Although the study of humanities and social sciences have seen, since two, maybe three decades, a massive influx of linguistic and even constructivist (or “de-constructionist”) categories of interpretation, much of sociology seems to have stuck largely to a empiricist basic consensus. This paper aims at demonstrating the sociological value of literary description with the help of two examples: 1. Against social historians and sociologists who treat nation and national sentiment as largely “invented” and arbitrary, Nick Hornby’s novel “Fever Pitch” (which describes the emotions and perceptions of a dedicated football supporter) is seen as particularly insightful in its treatment of feelings of loyalty and identification. Its neglect would severely damage every attempt to come to terms with the emotional meaning of “nation”. 2. Against simplistic notions of modernity and modernisation of the feudal, rural world, Tolstoi’s “Anna Karenina” provides us with a clear picture of the uneven, contradictory aspects of democratisation, seen from the perspective of compassionate members of the upper classes themselves. The paper concludes with remarks that stress the importance of intimate sociological descriptions of “inner states” in order to understand macro-developments as well, without intending to fall into the methodological traps of idealism and relativism.


Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, Volume 28, Number 2 - SpringerLink

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