Whose tent are we in? : The value of fundamental criticism in, of, and for sociology

Michael Lynch
2019 Zenodo  
This paper discusses a subject that has become increasingly delicate in recent years in sociology and related fields and subfields, including ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. The subject is criticism, particularly criticism of academic tendencies and trends that are uncomfortably close to home. A portion of Wes Sharrock's voluminous body of writings is critical of attempts to turn vernacular expressions into stable scientific concepts. Following Peter Winch, such conceptual criticism
more » ... extends to 'the very idea' of a social science, and following ethnomethodology it re-examines the project of converting indexical expressions to formal analytical instruments and objects. Not surprisingly, such criticism sometimes stirs strong and indignant reactions and is shunned for being counterproductive. This paper discusses rationales for this mode of criticism and presents two examples of conceptual confusions that arise from ignoring the point of such criticism: one has to do with efforts to treat motives as an explanatory factor in social research, and the other has to do with efforts to use quantitative analysis to 'test' a 'hypothesis' about the systematic uses of apologies in conversation.
doi:10.5281/zenodo.3459506 fatcat:nmsuiokvrvekdhm2gaiom6ud5u