Scholastic ambivalence and Patrick Geddes: a sociology of failed sociology

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    Patrick Geddes and his circle form part of the objective presuppositions of contemporary sociology. However, a sociological unconscious operates to consign Geddes (and other precursors) to the condescension of posterity, repressing the historical preconditions of the hard-won methods, theories and concepts of contemporary sociology. A story is told of the classical canon of social theory, of a few select individuals who made permanent contributions to a cumulative process of sociological knowledge. Any attempt to construct a sociology of the sociologist, even one as seemingly atypical as Geddes, must also refuse the standpoint of the isolated individual as the subjective author of their own social world. While Geddes constructed a distinctive form of sociological inquiry, socio-analysis has to account for the operation of a ‘double hermeneutic’ whereby ‘the constructors are themselves socially constructed and their construction depends on their position in the objective social space that science has to construct’ (Bourdieu). This paper plots the social origin and social trajectory of Geddes, his position-taking within overall social space and within sociology as a dominated discipline within the scientific field. Geddes cuts a profoundly ambivalent figure. To the extent that he coveted academic recognition Geddes made contact with a scholastic universe which pulled in the opposite direction from the ethical and political interests that Geddes and his circle invested in the stakes of non-academic games.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Scottish Thought
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • Geddes, Patrick
    • History of sociology
    • Scholasticism
    • Cleft habitus


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