Heuristics and Theorizing as Work on the Self


  • Michela Betta Swinburne University of Technology, Faculty of Business and Law, Melbourne
  • Richard Swedberg Cornell University, Department of Sociology




In this note we argue that heuristics should not only be seen as the tricks and moves that the social scientist uses in the hope of making a discovery. Heuristics also represents a form of acting on oneself, in the process of which a new knowledge or discourse emerges that can be studied and discussed. Some parallels are drawn between this type of process and the emergence of ethical action or “ethical work”, as described by Michel Foucault in The History of Sexuality (1985). The new field of knowledge that is today being created in social science does not only consist of heuristics but also of many other related types of thinking and their products, all of which are referred to in sociology as theorizing. Theorizing complements traditional theory as well as the history of theory through its focus on how theory is actually being used and created – what has been called “theory work”. As with all new forms of knowledge, theorizing will face being scrutinized, neutralized and possibly taken over. How this struggle will end depends among other things on the depth to which theorizing can shape the selves of social scientists. The tradition of theorizing, the reader is reminded, ultimately draws on Kant's efforts to democratize thinking and assist the common person.




How to Cite

Betta, M., & Swedberg, R. (2018). Heuristics and Theorizing as Work on the Self. Sociologica, 12(1), 21–25. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.1971-8853/8340



Symposium (invited articles)