University of Tasmania
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Disciplinary rhetorics and fractal orderings : a study of sociologies of knowledge and of presidential addresses to the American Sociological Society/Association

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posted on 2023-05-26, 01:47 authored by White, R
This thesis is a demonstration of the practical achievement of sociological knowledge in the absence of epistemological foundations. Its argument is derived from, and applied to, the disciplinary rhetorics in sociologies of knowledge and presidential addresses to the American Sociological Society Association. The formal sociologies of knowledge are shown to be representations of discipline, and the addresses, delivered by formal representatives of the discipline, to be 'folk' sociologies of knowledge. 'Discipline' epitomises the location of sociology in the processes studied within it, and of the sociology of knowledge within sociology at large. As subsumed in 'Mannheim's paradox', the sub-/metadiscipline has always been characterised by such epistemological difficulties as circularity, infinite regress, or the apparent self-negation of relativised knowledge. These difficulties, which are also characteristic of the discipline at large, are clarified in Latour's account of the modern as a separation of epistemological from political senses of representation. Sociologists of knowledge have resolved 'Mannheim's paradox' by two recurrent forms of representation; or modes of ordering. Either they relate knowledge to its context in binary terms (which then either axiomatically or tacitly favours the epistemological over the political), or they avoid this preemption through trinary orderings. The deferral of analytical closure in trinitarianism is used in a description of disciplinary knowledge as a 'fractal ordering' of 'disciplinarity', 'disciplining' and 'discipline', where 'fractal' denotes a jagged self-similarity across different scales of study. In their little-studied addresses to the ASS/ A, the presidents are rhetorically required to discuss disciplinary knowledge but are rhetorically constrained from doing so with formal rigour. The addresses are then a practical enactment of 'Mannheim' s paradox', and the presidents are folk sociologists of knowledge. Folk and formal disciplinary rhetorics are linked through equation of the 'discipline' from the sociologies of knowledge with 'the discipline' of American sociology, through quantitative matching of 'real factors'from the presidents' organisational characteristics with 'ideal factors' from their addresses, and through use in the addresses of 'disciplinarity', 'disciplining' and 'discipline'. In demonstrating that isomorphism between sociologies of knowledge and the presidents' occasioned response to occasioned constraints, the thesis amounts to a practical resolution of Mannheim's paradox. The trans-scalar interaction of fractal ordering shows that sociological knowledge is achieved pragmatically in a space defined by its epistemological difficulties.


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