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Stephen Turner was born in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 1968 and then attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. He received his undergraduate and his two masters degrees (one in philosophy and one in sociology) and his Ph.D. in sociology, with a dissertation on a philosophical topic. He later studied with Richard Rorty and Edward Shils. He began his long affiliation with the University of South Florida in 1975. In 1987 Turner was appointed Graduate Research Professor in Sociology; since 1989 he has held the same title, but in Philosophy. He has had visiting appointments at Virginia Tech, the University of Notre Dame, Boston University, Manchester University, and has had fellowships with NEH and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies. He is on the editorial board of some 15 journals, and is the longest serving "Collaborating Editor" of Social Studies of Science.
Practices: Turner has published widely in the overlapping fields of sociology and philosophy. He is probably best known for his writings on the notion of practices. In The Social Theory of Practices as well as in other writings Turner argues against collective concepts like culture: what we call culture (and similar concepts), he argues, needs to be understood in terms of the means of its transmission. There is no collective server by which it is simply downloaded and "shared". What we take as "collective" is really produced through experiences of interaction which are different and produce different results for different individuals but which also produce a rough uniformity through mechanisms of feedback rather than "sharing". He has extended this argument in various places, most recently in relation to the philosophical idea of "normativity" which he argues is an explanation of "facts" which are the product of an unnecessary and mystery-producing redescription motivated by an attempt to take back ground from social science explanation.
Political theory: In the area of political theory, Turner has argued that the rise of expert knowledge has altered the conditions of liberal democracy by increasing the importance of a new form of politically relevant inequality: epistemic inequality. But, Turner does not argue that inequality justifies the reliance on experts. Instead, he argues that this is only one solution among many to the problems produced by the fact that knowledge is distributed unequally. Turner uses examples such as the claims in economics and the debate over climate change to show that reliance on experts can go wrong, and that the mechanisms of self-policing attributed to the scientific community are often ineffective. Deciding whether or not to accept the products of experts or expert communities is a political decision. To the extent that such decisions replace democratic deliberation or become the content of democratic deliberation, liberal democracy itself becomes transformed from government by discussion among the equally informed into contestation over expertise itself.
History of Sociology: Turner is also widely recognized for his contributions to the history of sociology, especially in The Impossible Science, which is a unique contemporary overview of the history of American sociology. He is considered one of the leading experts in the methodology of the social sciences, including the notion of causality. In particular, he focuses on the problems in statistical causality and the process of selection. This is connected to Turner's extensive and well-known work on Max Weber's theory of causality, which Turner has shown is derived from law and legal probability, most notably in Max Weber. Lawyer as Social Thinker. He has also stressed Weber's use of empathy (Einfühlung) to solve the generic problem of the under-determination of description. Turner has been a leading figure in showing that Weber continues to have relevance;in methodology, political thinking, and other critical areas. Turner is always thought-provoking and is occasionally controversial, which suggests a certain similarity between Turner and Max Weber.
Turner is also editor or co-editor of an additional 11 books and author of some 60 articles, 44 book chapters, and 36 review essays and published exchanges.
- Explaining the Normative. Oxford: polity Press. 2010.
Review Essays on this book: Del Mar, Maksymilian. 2010. Normativism, anti-normativism and humanist pragmatism. Human Studies 33 (2-3):305-23; Fuller, Steve. 2010. Explaining the Normative. Times higher Education. 10 June, 2010. http://www.timeshigherducation.co.uk/storyCode=411976§ioncode=26; Wickham, Gary. 2011. Dousing the Dragon's Fire. Thesis Eleven 107 (November): 106-114; Peregrin, Jaroslav. 2011. Review of S. Turner, Explaining the Normative. Organon F 18:405-11.
- Liberal Democracy 3.0: Civil Society in an Age of Experts. London: Sage Publications. 2003.
Review on this book: Henderson, Kirsten. 2005. Liberal Democracy 3.0. Thesis Eleven 81:132. http://the.sagepub.com/content/81/1/132.extract.
- Brains/Practices/Relativism: Social Theory after Cognitive Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2002.
- Max Weber: The Lawyer as Social Thinker. London: Routledge. 1994, with Regis Factor.
Reviews: Breiner, Peter. Ethics7(3):554-54; Eliaeson, Sven. 1996. Acta Sociologica39(2): 226-31; Lassman, Peter. 1995. Sociology29 (3): 558-59; Poggi, Gianfranco. Contemporary Sociology25(1): 132-33; Savelsberg, American Journal of Sociology101(2): 497-98.
- The Social Theory of Practices: Tacit Knowledge and Presuppositions. Oxford: Polity Press.
- The Impossible Science: An Institutional Analysis of American Sociology. Beverly Hills and London: Sage. 1990, with Jonathan Turner.
Review Essay on this book: Schroeter, Gerd. 1992. Mission impossible: Sociology in crisis (again). Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 28:375-381. . Berger, Bennett. 1990. Review. Science16(250); 1020-21. DOI: 10.1126/science.250.4983.1020
- The Search for a Methodology of Social Science: Durkheim, Weber, and the Nineteenth Century Problem of Cause, Probability, and Action. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 92. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel. 1986.
- Max Weber and the Dispute Over Reason and Value. A Study on Philosophy, Ethics, and Politics. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1984, with Regis Factor. Giddens, Anthony. 1984. Review The Times literary Supplement of Higher Education, April 27. p. 21; Seideman, Stephen, 1985. Review. Max Weber: A classic analyzed. Contemporary Sociology. 14(6): 673-677. Tribe, Keith, 1985. Extended review. The Sociological Review. 33(1) 136-42.
- 'Sociological Explanation as Translation. Rose Monograph Series of the American Sociological Association. New York, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1980.
Review Essay of this book: Just, Roger. 1981. "Interpreting the indigenous" Times Literary Supplement4069, Friday, 27 March: 353. http://www.tlsarchive.com/tlsp/basicSearch.do:jsessionid=5D09B0DAB5322551345C639AA7B12D9C4 and Brannigan, Augustine, 1983. Review. Canadian Journal of Sociology8(1)102-4. Selected Articles
"Morgenthau as Weberian Methodologist". European Journal of International Relations. 2009, with George Mazur). "Political Epistemology, Experts and the Aggregation of Knowledge. Spontaneous Generations. 2009. "A Weber for the Right-Thinking". International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. 1998. "Weber on Action". American Sociological review. 1983.
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