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Barbara A. Misztal and Bronislaw Misztal

Barbara A. Misztal

The paper argues that if imagination is paramount for sociology’s status and if literary intuition is a source of such imagination, we should rethink the value of literary insight for social analyses. It reviews the changing relationship between literature and sociology and shows how sociology can draw from literature as a starting point for understanding the social world and a way of invigorating sociological imagination. By framing the digital age as a current moment of change that has reconfigured the relation between sociology and literature, it illuminates the impact of challenges faced by both sociology and literature. It argues for the validity of literature for sociological use in the digital future and calls for more reflection on the utility and scope of the linkage. It asserts the literary inspired way of doing sociology, which takes advantage of the chance provided by the e-revolution, is one of ways forward for sociology.

Barbara A. Misztal

Abstract

The paper offers a conceptual analysis of the relationship between trust and vulnerability. It argues that sorting out the meaning of both terms and developing further our understanding how they are connected are one of the important tasks of the social science. Trust is usually defined as confidence that partners will not exploit each others’ vulnerability. While stressing that vulnerability cannot be conceived as a single continuum, the paper views vulnerability as irreducibly plural and rooted in the human condition of dependence on others, in the unpredictability of action and in the irreversibility of human experiences. There are three trust-related mechanisms that lower these types of vulnerability, yet trust is not only a remedy for vulnerability, but trust itself is vulnerable to the universal condition of our humanity. The first type of vulnerability can be reduced by responsibility; the second type by promising; and the third by forgiveness. The paper’s conceptual discussion bridges theories of trust based on rational choice and those based on normative routines and stresses the interdependence between trust and vulnerability: trust is a remedy for vulnerability, but trust itself is vulnerable to the universal condition of our humanity.

Barbara A. Misztal

Abstract

Intellectual strategies change in response to broader socio-political transformations of the world and the development of new means of communication. In today’s complex and fragmented intellectual landscape, public intellectuals perform various functions and conceive different strategies. As traditional public intellectuals are finding it much harder to argue with authority, thought leaders, or new for-profit thinkers linked to ideologically driven think tanks, are getting new visibility. Yet another group, the ‘new intellectuals’, who in contrast to traditional public intellectuals housed at the university are detached from its institutional structures, contributes to the non-academic culture of criticism of neo-liberalism. As these three groups are not engaged in meaningful conversations, a work on the restoration of the severed links between wonder at the world and the imagination to think beyond the present is neglected. In the hope that all three groups of today’s intellectuals, despite their different values and styles, can still place curiosity at the core of their strategies, this paper argues that primarily it should be a task of the traditional public intellectual to awaken people’s awareness of a common future. It concludes that to re-empower the traditional public intellectual, there is a need to prevent modern universities from becoming places with little room for curiosity.