Using C. Wright Mills’ book The Sociological Imagination as a touchstone for its discussion, this article addresses the relations between the sociological problem, relevance and experience as they are and could potentially be understood within sociology. Beginning with the historical relation between sociology, science and literature – a relation which has been productively but differently complicated by poststructuralist and postconstructivist theories – this article asks: to what extent does the empirical offer a referent for the sociological problem? To what is sociology obliged to be relevant? Arguing for the continued relevance of relevance, particularly in the light of recent reforms in higher education in the UK and the USA, the article explores how the sociological problem might be transformed – and perhaps, more importantly, might be transformative – if the basic commitments of a research project were not to historical social structures but to virtual structures
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