Public Sociology

In scratching the tenets of public sociology Michael Burawoy states, in his article The Critical Turn to Public Sociology (Critical Sociology 31 No 3), that public sociology’s “object and value are civil society and its resilience” (318). But civil society is an endangered species as “the national state becomes more socially irresponsible, as it becomes less concerned with its public mission and more with the private interest”, and “the welfare, caring, education, security burden is downloaded onto the locality” (321).

In this situation public sociologists need to stand with the people in their moral combat to reclaim the state, and make it “responsive to civil society, facilitating, promoting and protecting the conditions of participatory democracy” (325), welfare, and human society for all. Sociologist need to remember their disciplines ‘moral moment’ that was about to smother into paraded scientific professionalism.

Burawoy notes that the possibilities for public, engaged sociology varies by state. In the present US where government makes its utmost in escaping its duties in guaranteeing minimum welfare and universal medical benefits, protecting civil rights, or reducing racial segregation, public sociology can find its place in state rather than in federal level (321). In many third world countries sociology is public sociology almost by definition (319). In Scandinavia sociology has historically had relatively strong influence in governmental policymaking (321). (However, this has happened at the expense of critical autonomy, and certain moral sentiment. At least in Finland part of sociologist have conceived of living in the armpit of the regulatory state acting as “state intellectuals”, and served political elite with certain amount of policy power in themselves.)

“Thus, the necessity for public sociology comes from the ‘scissors’ movement – the disciplinary field of sociology drifting leftward as broader politics and economics moves rightward.” (324)


By any means necessary

I wish I could agree with T. V. Reed's premise in his book The Art of Protest (2005) "that those forces labeled cultural may at times have a deeper and more widespread impact on most of our lives than political or economic forces." But maybe various forms of culture can advance social protest and political change alongside with other means. Picture by Eric Drooker www.Drooker.com


Protest as family activity

Youth Against War and Racism (www.yawr.org) is organizing student walkouts in major cities on November 2, 2005 (Georg W. Bush's "re-election" anniversary), to demand an end to the war in Iraq, an end to military recruitment in schools, and to redirect war spending to education. Journalist Steve Brandt writes (www.startribune.com/stories/1592/5689671.html):

"Twin Cities-area high school students are being threatened with failing grades if they walk out next week to protest the Iraq war and military recruitment in schools, says a group known as Youth Against War and Racism. But school officials say that the students are OK if they get parental permission. (...)

In Minneapolis, for example, students under 18 need the permission of a parent or guardian to be excused for illness, religious purposes, recognized cultural observances, funerals or other family emergencies, or health or court appointments. But absences may also be excused with parental permission for "family activity" of up to five days. Collins said the district won't second-guess parents if they use this to excuse students for the walkout. And that entitles students to make up missed work or exams, he said.

The district said in a statement that although it's important for students to make their voices heard in a democratic society, it doesn't encourage walkouts for nonschool activities. It added that there are consequences for civil disobedience, and unexcused absences mean a student may not be able to make up work.

Youth Against War and Racism is asking students to walk out at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 2. A noon protest is scheduled at the University of Minnesota's Coffman Memorial Union plaza, followed by a march to a nearby military recruiting station and a teach-in."


Cardenal's Case

Last monday on Augsburg College Father Fernando Cardenal gave a speak as part of the Convocation Series titled "Global Citizens/Local Citizens." He joined the Jesuit order in 1952, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1967, and has led a life of service in Nicaragua. Cardenal became one of four priests in the Sandinista government during the revolution, leading their National Literacy Campaign. In 1984, the Jesuits expelled Cardenal from their order because of his work within the revolution. Despite his expulsion, he continued to live in his Jesuit community and to live out his vows. In 1997, after reviewing Cardenal’s case, the superior general reinstated him to the Jesuits, based on the fact that Cardenal’s actions were a clear example of conscientious objection. It is the only case in over 460 years of Jesuit history in which a priest expelled from the Jesuit’s was reinstated. Cardenal’s commitment and dedication to the poor continues. Today Cardenal is the director of Fé y Alegría (Faith and Happiness), a Jesuit project that teaches very poor children in Latin America.

Read here about the political conditions in Nicargua where he, among other revolutionaries for justice, has worked for decades: haw.yachana.org/resources/torture/grossman.html


Coragem de ser feliz

During my early stay in University of Minnesota, I have had a change to meet wonderfully different people in terms of their interests, colors, sexual orientations, opinions, world views, ideas, aspirations, hopes, and sorrows. These encounters have convinced me, more and more, that in human sciences at large (in arts, and humanities as well as in social and educational sciences) we need to bring people together to share views, ideas, to collaborate. We need to see our work as unfinished, in the making, towards liberation.

As Augusto Boal, founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed, writes referring to Freire: “My fellow creature resembles me, but she is not me; she is similar to me, I resemble her. By engaging in dialogue we learn, the two of us gain, teacher and pupil, since we are all pupils, and all teachers. I exist because they exist. To write on a white sheet of paper one needs a black pen; to write on a blackboard the chalk must be a different colour. For to be, they must be.” --- And one wonders: does one need an occasional space of retreat, inwardness, for learning?



Encounters in the virtual world are sometimes surprising. The other day, chating in Skype, I suddenly realized to whom I was really talking to. Here is my interlocutor's picture.