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pop sociology

pop sociology Given that many of the concerns of sociology have an immediate connection to everyday life in general, and social problems in particular, sociology perhaps more than other academic disciplines is open to a stream of popularizations. Almost anybody, it seems, can call themselves a sociologist–even without formal professional training.

Four kinds of pop sociology can be distinguished. First, anyone who elects to comment on or write about social matters may be seen as a pop sociologist. Second, there are many sociologists who see it as an important part of their professional work to make their ideas and findings accessible to a wider social audience than those found in universities and colleges. They may even work alongside social movements in an attempt to achieve this (as, for example, in the case of Alain Touraine), or aim to popularize their work through publishing their writing outside academic journals. They may also be regular media commentators on the issue of their concern. Thirdly, there are academics who find in the course of their work that their studies have received a certain prominence (for example, sensational findings on crime and drugs), and who are momentarily forced into the public eye, often against their will and sometimes against their talents. Some of these may enjoy short-run celebrity status. Finally, there is a special group who conduct sociological studies intended for popular consumption. For example, Vance O. Packard, an American journalist and freelance writer, became a well-known popularizer of sociology through books such as The Hidden Persuaders (1957) and The Ultra Rich (1989). In that capacity, he confused a generation of American students by appending to his best-selling analysis of The Status Seekers (1959), the entirely inappropriate subtitle ‘An Exploration of Class Behaviour in America’.

Being able to draw a clear line between academic sociology and pop sociology is therefore not always easy.

Popper, Sir Karl Raimund (1902–94) An Austrian philosopher who, after an early period of teaching in New Zealand (1937–45), worked for most of his adult life at the London School of Economics and Political Science (where he became Professor of Logic and Scientific Method).

Popper made a number of major contributions to the philosophy of social science and epistemology, which provoked much discussion and some controversy at the time, but rightly remain highly influential throughout the mainstream of the social sciences. These include his formulation of the principle of falsification, his critique of historicism, his concept of the open society, and arguments in favour of piecemeal social engineering. All of these are discussed at length elsewhere in this dictionary. His earlier work–The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), The Poverty of Historicism (1957), The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), and Conjectures and Refutations (1963)–spell out all of his most important arguments. Later volumes, many of which were written after his retirement in 1969—including Of Clouds and Clocks (1966), Objective Knowledge (1972), Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics (1982), and others–elaborate upon these by applying his ideas to studies of the natural sciences.

Popper was knighted in 1965, but remained curiously isolated from the philosophical mainstream throughout his professional life, mainly (it is often said) because he was never a professor at the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge.

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