The Kenosis of Sociology, or Sociology and Answerability: Essays Toward a Weak Program in the Sociology of Morality
Carlson, Jesse Thomas
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This dissertation surveys sociological approaches to morality. First, I distinguish the strong programs of Marx and Durkheim, which subordinate moralitys form and content to social scientific conceptual analysis, from Max Webers weak program, which attempts to preserve the independence of moral action from domination by expert social science. Siding withwhile critiquingWebers weak program, I turn to three more recent academic disputes, each of which proposes a concept as a potential candidate for resolving the ongoing dilemma of sociologys relationship to morality. These concepts are character, anxiety, and practice. I discuss each of them in the contexts of particular academic disputes: 1) the situation vs. character dispute in moral philosophy and social psychology; 2) the status anxiety vs. moral concern dispute carried on between studies in moral regulation and communitarianism in the 1980s and 90s; 3) the contrasting views of practice developed by Pierre Bourdieu and Alasdair MacIntyre. Each concept is subjected, in these disputes, to a kind of crucible, and each, in some way, fails the test. In each failure I suggest a remainder, a kind of residual categoryin Parsons sense but without his scientistic judgement. With a nod to Bakhtin, but without binding myself to dialogics, I have called that remainder answerability, and give a variety of definitions that differ/defer from any operationalized concept. Taking my basic theme from Adornos critique of identity thinking, I argue that answerability constitutes a minimal criterion that can performatively structure a weak program in the sociology of morality, applying symmetrically to the sociological vocation and the question of morality. Definitional deferrals indicate, in addition to the influence of Adornobut also Derrida, and Butlers notion of the subjects failed but necessary accounting for oneselfthat the sociology of morality exceeds the Habermasian model of ongoing conversation. Answerability refers to more than criticizable validity claims. It points to avenues of experience, expression, and reflexivity that may not find their way into rational discourse. It points, with Gillian Rose, to political action in the gap between law and morality, is and ought.