I haven’t seen a full obituary for Ray Pahl yet, who died earlier this month. Pahl had an interesting status in geography, I think – as the one who got away, but then who lots of people ended up following. He wrote the ‘sociological models’ essay in Chorley and Haggett’s classic Models in Geography, the source text for geography’s ‘quantitative revolution’ in the 1960s, and moved from geography as an undergraduate to sociology – pioneering qualitative methods in the social sciences. It took a while for geographers to catch up.
Once upon a time, for a few months, I tried to do PhD research modelled on the sort of detailed qualitative work on family dynamics that he and his wife Jan Pahl both excelled in – but I simply didn’t have the social skills to pull this off. I took refuge in ‘theory’, and the ‘archive’.
Pahl wrote a lenghty review of Mike Savage’s recent account of post-war sociology/social science in The Sociological Review, published earlier this year, in which he partly situates himself in relation to the growth of social science in the UK as theorised by Savage.