Is a Sociology of Sociological Knowledge Possible ?

Author(s) : Salvino A. Salvaggio & Paolo Barbesino

Bibliographic details : Social Science Information, 35 (2) : 341-362

Date of Publication : 1996

Executive summary : By deconstructing Merton’s distinction between the history and systematics of sociological thought, this paper aims firstly at uncoupling the process of legitimation of sociology as a scientific discipline from classical narratives commonly arranged around the 'founding fathers'. Secondly, a constructivist approach to the history of sociology is deployed by dealing with issues of reflexivity. Drawing on the concept of autopoiesis, internal links are highlighted between the chance of persistence of a scientific domain and the conditions of its possibility.
In line with Steve Woolgar, a reflexive Sociology of sociological Knowledge (SsK) is said to be possible by deconstructing the standard view of science, and its implementation within social sciences. This requires an integration of a) the poststructuralist concept of ‘discipline’ as put forward by Michel Foucault; b) postmodern theories prompting an understanding of cognitive differentiation of scientific discourses as a kind of 'self-similarity' within a given episteme; c) Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory focusing on the functional differentiation of science.

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