The critical approach does not always meet with a positive response, and on occasion the shrines of sociology yield to addressing it through the game of anathemas and excommunications. What makes this approach especially irritating is definitely its embeddedness in a culture of unmasking, of resistance and of social change. Its principled solidarity with social progress, conceived as a struggle against forms of domination that aims for emancipation, is, moreover, linked to other requirements, especially that of demystifying the principle of axiological neutrality. The necessity of critique is, likewise, based on an empirical-theoretical principle which keeps the researcher equidistant from the coils of concept-free empiricism and from theoreticism, which shortcuts the business of collecting evidence. This approach also rejects hyperspecialization and struggles against the fragmentation of the social and human sciences. This article does not aim to set up a systematic catalog of the necessities and virtues of the critical approach, but to discuss some of its most important aspects, in particular those envisaged by certain researchers as potentially legitimating a ban on critique in the field of social sciences. Bypassing the academic picaresque, the liturgies and the “gay science,” which accompany the social pathologies of the Homo academicus when grappling with the critical approach, we would thus like to return to its key principles and defend its search for a knowledge which is simultaneously scientific and socially relevant.
Emmanuel Renault and Danny Trom both accepted our invitation to comment this article. Their contribution will follow Fabien Granjon’s article.
- axiological neutrality