Fact-signs and cultural sociology: How meaning-making liberates the social imagination
AbstractNotes and Discussion Fact-signs and cultural sociology: How meaning-making liberates the social imagination SAGE Publications, Inc. 201110.1177/0725513611398623 © The Author(s) The Author(s) Jeffrey C.Alexander Yale University, USA, email@example.com Corresponding author: Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University, 140 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520–8265, USA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The urgency of sociology is to understand social reality, especially those morally reprehensible parts we fervently oppose and wish to change. Sociology is defined morally by the evils it opposes and exposes. The chosen weapon of sociology is realism. The discipline insists that our theories reflect reality, that they allow us to see things as they actually are, that the methods we employ are rational and reasonable. While I share this moral outrage and the urgent need to change the world, I will propose in this brief address that ‘realism’ is a great danger to sociology. As method, as theory, and also as sensibility, realism makes it difficult for us to be realistic. To put it most provocatively, realism makes reality obscure. Sociologists envy and imitate the extraordinary lucidity and realism of the hard sciences. Perhaps, if we work hard enough, we can match their ability to mirror the structure of the world.