The sociologist as human scientist

The meaning of Shils

in The calling of social thought
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The writings of Edward Shils have been widely neglected in contemporary sociology. One major reason for this neglect is due to the contradictory receptions of his ideas. There have been two dominant lines of interpretation—the functionalist as well as the practice-theoretical paradigm of understanding of Shils’ writings—and they are not consistent with each other. Therefore, a more comprehensive understanding of Shils’ thinking needs to take into account his close attachment to the University of Chicago and to some of its pragmatist traditions. The suggestion in this paper is that we should read Shils from a standpoint which is called a human scientific approach. Thus, placing Shils in the context of contemporary social theory and moral philosophy reveals similarities to what has been called ‘sacralisation’ and ‘affirmative genealogy’.

The calling of social thought

Rediscovering the work of Edward Shils

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