Making sociology universal: Revisiting the contributions of Syed Hussein Alatas

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Habibul Haque Khondker, Zayed University

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Book Chapter

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Social Theory and Asian Dialogues: Cultivating Planetary Conversations

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© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018. This chapter examines two related problems: first, the discourse of corruption as a social problem, and secondly, certain problems of agenda-setting in sociology, which continues to be dominated by Anglo-American sectarian and national interests. The chapter calls for making sociology truly universal as an academic discipline. An understanding of such questions as to why corruption remains largely outside the purview of sociology and how sociological agendas are set can be found in the works of Syed Hussein Alatas, a prominent Southeast Asian sociologist. Alatas examined the subject of corruption as far back as the 1950s. Sociology of corruption as a sub-field failed to take off despite the ubiquity of this phenomenon. In recent years, a number of new books, including an updated version of Alatas’s book, have been published. Studies of corruption remain very much a prerogative of political scientists and public policy experts. Economists see corruption as a market-distorting externality and treat it as a peripheral subject. Gunnar Myrdal, who was an exception, in his Asian Drama identified the problem of corruption as a serious bottleneck for Asian development. The problem still persists forty years after Myrdal’s analysis. In a number of countries in the developing world, corruption has become a part of the fabric of society. Yet sociological theorization and empirical studies are lacking. This chapter examines corruption both as a social problem as well as an indicator of the “corruption of sociology” for which we can draw from the writings of Alatas, especially his notion of “captive mind” and the absence of intellectual autonomy on the part of Third World sociologists.




Springer Singapore

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Indexed in Scopus


Open Access