Since the institutionalization of the social science disciplines, their intellectual history has been the focus of numerous individual and collective research endeavors. Much less studied however are the actors, the social mechanisms, the ordinary practices, and the institutions which contributed to the birth and the development of these disciplines.

With a very few exceptions, the international development and the most creative work in the social studies of science have not grown out of engagement with topics linked to the social sciences and their history. Is it more difficult to understand the fields, methods, and theories of the social sciences with techniques of investigation developed under the flag of “science studies”? Are researchers in social scientific disciplines, especially sociologists, more resistant than others to a contextualized and sociological approach to their own discipline? Such a paradox needs to be examined.

In France, research in the sociology of intellectuals has been increasingly interested in applying its results and tools to the study of sociologists and social scientists. This trend is now converging with other efforts coming from the social studies of science. This conference is a byproduct of this convergence. Its goal is to foster a more sociological approach to the activities and products of the social sciences. The two main prerequisites for such a task are (1) rejecting the history of ideas in its classical form, and (2) refusing to reduce knowledge production to power relations.

This investigation seems even more necessary now that knowledge production and national university systems are undergoing important morphological transformations and now that social sciences are thought to be less socially and politically legitimate than they used to be. The craft of the social sciences has changed profoundly. Reactions to these social trends have been coming from professionals in the social scientific fields. Professional associations have developed collective reflections on these topics. This conference also aims at illuminating this current international questioning through carefully produced research.

Better knowledge of the structures of production, evaluation, diffusion, and reception of social scientific knowledge is not the only goal of this conference. We also believe that the social sciences belong to a specific class of objects of inquiry, the peculiarities of which may help renew the modes of reasoning of sociology itself.

In order to follow these goals, the following themes will be dealt with:

- Institutions and conditions of production of social scientific knowledge - Competing evaluation systems of social scientific research - Public understanding of the social sciences - International and interdisciplinary intellectual migrations - Social uses of the social sciences: expertise and counter-expertise, administrative knowledge - Forms of politicization of the social sciences and the social scientists