Sociological Reasoning

Sociological Reasoning
A Non-Popperian Space of Argumentation
By Jean-Claude Passeron
Translated by Rachel Gomme
Edited and Introduced by Professor Derek Robbins

March 2013, hardback, 618 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-905622-44-3
European Studies in Social Theory


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Sociological Reasoning is a classic study in sociology and philosophy by a leading French intellectual (and the co-author of several influential works with Pierre Bourdieu from 1964 to 1970). Jean-Claude Passeron�s book was first published in 1991 and in a second revised and extended edition in 2006 (from which this book is translated).

Passeron argues that to recognise sociology to be �scientific� involves situating it as an �in-between� science, neither reduced to the perceptions contained in the narratives of individuals nor generating a-historical truths of human behaviour in society.

Sociological Reasoning considers in systematic fashion the tensions which still persist between humanistic and scientistic versions of sociological explanation, between �soft� and �hard� science, or �qualitative� and �quantitative� methodologies. The book resists these facile dualities. It offers chapters which demonstrate the way in which theoretical speculation was integral to Passeron�s research practice, and a final chapter which adopts philosophical discourse to present a powerful articulation of the distinctive character of social science. Written in part as a response to the influential ideas of Karl Popper, Passeron�s book explores the truth claims of sociological explanation, and stimulates consideration of the validity of research enquiries and findings.

This edition contains a substantial introductory essay by Derek Robbins in which he situates the work of both Passeron and Bourdieu within the French tradition of the epistemology of the social sciences, and offers guidelines for differentiating between the positions adopted by these two thinkers.

About the Author:

Jean-Claude Passeron was born in 1930. In the 1960s he co-authored with Bourdieu the influential texts published in English as The Inheritors (1979) and Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture (1977). He has directed various research groups, culminating in the direction of the Sociologie, Histoire, Anthropologie des Dynamiques Culturelles group from 1992 until 1996. His other publications include: Le Savant et le populaire: misérabilisme et populisme en sociologie et en littérature (1989, with Claude Grignon); Richard Hoggart en France (ed. 1999) and Un Itinéraire de sociologue, forthcoming.


Notes of the Editor and Translator
Editor’s Introduction: Passeron and the Epistemology of the Social Sciences - Derek Robbins
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface: Defence of the Historical Sciences as Science

Chapter 1 - Terminology and Terrain

Part I - Sociological Reasoning: An In-Between Reasoning

Chapter 2 - The Words of Sociology: An Impracticable Vocabulary
Chapter 3 - History and Sociology: Social Identity and Logical Identity of a Discipline
Chapter 4 - Hegel, or the Stowaway: Social Reproduction and History
Chapter 5 - What a Table Says and What We Say About It

Part II - Sociological Writing: Control of Natural Languages

Chapter 6 - Illusory Controls: Polemic, Policing, Asceticism, Formalism, Zoology
Chapter 7 - Semi-Scientific Language: Note on an Effect of Pathos: “Cultural Mutations”
Chapter 8 - The Script and the Corpus: Biographies, Flows, Itineraries, Trajectories
Chapter 9 - The Literary Illusion: Descriptions In -graphy, -logy, -nomy

Part III - Enquiry and Interpretation

Chapter 10 - Historical Statement: Information, Knowledge, Intelligibility
Chapter 11 - Meaning and Domination: Differences Within Difference
Chapter 12 - The Weak Use of Images: Studies of the Reception of Painting

Part IV - Heuristics and Sociological Applications

Chapter 13 - Figures and Contestations of Culture: Legitimacy and Cultural Relativism
Chapter 14 - The Cultural Polymorphism of Reading
Chapter 15 - The Three Knowledges About Knowledge: Sociology and the Sciences of Education

Conclusion - Propositions, Scholia, and Definitions

Chapter 16 - Sociological Reasoning: Recapitulative Propositions

General Bibliography
Subject Index
Index of Names

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