.1)
Get on right explanatory track first, then improve measurement.

LQ What does Collins mean by "but to use the suggested "norms" as an explanation of behavior is an empty gesture" at 6.2?

LQ Collins suggests that the search for universals is sociologically uninteresting (6.4). Why? But how can those sorts of topics be converted into something that IS sociologically interesting?

Hypostatization versus Reductionism

What is hypostatization?
What is reductionism?
In what sense are the opposites or opposed to one another logically?
Social things.
STOP AND THINK. "like a language…" (7.5)
1. Ethnomethodology as radically empirical critique of sociological concepts…
World as full of illusions, constructed realities (8), connected always with interests and positions. We should admit the plurality and focus on the process of reality construction as our object of study. 2. Only immediate observation makes sense as a method. Schutz, typifications, etc. 3. Garfinkel — everything is indexical. All told, the message is that you can't do "regular" sociology at all.
Collins' response (9.7). 1. Attack on possibility of objective science is attack on straw man. It's an attack on vulgar positivism which ain't the whole show. Current view is Kuhnian. Nothing special about natural science in this regard, no reason social science can't be scientific too. 2. micro sociology alone doesn't do much for us. need summarizing, aggregative concepts (11.5). Likewise non-observational methods capture big and long behavior. 3. Advantages: avoid reification. Only people actually do things.

"Durkheim's rejection of psychological reductionism-the recognition that how people relate to each other in groups has an effect on what each of them can do" (12.3) DJR: that is, D showed that you cannot simply aggregate individual states of mind and ignore effects of interaction.


Look at hypostatizations and translations on page 12. Come up with a few more examples. Page is here.

Phenomenology provides "necessary empirical underpinnings" (13.5)

LQ use quotes from pages 12-14 to nail down what Collins is saying about appropriate place for abstractions and empirical detail.

LQ. How do you, at this point, understand what it means to "integrate micro and macro"?

"The justification for such an integration is pragmatic; only in this way I can a satisfactory explanatory theory be created. The rest of this book will attempt to vindicate this claim. Conflict theory is the most appropriate vehicle in this respect as well as in others, because it fits well with the positive thrust of social phenomenology while situating it in an explicitly historical context. The conflict tradition of Machiavelli, Marx, and their successors has emphasized the social construction of subjective realities and the dramaturgical qualities of action, while viewing these as based upon an underlying world of historically conditioned material interests. In this perspective, social phenomenology flows into the mainstream of realistic sociological explanation" (14).


= "solve social problems" — still a big motivator for lots of sociology students — has big effect on what we study.
not same as "applied sociology" but that also "practical" (public interest a form of this)
channels energy away from general explanations and even denigrates the idea of general explanations
practical and general not incompatible but are distinct (15.7)
two kinds of practical : gather data to describe, come up with policy to address. First can be "extra-scientific" but second cannot.
IMPORTANT: this is where we rise/fall in public image, getting listened to, fulfilling ethical obligation to "get it right"
NOTE: even if the science develops, it won't direct everything. (1) can only address means, not ends, conflict, power, etc. also affect organizations that employ expertise (16.5)
Practical research as obstacle
Lots of data, few attempts to synthesize
Narrow focus on everyday categories of here-and-now problems
Run down catalog of examples of how practical considerations avoid the larger questions


Practical takes ends for granted, ideological work is about the ends.

"The ideological orientation can also operate implicitly. It affects what questions are asked, how information is treated, and where debates lead. I am especially concerned here with the latter-the more insidious effects of ideological concerns in hindering the development of scientific sociology" (18).

Sociology, political movements, lots of sociology about "bolstering partisan positions" (18.7). DJR: example, lots of folks want to prove that progress has or has not been made on eliminating inequality rather than trying to understand what causes inequality. We are too easily seduced by the idea that the answer to that is obvious (capitalism! greed! racism!)

Catalog of examples of problems rooted in ideology

Grand Theory : functionalism and Marxism
functionalism fails because of a priori commitment to political values (20.6). Too often taught as gradual change vs. revolution but conflict approach is NOT strictly speaking a political stance.

Conflict theorists have politics but less challenging to separate out their values. Problems of its own.

Separate evaluation from analysis to pick out what's useful in Marx

Historic events of 70s - 90s made it necessary to revise Marxist ideas: history didn't end! No attempt to do science though. Focus on historicization of everything argued for disavowing attempts to transcend history and that one should only work for social justice of the moment.

Makes the mistake of assuming it's easy to figure out which side you are on and who will win eventually. But even on one side there's tons of conflict (22.8). Like functionalists, this is intellectual work as political action.

Important to be critical, but what good is it to just say it's all pointless? (23.2)

Beware throwing out baby with bath water. Intellectual pre-suppositions not same as moral/political. (23.5)

"This means choosing our concepts for their optimal explanatory adequacy rather
than for their evaluative resonance, and setting our sights progressively
outward to maximize the scope of causal explanation" (23.8)

"This is not to say that we must do so. That is a value judgement that can be accepted or rejected by the individual according to what he wishes to do with his life. For those who would like to do both things, to advance science and make a political contribution as well, the path will be particularly arduous. The separation of "facts" and "values," as Weber well recognized, is n'OtaaescriptIOifof- noW-tIllngs ~the sciences, but a commitment to a mental discipline that must be constantly enforced" (23.9)


aka "aesthetic," "interpretive," or "dramatic" approach (24.3)

DEF. If one's purpose is not to persuade the most impartial observers, nor to persuade others that something is right/wrong/good/bad, but rather to produce intellectual work that's a good experience in and of itself.

This is the stuff of literature and art. Two things we get from literature to understand how "theory" that aesthetically oriented works:

The effect is created by generating satisfying intellectual and emotional experiences in the reader.
Select the things that have best effect (DJR: this is the denominator problem — journalism has same issues sometimes)
Comparison to practical and ideological (26.2). Latter is closer to ideological.

Hard/Soft debate: Hobbes/Lock/positivist/utilitarian vs. romantic. Dense paragraph at 27.1-7.

Against positivism because it "gets in its own way"

Against romanticism because it erects obstacles to building science with anti-science ideals

Conclusion: "Positivism needs to be purged. Romanticism needs to be borrowed from." 28.9)

The shortcomings of romanticism are seen by looking at three main versions — critique of modern, interpretive social psych, historicism

The Critique of Modernity (29ff)

Tradition of social critique from Rousseau to the present is pretty much a repetitive lament. It's not useless but it doesn't really add up to much.

Interpretive Social Psychology

in the sense of analyzing "flow of individual experience" (30.6)

Subfields symbolic interactionism, social phenomenology and ethnomethodology, and sociological existentialism tend to present themselves as alternatives to positivism and science even as they talk of a "truer methodology"

They are labeled aesthetic here because the way we judge them as "good" is either that they ring true or that they attack positivist treatments of their topics (31) and the reader's experience of "insight" into social reality.

If science is about reality, then these approaches claim to be the only possible basis for a science. But practitioners don't build upon these starting points to get to a theory.

"This emphasis on an insight experience is the hallmark of an aesthetic orientation. Negatively, it is set off against the cold, uninsightful, and hence unreal constructions of positivist science which interpretive sociology constantly criticizes. Positively, its own claim to value is the experience it gives of showing how things really are, not through the cumulative results of explanatory research, but all at once with a vision of the universal processes of human experience" (31.7)

the universal in the particular (DJR, but how do you know? you just feel it)

This approach gives us a crucial starting point but then gets in its own way (32.5) :
ethnomethodology denies any other approach — you can't "use" its findings
symbolic interactionsm — lots of folks do it but it doesn't add up to something

POINT: the aesthetic was partly a reaction to the practical and the ideological and so it has some things we can borrow.

Don't worry that we'll produce a bland determinism. If we build on the interpretive take-aways, there will be a built-in tension that's useful to avoid this. (34.1)


Against simplistic "laws" for all time by suggestion of historical peculiarity.

OF COURSE, an explanatory theory has to take history into account, BUT you can't take up historicisms permanent objection to generalization. (34.6-7)

Big difference between historical sociology and interpretive sociology: our big best-sellers are derived from the former: feudalism and democracy, religion and capitalism.

"Our task is to decide how much the alleged impossibility of a transhistorical sociological science is an inherent limitation on what we can do and how much of this is due to a value choice in the direction of wishing to do something else with our intellectual effort" (35.1)

History serves ideological interests — selection effects.
History has an aesthetic dimension.
But it also is implicated in attempts to generalize. It's disingenuous, Collins seems to be saying (36) to deny this.


Stratification + Organizations
Class as most important variable.
Don't make mistake of
going "global" with CLASS
fetishizing multiple causes 38

Class…occupations…community…status group membership…

Occupation+family structure+residential community organization, religious, ethnic community

Organizations 39.7 . Blau, et al. from 1950s a coherent theory of how social organization within formal organization affects what happens at organizational level. Convergence of this material with Weber et al. and we get a whole theory of power struggles. (40) Then with Michels we get application to "democratic" organizations. Ends up being how the "official" organization manages to control its parts. Professions and occupations. (41)

And stratification and organizations are connected.

"The causal explanation of such distributions, then, will ultimately be established by focusing on the patterns of behavior of real people struggling for power in organizations and moving through networks of personal association" (41.9).

The rest of sociololgy follows from here. Ask how: Important paragraph on 42.3: how to re-read specialty topics in terms of general theoretical categories.

A whole other area won't be subsumed by organizations and stratification: interaction. (42) Different level of analysis. Durkheim: interaction is not the same as bargaining. Emotional bonds, moral bonds.

Durkheim, Parsons, Weber. Pareto. Parsons forced whole theories together rather than taking what's useful from each.

"My proposal is just the opposite: The path forward to a general explanatory theory is to build on Weber's nominalist conflict approach to stratification and to organizations, and to treat any larger historical pattern as an historicist combination of these elements. Durkheim is to be borrowed from selectively in order to round out the theory at the point of a fundamental understanding of the emotional and cognitive dynamics of interpersonal interaction" (43).

Durkheim/Goffman + Marx/Weber


Example Propositions
People's ideas are predictable from their economic positions (Marx).

Create a glossary.
ontological (3.8)
evaluative (3.8)
descriptive vs. explanatory (4.9)
concepts (5.3)
romantic fallacy (5.4)
cult of measurement (5.4)
empirical explanation (4.1)
family sex-role structure (6.6)
incest taboo (6.5)
functionalism, functional explanation (6.7)
phenomenology (7-9)
ethnomethodology (7-9)
Harald Garfinkel (9)
Alfred Schutz (9)
Logical Positivists (10)
Thomas Kuhn (10)
naive correspondence theory of truth. (10.5)
psychological reductionism (12.3)
reified abstractions (12.5)
dialectical approach (22.7)
relativism (22ff)

See also