4 chapters in Handbook on Public Sociology

Edited by Lavinia Bifulco and Vando Borghi (2023)

Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Jean-Michel Bonvin & Francesco Laruffa : Public sociology and the capability approach: exploring the potential of a fruitful combination, pp. 42-57

Abstract. In this chapter we explore the contribution of Sen’s capability approach to a ‘public sociology’. Through notions such as ‘positional objectivity’, ‘informational basis of judgment in justice’ and ‘reason to value’, the capability approach links facts and values in a way that justifies integrating experiential knowledge within the scientific process. The importance of ‘public reasoning’ and ‘capability for voice’ is thus emphasized. After a theoretical discussion of the capability approach and its epistemological and political implications, the chapter illustrates how these concerns can be concretely implemented in empirical research, drawing from a research project on a local-level programme for young NEETs. We highlight both the added value and the challenges of this approach centred on creating knowledge through mutual education and we suggest that the arguments developed in this chapter are relevant also for public policies at the macro-level and not only for micro-experiments such as the one considered here.

Rainer Diaz-Bone : Sociology and quantification: economics of convention as an approach to link quantification and public sociology, pp. 58-72.

Abstract. The sociology of quantification is an emerging field, in which different disciplines are engaged to study the quantification processes in different social realms, their effects and usages, but also the plurality of underlying principles and logics of quantification. The science movement of economics of conventions (in short EC) is one of the most important strands, which contributed to the sociology of quantification. EC has identified, how quantification and measurement is based on measurement conventions. These conventions link numbers, but also categories and data in general to a common good. This way, EC can be conceived of as a link between the sociological analysis of processes of quantification (and categorization) to public issue, debates and concerns. It is for this link that EC can be regarded also as a contribution to public sociology. The contribution presents the plurality of conventions and introduces concepts of EC as quality conventions or data worlds.

Laura Centemeri & Davide Olori : Public sociology in disaster situations: critical engagement and prefiguration against defuturing processes, pp. 174-187.

Abstract. This chapter discusses different ways in which the sociology of disaster can be analysed as a public sociology that is engaged in the elaboration of: 1) useful expertise for public action; 2) critical approaches that reveal the social determinants of disasters; 3) socioanthropological approaches focused on sense-making processes. The authors argue that the worsening of systemic crises now requires a critical and ‘reconstructive’ sociology of disasters that is actively engaged both in denouncing structural inequalities and in collaborating in prefigurative experiments with social movements, affected citizens and reflective practitioners. An analysis of the public sociology initiative supported by the research group Emidio di Treviri following the 2016 earthquake in the central Italian Apennines shows how the engagement of social scientists in disaster situations is crucial to initiate and sustain collaborations among a heterogenous group of affected actors in order to design alternative, place-based pathways to recovery.

Romuald Normand : Sociologies of education in an era of new critique: getting out of methodological nationalism and reconsidering education through a global perspective, pp. 279–293.

Abstract. During the last two decades, the public sociology of education has profoundly renewed its critical perspective to think about transformations in education beyond national spaces and to study globalizing and Europeanizing effects on education systems and policies. This chapter reports on the development of this important and global research area as well as its comparative turn. The inadequacies of national statism and methodological nationalism have led this new public sociology of education to better analyze the role of transnational networks and actors as well as political assemblages that govern numbers worldwide, but also the limitations of neo-liberalism carried by school market and privatization. Sociologists have also reflected on social justice and inequalities from post-colonial and post-modernist perspectives while supporting emancipatory projects and social movements beyond the neo-liberal agenda.

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