L'auteur expose sa conception de la place et du rôle d'un sociologue travaillant pour le compte d'une entreprise. De là il tire certaines conclusions se rapportant à l'enseignement de la sociologie dans les universités.
Until a few years ago, most of the sociologists in the province of Quebec, were operating in the campus environment or in a few key governmental positions. With the increase in the number of new graduates and the growing search for sociological expertise in our society, young sociologists are now invading many new areas, mainly in business or state bureaucracies.
Their integration in the business world presents many potential areas of difficulty that we shall try to describe. We will also mention certain tentative solutions that appear worth exploring.
Most of the difficulties arise from the differences in the value orientations between the administration as a whole and the young sociologists. This is not specific to the sociologist, nor even to the professional employee. No institution in the industrial world can pretend to involve totally any of its members nor to deserve a total identification with its purposes. It is always a matter of balanced compromise.
The most evident difference is the efficiency orientation of the enterprise, as compared with the rationality orientation of the social scientist. Those values are not mutually exclusive, but differ in the main objective to be accomplished : on one side, the results are most favored; on the other, one strives for completeness, objectivity and clarity of understanding.
Another problem derives from the « system » concept that is prevalent in contemporary sociology. In fact, the enterprise is quite far from being a complete, well-integrated and self-explanatory system. Therefore, many of the theoretical and analytical tools of the sociologist are not ready to be used in a very satisfactory way when applied to this often confusing reality.
The time image is also different. Every problem appears to the social scientist in its long-range implications. On the other hand, the manager continually has urgent decisions to make, and immediate problems to solve. They may easily see one another as a lunar orbiter or as a short-sighted activist.
One of the major challenges the young sociologist has to meet in this context is that of mutual acceptance. To accept industrial men, he must depart from a particular folkloric dogmatism that exists in his academic community, for instance against value judgments and all the not-so-scientific approaches of reality that govern the everyday life of everyone. To be accepted, he must make himself understandable and demonstrate his ability in certain areas that may be more familiar to the people he has to live with, i.e. short-range studies and policy formulation, even though such areas are not the most representative of his potentialities.
That must not mean a sacrifice of his professional identity. On the contrary, he must resist the danger of being completely assimilated by the enterprise. In this respect, he needs a deeply personalized knowledge of his discipline, in order to be able to reinterpret in meaningful sociological terms the administrative questions that land on his desk.
Those complementary objectives require both a very specific and a broad-minded academic preparation. The specificity will be obtained by a better linked approach of theory and methodology, sociology being mainly the art of well defining the social aspects of a problem in order to analyse it with the suitable apparatus. The broad-mindedness supposes a concern with the humanistic background of the professional development.
In any event, the prior education he has received will never be sufficient. We need realistic formulas of continuing education for those sociologists who are engaged in a career outside the academic world. Furthermore, the profession must be organized in a way that allows the handling of those ever-developing and increasingly serious problems.
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