Acad. Michael M. CERNEA
Academia Română, Brookings Institution & George Washington University
E-mail personal autor:
1 / 2014
“Sociologia Militans”: Serving Development Through Social Science”
This paper is excerpted from the “Malinowski Award Lecture”, delivered by the author at the fifty-fifth annual conference of the international Society for Applied Anthropology, upon his acceptance of the Malinowski Prize conferred “in recognition of scholarly efforts to understand and serve the needs of the world through social science”. The paper outlines the author’s understanding of “sociology as vocation” and of its corollary and purpose: the production and application of sociological knowledge for transformative social action. In accounting for his own intellectual biography and professional work, initially in Romania
and later as the first sociologist and Senior Social Policy Adviser of the World Bank in Washington, the author reflects on the difficulties, foibles, and high satisfactions of practicing a theoretically informed applied sociology and anthropology. He points to the early influence on his own formation of Romania’s “sociological school”, developed around Dimitrie Gusti, which manifestly directed its field research to wards “social action and reform” (“ac?iune ?i reformă socială”). This idea, iconoclastic at that time and encapsulated in the daring Latin motto “Sociologia Militans”, proved to be a worthy life
compass in crafting public social policies, designing programs for inducing, accelerating, and democratizing development, and in preventing or fighting social pathologies. In this perspective, the author further discusses a set of theoretical, gnoseological, and institutional issues confronted at the World Bank in applying sociological/anthropological knowledge or tools, likely to surface in other agencies and organizations as well. The paper criticizes three widespread but distorting development paradigms characterized as
“econocentric”, “technocentric”, and commodocentric”, and concludes by arguing for the involvement of sociologists next to economists not only in designing discreet project-type interventions but also in formulating the policies that guide induced development.
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