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Building sociological knowledge within and across disciplinary boundaries: megalomania vs. modesty?

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Interdisciplinarity in sociology, with the aim of integrating sociological and other disciplines' knowledge of social phenomena, may take two directions. One is so-called “intradisciplinary interdisciplinarity”. Its goal is to build up a complex and all-encompassing theory of society and kindred phenomena within sociology itself. Some examples taken from works by Gurvitch, Bourdieu and Ritzer illustrate this strategy together with its strengths and weaknesses. The other strategy is interdisciplinary in a standard sense. This strategy limits the relevance of sociological knowledge, as it moves across disciplinary boundaries and brings sociology into cooperation with other disciplines and their theories, usually through empirical research. Some examples are taken from historical sociology, ethnic relations studies and studies on transition to illustrate the characteristics of the strategy, including its strengths and weaknesses. In conclusion, two explanations are offered for the strategic bifurcation of sociology. One explanation refers to different cognitive cultures that inhabit sociology, and the other to some ideological patterns moving different strategies towards interdisciplinarity. Finally, the epistemological results of the strategies are evaluated in terms of the pluralism of basically incommensurable epistemological orientations in sociology.

Keywords: cognitive cultures; ideological influences; interdisciplinarity; interdisciplinary research; multiparadigmatic theories; sociology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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