Kieran Healy, “Sociology.” In A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (Second Edition), pp90-122, edited by Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit, and Thomas Pogge. Blackwell, New York.

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Sociology is the most heterogeneous social science, which is perhaps another way of saying that it has been less successful at institutionalizing itself as a discipline than its close relatives. Unlike economics, it does not have a core kit of analytical tools and models codified in textbooks and widely accepted as legitimate both inside and outside the field. Economics is unique amongst the social sciences in this respect. After the Second World War, it acquired the gatekeeping features of professions like medicine or engineering, and also developed the imperial ambitions of fields like physics, all the while becoming incorporated into policy making in an unprecedented way (Fourcade, 2006). Unlike political science, on the other hand, sociology does not have a well-defined empirical core to unify it, either. Theoretical and methodological disputes are common in political science, of course, but a shared focus on the mechanisms and institutions of government has helped integrate the field. In sociology, by comparison, social life as such is too general to serve as a basis for unification. This has not stymied efforts to rally the troops under a single banner.


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