By Yehuda Elkana, Andras Szigeti, Gyorgy Lissauer
Strategies and the Social Order deals a entire viewpoint on wisdom creation within the box of sociology.
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Extra info for Concepts and the Social Order: Robert K. Merton and the Future of Sociology
Although Merton’s operative concepts are known and used, his achievements are not really acknowledged in France. To explain this, one has to start with the rejection of Durkheimism that was especially strong in France in the post-WW II context. But one also has to take into account the strength of a philosophical lineage that shaped the whole intellectual field, the “French history of science,” as described by Michel Foucault. No real space was allowed to the sociology of science developed by Merton.
Sartre and Aron had spent a year there, the latter much more lucid and provided with a sociological eye than the former, who appeared more interested in Thuringer sausages than worried by Hitler. Just after World War II, the trip to America became a distinctive feature of starting sociological careers: Henri Mendras in Chicago, Alain Touraine at Harvard and Raymond Boudon at Columbia, among the most brilliant. Bourdieu was an exception. He went to Princeton only in his early 40s. If some of them imported a lot of fresh resources back to France (one thinks of Boudon coauthoring a book with Lazarsfeld or Touraine bringing back home a gallic version of Talcott Parsons’ theory of action), not that many were fully convinced by their US experience.
Here we may simply note how this son of an intensely, local urban, Jewish, Marxist tradition was remarkably comfortable simultaneously espousing the values and the manners of the ruling elite, as befits a king. The paradox is that he was a king—or at least a prince among men. Paradox 5. The relativism of scientific absolutes. There are interesting contrasts in the life of Yehuda Elkana—child of Budapest, the Holocaust and Israel. Like Merton, Elkana is an adopted name ––“God has purchased”. Yehuda Elkana is a name as unmistakably Jewish in its connotations as Robert King Merton is WASP, but equally redolent of spirit and the self-fulfilling prophecy of youthful determination.
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