'Gouldner's child?' Some reflections on sociology and participatory action research

Yoland Wadsworth*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    The article commences with a personal reflection on reflexive sociology's methodological emergence from the critique of scientific positivism that took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These 'paradigm wars' reached something of a zenith around the time of the final opus of a key proponent, Alvin Gouldner, in 1979. An uneasy truce was then reached under new conditions of growing economic rationalism. While mainstream academic sociology plunged into the 'coming crisis' foretold by Gouldner, a number of its graduates continued to develop reflexive sociology, particularly in non-academic workplaces. Initially called - after Kuhn - the 'new paradigm' or 'critical interpretivism', it is now known by many names. Most common descriptors would be participatory or action research, action learning or socio systems-thinking. The approach has gradually achieved surprising critical mass in enormously diverse organizational, workplace and community settings worldwide. The article concludes by noting that many 'new paradigm' assumptions have begun to enter mainstream social research, which may be beginning to reengage with the action research field - originally the offspring of sociological thinking three decades earlier.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)267-284
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Sociology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


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