Back in 2004, then-president of the American Sociological Association Michael Burawoy sparked intense debate with his call for a renewed public sociology. In his introduction to the Italian translation (Sociologica 2007) of his published remarks to the ASA conference (“For Public Sociology”), he notes that in other parts of the world (he cites South Africa but this is also historically true in Latin America) that the common division made in the U.S. between “professional,” “policy,” “critical” and “public sociology” is often blurred or even non-existent. In an increasingly globalized world, does it make it sense to approach the sociological discipline (and “division of labor”) from a more international perspective, as Burawoy suggests? Furthermore, is the role of our academic labor to “defend…human society from market tyranny and state despotism” (Burawoy 2007: 12) or, should we be content with more modest aims–the production of reliable data, for example (see Tittle 2004)?
These are some of the complex questions that–like so many scholars before us–my peers and I are grappling with as the fall semester begins. I suspect the answers will defy discovery, but in the meantime, this is a conversation that is worth continuing.