I think that Giddens is wrong in suggesting that there are only four myths in the history of sociology – there is a further myth, namely, that there is an essence to sociology, that it has some essential characteristics that give it and its practitioners a unity, coherence and common tradition (Giddens, 1977). Giddens of course is well aware of the ambiguous nature of sociology as a subject – but he leaves its character merely as uncertain through the employment of terms like ‘social thought’ rather than ‘sociology’. In this chapter I want to consider the status of the subject in more detail: just what kind of academic discourse is it? It is only by carrying out such an investigation that we can see exactly what we are defending when, for example, we argue against cuts in sociological teaching and research. In particular, I want to make sense of an interesting contradiction which first led me to this problem. On the one hand, it is commonly argued in public debate that there is no such subject as sociology, that you can make it up since there is not a rigorous structure of learning, research and content, that since everyone knows about society there is no need for a specific subject to study it. On the other hand, sociologists generally perceive that their subject is both important and difficult, that most people are sociologically ignorant, that a long period of training is involved and that it is more complex and worthwhile than most of the other social sciences. Sociologists generally get round this contradiction by rejecting or even ridiculing the first view, that of public opinion, and by adopting the latter. However, I think there is something mistaken about this – there is more to the public opinion view than we are normally willing to acknowledge. What exactly this is I shall try to indicate below.