THE APPROPRIATION OF SOCIAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE BY 'LAY PEOPLE':
THE DEVELOPMENT OF A LAY SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION?
Anne Mesny Trinity College
Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge for the degree of Ph.D.
THE APPROPRIATION OF SOCIAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE BY 'LAY PEOPLE': THE DEVELOPMENT OF A LAY SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION? Anne Mesny Summary of the thesis This thesis is a critical discussion of the significance of social science knowledge in contemporary society. It consists in asserting the pervasiveness of the process whereby 'lay people' routinely appropriate social science knowledge in the context of day-to-day life. The core argument of the thesis is that lay people have developed a 'sociological imagination', which is fuelled by the routine appropriation of social science knowledge, and which marks the construction of self-identity. The first chapter is devoted to the characterisation of day-to-day life in contemporary society. I examine the 'reflexive modernity thesis' and argue that lay appropriation of expert knowledge is an omnipresent process of day-to-day life, which refers to the 'reflexive project of the self' in which every individual is engaged. This theoretical framework enables me, in the second chapter, to challenge traditional conceptions of the use of social science, which leave no place for the process of appropriation of social science knowledge by lay people. In the third chapter, I argue that lay appropriation of social science knowledge should be seen as a crucial manifestation of the reflexive process between social science knowledge and its 'subjects'. This argument is extended in the fourth chapter, which consists in a critical discussion of the relationship between social science and common sense, and in the presentation of a socio-historical conception of common sense. The last two chapters are devoted to the main proposition of the thesis about the...