Sociology and art have not always got along. Historically, academic sociology has built itself up against literature. Since the nineteenth century, sociologists who have considered art through literature have come to see it either as a problematic reference (the social novel), a model to fight against, or an object of study. During the twentieth century, as the sociology of art developed, art moved on from its status of ambiguous reference to become an object of study worthy of a sociological approach. We believe, though, that sociologists, and in particular sociologists of science, could make productive use of a large number of approaches developed in aesthetics. This is the claim that we develop in the present article. We start with a short introduction of the complex and often conflicting relations between the sociological tradition and the artistic world. In the second part, we demonstrate how the different approaches to perceiving art works, developed by Jauss, can be used to analyze the social sciences. Finally, we consider how theories of interpretation can bring a positive contribution to sociologists’ reflections.
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