Published Humanitas, Volume VIII, No. 1, 1995

The Decomposition of Sociology, by Irving Louis Horowitz. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. 282 pp. $35.

[Sociology] is the dismal science par excellence of our time, an intrinsically debunking discipline that should be congenial to nihilists, cynics, and other fit subjects for police surveillance.

—Peter L. Berger, sociologist (1969)

Irving Louis Horowitz has been an internal critic of sociology since the sixties. Thirty years ago in the introductory chapter of The New Sociology: Essays in Social Science and Social Theory in Honor of C. Wright Mills, which he edited, he complained of “the trivialization [of sociology] that has taken place over the past twenty- five years.” The chief culprit in this trivialization was empiricist sociology, which represented the abandonment of sociology’s classical tradition of “big-range” thinking in fundamentals, its comparative-historical theory and method, its openness to inspection and criticism, and its eagerness for improvement.

He accused sociologists of being philosophically illiterate, unfamiliar with historical sources, and of being “scientific delinquents” who would continue to be so until they gave up their faith in claims about the separation of fact and value, and the separation of the man of action from the man of thought. “We have lived for so long with the dualism of fact and value that we have lost sight of the need to study values, not to celebrate their vagaries,” he observed.

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