The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree
of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot
learn the meaning of the world from the results
of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather
be in a position to create this meaning itself
This is the distinctively modern faculty,
the ability to create an illusion which is
known to be false but felt to be true
The ‘truth’ of a theory does not boil down
to its reliability but also involves the nature
of its selective perspective on the world
(Alvin W. Gouldner)
Dick Houtman is Senior Full Professor of Sociology of Culture and Religion at the Center for Sociological Research (CeSO), University of Leuven, Belgium, and faculty fellow at Yale University’s Center for Cultural Sociology (CCS), where he was a visiting fellow during the academic year 2012-2013. He is a member of the editorial boards of Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociologie, and Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion.
Dick Houtman’s principal research interest is cultural change in the West since the 1960s, particularly in the realms of politics (the emergence of a political culture that foregrounds culture and identity rather than economic class interests) and religion (the shift from institutional allegiance, religious belief and doctrine to spiritual experience). More generally conceived, he is interested in the multifarious cultural manifestations and the wide-ranging social consequences of a Romantic turn that has profoundly transformed the West since the 1960s.
As a cultural sociologist, Dick Houtman aims to expose intellectual pretensions of ‘true’ meaning, seen as solidly grounded beyond culture and history rather than being discursively informed, as moral discourse disguised as science. He considers himself neither a social or cultural theorist, nor a methodologist, but firmly believes that the cross-fertilization of theoretical ideas and empirical research constitues the only feasible road to theoretically meaningful sociological knowledge. As to teaching in higher education, his philosophy is simple enough: students should not be made to slavishly reproduce or apply other people’s ideas, but trained to think for themselves and conduct original empirical research.
Last updated in September 2017