Editorial: For a New Sociology

Collective indignation continues to blaze a trail across the world – of late, carrying its torch from Gezi Park and Taksim Square to the major cities of Brazil and now, as I write, Egypt has been reignited by a popular uprising of unprecedented proportions. The crowds in Tahrir Square display a great refusal of the (re)expropriation of politics, albeit with uncertain and tragic outcomes.  These culturally interdependent yet politically independent protests that now span the planet call for a new theory of social movements, and, from there, a new sociology that reaches for the global.

Such a new sociology must grapple with the intertwining of politics and economics, so in this issue Global Dialogue exposes the political underbelly of capitalism’s third wave of marketization, known colloquially as neoliberalism. Thus, Mallika Shakya analyzes the geopolitics of the distribution of garment production that has produced the disaster in Bangladesh while Bianca Freire-Medeiros describes the promotion of favela tourism in which successive political regimes of Brazil capitalize on poverty. Jeff Sallaz analyzes how publishers are making unbelievable profits from outsourcing, by relying on us (or our libraries) to buy back at inflated prices the very products we produce! Moving further afield, in an engaging personal history, Rahman Embong tells us how sociology has been pushed aside as the top Malaysian universities seek out those disciplines that will deliver short-term profits with long-term political quiescence.

Where, then, might we find such a new sociology? I’ve been following a postcommunist generation of critical sociologists emerging in Eastern Europe – Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and East Germany. In these pages three young sociologists from Bulgaria challenge the terms of national debates. Martin Petrov describes the life course of the down and out – the detritus of both new and old regimes, competing for distinction on the streets of Sofia. Georgi Medarov traces the complex patterns of backward-looking politics targeting former communists – thereby giving them a ghostly existence – but with the additional motive of exonerating Bulgaria from its fascist past. In so doing attention is deflected from fascist tendencies of the present. Mariya Ivancheva reflects critically on her own early embrace of the democratic transition by traveling as far as Venezuela to explore the dilemmas of another socialism and to see what lessons and insights it holds for Eastern Europe. All three are trying to weave a sociology that interrogates the past for a way out of the present.

A new sociology requires new methods to excavate the polyphonic layers of history and society. There’s no better place to begin than Jordanna Matlon’s interview with Joyce Sebag and Jean-Pierre Durand about their program in cinematic sociology at the University of Evry. In line with their cinematic project I would like to extend an open invitation to submit photo-essays (a high-resolution photo plus a 300 word interpretation) for publication in Global Dialogue.

> Global Dialogue can be found in 15 languages at the ISA website.
> Submissions should be sent to burawoy@berkeley.edu.


, Volume 3, Issue 4

Comments are closed.