Proposal for a new Section of the American Sociological Association.
My purpose is nothing less than moving toward fulfilling Auguste Comte’s dream of a powerful science of sociology that can help societies solve their present-day highly threatening problems.
Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions explained the necessity of changing the paradigm, or absolutely fundamental assumptions, within a given science in order to achieve a scientific revolution, illustrated by the change from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics.
We sociologists can achieve much the same results by (1) becoming aware of the existence of our bureaucratic paradigm, with its focus on persisting hierarchy, narrow unintegrated specialization, and personal conformity, (2) working toward developing a vision of an alternative paradigm which opens up to the incredible potentials of the individual and society, and (3) demonstrating the actions required to fulfill that vision.
To the extent that sociology’s Sections presently embody a bureaucratic paradigm, I’m convinced that they will achieve their goals to an increasing extent by learning to move toward an alternative paradigm, such as an evolutionary one. This will be facilitated by interaction between members of the new Section and members of other Sections. Members of those Sections which have addressed in part the importance of paradigmatic change can speed this process along.
My own academic background, which has moved progressively in this direction, can serve to illustrate the nature of such a paradigmatic change.
As an undergraduate pre-medical student at Columbia, I changed to sociology after contact with C. Wright Mills and his commitment to working toward solving society’s problems with an exceedingly broad approach to sociology, by contrast with narrow specialization. Later, reading his The Sociological Imagination, I became convinced of the immense potential powers of the ordinary individual. My co-founding the Section on Sociological Practice pointed up the importance of action.
The textbooks I wrote in introductory sociology and in research methods gave me the intellectual background that Mills had pointed toward. That background was
extended by my editing book series on the sociological imagination for Aldine de Gruyter as well as Paradigm Publishers. The dissertation of my doctoral student, Andy Plotkin, pointed me in the right direction: “Toward the Measurement of Paradigms.”
This was followed by my co-founding the Sociological Imagination Group in 2000, initially based on my book, Beyond Sociology’s Tower of Babel: Reconstructing the Scientific Method. Over the next eight years our annual research conferences, joint with the meetings of the American Sociological Association, yielded three volumes (Toward a Sociological Imagination, Understanding Terrorism, and Bureaucratic Culture and Escalating World Problems) containing 30 articles.
The four books I published afterwards (The Invisible Crisis of Contemporary Society, Armageddon or Evolution?, Saving Society: Breaking Out of Our Bureaucratic Way of Life, and Revolution in the Social Sciences) all pointed toward an alternative paradigm for society. That worldview was explained more fully in Creating Life Before Death (2020), followed by two invited essays in Contemporary Sociology and my seminar on behavioral-scientists.com.
Currently there is interest in paradigms throughout the academic world, as illustrated by the following books: The Illusion of Knowledge: The Paradigm Shift in Aging Research, Paradigm Shifting: Guiding Evolution from the Inside, The Golden Paradigm, Love, Stars, and Paradigms, Paradigms: The Business, Paradigm Shifts, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future, Social Research: Paradigms in Action, Change Your Paradigm: Change Your Life, Magic Box Paradigm, Unfuck Your Mental Health Paradigm, Paradigm, What They Don’t Tell You About Paradigms, Handbook for the New Paradigm, Paradigm: A Macro Manifesto to Food, The New Success Paradigm, and The Paradigm: The Accurate Blueprint that Holds the Mystery of Our Times.
These books all illustrate what Mills called for in his The Sociological Imagination: “The capacity to shuttle between levels of abstraction, with ease and with clarity, is a signal mark of the imaginative and systematic thinker.” It is by moving both far up the ladder of linguistic abstraction to a paradigmatic level, and then far down to concrete phenomena, that one opens up to the full range of available knowledge by academics and others. By so doing, we follow in the footsteps of Francis Bacon, who wrote, “I have taken all knowledge to be my province.” Yet it remains for sociologists to employ this approach to fulfill the vision of Auguste Comte. Our problematic times demand nothing less