Critiques of the Sociological Canon
In the article, Joey Sprague discusses how the sociological canon is mainly comprised of white male capitalists. Sociologists such as Marx, Durkheim, and Weber have been canonized for their ideologies that they have contributed in social theory. However, feminists have argued about the sociological canon. They claim that the canon is erroneousness by marginalizing those who are not economically privileged at the time (Debois 1985). In others words, a certain race, gender, and social status are only taken into account. Thus, the sociological canon influences the past ideology on structures of inequality. In turn, feminists claim that the contemporary construction of social theory is not where it is today. To dispute, they include the hierarchy of the social, dominant analytic categories, and the social role of social theory to critique the sociological canon.
The first critique to the sociological canon is the hierarchy of the social. In the article, O’Brien suggest that the sociological canon has selective attention on the macro level analysis on the major aspects of biological existence. Such as sexuality and death. In turn, feminist use this claim to critique the sociological canon because it marginalizes the micro level analysis. In the article, it says, “Theories that focus on individuals and the relationships among them with an attention to process are ‘micro,’ too often with the connotation of substantive and intellectual triviality and a suspicious drift towards psychology” (Sprague 91). Sprague infers that micro level analysis would provide a more psychological approach by giving insight at a smaller level. Feminist aren’t trying to devalue the macro level, but seek to integrate both the macro and micro level approach in the sociological canon. When combined, the macro and micro level analysis provides a more holistic approach by looking at the big picture that encompasses the public sphere as a whole and the much smaller relationships that are integrated in the sphere. Thus, both approaches are essential to explain in sociology.
The second critique to the sociological canon is dominant analytic categories. In the sociological canon, there exist logical dichotomies, which is a contrast between two things that completely differ from each other. In other words, the sociological canon consists of binaries where you can either be one or the other but not both. However, feminists critique the use of dichotomies in the sociological canon because they claim they do not exist in the real world. In the article, it says, “The distinction between paid and domestic labor is not adequate to describe the lives of many women, particularly women of color, who have historically been blocked from any waged work other than paid domestic labor and child care” (Collins 1986). Back in the late 1800s, women were suppressed of equal rights and race was another major aspect. And a dichotomy would have existed between paid and domestic labor because you were either one or the other, but not both; which demonstrated social hierarchy. However, in today’s society, race and gender does not affect the ability to get a job. Women of any race are able to apply for both paid and/or domestic labor as they choose.
Lastly the last critique to the sociological canon is the social role of social theory. According to the article, the idea of a sociological canon is that it is an unbroken chain of abstract ideals descending through a series of individuals. In other words, the chain started with the founding father and their ideology has been passed down to express the steam of ideas. Feminist critique this claim because though the founding fathers ideologies ignored the engagement aspect of sociology. As a result, feminists believe that we should be more engaged in social theory and challenge these problems through action. According to the article, it says, “Contemporary discourse in social theory all but precludes its application to practical social action, much less an evaluation of its emancipatory potential” (Sprague 94). Sprague infers that without practicing social action, social theory has no empirical analysis to give a potential argument. Practicing social action allows for an active engagement aspect of sociology to prove and disprove claims by empirical research.