The Sociological Imagination and Its Promise Fifty Years Later: Is There a Future for the Social Sciences As a Free Form of Enquiry?(Report) - Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Title: The Sociological Imagination and Its Promise Fifty Years Later: Is There a Future for the Social Sciences As a Free Form of Enquiry?(Report)

Author: Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Date: 2009-07-01

The Sociological Imagination and Its Promise Fifty Years Later: Is There a Future for the Social Sciences As a Free Form of Enquiry?(Report) - Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

In this age of commemorations, this is not meant to be a commemoratory article, but a revisiting of Mills' landmark work fifty years later and an attempt to address the question as to whether there is a future for the social sciences as a free form of enquiry. It is this attempt, which should enable us to see whether The Sociological Imagination's promise can be credibly renewed, what may constitute a most fitting homage to Mills' achievement. Indeed for those who feel the love for the discipline, who are therefore faithfully devoted to the 'daemon' who, according to Weber, lords over it, or, if you prefer, to its immanent logic, Mills' book has lost none of its value. If anything the sense of urgency running through it has but become still more imperative. It is therefore a worthy and necessitated endeavour, one which I can only expect to instigate here by providing a tentative framework to tackle it and a few insights which may be as many hints about the possibilities for a truly free social science. Posing that question amounts to openly declaring that there are serious doubts about the future of sociology or, more generally, of the social sciences, as a free form of social and political enquiry. But expressing serious doubts does obviously not mean denying the possibilities for a free social science, which would be an epistemological deception; rather it is the manifestation of a deep concern about whether such possibilities, which are assumed as real, are to be actualised and made present, or suppressed by the ever-growing subjugation of scholarly and teaching practices to external, utterly alien commercial and managerial interests. Concern also about the extent to which social scientists, including those who may have de facto but not at heart decided to conform to those interests, will be able and indeed willing to honour their practices--willing therefore, in view of enormous pressures and given the accommodating attitude of their established disciplines, to run the risks inevitably involved in opposing the encroachment of academia and practising education and scholarship for their own sake. Concern, in brief, about the role of human reason and thereby liberty in the social sciences and in academia, "for in our time these two values, reason and freedom, are in obvious yet subtle peril" (SI 168). (1)