I am getting confused about the meaning of the following sentence.

The talk about the end of ideology only confirmed intellectuals from these countries in their opinion about the pervasiveness of the ethnocentric bias in so much of what passes for sociology in their Western world.

What exactly does the author mean by the phrase so much of what? Does it emphasise some contradictory or approving fact?


Saying anything "passes for" something else normally means (in the opinion of the writer) that the thing is not in fact what it's claimed to be. The usage is closely related to passing off, meaning to give a false identity or character to.

Among other things, the sentence thus claims that the area of study called sociology in the Western world is distorted by ethnocentric bias.

It's difficult to separate the opinions of the writer from the opinions of the intellectuals he's writing of in this sentence. Superficially the writer attempts to present himself as a "neutral reporter", but it seems clear to me the overall implication is that the writer agrees with his subjects' negative opinion of Western sociology. I think an unbiased author would have written of an ethnocentric bias, for example (using "the" implies the bias really exists, whereas "an" suggests that the intellectuals perceive it to exist, and the unbiased writer merely reports that perception).


The phrase you want to isolate is actually "what passes for sociology". The authors intent seems to be to discredit most of the field of sociology in the western world by saying that while it uses that name, it has so much ethnic bias that it only can only pretend to be what it claims to be.

The phrase "so much of what passes for sociology" is then referring to the large portion of sociology that is ethnically biased as thus un-creditable.

  • I'd already editted the Q before reading these answers! It'll have to be changed back if I'm wrong. :) – FumbleFingers Aug 5 '11 at 12:57
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    @Fumble: "passes" is correct. The OP pasted the text wrong. persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/… – JoseK Aug 5 '11 at 13:07
  • Whichever way the typo works out (passes or poses) the meaning of the whole phrase doesn't change very much. – Caleb Aug 5 '11 at 13:07
  • No difference semantically, maybe. But it's surely relevant to note that "passes for" is a standard phrase, whereas "poses for" is poor English, to say the least. – FumbleFingers Aug 5 '11 at 13:21
  • @FumbleFingers: "poses as" is also a standard phrase and, although not as quality diction in this example, is not itself poor English. – Caleb Aug 5 '11 at 13:24

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