Foucault and Chomsky Debate Human Nature

Foucault and Chomsky Debate Human Nature

What is our role in social justice as applied sociologists? In this great debate from 1971, Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky disagree about the fundamental qualities of “human nature” and the key task of social science in helping humanity achieve its collective potential. Chomsky believes that the social sciences should draw up a framework for an ideal society where creativity, freedom and scientific discovery will flourish. He sees it is our task to help to put this plan into action.

Foucault argues that there is no ideal concept of social justice that can be universally applied. Instead, he sees that social scientists are tasked with critiquing social institutions and relations of power in different societies.

Interestingly, Foucault’s perspective reflects academic sociology (with an emphasis on critique of social institutions), while Chomsky’s argument is closer to applied sociology! Applied sociologists work with policy and community organisations to affect justice organisations and practices.

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Sociology More Nimble on its Feet

Sociology More Nimble on its Feet

The quote below comes from a great book with lots of useful case studies of applied sociology in action. In Public Sociology: Research, Action, and Change, Philip Nyden, Leslie Hossfeld and Gwendolyn Nyden, argue:

“In their active engagement with various publics, sociologists become more aware of emerging issues and responding to those issues in their research. This elevates the field of sociology in the eyes of the 99.99% of the world outside of our field…. Because of their direct and immediate proximity, collaborative partners often raise questions and concerns based on local knowledge that the researchers may not even know about. Making these adjustments strengths the research by making it more relevant to the publics involved.”

...When research is conducted in partnership with community, sociology becomes more "nimble on its feet."
…When research is conducted in partnership with community, sociology becomes more “nimble on its feet.”