Sociology! The field was founded by Talcott Parsons, but being the first, he had taken his PhD in Germany and so wrote in German syntax for the rest of his career. He also recognized that much of what he was saying was pretty obvious for a ‘new social science’, so he invented a lot of jargon. The result was the next two generations of sociologists were all terrible writers because Parsons modelled an impossibly obtuse style. They in turn believed and taught their students to believe that to demonstrate your profundity, you had to write pretentious, impenetrable, painfully awkward prose. Competing against this Structural-Functional paradigm were the Marxists, who were barely better, their ideology dictating its own jargon, and again, often revealing it’s German roots. It wasn’t until Howard Becker (of the Chicago School of Sociology–by no coincidence, home of CMOS) argued for clarity that any school of sociology started being readable by undergrads and the general public. Even today, most of my colleagues are terrible writers. I have to tell my students, you may to read this stuff, but you don’t have to write as badly as your profs… They don’t always believe me. Plain speaking may be penalized by professors who feel plain is the opposite of sophisticated.
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