Published in Sociological Theory 39.2 (2021): pp. 103-125.
Author: Federico Brandmayr
Social theories are politically flexible if people use them to support opposite political claims. But is this even possible? And what kind of theories have such a property? Moving beyond epistemological debates about neutrality and value-leadenness, this article defends an empirical approach to the study of flexible and rigid political uses of social theories. I identify two main sources of flexibility: endogenous properties of theories, notably their generality, ambiguity, and neutrality, and exogenous features of the contexts in which they are used and of the individuals who use them, notably differences in political and epistemic culture.