The purpose of this inaugural lecture, entitled The self-image of sociology —
and sociologists, is to focus attention on the image which sociologists have of
their discipline and of themselves. Four premises which outline the salient
characteristics of this self-image, are discussed. These premises, which also
stress the ambivalence of the sociological self-image, are:
(1) Sociology is both a vision and a passion: On the one hand, the
sociologist experiences sociology as a vision which enables him to see
— the personal destinies of individuals are closely linked with the
historical and social conditions under which they live
— people are always playing roles and putting up facades in order to
hide their true selves
— people's beliefs, values, norms and patterns of behaviour are determined
more by the society to which they belong than by personal choice.
On the other hand, sociology is also experienced as a passion which has
its roots in a sincere interest in human beings, a deep-felt longing for a
more perfect society and an irresitable urge to change prevailing social
(2) Sociology is both a science and a form of art: Sociologists have
always regarded sociology as a science with a clearly defined field of
study (viz. human social behaviour) and a methodology which resembles
that of the natural sciences. But sociology is also seen as a form of art.
No sociologist abides strictly by the scientific method. Although it is not
reflected in his scientific treatises, the sociologist's intuition and imagination
also play an important part in the construction of sociological
(3) Sociology is both a form of technology and a kind of therapy: Most
sociologists tend to see themselves as technologists in search of practical
applications for their theories. Human reason has two functions: a
manipulative and a critical one. As a technologist, i.e. as a "social
engineer" the sociologist uses his reason to influence human behaviour.
But the sociologist also sees himself as a therapist, i.e. as someone who
applies reason to free human beings from the bondage of social forces
such as tradition, prejudice or bureaucracy.
(4) Sociology is both a profession and a pastime: Sociology has not yet
established the same professional standards that are normally associated
with professions such as medicine or law, but in many respects it has
already acquired professional status. The sosiologist, however, also experiences
sociology as a kind of pastime which he practices during his
non-working hours. A case is made out for the recognition of amateur
sociology as a very useful aid to professional sociology.