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The Production of Knowledge in Applied Sociology

AutorFernández Esquinas, Manuel
Palabras claveApplied research
Basic research
Sociology of knowledge
Fecha de publicaciónsep-2006
SerieIESA Working Paper Series
WP 17-06
ResumenThis paper examines knowledge resulting from applied sociology, namely from sociological research oriented towards resolving practical problems rather than providing new contributions to our understanding of social phenomena. Departing from James Coleman’s analytical distinction between ‘the world of discipline’ and ‘the world of action’, I draw a conceptual framework which depicts the main dimensions of typical organizational arrangements for doing basic and applied sociological work. Secondly, I analyze applied sociology as a set of social and political conditions where research is produced. These conditions usually give rise to descriptions and, on occasions, to empirical generalizations, whereas results contrasting important theoretical hypotheses from a disciplinary point of view are produced less frequently. Thirdly, the article examines some specific mechanisms such as methodological decisions, the availability of resources and time constraints to explain why applied sociology most often produces this kind of cognitive results. Finally, effects related to cognitive and organizational divisions are addressed taking into account two processes in current research systems: the large amount of resources devoted to applied sociological research that result in non-theoretical and non-accumulative knowledge and the decoupling of disciplinary sociology from the practical world of policy making.
DescripciónA preliminary version of this paper has been presented at the European Conference on Social Theory ‘Knowledge and Society’, organized by the Social Theory Research Network of the European Sociological Association. Madrid, 21-22 September, 2006.
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