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October 2021

Against reflexivity as an academic virtue and source of privileged knowledge

Journal/Book: Theor Cult Soc. 2000; 17: 6 Bonhill Street, London EC2a 4Pu, England. Sage Publications Ltd. 26+.

Abstract: Reflexivity is a well-established theoretical and methodological concept in the human sciences, and yet it is used in a confusing variety of ways. The meaning of 'reflexivity' and the virtues ascribed to the concept are relative to particular theoretical and methodological commitments. This article examines several versions of the concept, and critically focuses on treatments of reflexivity as a mark of distinction or source of methodological advantage. Although reflexivity often is associated with radical epistemologies, social scientists with more conventional leanings often speak of reflexivity as a methodological tool, substantive property of social systems, or soul ce of individual enlightenment. Radical and conventional social scientists alike tend to stress the importance of being reflexive. As opposed to being unreflexive, but they do not share a coherent conception of what 'being reflexive' means or entails. As an alternative to reflexive self-privileging. I recommend an ethnomethodological conception of reflexivity as an ordinary, unremarkable and unavoidable feature of action. The ethnomethodological conception does not support a particular theoretical or methodological standpoint by contrasting it to an 'unreflexive' counterpart. It has little value as a critical weapon or source of epistemological advantage, which, in the present context, can have advantages of its own for promoting peace and epistemic democracy.

Note: Article Lynch M, Cornell Univ, Dept Sci & Technol Studies, Ithaca,NY 14853 USA

Keyword(s): ethnomethodology; methodology; objectivity; representation; self-reflection; social theory; sociology of science; SCIENCE; SOCIOLOGY; ETHNOMETHODOLOGY; TECHNOLOGY; CONSENSUS

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