Engaged, Practical Intellectualism: John Porter and ‘New Liberal’ Public Sociology


  • Richard Helmes-Hayes University of Waterloo




The debate initiated by Michael Burawoy’s 2004 Presidential Address to the American Sociological Association, “For Public Sociology,” has been a ‘public good’ (2005a; see also 2004abc, 2005bcdefg, 2006, 2007abc, 2008). Burawoy provoked sociologists around the world into revisiting the fundamental question “What is the nature and purpose of the discipline?”, and the variety of responses they have crafted is remarkable. Whatever the views individual scholars might hold, the discipline as a whole is deeply, inherently, and unavoidably political. Many of his critics have commented on the fact that it incongruous for him to call for a rejuvenated, highly politicized public sociology and simultaneously claim that such an entity could realistically involve relationships of “synergy,” “reciprocal interdependence,” and “organic solidarity” with the other three types (or “faces”) of sociology, including professional sociology It is axiomatic – part of the conventional wisdom of the discipline – that professional sociologists cannot accept the politicization of the research process. In order to remain scientific, professional sociology must stand in an unalterably adversarial relationship with the value-laden radical/ critical sociology that constitutes the basis for Burawoy’s vision of a properly constituted public sociology.