Departmental and Disciplinary Divisions in Sociology: Responses from Departmental Executive Officers

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This study is the first empirical attempt to assess divisions in sociology. In this work, I use semistructured interviews with departmental executive officers (heads and chairs) at 27 of the top 50 ranked Sociology departments to gain a better understanding of the divisions that departments face and, to by extension, the discipline more generally. The most salient source of conflict is between a vision of sociology that incorporates activism and a political perspective into the work and one that believes that valuable research is objective and does not advocate for a political perspective. Concerns centered on qualitative and quantitative methodological differences or concerns focused on sociology’s (in)coherence were secondary to the activism versus science split. The conflict manifests in its most pronounced manner when the evaluation of work is required (e.g., hiring, promotion, and merit). One viable prescription may be for departments to be explicit in their expectations, their criteria for evaluation, and the relative weights of these various components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-560
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Sociologist
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Conflict in sociology
  • Departments of sociology
  • Divisions in sociology
  • Evaluation or work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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