Friday, August 26, 2005

The uses of sociology

Geoff Mulgan’s introduction to the work of Charles Tilley in the September edition of Prospect makes a strong case for the relevance of high quality sociology to progressive public policy.

Among the important insights Mulgan attributes to or at least connects with Tilley are the importance of “political entrepreneurs” in fomenting collective violence, and the identification of two common flaws in 20th century social thought: the tendency to see things too readily as systems, at one extreme, and soley in terms of individual motivation – e.g. as homo economicus – at the other. (The remedy to these flaws, Tilley is reported as suggesting, lies in looking at the local and immediate networks in which people are embedded in their every day lives).

Some of this kind of stuff has made it - at least in garbled from - into discussion and analysis by the commentariat, the political class and even in the pub. (Many would recognise the political entrepreneur for example, in the likes of Radovan Karadjic – or, for that matter, Abu Hamza, Abu Qatada and Omar Bakri).

But it is surely useful to learn more about the kind of rigorous, detailed and probably authoritative evaluation that Tilley has done. So thanks, Geoff!

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