The magazine n+1 recently published an article about the rise and inefficacy of critical sociology. It’s a strange piece which, i think, accords sociology way too much influence. but it does have some salient points, particularly relating to the balance between structure and agency in sociological writing. The editors write: “In spite of the strenuous attempts by sociologists to preserve some autonomy for the acting subject — Bourdieu’s “habitus,” Latour’s “actor-network” theory — popularization has inevitably resulted in more weight being thrown on the structuring side of things, the network over the actor.” I teach at Lehman College in the Bronx where the majority of students are working class. To put it simply, they are fed up with the overemphasis on structure, they find it deeply tiresome and profoundly disempowering. As one African-American student remarked during a discussion of a piece by WJ Wilson and Loic Wacquant, “I’m sick of reading about how fucked up we are, even if we’re discussing the reasons why things are like this.” Our students know too well the limits of freedom and the structuring power of class and racism and sexism. The overemphasis on structure may be because much scholarly work is addressed to the middle and upper classes and tries in none-too-subtle ways to guilt its readers into caring. (And because of this I don’t think it’s all that surprising that it’s been appropriated by the chattering classes, as the editors allege). It rarely discusses how we might enhance our constrained freedom in concrete and practical ways. In any event, I just wanted to bring this (admittedly scattered) piece to people’s attention. Oh, and Shamus’ work is referenced approvingly.