13: Reflections on Critical Engagement


‘Critical engagement’, first formulated by Edward Webster, zeros in on the tension between attachment to moral and scientific principles on one side and the interests of social movements on the other. This tension is definitive of all social science that sets out from the assumption that researchers are participants in the world they study. It is clearly formulated as a founding assumption in the research agenda of the Society, Work and Politics Institute, demarcated from the alternative assumption that social science has to follow the guidelines of positivist objectivity. Given the global character of the problems the world faces, critical engagement must become the dominant principle if sociology is to retain its public relevance.

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