Major sociological studies used to have a major impact on the way we thought about the world. For example, the Coleman report really rocked people. The Moynihan report was another shocker. When was the last time sociologists rocked anyone’s world? Sure, we may publish the occasional contrarian article, but it’s been decades since the work of sociologists has changed how the educated public views social life.I agree these were important documents that captured considerable public attention that does not have any clear analogue to anything in my own time as a sociologist. But, question to ponder: how did the discipline of sociology respond when these people went out and rocked the world? In the case of the Coleman Report, sociologists were pleased with Coleman until his mid-70s research finding evidence of "white flight," and then there was a campaign by the then-ASA president to formally censure him. In the case of the Moynihan Report, sociologists have been at the front of denouncing what was taken to be its thesis (the "tangle of pathology" argument regarding black families and especially young black males), and, as far as I can tell, that there was something very ugly and possibly evil about the Moynihan Report remains a conviction of many of those in the pertinent areas of sociology.*
Why aren't sociologists today out there world-rocking? I don't know. It does seem fairly obvious to me like large swaths of sociology today are tied as a matter of identity and norms to seeing the world in terms of a fairly restricted and predictable set of ideological positions, and "predictable" and "world-rocking" do not go together well. Indeed, I think the ideological uniformity of sociology not only hinders our ability to be taken seriously as the kind of honest interpreter of human affairs that is part of Fabio's vision, but also makes us bad at making arguments to the public, as we spend a lot of time in seminars not really arguing with one another but arguing against (caricatures of) people not actually in the room (Republicans! economists! evolutionary psychologists!).
In any case, history suggests that when a true world-rocking work of sociology appears in the world, you may know it by this sign: that the other sociologists are in confederacy against it.
P.S. Now I'm playing "P.S. You Rock My World" by Eels. I love that song. Pay the 99 cents from iTunes if you've never heard it.
* Criticism of the Moynihan report is the origin of the phrase "blaming the victim," which has indisputable cautionary utility for moral and social thought but has come to be understood by many sociologists as a logical fallacy, like "affirming the consequent." The enduring rhetorical power of the charge of "blaming the victim" in sociological debate can be seen in last year's debate between Eric Klinenberg and Mitch Duneier in ASR (in noting this I do not intend any broader assertion about that debate).