Southern theory: the global dynamics of knowledge in social science
The book is a cross between a polemical broadside and a cri de coeur. Connell herself calls it an ‘experiment with truth’ (xiii). Like many established theorists writing from outside the metropoles yet with some measure of recognition there, she is deeply outraged by the invisibility of most non-metropole writing in metropolitan fora. Her name for the non-metropole here is ‘Southern’ (austral, in its original meaning). Her task in this book is to present a convincing theoretical account for this invisibility, and then to showcase good exemplars of Southern thought to demonstrate that it has ‘as much intellectual power as metropolitan social thought and more political relevance’ (xii). This is a work of both critique and retrieval, each trope presenting its own particular challenges. Part 1 throws down the gauntlet to Northern theory. The task of chapter one, first published in 1997 in the American Journal of Sociology, is to demonstrate that supposedly ‘universal’ theory embeds a Northern viewpoint, and is in fact more properly seen as ‘Northern’ theory. Connell revisits the sociological classics to make the case that this work arose from concerns rooted in colonialism (progress, evolution, the primitive/modern distinction), and only transferred its gaze to the travails of urbanisation and industrialisation after the first World War when the centre of sociological gravity moved to the US. Then, because the empirical work failed to ground the theory, the metropoles adopted a classical canon, hence planting an imperial gaze into the heart of the enterprise of modern social science. Chapter 2 continues this line of analysis, focusing on a particular text from each of three prominent Northern theorists, James Coleman, Anthony Giddens and Pierre Bourdieu. Chapter 3 illustrates the case further by showing the ‘Northerness’ of globalisation theory.