Concepts and the Social Order

Concepts and the Social Order: Robert K. Merton and the Future of Sociology

Yehuda Elkana
András Szigeti
György Lissauer
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    Concepts and the Social Order
    Book Description:

    Offers a comprehensive perspective on knowledge production in the field of sociology. Moreover, it is a tribute to the scope of Merton's work and the influence Merton has had on the work and life of sociologists around the world. This is reflected in each of the 12 chapters by internationally acclaimed scholars witnessing the range of fields Merton has contributed to as well as the personal impact he has had on sociologists. This approach is in itself a tribute to Merton: an analysis of knowledge production through a contextualized review of an author's life-work – a quintessentially “Mertonian” enterprise.

    eISBN: 978-615-5053-42-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Book Concept and Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Yehuda Elkana
  5. Note to Sound and Sculpture
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Amos Elkana and Alexander Polzin
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    György Lissauer and András Szigeti

    This volume is many things in one. First of all, it is, as Yehuda Elkana has expressed in the Preface, a tribute to the scope of Robert K. Merton’s work and the influence he has had on both the work and life of sociologists around the world. This is reflected in each chapter, showing the range of fields Merton has contributed to and the personal impact he has had on sociologists. The volume thus provides an introduction to Merton the sociologist and Merton the man. The combination of the personal and the scientific makes this also a study about the...

  7. The Paradoxes of Robert K. Merton: Fragmentary Reflections
    (pp. 9-18)
    Arnold Thackray

    Yehuda Elkana’s intellectual agendas for the first decade of his faculty, professorial life, like my own, took place a generation ago in the benign context of Bob Merton in his sixties—that fruitful, pre-senescent decade, through which in our turns Yehuda and I have recently journeyed. Together with Bob we participated in numerous conferences and publications, ranging the Anglo-American world from Palo Alto to New York and Oxbridge to Jerusalem. Those activities were driven by Yehuda’s restless energy and intellectual curiosity, but grounded in the bedrock of Bob Merton’s deep erudition. The earliest enduring fruits of our intellectual journeying together...

  8. Looking for Shoulders to Stand on, or for a Paradigm for the Sociology of Science
    (pp. 19-28)
    Anna Wessely

    The conveners of our workshop asked participants to “write about an idea or concept which influenced their work but that, in addition to the personal, also points to future importance in the way Sociology in general is moving.” Since, as far as I know, Merton’s sociology has had no impact on my work (a matter of fact that I am not proud of at all) and I cannot see either which way sociology in general is moving except that it seems to have lost its public appeal, I should have politely refused the invitation. However, being the only local participant,...

  9. R. K. Merton in France: Foucault, Bourdieu, Latour and the Invention of Mainstream Sociology in Paris
    (pp. 29-44)
    Jean-Louis Fabiani

    Why do French sociologists seldom quote Robert K. Merton? This paper is an attempt to analyze a recurrent paradox. Although Merton’s operative concepts are known and used, his achievements are not really acknowledged in France. To explain this, one has to start with the rejection of Durkheimism that was especially strong in France in the post-WW II context. But one also has to take into account the strength of a philosophical lineage that shaped the whole intellectual field, the “French history of science,” as described by Michel Foucault. No real space was allowed to the sociology of science developed by...

  10. Merton in South Asia: The Question of Religion and the Modernity of Science
    (pp. 45-60)
    Dhruv Raina

    My own engagement with the work of the sociologist of science Robert K. Merton arose in relation to the set of nested questions that could be referred to as the Weber question, the Merton question or the Needham question. More recently I delivered a lecture in Istanbul on what the priority dispute meant at the periphery of science that began with a detailed discussion on Merton’s landmark paper on the subject (Merton 1957a, Raina 2008). The present paper briefly essays a genealogy of the social studies of science in India to understand the limited presence of Merton’s influence till the...

  11. The Contribution of Robert K. Merton’s Key Concepts to the Analysis of Gender Differentiation in Society
    (pp. 61-76)
    Cynthia Fuchs Epstein

    Sex and gender are among the subjects and fields of study most resistant to impartial inquiry in the social and physical sciences. Because no individual is free from impressions or perceptions based on personal experience or philosophy, applying the rules and standards of science to these subjects is not only difficult but is often resisted by those who come to scientific study carrying paradigmatic, social and personal biases. Further, regarded as less important than other domains of analysis, the work done on these subjects is often glossed over or not subjected to the kind of rigorous analysis applied to other...

  12. A Tribute to Robert Merton: Protestant and Catholic Ethics Revisited
    (pp. 77-86)
    Rivka Feldhay

    My small tribute to Robert Merton is done from the point of view of a historian believing, as I think he did, that neither historians nor sociologists can afford an easy choice between grand narratives—that is theoretical or conceptual frameworks—on the one hand, and precise empirical studies on the other hand. Both are essential for presenting a sound argument in the humanities and in the social sciences. I was a student of Professor Yehuda Elkana in the early eighties in Jerusalem, and it was Professor Elkana who introduced Merton’s oeuvre in his classes. Moreover, Elkana knew Merton personally...

  13. The Concept of Ambivalence in the Relationship between Science and Society
    (pp. 87-100)
    Helga Nowotny

    In his 1963 essay “Sociological Ambivalence” (coauthored with Elinor Barber) Robert K. Merton addresses the problem of ambivalence not by referring to the psychological experience we all are familiar with. Being pulled in opposite direction through our emotions or wavering in decisions due to conflicting tendencies is better left to psychological theory. Seen from a sociological perspective, ambivalence is all about social structure. In its most extended sense, it refers to “incompatible normative expectations of attitudes, beliefs, and behavior assigned to a status (i.e., a social position) or to a set of statuses in society” (Merton 1963).

    Sociological ambivalence therefore...

  14. Re-evaluating the Place of Science in Evaluating Modernity
    (pp. 101-110)
    Gabriel Motzkin

    Imagine that a spaceship were to land on earth sent by a superior civilization. The emissaries would descend, speaking of course perfect English, and would inform us that everything we thought we knew about science was wrong. We would immediately want to know whether this meant that the science we have is wrong, or whether science itself is a wrong way to go about interpreting reality.

    We are quite comfortable with the idea that the science we have may be wrong, although this notion of the relativity of science has not been popular at all times since the scientific revolution....

  15. Democracy and the Normative Structure of Science after Modernity
    (pp. 111-120)
    Yaron Ezrahi

    The New York Academy of Sciences published in 1980 a festschrift for Robert K. Merton entitled Science and Social Structure (Gieryn 1980). The essay I contributed to this volume was on “Science and the Problem of Authority in Democracy”. In a part of this essay I compared the normative structure of science implicit in the first comprehensive historical account of the Royal Society of London written by Bishop Thomas Sprat and published in 1667 with Robert K. Mertons’ (RKM) essay on the norms of science [1938, 1942] later republished under several titles like “Science and Democratic Social Structure” and “The...

  16. The Matthew Effect Writ Large and Larger: A Study in Sociological Semantics
    (pp. 121-164)
    Harriet Zuckerman

    Peer recognition matters in science— to those who receive it, to those who give it and to the system as a whole. Robert Merton’s¹ early research persuaded him that scientists’ pursuit of recognition from knowledgeable peers shaped their work and the larger scientific enterprise.² In all its complexities, peer recognition and its role in science remained a central focus of his research until the end. Not the product of mere vanity, the pursuit of recognition is built into the social organization of science. Even those who are modest by disposition are institutionally compelled to seek it. Receiving recognition assures scientists...

  17. Repetition with Variation: A Mertonian Inquiry into a Lost Mertonian Concept
    (pp. 165-188)
    Charles Camic

    Throughout the chapters of this volume, my fellow contributors examine a range of concepts that originate in the work of Robert Merton and continue to circulate in contemporary sociological theory and research, but which have long-since grown detached from Merton’s own name, in a clear instance of the intellectual process that Merton’s himself referred to as “obliteration by incorporation.” In this chapter, I too am concerned with a valuable Mertonian concept, albeit not one that presently commands any currency in sociology or any place in the growing scholarship on Merton’s work. This is the concept of “repetition with variation.”


  18. Robert K. Merton and the Transformation of Sociology of Knowledge and Possible New Directions
    (pp. 189-202)
    Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt

    This chapter discusses the place of Robert K. Merton in the transformation of Sociology of Knowledge (SoK) and some indications for possible future directions. The basic sources are the three articles included in Part III of Social Theory and Social Structure, “The Sociology of Knowledge and Mass Communications” (Merton 1957), and a second direction indicated in Merton’s thesis on Puritanism in Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth Century England (Merton 1970)—or as Harriet Zukermann (1989) has shown, two Merton theses. I shall briefly discuss whether these two directions of Merton’s work on the Sociology of Knowledge are complementary or...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-230)
  20. List of Contributors
    (pp. 231-232)
  21. Index
    (pp. 233-237)