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Divergent Commitments and Identity Crisis

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

This article argues that recent heated debates within sociology around the definition of the discipline's terms of reference reflect basic identity dilemmas of sociology the seeds of which are found in the discipline's "deep structures." Our contention is that sociology is given to inner tensions rooted in a fundamental dilemma between its two basic and original aspirations: moral commitment and scientific validation. From this dilemma stem four syndromes that represent different solutions to this tension and which imply contrasting assertions of what sociology means to be: the moral commitment syndrome, the methodology syndrome, the engagement syndrome and the relativistic syndrome. General developments of sociology as well as of national sociologies are considered historically and comparatively in the light of these four syndromes. One is then led to see in the debates of today sociology a genuine crisis of identity where the basic inner tensions of the discipline engender acute divisiveness. These developments jeopardize the status and unity of sociology as a scientific and academic discipline, though on the other hand, they can also be seen as a proof of vitality formulating new problems, opening new horizons and creating new environments.


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