“The Value of Social Science to Human Existence in Hypermodernity”
Date: Friday, November 11th 2016, 1.00pm – 5.00pm.
Location: CACSSS Seminar Room, O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork (https://www.ucc.ie/en/visitors/maps/)
Booking: this is a free event, booking not essential.
- Professor John Brewer, Queen’s University Belfast.
- Professor Arpad Szakolczai, UCC.
- Dr Niamh Hourigan, Sociology, UCC.
- Dr Ger Mullally, Sociology, UCC.
Social science was born with the dual, and contradictory, purpose of promoting modernization or criticizing modernity, in the footsteps of the spread of Newtonian, technologized science and Kantian critical philosophy. This undertaking reached a manifold and palpable dead end, while under the current, ‘hypermodern’ (by no means postmodern) conditions of neoliberalism the very legitimacy of a ‘social’ science has come under attack. Social scientists must reconsider their vocation, following the example of Max Weber, beyond being tied to his words, and not shying away from recovering traditions and retrieving lost connections.
- What is the purpose of social science?
- How can social science make itself relevant to the intractable problems facing humanity in the twenty-first century?
- What is the modern ‘public sphere’?
- If the public life today has become the ‘political circus’, ‘fairground capitalism’, and mass-mediated ‘apocalyptic carnival’ what role can social science play in this configuration?
Professor John Brewer:
“The Public Value of Social Science: Society as a Vocation”
The social sciences are under threat from two main sources. One is external, reflected in a global university crisis that imposes the marketization of higher education on the ancient practice of scholarship. The other, internal threat is social science’s withdrawal from publicly–engaged teaching and research into the protective bunker of disciplinarity. In articulating a vision for the public role of social science in the twenty-first century, John Brewer argues that these threats also constitute an opportunity for a new public social science to emerge, confident in its public value and fully engaged with the future of humanity in its teaching, research and civic responsibilities, while also remaining committed to science. John Brewer argues for turning society into a vocation. This replaces the 20th century motif of science as our vocation, which was appropriate then as part of the professionalisation of social sciences but which is inappropriate for 21st century global challenges, which are better addressed by the new motif of society as our vocation.
Professor Arpad Szakolczai:
“Social Science in an Era of Apocalyptic Carnival”
Arpad Szakolczai traces the origins of global financial speculative capitalism and mass-mediatized politics through genealogies of the fairground and the circus, theatre and comedy, thereby reframing the discussion on the “public sphere”, usually understood as the place where the public opinion is formed, through rational discussion. Drawing from social and political thought from the Greeks to Weber, and from anthropology and literary criticism, Arpad Szakolczai argues that modernity and enlightenment are characterized by a series of schismogenic logics, spun by trickster figures under liminal conditions, by spiraling and recursively intensifying mimetic errors, culminating in the present as permanent liminality and global liberal market society as apocalyptic sacrificial carnival. Pathways back from our potential descent into darkness towards guiding principles are explored in themes of the redemptive and transfigurative powers of beauty, friendship, care, love, and ethics of mutual, harmonious reciprocity as persisting in anthropologically universal social forms such as play, sociability and gift relations, generating meaning-giving experiences as the basis of moral economy.
Dr Niamh Hourigan: 'Public Sociology, Back-translation and the Media: Towards a Rationale'?
Drawing on Michael Burawoy’s call for a public sociology (2005) and his sharp distinction between ‘different potential publics’ within that call, this presentation explores the significant challenges faced by sociologists in engaging with broadcast, print and social media. The concept of ‘back translation’ – translating sociological concepts and research for a general rather than specialist audience is explored. The rationale for engaging in this process and the suitability of different types of sociological research for back translation is examined. Finally, building on the range of challenges in doing public sociology identified by Diane Vaughan (2005) within the recommended reading, the paper concludes by asking how this process will ultimately impact on the discipline of Sociology as media forms change and transform.
Dr Ger Mullally: 'Social Sustainability: Public Engagements and Engaging Publics’
Sustainability, or rather unsustainability, is regarded as one of the grand challenges of our time. In this talk we will address the call for public sociology (Burawoy 2005) through the prism of the growing literature on transdisciplinarity and sustainability in order to consider the potential contribution that a university can make. We will particularly focus on the themes of pedagogy and public engagement, research and public policy and the role for the university in linking publics and policies. The core reading (Wals and Jickling 2002) will orient the Masterclass to the value of critical thinking and meaningful learning as key challenges for public sociology.
John D. Brewer is Professor of Post Conflict Studies in the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University, Belfast. He was previously Sixth-Century Professor of Sociology at Aberdeen University. He has held visiting appointments at Yale University, St John's College Oxford, Corpus Christi College Cambridge, and the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. He was President of the British Sociological Association and is now Honorary Life Vice President; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Fellow of the Academy of Social Science and Fellow of Royal Society of Arts; Member of the Royal Irish Academy; a member of the UN Roster of Global Experts; and a former founder member of the Governing Council of the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Science. He has an honorary degree from Brunel University for services to social science. He is Book Series Editor for Policy Press’s new Public Sociology book series.
Arpad Szakolczai is Professor of Sociology at UCC and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Moral Foundations of Economy & Society. He taught at the European University Institute and was visiting Professor at the Universities of Konstanz, Bologna, and Milan (Catholic). He has just finished his seven-volume series about the genealogy of the modern world, including Max Weber and Michel Foucault: Parallel Life-Works (1998), Reflexive Historical Sociology (2000), The Genesis of Modernity (2003), Sociology, Religion and Grace: A Quest for the Renaissance (Routledge, 2007), Comedy and the Public Sphere: The Re-birth of Theatre as Comedy and the Genealogy of the Modern Public Arena, (2013) Novels and the Sociology of the Contemporary (2016), and Permanent Liminality and Modernity: The Sacrificial Carnival Through Novels (2017, in press), all published by Routledge. He received the UCC Career Research Achievement Award in November 2014.
Niamh Hourigan is Head of the Department of Sociology at UCC. As well as being an academic specialist in culture, globalization, & politics, Dr Hourigan is a high-profile social commentator on current affairs, politics, and social issues in Ireland. Dr Hourigan is frequently featured in the national press, radio and television in such programmes as ‘PrimeTime’, ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’, ‘DriveTime with Mary Wilson’, amongst others.
Ger Mullally is co-Principle Investigator of ENTRUST: Energy System Transition Through Stakeholder Activation, Education and Skills Development, a major research project funded under Horizon2020. This project is the latest iteration of Dr Mullally’s long-term dedicated focus on interdisciplinary approaches to ecological politics and sustainable development. He has initiated & led the development of a University-wide module on Climate Change and on Sustainability & Society. Most recently (with E. Byrne & C. Sage) he is the author of a path-breaking book Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Transitions to Sustainability, London: Routledge 2016.