Chaos of Disciplines
Andrew Abbott University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress HM585.A23 2001 | Dewey Decimal 301.01
In this vital new study, Andrew Abbott presents a fresh and daring analysis of the evolution and development of the social sciences. Chaos of Disciplines reconsiders how knowledge actually changes and advances. Challenging the accepted belief that social sciences are in a perpetual state of progress, Abbott contends that disciplines instead cycle around an inevitable pattern of core principles. New schools of thought, then, are less a reaction to an established order than they are a reinvention of fundamental concepts. Chaos of Disciplines uses fractals to explain the patterns of disciplines, and then applies them to key debates that surround the social sciences. Abbott argues that knowledge in different disciplines is organized by common oppositions that function at any level of theoretical or methodological scale. Opposing perspectives of thought and method, then, in fields ranging from history, sociology, and literature, are to the contrary, radically similar; much like fractals, they are each mutual reflections of their own distinctions.
In this detailed history of the Chicago School of Sociology, Andrew Abbott investigates central topics in the emergence of modern scholarship, paying special attention to "schools of science" and how such schools reproduce themselves over time. What are the preconditions from which schools arise? Do they exist as rigid rules or as flexible structures? How do they emerge from the day-to-day activities of academic life such as editing journals and writing papers?
Abbott analyzes the shifts in social scientific inquiry and discloses the intellectual rivalry and faculty politics that characterized different stages of the Chicago School. Along the way, he traces the rich history of the discipline's main journal, the American Journal of Sociology.
Embedded in this analysis of the school and its practices is a broader theoretical argument, which Abbott uses to redefine social objects as a sequence of interconnected events rather than as fixed entities. Abbott's theories grow directly out of the Chicago School's insistence that social life be located in time and place, a tradition that has been at the heart of the school since its founding one hundred years ago.
Today’s researchers have access to more information than ever before. Yet the new material is both overwhelming in quantity and variable in quality. How can scholars survive these twin problems and produce groundbreaking research using the physical and electronic resources available in the modern university research library? In Digital Paper, Andrew Abbott provides some much-needed answers to that question.
Abbott tells what every senior researcher knows: that research is not a mechanical, linear process, but a thoughtful and adventurous journey through a nonlinear world. He breaks library research down into seven basic and simultaneous tasks: design, search, scanning/browsing, reading, analyzing, filing, and writing. He moves the reader through the phases of research, from confusion to organization, from vague idea to polished result. He teaches how to evaluate data and prior research; how to follow a trail to elusive treasures; how to organize a project; when to start over; when to ask for help. He shows how an understanding of scholarly values, a commitment to hard work, and the flexibility to change direction combine to enable the researcher to turn a daunting mass of found material into an effective paper or thesis.
More than a mere how-to manual, Abbott’s guidebook helps teach good habits for acquiring knowledge, the foundation of knowledge worth knowing. Those looking for ten easy steps to a perfect paper may want to look elsewhere. But serious scholars, who want their work to stand the test of time, will appreciate Abbott’s unique, forthright approach and relish every page of Digital Paper.
Andrew Abbott University of Chicago Press, 2016 Library of Congress HM585.A237 2016 | Dewey Decimal 301.01
For the past twenty years, noted sociologist Andrew Abbott has been developing what he calls a processual ontology for social life. In this view, the social world is constantly changing—making, remaking, and unmaking itself, instant by instant. He argues that even the units of the social world—both individuals and entities—must be explained by these series of events rather than as enduring objects, fixed in time. This radical concept, which lies at the heart of the Chicago School of Sociology, provides a means for the disciplines of history and sociology to interact with and reflect on each other.
In Processual Sociology, Abbott first examines the endurance of individuals and social groups through time and then goes on to consider the question of what this means for human nature. He looks at different approaches to the passing of social time and determination, all while examining the goal of social existence, weighing the concepts of individual outcome and social order. Abbott concludes by discussing core difficulties of the practice of social science as a moral activity, arguing that it is inescapably moral and therefore we must develop normative theories more sophisticated than our current naively political normativism. Ranging broadly across disciplines and methodologies, Processual Sociology breaks new ground in its search for conceptual foundations of a rigorously processual account of social life.
In The System of Professions Andrew Abbott explores central questions about the role of professions in modern life: Why should there be occupational groups controlling expert knowledge? Where and why did groups such as law and medicine achieve their power? Will professionalism spread throughout the occupational world? While most inquiries in this field study one profession at a time, Abbott here considers the system of professions as a whole. Through comparative and historical study of the professions in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England, France, and America, Abbott builds a general theory of how and why professionals evolve.
What do variables really tell us? When exactly do inventions occur? Why do we always miss turning points as they transpire? When does what doesn't happen mean as much, if not more, than what does? Andrew Abbott considers these fascinating questions in Time Matters, a diverse series of essays that constitutes the most extensive analysis of temporality in social science today. Ranging from abstract theoretical reflection to pointed methodological critique, Abbott demonstrates the inevitably theoretical character of any methodology.
Time Matters focuses particularly on questions of time, events, and causality. Abbott grounds each essay in straightforward examinations of actual social scientific analyses. Throughout, he demonstrates the crucial assumptions we make about causes and events, about actors and interaction and about time and meaning every time we employ methods of social analysis, whether in academic disciplines, market research, public opinion polling, or even evaluation research. Turning current assumptions on their heads, Abbott not only outlines the theoretical orthodoxies of empirical social science, he sketches new alternatives, laying down foundations for a new body of social theory.
In July 2009, the American Journal of Sociology (AJS) began publishing book reviews by an individual writing as Barbara Celarent, professor of particularity at the University of Atlantis. Mysterious in origin, Celarent’s essays taken together provide a broad introduction to social thinking. Through the close reading of important texts, Celarent’s short, informative, and analytic essays engaged with long traditions of social thought across the globe—from India, Brazil, and China to South Africa, Turkey, and Peru. . . and occasionally the United States and Europe.
Sociologist and AJS editor Andrew Abbott edited the Celarent essays, and in Varieties of Social Imagination, he brings the work together for the first time. Previously available only in the journal, the thirty-six meditations found here allow readers not only to engage more deeply with a diversity of thinkers from the past, but to imagine more fully a sociology—and a broader social science—for the future.