In response to Toll

The last week has all been about reading and writing a brand-new conference paper which outlines my proposed approach to my research – more on that as I go.

But for today, Mathew Toll, fellow PhD candidate, and a truedude™ who keeps me on my toes, responded to the previous post I made on this blog with style and grace.

ImageHe takes note of my aimed approach and argues that my sociological starting-point “sounds a little too vanguardist, as if you should prioritize political ideals over the pursuit of an unclouded understanding.”

Good call. I feel like it definitely has to be a balance between the two – political aims and social goals, however it needs to be built on a foundation of empirical evidence and critical thinking. One without the other would render the whole work somewhat impotent to me.

Toll also gets real (i.e. academic), adding:

“The normative idea of a good sociologist I hold is someone who is motivated by a desire to understand the social and cultural formations and unravel the infinity of threads that inform our current situation. I’m not naïve enough to imagine that social scientists maintain a perfectly disinterested search for truth and aren’t, at least sub-consciously, guided by extra-scientific and normative considerations… I believe that objectivity and progression within an intellectual discipline is not achieved by individual participants crafting a view from nowhere, but a relative objectivity is achieved through mutual criticism and a desire to kick the ball forward and put together a better understanding of an object of study.”

He’s right here. Through mutual criticism/peer review, the continued push for greater social analysis, and perhaps even more importantly, the process of creating ‘public sociology’ – whereby those outside of academia can use the theories and outcomes of our research to improve their understanding of the world and their lives more generally – Toll brings out that great quest of sociology: the quest to understand the present social fabric, or “an attempt to understand the time [you] live in” (Camus, 2000, vii) ultimately for its improvement to take place.

Thanks to Mat for being as bigger nerd as I. Check out Mat’s writing at and see how a real blog is done.

Keep breathing / stay well / listen to the new Fucked Up, Goodtime Boys and some Nina Simone & Rollins Band (check out Blues Jam, flip a desk:

Alex Page – June 13, 2014.

Camus, A. (2000 [1951]) The Rebel. Penguin Books: London, UK.



  1. Too nice. You should have said I was being too positivistic in my approach to sociology and that perhaps this was because I’m a white male and thus life for me is set to the lowest difficulty setting. I would have snorted in derision or written a large blog on how understanding the difficulties of race and sex is best done via solid research methods and not maligning people’s social status, but it would have been fun.

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