SOCIOL 4EE3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Blogosphere, Erich Segal, Exhibitionism

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13 Oct 2015
Somya Paliwal
Sterne on C. Wright Mills
Sterne attempts in this article to reevaluate the current perceptions of Mills’ career and
reputation, and argues that the firm, and at times bitter, dichotomy between administrative and
critical sociology is not necessarily in the discipline’s best interest. He uses Mills’ career as proof
that both methodologies have their own intrinsic value, and one does not have to be loyal to only
one, in fact Mills started off with administrative sociology and eventually employed critical
sociology later in his career. Sterne also dispels myths about Mills being a “lonely scholar” and
“academic superstar”, asserting that much of his success is actually attributed to the help of
research teams, despite what he said about himself towards the end of his career. The author
illustrates that Mills’ time at Columbia and the network he established there provided the means
for him to transition into critical sociology, but the two ends of the spectrum should not be seen
as contradictions, but rather how one methodology allowed for the existence of the other in his
later career. What has often been misconstrued as a conflicted career full of methodological
contradictions needs to be reconsidered according to Sterne, and we must use C. Wright Mills as
an example for how administrative and critical sociology are not two absolutes, but can actually
feed off one another.
Sterne outlines the various struggles in Mills’ time at Columbia during his study with
Paul Lazarsfeld as both men had very different views on interpreting data, ideology and
methodology. However, it is clear that this part of his life gave Mills a strong administrative
background in sociology and had great influence on not only his perspective, but also allowed
him to acquire connections in the field which would be helpful later. Although The Sociological
Imagination is often the landmark in Mills’ career that has given him the reputation of being an
individualistic scholar and “academic superstar” in the critical field of sociology, the
administration which he attacks in his writing was actually the reason he was able to publish
much of his work and remain relevant in the discipline. Sterne argues that it is important to be
critical of Mills’ view of himself and the claim that he completely rejected administrative
research later in his career. Sterne identifies the various ways in which Mills utilized research
teams and quantitative analysis to publish pieces that appeared to be critical. His methodology
and writing style make him a unique hybrid, occupying the space between two seemingly
incompatible subfields. Sterne concludes that synthesis is not necessary or desirable in the field
of sociology, but the strict binary that is existent today has caused us to misconstrue the legacy of
C. Wright Mills. The administrative foundation that allowed his critical side to exist later has
often been overlooked, and Mills’ career should show us that in order to truly use critical writing
style and ideology, one does not have to completely renounce administrative methodology and
Coser- The Intellectual as Celebrity
Coser identifies the relatively recent phenomenon of the celebrity intellectual, an
individual who targets the educated or semi-educated mass public. This group of people does not
have common interests or cultural standards, which allows the celebrity intellectual to float
freely in the space of public opinion without adhering to standards of any kind or any form of
critical judgement for the information he or she disseminates. Relative to academic members,
celebrity intellectuals are “unattached intellectuals” because they do not answer to evaluations of
peers, but are more concerned with remaining entertaining to the public in order to stay relevant.
Coser argues that celebrity intellectuals grasp the public’s attention if they attain two important
qualities: novelty and brilliance. These two mesmerizing attributes distract the mass public from
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