Thursday, March 29, 2012

Irving Louis Horowitz

The eminent political sociologist died a few days ago, according to an obit in the NYT. Long ago I read, and took seriously, his book The Decomposition of Sociology, in which he argues (essentially) for more empirical analysis and less left-wing politics in sociology. Reflecting on his book, he neglects a fundamental, possible cultural contradiction: to the extent social reality exhibits facts consistent with liberalism and inconsistent with conservatism, empirical analysis will result in more liberal than conservative belief systems (but not values, since those cannot be proven "right" or "wrong" by scientific analysis). For example, evidence is accumulating that economic inequality (which is of little concern to most conservatives in the United States), has numerous deleterious effects, thus forcing conservatives either to hold beliefs inconsistent with the evidence (i.e., inequality is unrelated to deleterious effects) or alter their values (i.e., it is a "good" thing to have high rates of violence, low social mobility, and so forth).