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What Use is Sociology?: Conversations with Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Keith Tester

What Use is Sociology?: Conversations with Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Keith Tester

Zygmunt Bauman, Michael Hviid Jacobsen, Keith Tester

ISBN: 978-0-745-67125-3 December 2013 Polity 180 Pages


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What's the use of sociology? The question has been asked often enough and it leaves a lingering doubt in the minds of many. At a time when there is widespread scepticism about the value of sociology and of the social sciences generally, this short book by one of the world's leading thinkers offers a passionate, engaging and important statement of the need for sociology.

In a series of conversations with Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Keith Tester, Zygmunt Bauman explains why sociology is necessary if we hope to live fully human lives. But the kind of sociology he advocates is one which sees 'use' as more than economic success and knowledge as more than the generation of facts. Bauman makes a powerful case for the practice of sociology as an ongoing dialogue with human experience, and in so doing he issues a call for us all to start questioning the common sense of our everyday lives. He also offers the clearest statement yet of the principles which inform his own work, reflecting on his life and career and on the role of sociology in our contemporary liquid-modern world.

This book stands as a testimony to Bauman's belief in the enduring relevance of sociology. But it is also a call to us all to start questioning the world in which we live and to transform ourselves from being the victims of circumstance into the makers of our own history. For that, at the end of the day, is the use of sociology.

Preface vii

Introduction 1

1 What is sociology? 7

2 Why do sociology? 35

3 How to do sociology? 67

4 What does sociology achieve? 105


"In What Use is Sociology?, Bauman peels back this hegemonic veneer, asking not what counts as sociology, but rather, what use is sociology? Via this shift, he encourages sociological practitioners to move beyond being blind followers of the latest sociologicaltrends. Instead, through self-reflexive analysis of his own work, Bauman provides a rare backstage glimpse into an engaged sociology that places people’s concerns at its centre as central to its mission."

"What Use is Sociology? is a series of intimate conversations, which mine Bauman’s more than half a century of experience in the disciple—discussions which revisit truisms of the “sociological imagination” and which are littered with interesting anecdotes and asides particular to Bauman’s own intellectual journey. Bauman’s answers reveal the depth of his moral commitments and breadth of his critical engagement."
LSE Review of Books

"Sociology's principle purpose is to rouse people out of indifference and into action and it is this transition from inert to active knowledge that Bauman convincingly argues can bring about real change."
Morning Star
  • Zygmunt Bauman is one of the most original and influential social thinkers of our time
  • In conversation with two fellow sociologists, Bauman reflects on the enduring value and importance of the sociological imagination
  • This book is Bauman’s clearest statement of the principles which underpin his distinctive sociological approach
  • What Use Is Sociology? will become essential reading for students of sociology and for anyone seeking to understand how sociology can empower us as human beings