- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
INTRODUCTION TO MY SOCIOLOGY THEORY NOTES
More than fifty years ago just after the northern hemisphere's autumnal equinox of 21 September 1963, I entered my first sociology lecture theatre at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario. I was 19. After taking what was an introductory course in sociology, 1963/4, and teaching sociology off-and-on until I retired from FT teaching in 1999 and PT and casual/volunteer teaching during the years 2001 to 2005, I decided to keep that portion of my sociology notes connected with sociological theory. It was this subject, this sub-discipline within sociology, that interested me the most. This field of sociology had more relevance, at least to me, to an understanding of many of the social questions bedevilling our society than other facets of sociology. It was also a subject that was useful in my exploration of the Baha'i Faith and its place in society. The Baha'i Faith has been, since I was 9 or 10, more than 60 years ago(1953-2016), a core around which my values, beliefs & attitudes gradually came to be based. That core has also been strongly influenced by my family, both my affinal and consanguineal families, the many communities to which I have belonged, and a lifetime of serious reading, say, 1962 to 2016. Sociology has always had a highly interdisciplinary focus with history and psychology, religion and philosophy, economics and, more recently, media studies and popular culture coming into its many fields of analysis.
For the set of sociology theory notes which I now possess, I have drawn on the structure of the last major sociology theory syllabus I taught. I taught that syllabus in the 1990s in the Human Services section of Thornlie College of Technical and Further Education(Tafe). It became a part of the Swan College of Tafe, and then a polytechnic, in Perth Western Australia. I have altered and extended that syllabus in these years of my retirement, 1999 to 2014. I have extended my base of resources to include some 8 arch-lever and 4 two-ring binder files in that interesting, that personally stimulating, field of study. What is found in these files represents my interests in sociology after more than half a century of contact with what has been for me an illuminating sub-discipline within sociology. Some other aspects of sociology, aspects with a religious and philosophical, historical and psychological, media and popular culture, orientation, can be found in other files in my study here in the north of Tasmania. They can be found in discipline or subject files like: history, philosophy, religion and psychology, inter alia, disciplines in what have become, inevitably, part of an interdisciplinary academic world of study and analysis.
25/3/'09 to 25/2/'16.
SOCIOLOGY THEORIES: AN OVERVIEW
In sociology, sociological perspectives, theories, or paradigms are complex theoretical and methodological frameworks, used to analyze & explain objects of social study. They also facilitate the organizing of sociological knowledge. Sociological theory is constantly evolving; therefore, it can never be presumed to be complete. It can involve analysis at a macro-level, which focuses on social structures shaping society or at a micro-level which is a close-up study of social interaction taking place in specific situations. For more of this overview go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociological_theory
A metanarrative in critical theory and particularly in postmodernism is a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of an, as yet unrealized, master idea. The term was brought into prominence by Jean-François Lyotard in 1984, more than 30 years ago, with his claim that the postmodern was characterised precisely by a mistrust of the many grand narratives: progress, Enlightenment emancipation, Marxism, inter alia, that had formed an essential part of modernity. In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979), Lyotard highlights the increasing skepticism of the postmodern condition toward the totalizing nature of metanarratives and their reliance on some form of "transcendent and universal truth". For more on Lyotard go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Lyotard
"Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language. Where, after the metanarratives, can legitimacy reside?"—Jean-François Lyotard For more on metanarratives go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanarrative
MY THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: A.
I thank sociologist Mark Foster for his structural dialectics paradigm and the following summary of his theoretical framework which, with several changes in emphasis, serves as the first of my theoretical orientations or perspectives for explaining sociological data. I am eclectic and have been most influenced by Emile Durkheim's and Peter Blau's approaches to structuralism, Karl Marx's scientific socialism (essentially, his term for sociology), Pitirim A. Sorokin's integralism, Georg Hegel's dialecticism, Erving Goffman's frame analysis (post-dramaturgy), Charles Horton Cooley's social psychology, and Arthur Koestler's and Ken Wilber's approaches to holonism. However, I also make use of Harold Garfinkel's ethnomethodology, George Herbert Mead's social behaviorism, and many others. Primarily, I am a macrosociologist. That is to say, overall, I am more interested in large-scale, than in small-group, research and theory. This link will summarize my basic theoretical perspective:http://www.markfoster.net/old/index41.html/
Mark Foster is a full-time, tenured, college sociology professor. He has a Ph.D. in sociology and history, an M.A. in sociology, an A.B.J. in magazine journalism, sociology, and English; and an A.A. in English. Additionally, in his areas of expertise and/or interest, he is a social theorist, a sociologist of religion, a critical realist, a public sociologist, a clinical sociologist, a cultural historian, an advocacy journalist (bachelor of arts in journalism degree), a member of the Bahá’í Faith, an Autistic rights activist, an Autist, and a ventriloquist. Follow this link http://www.markfoster.net/ for the portal to his 29 domains and 26 websites.
MY THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: B.
sociology theory and literary theory: CRITICAL THEORY
ONE'S OWN TIME AND PLACE
One of Shakespeare’s defining knacks, so it’s said, is and was his ability to render his own time and place more or less irrelevant to the appreciation of his art.(1) In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as I was settling into the last college in which I would spend my teaching career, there was a theoretically informed return to history in Renaissance/early modern studies. Part of that return to history was the result of Stephen Greenblatt who is regarded as, arguably, the major founder of New Historicism, a set of critical practices that he often refers to as "cultural poetics." I became aware of this New Historicism because it frequently came-up in my reading of literary theory and literary criticism in the field of English Literature in which I was a lecturer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was required to know about literary theory and literary criticism.
New Historicism(NH) consolidated critical theory(2) into easier forms of scholarly practice and activity. It did this in the fields of academic literary theory and criticism as well as sociological theory where the study of critical theory was found. NH gained widespread influence in the 1990s at the same time as I had come to teach sociology theory to human service students working on their Certificate IV as well as on their Associate Diploma at what is now the Polytechnic-West, Thornlie Campus in Perth Western Australia. I was also required to teach literary theory and criticism as part of the English Literature syllabus. I taught this latter subject to matriculation students wanting to go to university the following year. I also did this teaching at the same campus, Polytechnic-West, in Perth Western Australia. It is now the largest campus of the several that are are part of Polytechnic-West.
This NH first developed in the 1980s when I was working as an adult educator in Australia's Northern Territory(NT). I knew nothing of Stephen Greenblatt and NH since I was not teaching either sociological theory or English Literature at the time. The work of the Harvard English Professor, Stephen Greenblatt, would not become part of my reading for nearly another decade, after I moved from the NT in 1985, and then from the Pilbara in northern WA in 1987 to Perth WA. In the 1990s NH gained widespread influence. New Historicism aims simultaneously to understand literary works, like novels and plays, through their cultural context and to understand intellectual history through literature. In some ways NH is an extension of the field of study known as the History of Ideas which developed in the 1950s. NH often refers to itself as a form of "Cultural Poetics." In the 1990s I was also teaching a course in the History of Ideas, and so it was that for several years my reading was embedded in New Historicism.
New Historicism(NH) is a form of postmodernism applied to interpretive history. Postmodernism is a late-20th-century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism. Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, history, art, fiction, literature, philosophy, economics, architecture, and literary criticism. It is often associated with deconstruction and poststructuralism because its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as twentieth-century poststructural thought. For students and teachers, lecturers & tutors, professors and academics like myself many of these terms and theories, frameworks and paradigms which aimed to understand elements of human culture in terms of their relationship to larger, overarching systems, structures, and their inter-relationships, these modes of reasoning gave rise to ambiguity and complexity. To put this simply: all this was very difficult to understand to say the least. In some ways I was happy when my academic portfolio moved on to other subjects by the late 1990s when I at last retired from FT teaching and lecturing. Readers wanting to get a handle on some of these terms like: postmodernism, deconstruction, and poststructuralism, inter alia, can Google the Wikipedia online encyclopedia for useful and comprehensive overviews of their content.
Greenblatt's works have been influential since the early 1980s when he introduced the term 'new historicism'. Greenblatt has written and edited numerous books and articles relevant to new historicism, the study of culture, Renaissance studies, and Shakespeare studies. He is considered to be an expert in these fields. He is also co-founder of the literary-cultural journal Representations which often publishes reviews and articles by new historicists. His most popular work is Will in the World, a biography of Shakespeare that was on The New York Times Best Seller List for nine weeks. He won the 'Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction' in 2012 and the 'National Book Award for Nonfiction' in 2011 for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.
The larger issue in Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt(Cape, 430 pages, 2004), and it’s an issue which arises from the whole genre of literary biography as it is often currently practiced. There is, writes Greenblatt, a heuristic poverty of biographical explanations of works of art. Writing might come from lots of places: reading, complex emotions, dying fathers, splendid daughters, chance encounters, grandparents, memory, fantasy, pressing need, friendships, enmities, financial pressures, local faction, drink, religious discord, demons, darkness, aliens, synaptic mis-firings, a sound in the street, modes of land tenure, the muse. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Michael Dobson, "A Furtive Night’s Work" in The London Review of Books, a review of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro, Faber, 430 pages; and 2 See 'Critical Theory' below.
My own time and place is
highly relevant to what I
write, unlike the works of
Shakespeare, at least that
is the view of some of the
literary theorists & critics.
I can appreciate the ideas
of those New Historicists,
and have attached some of
their ideas to my own way
of trying to understand my
own time and place and the
times and places of all those
whom I come across in the
long and complex history of
human society on our planet.
1 Critical theory is a school of thought that stresses the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture by applying knowledge from the social sciences and the humanities. As a term, critical theory has two meanings with different origins and histories: the first originated in sociology and the second originated in literary criticism, whereby it is used and applied as an umbrella term that can describe a theory founded upon critique; thus, the theorist Max Horkheimer described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them." I first came across this subject matter in the early-to-mid-1990s. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_theory
Postmodern Critical Theory
While modernist critical theory (as described above) concerns itself with “forms of authority and injustice that accompanied the evolution of industrial and corporate capitalism as a political-economic system,” postmodern critical theory politicizes social problems “by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, to implicate themselves in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and to relativize their findings”. Meaning itself is seen as unstable due to the rapid transformation in social structures. As a result, the focus of research is centered on local manifestations, rather than broad generalizations.
Postmodern critical research is also characterized by the crisis of representation, which rejects the idea that a researcher’s work is an “objective depiction of a stable other.” Instead, many postmodern scholars have adopted “alternatives that encourage reflection about the ‘politics and poetics’ of their work. In these accounts, the embodied, collaborative, dialogic, and improvisational aspects of qualitative research are clarified”.
The term "critical theory" is often appropriated when an author (perhaps most notably Michel Foucault) works within sociological terms, yet attacks the social or human sciences (thus attempting to remain "outside" those frames of inquiry).
Jean Baudrillard has also been described as a critical theorist to the extent that he was an unconventional and critical sociologist; this appropriation is similarly casual, holding little or no relation to the Frankfurt School.
Language and Construction
The two points at which there is the greatest overlap or mutual impingement of the two versions of critical theory are in their interrelated foci on language, symbolism, and communication and in their focus on social construction.
Language and Communication
From the 1960s and 1970s onward, language, symbolism, text, and meaning came to be seen as the theoretical foundation for the humanities, through the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein,Ferdinand de Saussure, George Herbert Mead, Noam Chomsky, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and other thinkers in linguistic and analytic philosophy, structural linguistics, symbolic interactionism, hermeneutics, semiology, linguistically oriented psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan, Alfred Lorenzer), and deconstruction.
When, in the 1970s and 1980s, Jürgen Habermas redefined critical social theory as a theory of communication, i.e. communicative competence and communicative rationality on the one hand, distorted communication on the other, the two versions of critical theory began to overlap to a much greater degree than before.
25/11/'14 to 25/2/'16.
MORE ON CRITICAL THEORY AND THE FRANKFURT SCHOOL
The Frankfurt School is a school of social theory & philosophy associated in part with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The school initially formed during the interwar period in Germany and consisted of dissidents who were at home neither in the existent capitalist, fascist, nor communist systems that had formed during the interwar period. Meanwhile, many of these theorists believed that traditional theory could not adequately explain the turbulent and unexpected development of capitalist societies in the twentieth century. Critical of both capitalism and Soviet socialism, their writings pointed to the possibility of an alternative path to social development. For more on the Franfurt School and critical theory go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School For a u-tube item on a member of this school, Theodore Adorno, go to:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YGnPgtWhsw&feature=em-subs_digest
Feminist sociology is a conflict theory and a theoretical perspective which observes gender in its relation to power, both at the level of face-to-face interaction & reflexivity within a social structure at large. Reflexivity, a word which is seen more often in recent years, refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a relationship in which neither can be assigned as causes or effects. In sociology, reflexivity therefore comes to mean an act of self-reference where examination or action "bends back on", refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination. For more on the concept of reflexivity go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflexivity_(social_theory)
Focuses in feminist sociology include: sexual orientation, race, economic status, and nationality. At the core of feminist sociology is the idea of the systematic oppression of women and the historical dominance of men within most societies: 'patriarchy'. Feminist thought has a rich history which may be categorized into three 'waves'. The current, 'third wave', emphasizes the concepts of globalization, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, and postmodernism. Contemporary feminist thought has frequently tended to do-away with all generalizations regarding sex and gender, & has become closely linked with antihumanism, posthumanism, queer theory and the work of Michel Foucault. I encourage readers to do some Googling in order to clarify and underpin their understanding of some of the terms I have used in this paragraph.
Not only does feminist sociology have a rich history, but it has taken-on a rich and varied form & contemporary analysis. The following types of feminism each have their own focus, definition and area of study: anarcho-feminism, liberal feminism, cultural feminism, feminist existentialism, radical feminism, Marxist feminism, sex-positive feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, and postmodern feminism. Again, I encourage readers to do some Googling in order to clarify and underpin their understanding of some of the terms I have used in this paragraph.
There are also lists and categories of subjects within the broad field of feminism: (i) a vast literature of articles and books, (ii) conservative feminisms, (iii) ecofeminist authors, (iv) feminist rhetoricians, (v) suffragists and suffragettes, (vi) women's rights activists, (vii) women's suffrage organizations, (viii) women's rights by country, and (ix) feminists by nationality.
Feminist theory, as distinct from feminist sociology, is found in more than two dozen academic fields and related subjects. There is also a long list of feminist theorists. Readers with the interest can access these fields, subjects & theorists, as well as much more about feminist sociology, at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_sociology
In the 1950s, sociologists coined the term “homophily” — love of the same — to explain our inexorable tendency to link up with one another in ways that confirm rather than test our core beliefs. Those who liked Ike, the President of the USA in the 1950s), in other words, liked each other. The term didn’t catch on, but the concept is now enjoying a renaissance, in part because it has been repeatedly invoked to explain the American electorate’s apparent polarization into equally self-regarding camps.
“Similarity breeds connection,” the sociologists Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and James Cook wrote in their classic 2001 paper on the subject, “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks,” and “the result is that people’s personal networks are homogeneous.” This year, other academics have cited homophily in elucidating everything from why teenagers choose friends who smoke and drink the same amount that they do to “the strong isolation of lower-class blacks from the interracial- marriage market.” Researchers at M.I.T. even published “Homophily in Online Dating: When Do You Like Someone Like Yourself?” which showed that you like someone like yourself most of the time, online or off. So much for “opposites attract.”
The Web site O’Reilly Radar, in its continuing discussion of technology trends, raised the question earlier this year of how to get opposites back into the equation. In “Homophily in Social Software,” Nat Torkington, a trend spotter for O’Reilly Media, argued that “homophily raises the question for social-software designers of how much they should encourage homophily and how much they want to mix it up.” Social-software designers are the people behind Web sites like Facebook and MySpace, which tend to bring birds of a feather together. Meanwhile, chains of recommendations (“if you liked . . . ”) on sites like Amazon reinforce our original preferences even as they claim to expand our horizons. For more go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10Section2a.t-4.html?_r=0
THE ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES
In 1974 I began what turned out to be seven years of studying organization science(OS) which is "the examination of how individuals construct organizational structures, processes, and practices and how these, in turn, shape social relations and create institutions that ultimately influence people". Organizational studies, or OS, comprises different areas that deal with the different aspects of organizations. Many of the approaches are functionalist, but critical research also provides alternative frames for understanding in the field. Sub-fields include: organizational behavior, organizational theory, organizational culture, and organizational psychology.
Part and parcel of OS were management studies or management science(MS). MS in all business and organizational activities is the act of coordinating the efforts of people to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. MS comprises: planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization, a group of one or more people or entities. MS includes efforts for the purpose of accomplishing a goal. Resourcing encompasses the deployment and manipulation of human resources, financial resources, technological resources, and natural resources. For a more detailed outline of MS go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management
My studies in these fields included academic courses toward a M. Ed. Admin, a masters of educational administration degree at the University of New England. During this time I completed the course-work, but not the dissertation. I also completed three units of study toward a Grad. Dip. in P.M. & I. R., the field of personnel management & industrial relations at the then Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, TCAE, in Launceston. That CAE is now a university. In 1979 I tutored in organizational behaviour at the then TCAE. These 7 years of part-time, external studies, helped to lay the foundation, with my B.A. and B. Ed., for my future work, my teaching in the 1980s and 1990s in: management studies and adult education, general studies and human services in technical and further education colleges in Australia. Such colleges that are now polytechnics.
Polytechnic West, which was formerly Swan TAFE, is a State Training Provider in Western Australia. It was established under the Vocational Education and Training Act in 1996 while I was a lecturer at several of its campus locations. It was, and is, based in Perth, Western Australia. Polytechnic West is one of the largest training providers in the state & teaches & instructs in a range of areas from trade-based apprenticeships, to business and finance, to aviation and community services across its eight campuses in: Bentley, Carlisle, Midland, Thornlie, Balga, Jandakot and two Armadale campuses. For more on this polytechnic where I was employed from 1988 to 1999 go to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Polytechnic_of_Western_Australia
A polytechnic is an institute of technology or a university of technology. The term is a designation employed for a wide range of learning institutions awarding different types of degrees and operating often at variable levels of the educational system. Polytechnic West provides qualifications which include: Associate Degree, Advanced Diploma, Diploma, Certificate IV, Certificate III, Certificate II, and Certificate I. It is an institution of higher education and advanced engineering, but is not engaged in scientific research. Its speciality is professional vocational education: in science and engineering, technology and different sorts of technical subjects. It is also involved in senior secondary education focusing on vocational training. The term institute of technology is often abbreviated to IT and should not to be confused with information technology.
Social control refers generally to societal and political mechanisms or processes that regulate individual and group behavior in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social control: (i) informal means of control involving the Internalisation of norms and values by a process known as socialization, which is defined as "the process by which an individual, born with behavioral potentialities of enormously wide range, is led to develop actual behavior which is confined to the narrower range of what is acceptable for him by the group standards;" and (ii) formal means of social control involving external sanctions enforced by government to prevent the establishment of chaos or anomie in society. Some theorists, such as Émile Durkheim, refer to this form of control as regulation.
Gilles Deleuze’s essay, 'Postscript on the Societies of Control' is available in audio-visual form at: https://www.youtube.com/embed/GIus7lm_ZK0 Many of those writing under the influence of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have interpreted desire somewhat crudely as an inherently positive, primal propulsive force that opposes domination and control. Within the realms of critical & cultural theory in particular, this has indeed led to a marked shift in emphasis and attention away from a concern with representation and critical interpretation. The shift has taken place toward the generation of creative proliferations of desire. My reading of Deleuze and Guattari, however, is closer to that of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi when, in The Soul at Work, he argues that desire should be conceived more as a field than as a force. ‘It is the field where an intense struggle takes place or, better, an entangled network of different and conflicting forces’, so writes Bifo. ‘Desire is not always good boy, nor is it always a positive force of history. Desire is the psychological field where imagination flows, and where ideologies and economic interests are constantly clashing’ (Bifo, 2009, p. 118). For more on social control and Deleuze's essay go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_control This entire discussion of Gilles Deleuze could, and perhaps should, be placed in the modern philosophy or political philosophy sections of this website. For now, though, I will leave it here.
Gilles Deleuze is a French philosopher, & Félix Guattari is a French psychiatrist and political activist. They wrote a number of works together. In addition they both have distinguished independent careers. For more on them go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deleuze_and_Guattari The concept of social control in the writings of these men and others has been strongly linked to another concept: the mass society. J. Baudrillard, in his In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, has tried to show that, far from being inherently politically subversive, the masses also have another, a constitutionally passive side to their MO. "It has always been thought," writes Baudrillard, "and this is the very ideology of the mass media, that it is the media which envelop the masses." Baudrillard contrinues: "The secret of manipulation has been sought in a frantic semiology of the mass media. It has been overlooked, though, in this naive logic of communication, that the masses are a stronger medium than all the media, that it is the former who envelop and absorb the latter. To put this another way: "there is no priority of one over the other. The mass and the media are one single process. Mass(age) is the message." (See J. Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, or, The End of the Social & Other Essays, N.Y.: Semiotexte, 1983, p. 44; & Franco Berardi, The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy, Los Angeles, California, Semiotext(e), 2009, p. 155.)
The online journal Postmodern Culture(Volume 24, Number 2, January 2014) has a review of Nathan Widder, Political Theory After Deleuze(London: Continuum, 2012) which begins: "It’s no coincidence that Gilles Deleuze’s most sustained discussions of politics dwell on its plurality; politics is not given any clearly denotative sense, nor do we find its determinate abstraction (“the political”), except insofar as particular instantiations give rise to “many politics.” In an eponymous essay, Deleuze begins by explaining, “Whether we are individuals or groups, we are made up of lines,” and he elaborates each line according to a different political dimension (Dialogues 124). The most recognizable and rigid of lines determine our lives according to the institutional segments through which we pass and to which we return (family, school, the military, one’s profession)."
"Nevertheless", continues the review, "these lines are liable to give rise to encounters which detour us into more supple lines, aberrant paths and anomalies (the bourgeois housewife who, by some contingency, confronts the factory: “I thought I was seeing convicts…” Finally, Deleuze says, there are lines of flight that carry us beyond the thresholds of both rigid segments and supple movements—delirious and insurgent lines whose destination we cannot predict (“Instead of being bombarded from all sides in a limiting cosmos, the people and the earth must be like the vectors of a cosmos that carries them off”). For more go to: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/postmodern_culture/v024/24.2.flaxman.html
Visual sociology is an area of sociology concerned with the visual dimensions of social life. This subdiscipline is nurtured by the International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA), which holds annual conferences and publishes the journal, Visual Studies. Because of the interests of its founders, the IVSA tends to be concerned with photography & documentary filmmaking within a sociological context. Visual sociology, theoretically at least, includes the study of all kinds of visual material and the visual social world, and uses all kinds of visual material in its methodologies. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_sociology
A PSYCHOLOGIST SWITCHES TO SOCIOLOGY
The following article entitled "Sociology versus Psychology: The Social Context of Psychological Pathology and Child Abuse" was written by Michael Sosteteric. Sosteric is a sociologist at the University of Alberta. He has an interest in scholarly communication, inequality and social stratification, gender, new communication technologies, consciousness research, religion, spirituality, mysticism, and magic. He founded the first ever electronic journal in sociology, the Electronic Journal of Sociology, and the first online magazine of sociology, The Socjourn. For the last decade, 2004 to 2014, he has been busy exploring the "hallways of consciousness."
Sosteric started off in psychology. His first few years in university had him studying Freud and Pavlov, Maslow and many other theorists in psychology. He grew to prefer the existential & humanist psychologies. He was generally happy with psychology but in his 4th undergraduate year the psychology department went “Behaviourist.” Humanist & existential psychologists were pushed out of the department; behavioural & cognitive psychologists were hired to replace them. After that, Sosteric did not last very long. The new focus of the department was disturbing to him. It became, as is the nature of behavioral psychology, more about controlling the physical unit with reward and punishment than it was about investigating human potential. Sosteric's view of psychology was more about uplifting the human being, transcending pain and suffering, and moving towards holistic health and wellbeing.
The “reward and punishment,” cognitive control focus in psychology didn’t fit in with Sosteric's world view, his cosmology, so to speak. So, he left psychology and moved into sociology. He was much happier in sociology. It was not because sociology had a lot to say about transcending pain and suffering, though, and moving towards holistic health & wellbeing. It was because sociology had a much better view of the cause of pain and suffering than psychology did, even in its humanistic and existentialist forms. Psychology, for all cognitive and behavioral sophistication, tended to “miss the boat” on a lot of different things, such was Sosteric's view. Psychology, even in its humanistic and existentialist forms, tends to “individualize” pain & suffering. If you have a problem, psychology looks for the cause inside the individual. This cause can be many different things like: genetic heritage, neurological imbalance, faulty thinking processes, or pathological reward structures. Whatever the cause, though, the source is always you, so goes the psychological view.
There are now strong indications that psychology is becoming more “sociological.” A good example, from Sosteric's perspective, is the field of “relational violence.” Relational violence is any form of violence perpetrated on one individual. This violence can be physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual. Sosteric has, and had, a particular interest in child abuse and domestic and/or intimate partner violence. Since Sosteric got into counseling in the early 21st century, and after listening to people’s horror stories about their childhood experiences, he has come to see child abuse as a major precursor to mental health issues. The long and the short of it is simple: the violence people experience in their childhood and early adult lives leads to neurosis and pathology. Put another way Sosteric sees mental illness and even physical illness of any form as never sourced in the individual alone. It is found in the relations and context that surround the individual. Recently psychology has begun to confirm this, and in a big way. Research psychologists are finding that abuse of all forms is associated with disability, decline, and death.
For more on Sosteric's move and the difference between these two social sciences go to: http://www.sociology.org/columnists/michael-sosteric/sociology-versus-psychology-the-social-context-of-psychological-pathology-and-child-abuse
Karl Heinrich Marx(1818-1883) was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Marx's work in economics laid the basis for the current understanding of labour, and its relation to capital. His writings have influenced much of subsequent economic thought. I place Marx in this sociological theory sub-section of my website because most of my study of Marx has been during my study and teaching of sociology and, especially, sociology theory. Marx published numerous books during his lifetime, the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital(1867–1894). For an interesting review of a new, a 1998, edition of The Communist Manifesto in the London Review of Books by Stephen Holmes entitled "The End of Idiocy on a Planetary Scale" go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v20/n21/stephen-holmes/the-end-of-idiocy-on-a-planetary-scale
The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels(Verso, 100 pages, April 1998) was reviewed in the London Review of Books some six months before I retired from FT teaching after a 50 years student and paid employment life, 1949 to 1999. The Manifesto provides a stylised sketch of ‘the history of all hitherto existing societies’. This history reveals the origins of evil in the world as well as mankind’s history which discloses a monotonous pattern of sameness. One fact is common to all past ages: the exploitation of one part of society by the other. This insight, while hardly original, is unquestionably true. If Marx had stopped here, his countless critics would have been silenced. The trouble is that he adds, inviting us to share his exhilaration, that the past is no longer an accurate predictor of the future. We are on the edge of a world that is utterly new, like nothing anyone has ever seen before.
For the first time in recorded history, the good will definitively vanquish the bad. Thus will the bitter bifurcation of society, between the have and the have-nots, be healed. Thus will mankind be reconciled to itself. Capitalism will collapse as a civilisation, but not on the unhappy model of the Roman Empire, for it will leave no ruins behind and no wave of barbarism will ensue. Reflecting on this fantasy, Raymond Aron gently and wisely remarked that Marx was apparently unable to distinguish between the desirable & the likely. Aron sees Marx's story-line for the future as "weak."
Raymond Aron(1905-1983) was a French philosopher, sociologist, journalist, & political scientist. The Manifesto’s philosophy of history assumes that fundamental problems can be solved without spawning equally troublesome fundamental problems. Safely hugging the shore of the present, Marx says little about the communist future, except that scarcity and selfishness will disappear, & social harmony and fellowship will prevail. The remarkably broad appeal of Marxism stems from this strategic lack of detail. For more on Marx go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx
Starting from the role of economic capital for social positioning, Bourdieu(1930-2002) pioneered investigative frameworks and terminologies such as cultural, social, and symbolic capital, & the concepts of habitus, field or location, & symbolic violence to reveal the dynamics of power relations in social life. His work emphasized the role of practice and embodiment or forms in social dynamics and worldview construction, often in dialogue and opposition to universalized Western philosophical traditions. He built upon the theories of Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Edmund Husserl, Georges Canguilhem, Karl Marx, Gaston Bachelard, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Erwin Panofsky, and Marcel Mauss. A notable influence on Bourdieu was Blaise Pascal, after whom Bourdieu titled his Pascalian Meditations. If I had to summarize briefly my relationship with Bourdieu, I would say he is a writer with whom I often disagree but who challenges me, questions me, stimulates me, and makes me react. This is true of many writers who have influenced my thinking.
A recent French documentary about Pierre Bourdieu is entitled, after one of his own pronouncements: La Sociologie est un sport de combat. When he died in January 2002, Bourdieu was widely considered France’s leading sociologist, its most influential intellectual, and one of its angriest men. In an autobiographical fragment published within days of his death, and now available as a book, Esquisse pour une auto-analyse, he recalled the ‘stubborn rage’ engendered in him by his experience of boarding-school and the mockery he suffered there, in part for his rural accent and origins, in part for being a ‘bon élève’ who clearly aspired to rise above his fellow pupils. The fragment’s unauthorised publication set off a noisy public dispute, which returned again and again to Bourdieu’s personal combativeness. For more on this review of Bourdieu's book Science of Science and Reflexivity (translated by Richard Nice, Polity, 200 pages, 2004) go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n08/bruce-robbins/martial-art For more on Bourdieu go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Bourdieu
THANKING DR MARK FOSTER
My own view, or at least a view that is dominated by a sociological perspective, is that in order to understand the individual one must begin with the synergetic concept of social structure on both the macro and micro levels. I thank Dr Mark Foster for much of what follows. Readers wanting to know more about him can go to:https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Masail/conversations/topics/30 In a psychologistic society, such as exists in the United States, Canada and Australia where I have lived all my life, conceptualizing social structure as a force which dominates, and acts over and above, any individual influences, is virtually alien, to most people's way of thinking about themselves and their society. Societies and groups consist of both structure and people. Except in fictitious or propositional works, one without the other is inconceivable. A car, for instance, is built with both a blueprint and auto parts. Lacking the blueprint, the structure, the parts have no meaning. Social structures, or frameworks, include the various social institutions such as: religion, the economy, government, the family, education, the arts, inter alia, in addition to gender, race, social class, sporting arenas, particular classrooms, and so on.
Manichean-like dualist conceptions of good and evil or of right and wrong---moralizing, in other words---have dominanted much of modern Western thinking for some time, arguably centuries or even millennia. Sociology theories which are of especial interest to Mark Foster propose a more structurally relativist model. Viewing social action in relation to frameworks of values and norms will allow degrees of approximation to a given structure. I find much of Foster's thinking in these areas not only of interest but also intellectually attractive.
Situations which might be perceived as mentally or emotionally problematic can, instead, be viewed as instructive, if one follows Foster's line of reasoning. Foster believes that our collective angst is a product of excessive psychologism. As social beings, learning takes place as we come into dialectical tension with our structural surroundings. But to become engaged in this type of trans-individual perception, one needs to develop a sociological imagination & avoid conceptualizing one's experiences in purely personal categories. The concept of the sociological imagination hinges on individuals’ developing the ability to understand and articulate how their personal troubles intersect with public issues. It is at the intersection between the personal and the social that students---at least those students who find sociology theory engaging---find social theory a compelling and worthwhile endeavor. This is because they are able to recognize their own participation in the social world. To put this concept of the sociological imagination another way is "to clothe the dry bones of social theory with the living and plastic tissue which grows from literary imagination." —Lewis Coser (1972:xviii) For more on the concept of the sociological imagination go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociological_imagination
Knowledge, and what a culture defines as truth, are grounded in the contingencies of dynamic structures. And truth itself, or at least what may be referred to as such, emerges out of the particularities of social interaction. The Platonic worlds of forms and of outward appearances are, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable. Plato's theory of Forms or theory of Ideas asserts that non-material abstract but substantial forms, or ideas, and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. For more on this theory go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Forms
As far as dynamic structures are concerned, there are both micro-structures, and macro-structures. Each of these levels of structures acts as a social force to delimit the range of socially acceptable statuses and behaviors. Individual exceptions, such as those which may be attributable to neurological pathology, are not significant for our sociological purposes here. These structures are both enabling and constraining. Society is a composite of the people and the social structures. Both people and structures adapt over long periods of time and especially during periods of significant large-scale crisis. People adapt through creative, dialectical interaction with these structures. For more on this theme go to these three links:http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/about/ , http://tso.sagepub.com/content/38/4/401.full and http://cms.definestudiocms.com/en/sites/84267/editables/445453/edit
CRITICAL REALISM: Part I
My approach to sociology, as I pointed out in the introduction to this part of my website, is eclectic. Critical Realism(CR) is one of the strands of theory that I draw upon. It is a complex theory to explain and I hope to come back to this topic and try to simplify the langage. The language possesses an intellectual, a conceptual, density which loses most students in my experience as a teacher of sociological theory. I will deal briefly with CR below.
CR is a philosophical and theoretical movement on the intellectual left, but "left" does not refer in this context to a political orientation. Critical Realism takes no particular position on partisan political issues. It is for this reason, among others, that I have been attracted to and utilize this theory in my approach to politics and social issues. Critical realists have a variety of political and economic views. Intellectual left, as I use the term refers to: (i) social emancipation and spiritual self-realization, and (ii) consciousness-raising or the critical consciousness of oppressed peoples. By providing theories which are, in some ways, explanatory accounts of behavior, sociology and other human sciences can help point the way toward emancipation, self-realization, and consciousness raising. Such is a key goal for CR.
The terms intellectual left and liberalism need to be distinguised. Social and economic justice as well as human rights and emancipation are concerns which often characterize the intellectual left. On the other hand, individual freedom or liberty is, by custom and definition, a liberal issue. Strictly speaking, both pro-choice and pro-life views on abortion are liberal positions. Those on the pro-choice side focus upon the reproductive freedom of the mother. Pro-lifers, however, are primarily interested in the freedom or liberty of the fetus to come to term. The capitalist free market is based on classic economic liberalism. For more on these terms Google: (i) Mark A. Foster, Ph.D., sociology of religion and theory, (ii) clinical sociology at: Portal: www.markfoster.net, or (iii) Critical realism: www.structurization.com
CRITICAL REALISM: Part II
For a basic biography of Roy Bhaskar and his sociology go to: http://criticalrealism.wikispaces.com/Roy++Bhaskar. His consideration of the philosophies of science and social science resulted in the development of Critical Realism(CR), an ontological(meaning) and emancipatory body of thought that aspires to: (a) move beyond The Enlightenment to a new Eudaimonian Enlightenment(go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudaimonia, (b) avoid irrationalism and reductionist rationalism through historical self-awareness and dialectic. To achieve this, it draws on pre-modern dialectical and spiritual traditions as well as on positive aspects of The Enlightenment like its commitment to scientific inquiry and to freedom. For a summary of the theory of critical realism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Bhaskar, and a video explaining Bhaskar's views go to:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bHeCBKITPo&lc=qPKOaZ5wfwMJ2tYlaaUBlAFXhq_buvlK2Cum0Lne
CR is also a philosophical approach that: (i) defends the critical and emancipatory potential of rational scientific and philosophical enquiry against both positivist, broadly defined, and 'postmodern' challenges. The term CR is an elision of Transcendental Realism and Critical Naturalism that has been subsequently accepted by Bhaksar after being proposed by others. CR includes: (i) Bhaskar's work on both the philosophy of science and social science and (ii) his work on dialectic, social emancipation and the history of philosophy. Its approach emphasises the importance of distinguishing between epistemological and ontological questions and the significance of objectivity properly understood for a critical project. Its conception of philosophy and social science is a socially situated, but not socially determined one, which maintains the possibility for objective critique to motivate social change, with the ultimate end being a promotion of human freedom.
The philosophy began life as what Bhaskar called 'Transcendental Realism' in A Realist Theory of Science (1975), which he extended into the social sciences as 'Critical Naturalism' in The Possibility of Naturalism (1978). CR shares certain dimensions with German Critical Theory & the Frankfurt School. CR should not be confused with various other 'critical realism's, including Georg Lukács' aesthetic theory, and Alistair McGrath's, Scientific Theology, although they share common goals. In contemporary CR texts 'Critical Realism' is often abbreviated to 'CR'. A later dialectical development of CR in Bhaskar's work in Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom (1993) and Plato Etcetera (1994) led to a separate branch or second phase of CR known as 'Dialectical Critical Realism' (DCR). From East to West (2000) marked the third or spiritual turn of CR in the form of Transcendental Dialectical Critical Realism (TDCR). For an excellent talk on: critical realism, capitalism, and socialism go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT7RY-W3gbg&feature=youtu.be&a
Some of MY INTERNET POSTS below on the subject of SOCIOLOGY:
INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY FOR HUMAN SERVICE WORKERS
AT THORNLIE COLLEGE OF TAFE IN 1998
I put together the notes for this introductory course in sociological theory as a basic resource for my fellow lecturers and students in the diploma of human services. This course was an introductory sociological theory program for students intending to work in the field of human services. The focus was, in the main, intended to have a practical orientation to real social problems and issues. I taught this course in 1998 on two occasions. Together with notes from additional reading and any personally selected and additional photocopied material students could obtain, these notes were aimed at providing a sufficient base for my students to complete the course and its assignments. This was the base for any understandings that my students would acquire and require for their participation.
Many of the concepts and the language in the program were not easy to learn and deal with; they required the concentration and persistence of students if they were to be successful in the program; if they were to pass. The notes I provided followed the syllabus quite precisely. The course was a very broad one and, I think, a relevant one to the work in the field of human services in which students would be engaged on graduating. I enjoyed our time together, our discussions in class and I looked forward, at the time, to the success of my students in the subject.
In 1999 I retired from the teaching profession and no longer needed these notes for formal teaching but kept them, as I indicated above, for my personal and private use on my retirement. They have been used extensively and updated in the last 15 years: 2000 to 2014. For two journal articles on the teaching of sociological theory go to:http://tso.sagepub.com/content/38/4/383.full and to: http://tso.sagepub.com/content/38/4/340.full
Lecturer in Sociological Theory
for Human Service Workers
Thornlie Campus South East Metropolitan College
of Technical and Further Education
Western Australian Department of Training
MY JOURNEY THROUGH SOCIOLOGY
My experience these days of sociology, as a formal discipline, is just about entirely on the Internet. Occasionally I dabble, for I am retired now and I have made of dabbling an art-form; I dabble in this rich and variegated academic field which more than fifty years ago I had just entered in the last year of my teenage life. I remember well that first year of the formal study of sociology; it was a year, an academic year, which ended in early May of 1964, just before I got a job checking telephone poles for internal decay with the Bell Telephone Company of Canada. In about February or, perhaps, March, a new tutor joined the sociology staff. He was able to explain the mysteries of the sociological theorist Talcott Parsons better than anyone.
At the time, Parsons occupied a position of more than a little significance in the empyrean of sociological theory godheads. It was an empyrean at the very centre of that introductory course in sociology. If one wanted to pass that course in sociology one had to have a basic understanding of Parsons' sociological theory. And that was no easy task for the several hundred sociology students hoping to get at least a BA by 1966.
Everyone admired this tutor as if he was some brilliant theologian who had just arrived from the Vatican with authoritative pronouncements for us all to write down on our A-4 note paper to be regurgitated on the inevitable April examination. He was an Englishman, if I remember, rather slim and a good talker. And Parsons, for all of us, was about as intricate and complex, as elusive and variable, as you could get and still stay in the same language and on the same earthly plane. I was able to pass sociology that year by the skin of my teeth. I still deal with the intricacies of this field of study, some by the skin of my teeth and others with a good bite of the cherry as it is often said colloquially. For the rest of this story go to the following link:http://forums.kingdomofloathing.com/vb/archive/index
THE COMPLEXITY AND ABSTRUSENESS OF MUCH IN ACADEMIA
The following three paragraphs have been written by someone who has been in universities for most of his adult life. He says with a humour I enjoyed, and in introducing his words, that he does not know whether he should be pitied, or be given a medal for foolhardy valor. He writes: "In universities, one gets ahead by projecting an attitude of high seriousness and giving people the impression—often false, of course—that one is working on important matters. You have to develop a certain look—the look of a strategic thinker who is scanning the distant horizon for the newest ideas. You of course are thinking about the beautiful co-ed in the fourth row of one of your classes even though you seem to be struggling with enormous thoughts and weighty problems." And he continues:
"It helps if you can write in an unintelligible manner; the French are masters of this. I don't think anyone really understands what Baudrillard or Derrida or Foucault or Deleuze writes. The more opaque and elliptical the better, and the more nonsense you write—with a sense of assurance and confidence to carry it all off—the higher your reputation will be. That is because academics, all of whom think they are brilliant and remarkable, will assume that since they can't figure out what you are talking about, you must be even more brilliant than they are. I always advise young faculty members to read the French philosophers and culture critics and imitate them stylistically."
"The most important thing," he goes on to say," about his academic career, is that it gave him the time and freedom to pursue his scholarly interests and write his books. Many professors mistakenly argue that the three best things about academic life, at least in the northern hemisphere, are, sad to say: June, July and August! They are, of course, forgetting about the month between semesters!" There is certainly some truth in all this, as far as I am concerned, since I enjoyed many years working in academia from the 1970s through to the 1990s. But, thankfully, all is not absurdity and abstruseness, scholarly vacuity and hollow vacuums. For more from this disillusioned, and now retired, professor who writes with humour and some delight go to:http://www.enculturation.net/writing-myself-into-existence
MORE COMMENTS ON MY SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY COURSE
Undergraduate sociological theory classes, like the one I taught back in the 1990s, are frequently populated by students whose primary reason for being present is to fulfil course requirements. In the sociological theory course I taught at a large college of technical and further education in Western Australia, students approached my theory course with some dread, and some enthusiasm. Consequently, the teaching of sociological theory demanded recognition of the problems students experienced, and creative, thoughtful pedagogical methods to both engage and educate students.
Student trepidation about taking sociological theory was a response to: (i) an uncertainty about what the study of theory entailed, (ii) their knowledge that it would include a lot of abstract reading and difficult assignments, and (iii) the idea that theory was only loosely connected to the “real world.” All was not trepidation, though. Australians are, for the most part, a pragmatic and pleasure-loving people, and theorizing abstractly does not turn most students on. Australians, both students and adults, like to do things, to make things, to be on-the-go: cooking and gardening, playing or watching sport, going to the beach or the bush, talking and socializing, having fun and enjoying fashion. Sociology thoery is not for most students, or adults for that matter, at least not Downunder here in the Antipodes.
A recent study of sociology undergraduates conducted by the American Sociological Association found that 94.6 per cent of majors chose to study sociology because they were “interested in sociological concepts.” Some 63.3 percent opted for the major because they wanted to understand the relationship “between social forces and the individual.” Theory is, of course, a critical part of making the link between social forces and the individual and a key source of sociological concepts. Forty percent of respondents indicated that they chose the major because they wanted to “change society.” The same proportion of undergraduates indicated that they wanted to major in sociology because it would help them to “better understand their own life." If social change and introspective understanding are among students’ key goals in the major, it becomes imperative to provide a clear link between sociological theory and both the examined life as well as a better understanding of the issues and problems faced by society.
The course I taught was part of the Diploma of Human Services and the Certificate IV in Human Services. The course covered both classical sociological theory and contemporary sociological theory. None of the students had taken any sociology prior to taking this theory course and the course presumed, therefore, no basic familiarity with concepts like the sociological imagination and conflict, as well as the functionalist and symbolic interactionist perspectives in sociological analysis. For an analysis of a sociology theory course in a B.A.(Sociology) program go to:http://tso.sagepub.com/content/38/4/340.full
Definitions of Clinical Sociology and Related Subjects
Sociological practice is intervention using sociological knowledge whether it is in a clinical or applied setting. It is different from pure academic sociology in which sociologists work in an academic setting such as a university. Many universities are starting to make their undergraduate and graduate degrees more practical. Since many people with a BA, MA, or MS in sociology are working in jobs that are applying sociological knowledge and the sociological perspective, more and more universities are trying to make the curriculum more geared towards sociological practice. There are even accreditation bodies such as the Commission on Applied and Clinical Sociology. Accreditation is important because it lets potential employers know that the university has met national standards on applied or clinical sociology.
While such programs have a strong emphasis on practical skills, they still incorporate pure or abstract knowledge. Pure academic researchers are also useful to applied sociologists in that their theories and research may be used by an applied sociologist or clinical sociologist in research or in sociological practice. There are now some academic degrees which are focused virtually entirely on applied or clinical sociology. Applied sociology is generally meso-level or macro-level intervention. It would include: grant writing, program evaluation, human resources, work in public policy, community development, and many other jobs within social service agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses. There are many other employment opportunities for someone with applied sociological training.
Clinical sociology courses aim to give students the skills to be able to work effectively with clients, teach basic counseling skills, give knowledge that is useful for careers such as assisting victims and drug rehabilitation. Such courses also aim to teach the student how to integrate sociological knowledge with other fields that they may go into such topics as: marriage and family therapy, as well as clinical social work, among other fields. For more on this subject go to Wikipedia and these two links: http://clinicalsociology.com/
OTHER SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES AND SOCIOLOGISTS
A.I IRVING GOFFMAN
With Irving Goffman, I introduce a second sociological theory. It is a simpler theory than critical realism(CR). Goffman's main contribution to sociology has been his treatment of the interaction order as a distinct unit of analysis. In the interaction order, interaction occurs when two or more individuals are "physically in one another's presence". As a species, human beings need "face-to-face" interactions, and according to Goffman, those interactions are displayed in such a way that they are dependent upon situational expectations that effect conduct of the individual "actors" participating in the communicative exchange. Thus, in every situation involving communication with others, we all assume roles. There are the roles that we play, and the stage that we act out these roles. There is also an audience. Goffman sees this as how we all interact with one another; social interaction is then a performance. Erving Goffman(1922-1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist and writer, considered "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century". In 2007 he was listed by The Times Higher Education Guide as the 6th most-cited author in the humanities and social sciences, behind Anthony Giddens and ahead of Jürgen Habermas
The study and theory behind Goffman's concept, his theory of the interaction order, is referred to as dramaturgy. It is measured by observation and frame analysis. When we look at a transcript of what was said during a social interaction, coupled with behaviors or non-verbal communication, it is like looking at the script of a play, act by act. This concept and its methodology can easily be studied when looking at the communication of individuals and groups in an on-line environment, which I will address later in this paper. For more on Goffman go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erving_Goffman, and to:http://www.cybersociology.com/files/1_2_sannicolas.html
A.2 CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Being an impostor has a long history with literally dozens, perhaps 100s, of examples. The first one in my lifetime that came to my knowledge was The Great Impostor. It was a 1961 movie based on the true story of an impostor named Ferdinand Waldo Demara. Loosely based on Robert Crichton's 1959 biography of the same name, it starred Tony Curtis in the title role. In 1959, I was 15, and an all-star baseball player in the little town where I had grown-up in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe. I was in love with at least two girls who knew nothing of my affections, and I joined the Baha'i Faith. I was the only Baha'i youth between the cities of Toronto and Hamilton along Lake Ontario in 1959.
Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 American biographical crime drama film based on the life of Frank Abagnale. Before his 19th birthday, Abagnale successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars. I watched the film last night1 more than a dozen years after it was released into cinemas. I was in the first years of my 70s after taking an early retirement, a sea-change, and reinventing myself as a writer and author, online blogger and journalist. After watching the film, I made a brief study of the history of impostors and, then, wrote this prose-poem.
The film deals with themes of broken homes and troubled childhoods, but these themes play a minor key in the overall plot with its fast pace and entertaining storyline. Abagnale posed as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. His primary crime was check fraud; he became so experienced that the FBI eventually turned to him to help in catching other check forgers. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. Development for the film started in 1980 when I was finally stabilized on medication for my bipolar disorder at the age of 35. Progress on the film began to take-off in 1997 when the film rights to Abagnale’s book were sold to Spielberg's company DreamWorks. By then, in the late 1990s, I was heading for retirement at the age of 55 after a 50 year student and paid employment life, 1949 to 1999.
The film was a financial and critical success, and the real Abagnale reacted positively to it. Abagnale wrote back in 2002, before the film was released, that: "I feel it is necessary to make the following statement concerning the book and the film, Catch Me If You Can. The reasons for this statement is to provide clarification and accuracy. I wrote the book, Catch Me If You Can, in the late 1970s more than a dozen years after I had given-up my life of crime. The book was written from my perspective as a 16-year old in the early 1960s with the help of a co-writer. I'm now 54 and I sold the movie rights in 1980.
I was interviewed by the co-writer only about four times. I believe he did a great job of telling the story, but he also over dramatized and exaggerated some of the story. That was his style and what the editor wanted. He always reminded me that he was just telling a story and not writing my biography. This is one of the reasons that from the very beginning, I insisted the publisher put a disclaimer in the book and tapes.
It has been reported that I had written $10 million, $8 million and $5 million worth of bad checks. The actual amount was $2.5 million. I was never on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List as this is reserved for very violent criminals who pose a threat to society. All of the crimes I committed were when I was between the ages 16 and 21. I served time in prison in France, Sweden and the United States. In the U. S. Federal Court, I was sentenced as a youthful offender because of my age at the time the crimes were committed. Even so, I was given 12 years of which I served a total of five years. This was considered harsh punishment then and almost unheard of today.
I have been married for over 25 years and I am the proud father of three sons. When I was 28 years old, I thought it would be great to have a movie about my life, but when I was 28, like when I was 16, I was egotistical and self-centered. We all grow up. Hopefully we get wiser. Age brings wisdom and fatherhood changes one's life completely. I consider my past immoral, unethical and illegal. It is something I am not proud of. I am proud that I have been able to turn my life around and in the past 25 years, helped my government, my clients, thousands of corporations and consumers deal with the problems of white collar crime and fraud.
I know that Hollywood has made a number of changes to the story, but I am honoured that Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks participated in the making of the movie inspired by my life. It is important to understand that it is just a movie… not a biographical documentary.2-Ron Price with thanks to 1ONE TV, 9:00-12:00 pm, 2/3/'15; and 2Frank W. Abagnale, Webpost, September 3, 2002
Making bio-pics, and writing
memoires, journals & diaries
can result in exaggeration, &
& film-makers play with the
facts for the sake of reading
or viewing pleasure.1 .....So
a documentary is not made
but, rather, a smooth-funny
and friendly film with color,
smartness, a brisk-tempo, &
every impulse subordinated
to the task of manufacturing
pleasure for millions & me!
1 Abagnale reported. "I hope in the end the movie will be entertaining, exciting, and funny. I hope, too, that it will bring home an important message about family, childhood and divorce". Spielberg stated that: "there are many strands in the film that clearly say something about me; I can portray some of my autobiography through the telling of this light-hearted story".
As I wrote the above I was reminded of some of the sociological theory I taught in the last decade of my teaching career in the 1990s. I was reminded especially of dramaturgy, a sociological perspective starting from symbolic interactionism and commonly used in microsociological accounts of social interaction in everyday life. The term was first adapted into sociology from the theatre by Erving Goffman. He developed most of the related terminology and ideas in his 1959 book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Kenneth Burke, whom Goffman would later acknowledge as an influence, had earlier presented his notions of dramatism in 1945, which in turn derives from Shakespeare. However, the fundamental difference between Burke's and Goffman's view is that Burke believed that life was in fact theatre, whereas Goffman viewed theatre as a metaphor. If we imagine ourselves as directors observing what goes on in the theatre of everyday life, we are doing what Goffman called dramaturgical analysis, the study of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance.
In dramaturgical sociology it is argued that the elements of human interactions are dependent upon time, place, and audience. In other words, to Goffman, the self is a sense of who one is, a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate scene being presented. Goffman forms a theatrical metaphor in defining the method in which one human being presents itself to another based on cultural values, norms, and beliefs. The goal of this presentation of self is acceptance from the audience through carefully conducted performance. If the actor succeeds, the audience will view the actor as he or she wants to be viewed. Dramaturgical theory suggests that a person's identity is not a stable and independent psychological entity, but rather, it is constantly remade as the person interacts with others. This process is sometimes called "impression management.
B. DANIEL BELL
Serious scholars, like Norbert Elias or Reinhard Bendix, have turned to the past as the key to the present. Some try to develop what they like to call Marxism, though Jürgen Habermas is one of the very few who do so with any degree of originality. Raymond Aron’s name must be mentioned, but his great analyses – though not Clausewitz and certain other books – are now somewhat dated. In this distinguished company, Daniel Bell has an undisputed and well-deserved place. Long before The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, he had established himself as one of the world’s foremost social analysts; since then, he has taken his analysis further in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. The collection of essays written between 1960 and 1980, and published under the title Sociological Journeys(Heinemann, 400 pages)offers a welcome opportunity to follow his paths and encounters during a crucial period.
Daniel Bell(1919-2011) was an American sociologist, writer, editor, and professor emeritus at Harvard University, best known for his seminal contributions to the study of post-industrialism. He has been described as "one of the leading American intellectuals of the postwar era." His other best known work is The End of Ideology.
Sociologist Daniel Bell wrote about the demise of revolutionary politics, analyzed economics and lifestyle in a post-industrial society, and coined the phrases "information economy" and "post-industrialism." His 1960 book, The End of Ideology, explained how Marxism, which had once a driving philosophy on the left, had become irrelevant in modern America as the mid-20th century political landscape allowed the social and economic inequalities of capitalism to be more effectively addressed through other means. He later offered insightful critique of modern capitalist society, concluding that the classic economic conditions of the market no longer matter and in some senses no longer even exist. His analysis identified numerous problems of a post-industrial economy, focusing on the clash between technocratic structure and individualist culture, the lack of any "transcendent ethic" or "meaningful purpose" for most people in postmodern societies, and public and private expectations of improvement
that would be difficult to sustain in reality. For more on Daniel Bell go to: http://www.nndb.com/people/797/000113458/
C. NORBERT ELIAS
The Civilizing Process is a book by German sociologist Norbert Elias. It is an influential work in sociology and Elias' most important work. It was first published in two volumes in 1939 in German. Because of World War II it was virtually ignored, but it gained popularity when it was republished in 1969 and translated into English. Covering European history from roughly 800 AD to 1900 AD, it is the first formal analysis and theory of civilization. The Civilizing Process is today regarded as the founding work of Figurational Sociology. Figurational sociology is a research tradition in which figurations of humans—evolving networks of interdependent humans—are the unit of investigation. Although more a methodological stance than a determinate school of practice, the tradition has one essential feature. That feature is a concern for process, not state. Figurational sociology is also referred to as process sociology. For more on figurational sociology go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figurational_Sociology In 1998 the International Sociological Association listed this work as the seventh most important sociological book of the 20th century. For more on this book go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Civilizing_Process
This process has been variously analyzed in the past as the triumph of reason over ignorance ; as the victory of sweetness and light over crude and uncouth existence ; as the displacement of brutality and barbarism by politeness and gentle habits ; as law and peaceful order replacing the fist and the pandemonium of universal war; as the taming of passions by civility and self-control. With a measure of emotional detachment, more becoming of the academic mode, the process has been characterized as the rise to dominance of instrumental rationality over irrational behaviour; as the trading off of a part of freedom for a partial security, and the concomitant harnessing of aggression; as the imposition of the courtier's ideal of l'homme honnete, and later of !'homme eclaire, upon successively lower rungs of the status ladder .
The descriptions vary in the size and importance of the aspect of the process they capture. But none seems to grasp the main link in the long chain of historical transformations which Western European society went through in the course of the last three-and-a- half centuries. If the main link is the one which articulates all the others into a continuous chain, and thereby contains the key to the interdependence of all units of the totality, then the gradual emergence of the new form of management of the socially produced surplus seems to be a promising candidate .
This form was indeed revolutionary and set the era of "civilisation" or, industrial capitalist society apart from the previously dominant type of society. In this old type, surplus value was extracted from the producers, so to speak, in leaps and bounds, say, once or several times during the annual cycle of the predominantly agricultural production. For a series of articles by several major sociologists, and mainly aimed at graduate students in the social sciences go to:http://www.ctheory.net/library/volumes/Vol%2015%201%20-%203/VOL15_NOS1-3_2.pdf
AMERICAN SOCIETY: ITS HISTORY AND A VISION
The following comes from Arthur Kroker's book Born Again Ideology: Religion, Technology, and Terrorism. The book is found in the ejournal CTheory.net, 11/1/'06. If readers find the following paragraphs of interest they can access the book at: http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=548
Sometimes scientific consciousness articulates a vision of the future. That vision, while ostensibly emergent from the physical universe can actually represent a fantastic crystallization of a ruling idea. In the case of the idea outlined below, it is an idea that had until that point been suspended in the cultural atmosphere. Like an intangible idea, floating everywhere, expressible nowhere, the double helix could perhaps be received with such instant global acclaim because it gave voice to a dynamic cultural representation which until that moment was unrecognized as the "building block" of modern (American) culture. Long before the science of evolutionary biology envisioned the model of the "double helix" as the basic building block of human life, American culture emerged full-blown as a society of twisted strands. Refusing to be enframed by the frozen binaries of Enlightenment logic.
In the same way that Lewis Mumford could note that the industrial model of the factory was anticipated by medieval practices of the monastery with its strict division of time, disciplining of labor, and specialization of work function, so too the biological model of the double helix was anticipated by the singular way of being that is American identity. Could it be that what is most exceptional about American exceptionalism is that this was a culture which, from its inception, had somehow stumbled upon the language of biology as its ruling metaphysic? In this case, we might conclude that while Europe could rightfully be the originating continent of physics, the United States would be the culture born under the sign of genetic biology.
Like a cultural precession of the scientific imagination of biotechnology, the dominant pattern of American discourse is structured in the form of a double helix whereby two great curving strands of cosmology, faith-based religion and scientifically authorized reason, follow a twisting, spiraling path from past to future: co-present, bound together in creative tension, decidedly not binaries, determining in their oppositions and continuities the specific codes of American political culture. Always running anti-parallel to one another (religion versus science, liberalism versus conservatism, individualism versus collectivity, nature versus culture, faith versus reason), the genetic memory of American discourse is connected by four base pairs: economy, politics, society, and culture. Like DNA, the base pairs of American culture -- its seductive model of political economy, social logic, media networks, and cultural values -- can be easily clipped and transplanted into colonized (alien) bodies. It was not for nothing that Marshall McLuhan described the United States as the "world environment."
With a strikingly original "building block" of political life (the constitutional theory of the American Republic), geneticsocial memory (the "American dream"), great twisting strands of thought, and clashing ideological currents which run deep and always run anti-parallel, America was fated by its origins in genetic logic to be the ascendant ruling empire of the 21st century. The passionate combination first of Puritan missionary consciousness and scientific experimentalism, and later of mass consumption and electronic gadgets, that would come to characterize the American eruption in an otherwise hostile, if not indifferent, world found its formula, and appropriately so, in the famous "Declaration of (Technological) Independence" with its bio-political rhetoric of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." As I say above, for more of this go to:http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=548
SOCIOBIOLOGY, E.O. WILSON and THE UNITY OF ALL KNOWLEDGE
Another one of the many theories in sociology which I have come to regard with some favour is sociobiology. Sociobiology is defined as the scientific or systematic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior, in all kinds or organisms including man, and incorporating knowledge from ethology, ecology, and genetics, in order to derive general principles concerning the biological properties of entire societies. "If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species." "The brain and the mind exists because it promotes the survival and multiplication of the genes that direct its assembly." The two apparent dilemmas we face therefore are: (1) We lack any goal external to our biological nature--for even religions evolve to enhance the persistence and influence of their practitioners. Will the transcendental goals of societies dissolve, and will our post-ideological societies regress steadily toward self-indulgence? (2) Morality evolved as instinct. "Which of the censors and motivators should be obeyed and which ones might better be curtailed or sublimated?"
Although much human diversity in behavior is culturally influenced, some has been shown to be genetic - rapid acquisition of language, human unpredictability, hypertrophy (extreme growth of pre-existing social structures), altruism and religions. "Religious practices that consistently enhance survival and procreation of the practitioners will propagate the physiological controls that favor the acquisition of the practices during single lifetimes." Unthinking submission to the communal will promotes the fitness of the members of the tribe. Even submission to secular religions and cults involve willing subordination of the individual to the group. Religious practices confer biological advantages.
Wilson used sociobiology and evolutionary principles to explain the behavior of the social insects and then to understand the social behavior of other animals, including humans, thus established sociobiology as a new scientific field. He argued that all animal behavior, including that of humans, is the product of heredity, environmental stimuli, and past experiences, and that free will is an illusion. He has referred to the biological basis of behaviour as the "genetic leash." The sociobiological view is that all animal social behavior is governed by epigenetic rules worked out by the laws of evolution. This theory and research proved to be seminal, controversial, and influential.
In his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences, and might be able to unite the sciences with the humanities. Wilson prefers and uses the term "consilience" to describe the synthesis of knowledge from different specialized fields of human endeavor. For more on this subject go to the following two links:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._O._Wilson and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociobiology
SOME INTERNET POSTS OF OTHERS WHICH I FIND HELP MY UNDERSTANDING OF SOCIETY
MAX WEBER: AN INSPIRATIONAL SOURCE
With Max Weber we have what is arguably the major sociological theory and theorist since the inception of the discipline of sociology in the 19th century. In lectures and correspondence during the latter decades of the 19th century, Max Weber entered the debate over 'the sciences'. For Weber, the term 'the sciences' meant the branches of knowledge including the ‘natural’ and ‘social’ sciences. Weber argued that their differences were of values, context and theoretical orientation rather than subject matter. Weber’s involvement culminated, many decades later, in The Methodology of the Social Sciences(The Free Press. NY, 1949) in which he announced only a ‘hairline’ separates ‘science from faith’ (1949:110). I did not become aware of Weber's views in this area until I taught sociology in the 1990s. Weber’s position was not entirely unique, nor was it the first thesis on the nature of knowledge; yet it has significance because it can be placed in late 19th century Europe, a period of significant rivalry between intellectuals, each seeking to foster the institutionalisation of a form of knowledge as a distinct discipline within the university system.
Weber’s approach to knowledge explicitly rejects reductionist and mono-causal explanations of history (Zaret, 1980:1189), and therefore challenges histories of the 19th century where the growth of medical occupations were and are theorised as the outcome of their ‘sources of power and authority and the ways in which people use them’ (cf: Johnson, 1972:18). For Weber (1949:71), neither knowledge nor systems of authority are sufficient in themselves to produce historical change. In their stead, he places an emphasis on a multiplicity of causal forces, including various social orders such as the economy and the family, law and religion, as well as historical events and ideas (Kalberg, 1997:232). Although Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism explored the role of ideas in the emergence of capitalism in Europe, in its introduction (and also elsewhere, 1949:71), he described the book as an antidote to prevailing theories which reduce history to materialistic forces. Weber argued that his book was not intended to be a ‘complete’ historical analysis, but rather an exploration of the role of the ideational realm in historical change. For a u-tube item on Weber go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICppFQ6Tabw and for many videos from the humanities and social sciences go to:
Weber’s approach is therefore at odds not only with economic reductionist accounts of historical change, but with any analysis which negates the relevance of the ideational realm in the processes of historic change. As such, it is not compatible with Marxist or Neo-Marxist accounts of professionalisation, nor with ‘interest group’ approaches, where the ideational realm is deemed relevant to history only in as far as it represents a ‘product’ upon which claims can be made for authority and status. For Weber, ideas and knowledge are not the product of interest group formations or class positions which are then ‘selected’ and applied according to social ‘needs’. Rather, ideas and knowledge are ‘constructed’ within social action; they can, in themselves be influential and enduring across historical time, and may, in particular contexts, independently produce historical effects (cf: Weber, 1968:519; Kalberg, 1997:229). For a u-tube on Weber go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOCLTci_INE For more on this theme go to: http://www.sociology.org/content/2008/_collyer_weber.pdf
MILLS and WEBER
Back then in 1959!
“Whether he knows it or not,” wrote sociologist C. Wright Mills, “the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft.”(1) This workman with words achieves his highest, his finest, expression when burning passion and a cool judgement work together in the same soul. This was the view of another sociologist, the famous Max Weber. But this passion and this judgement, wrote Weber, must work together so that neither the passion nor the judgement, what amounts to the workman's intellectual guidance, lose their combined and commanding force. Both passion and judgement need to be so blended that they can be relied upon when, in the face of the passion that may blind us, we need to gather the strength to subdue the soul; and when, in the face of a world which seems to have dashed all our hopes, we are able to say, nevertheless and immune from discouragement, we are still ready to make another effort.(2)
We all need to be, increasingly as the 21st century advances, people with insight and endurance who can confront the fate of the times and, instead of passively yearning and resignedly waiting, we can wholeheartedly embrace our longing, whether in science, politics or the arts, and, spurred-on by this embrace, we are able to set out to take-up the task before us. We need to be able to meet the demands of the day and, beyond that, seek to bring about the highest human possibilities in the context that is our life. It is true that obligation is first but, it is not less true that, devotion is higher; indeed, they are both quintessential.
We also need to experience a compulsion toward a cause, a cause felt as if one has been called to it, or to which one has been born. What we also need to experience is a kind of inner necessity stemming from love or desire, and this is something that is inwardly generated. Contrary to the compulsion stemming from fear, that stemming from love cannot, by its very nature, be imposed from without. It is part of one’s innermost being as given by nature itself; perhaps it is our own nature.
Therefore it is inescapable, and yet at the same time amenable to growth and development, as well as receptive to appropriate education, that we must become able to arouse and foster such a love or desire. It is this love which Max Weber summons us to find in ourselves; we must then obey its inner force. This is the daemon, wrote Weber, that holds the threads of one’s life together. The injunction ‘become who you are’ may be another way of expressing it. To get a context for Weber, his life and ideas go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Weber
This inner force, or daemon, can be both creative and productive; we need to direct it to the positive construction of something worthwhile, or to the transformation of the world. It is not simply the mere avoidance of an evil, although that is a part of this inner voice. This productive character, this inner voice, is a very complex entity, and it is usually acquired only through long and disciplined hard work. The creative acts and productions of science, politics, and the arts may come to light through this work and this character. There is, of course, no guarantee.
Devotion or dedication involve much more than diligence. The scholar and the teacher must not only be diligent; they must be obsessed in their devotion. The core meaning of this lies in sacrifice and giving oneself over to a cause, to the point of “perishing in that calling”. I am aware that the mere mention of ‘devotion’ or ‘dedication’ here may sound shrill, to say the least in liberal ears—those who, according to Mills, “conform to the prevailing fear of any passionate commitment.” So often the call is to moderation, and moderation cannot be denied. Even in the context of one's obsession, a moderating influence can save both one's business and one's bacon, so to speak.
What is desired, continues Mill, is the strength of mind and heart to be inwardly alive and to persevere in one’s devotion. Such a person is not only the teller of what is, is not only an autobiographical voice, but he or she is also the seeker after the highest human possibilities. This person must insist that “nothing is worthy of man as man unless he can pursue it with passion.”
This passion alone is, of course, not sufficient for the achievement of one’s purpose. Much else is needed, and we are not talking here about that sterile excitement which abounds in our popular culture today, the kind that finds its way into our culture ad nauseam, with a kind of shrill voice at fever-pitch, the musical and artistic cultural inheritance of rock-and-roll and do your own-thing, where the worst are full of passionate intensity, and the ceremony of innocence is drowned.(3)
By linking biography and history, individual and society, self and world, Mills sought to show that underlying people’s experience of difficulty and anxiety, apathy and discouragement, as well as a host of troubles and issues that they confront, are the fundamental problems of reason and liberty. They are not only the imaginative sociologist’s problems but Everyman’s. –Ron Price with thanks to (1) C.W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford UP, 1959, p.196; (2) Carlos Frade, The Sociological Imagination and Its Promise 50 Years Later: Is There a Future for the Social Sciences as a Free Form of Enquiry? in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 5, no. 2, 2009; and (3) W.B. Yeats, quoted in Kenneth Clark, Civilization, Penguin, NY, 1969, p.246.
I joined the Baha’i Faith
the same year your book
was published C. Wright.
I was in love with baseball,
a girl around the corner, &
all sorts of stuff in that little
town, in my little world, in a
place where that complacent
trinity of Catholic, Protestant,
and Jew filled the airwaves.
Indians were people who got
creamed by the cavalry at the
movies Saturday afternoons
amidst candy-wrappers, kids
in the back-rows necking, &
popcorn, candy-floss, noise,
ice-cream, and pubescence
in all its twists and turns....
It seems like yesterday, and
that sociological imagination
had not even begun to come
into play in my life, just that
inner necessity.....that inner
voice which said “let’s have
as much fun as we can.” That
was what we were called to back
then, back in ’59 when I was just
starting out on this long, long road.
And as Yeats said, time and again:
the trouble is that there is still no
centre; there is a sort of intense &
heroic materialism, but that isn’t
enough said Mr Clark, & it is hard
to be joyful at the prospects before
us, if I may be allowed to quote his
book/TV documentary: Civilization.(1)
(1) Kenneth Clark, op. cit., p. 246. The closing words of his book.
Who reads C. Wright Mills today? asks Kevin Mattson rhetorically in the online journal Negations: an interdisciplinary journal of social thought(spring 2002) Kevin Mattson was born the year I graduated from university, 1966. He is an American historian and critic. Mattson received his B.A. from the New School, a university in New York city, and his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. For several years he ran the Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy at Rutgers University, He is now the Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University, and is a fellow at the Center for American Progress and on the editorial board of Dissent.
Ironically, those who consider themselves to the left of center, and certainly those in academia regard Mills as passe, declasse. Young "critical thinkers", from the 1990s to this econd decade of the 21st century, are too busy genuflecting before postmodern theorists who write obtusely about abstract conceptions of power. This was not the way Mills dissected power in America. Derrida and Foucault, among others, stand out big among the names glorified, say, from 1995 to 2015, by the academic left. Mills won’t be found in books about these so-called critical thinkers. Though Mills stands as a great grandfather to the New Left, as a thinker who clearly influenced major political activities of the 1960s, there are few who seem interested in reassessing him today. The intellectual left tends to ignore indigenous sources of radicalism. That world of bedfellows on the left, strange and not-so-strange, suffers from a bad case of what Russell Jacoby termed "social amnesia."
There’s plenty of reasons why C. Wright Mills is ignored, writes Mattson. Prime among them is the fact that academic sociologists consider him irrelevant. He was relevant when I was studying sociology in the 1960s. But, as the 1960s passed sensibly and insensibly into the, '70s, then the '80s, Mills became , as I say above, passe, declasse. As a sociologist at Columbia University in the 1950s, Mills kindled early interest in two of the greatest social theorists of the twentieth century, Max Weber and the younger Karl Marx. I was one whose interest was kindled, and it has remained kindled into this 21st century. But that does not help the case for the relevance of Mills today.
Academic sociologists have grown even more reliant upon statistical methodologies and increased specialization that Mills, and the thinkers he admired, detested. In fact, if Mills ever draws attention from academic sociologists, it is as a harbinger of another minuscule subset alongside the other specialized subsets of academic sociology – namely, what is called, in hackneyed terms, "radical sociology." Mills’s worst nightmare has come true: academic sociology has become a professionalized specialty that rarely speaks to bigger public questions. As academic sociology has become what it has, it has buried the scattered remains of Mills’s legacy. For more on Kevin Mattson's paper on Mills go to: http://www.datawranglers.com/negations/
ALEXIS DE TOQUEVILLE
This French political thinker and historian(1805-1859) is best known for his Democracy in America which appeared in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840. He also wrote The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies. Democracy in America was his major work, published after his travels in the United States. It is today considered an early work of sociology and political science. For this reason, as well as the fact that I've been keeping the notes I have taken on reading de Toqueville since 1976 in my sociology theory files, I include him here.
Alexis de Tocqueville began his classic description of democracy in America by remarking that what struck him most about the strange new country he visited in the early 1830s was “the general equality of condition among the people.” Much of the rest of what he wrote was an elaboration of what this equality meant, and why it mattered. Tocqueville saw, of course, that some Americans had more money, and enjoyed greater social status and political influence, than others. But “though there are rich men,” he explained, “the class of rich men does not exist; for these rich individuals have no feelings or purposes, no traditions or hopes, in common.”
Tocqueville also warned, however, of a force that threatened in time to undermine this democracy grounded on equality. The danger he saw was economic, arising from the increasingly hierarchical structure of business activity: eventually, he feared, “the master and the workman have then here no similarity, and…are connected only like the two rings at the extremities of a long chain…. What is this but aristocracy?” He concluded that “if ever a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy again penetrates into the world, it may be predicted that this is the gate by which they will enter.”
The problem is threefold. First, contrary to what most economists of the early post–World War II generation expected, inequality in the United States has now been widening for the past four decades.1 Especially at the very top of the scale—not just the top 1 percent, but even more so the top 0.01 percent—the increases in income and wealth have been enormous. For most other Americans, incomes have been stagnant; with the decline in house prices, so has their wealth. In the recent setting of only modest overall economic growth, this widening inequality has meant that almost all of what economic gains have occurred accrued to those at the top. From 2000 until the financial crisis hit in 2007, total production in the United States expanded by 18 percent after allowing for inflation; the income of the family just at the middle of the nation’s income distribution rose by not even one half of one percent. For more on this subject go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/oct/11/oligarchy-america-today/ For a review in The New York Times of two new books, containing some 900+ pages, on de Toqueville, books which came out in 2007, go to this link:
Those two recent books for readers with the interest are useful: (i) Alexis de Toqueville: A Life, by Hugh Brogan(Yale University Press, 725 pages); and (ii) Alexis de Toqueville: Democracy’s Guide by Joseph Epstein(HarperCollins Publishers, 210 pages). These books are reviewed by Christopher Caldwell in The New York Times on 8/7/'07. The review opens: "Americans generally quote Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” as a way of patting themselves on the back. Tocqueville’s first volume, published at the end of 1834 after a nine-month tour of the New World, was the first great study of American institutions and political culture. It declared the American Revolution the triumph of “a mature and considered taste for liberty, not a vague and indefinite instinct for independence.” The review continues:
"But there is another way to read Tocqueville. If Volume 1 laid out what Americans had made of democracy, Volume 2, published six years later, laid out what democracy had made of Americans. This was a bleaker subject. Self-rule had its paradoxes, Tocqueville showed. Equality could come at the price of intellectual independence. And if one man was just as worthy of a political voice as the next, why should any individual involve himself in politics at all? Hugh Brogan, a historian at the University of Essex in England, shares the preoccupations of this second Tocqueville, without sharing his conclusions. In an erudite and combative new biography, he presents many of Tocqueville’s misgivings about democracy as specious and reactionary." For a u-tube item on de Toqueville go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzr3AOtFA8o For more of this review go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/books/review/Caldwell.html?n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%
SCATTERED LIKE STAR-DUST
As Sir Ernest Barker has so illuminatingly emphasized, the whole secular theory of natural law from 1500 to 1800 was engaged in working out little else but a theory of society. Man was primary and relationships secondary. In this new Order, rising out of the ashes of shattered loyalties and the multiplicity of saviours-in-a-hurry, with their inorganic and fixed frameworks, an organically conceived Administration would serve as the nucleus and pattern for a future World Order. Relationships, groups, institutions, were primary and individuals secondary.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, Heinemann, London, 1970(1966), p. 48.
The old order had ended long before
this new one was born, back then.(1)
Brilliant sprays of diamonds and gold
‘rose out of the depths of His mysterious
purpose with enough wealth to save the
world, at least by the skin of its teeth, &
other sprays of ideas so fine, scattered
like star-dust from those magnetic poles
to tropic lands, that would save the world:
more than enough divine Tablets, & Kitabi
this’s and that’s and the zeal of the Lord,
now fully institutionalized in a new Order
spraying us with Its breath-taking emerald
energy and its very brilliant inventiveness.
8 January 1997 to 12 September 2011
(1) Many theorists, including the sociologist Robert Nisbet, refer to the old order as the one which fell with the French revolution in 1789.
THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL
What was happening between 1908 and 1914 was nothing less than that a great new historic school was in the process of transformation, more significant than the romantic revolution, transforming the philosophical rudiments of life, and heralding great social changes. -Malcohm Bradbury, “Ford Maddox Ford’s Opening World”, Tensions and Transitions: 1869-1990: The Mediating Imagination, editor Michael Irwin, et al, Faber and Faber, 1990, p.8.
It is reasonable to think that the cycle of the Modern Movement runs roughly for fifty years, from the trembling of the veil and the sense of the New that came at the end of the 1880s, through to the late 1930s. This could be seen as the great hiatus during which the Baha’i World acquired the sinews of its Administration, especially after 1912, and thus became able to launch its first systematic international teaching plan in 1937.-Ron Price with thanks to Malcohm Bradbury, ibid., p.4.
Your release from prison by the Young Turks(1)
was no simple matter, no chance part of history,
but a signal for the birth of the modern age, one
could say, of new movements, groupings, & little
magazines, manifestoes, art exhibitions, & those
declarations of artistic rebellion, upturning all the
conventions with people like: Pound, Eliot, Lewis,
D.H. Lawrence, T.E. Hulme—that seedbed of our
Modernism—with the true Seed being planted so
unobtrusively, unbeknownst, mixing insidiously &
imperceptively, insinuating itself into the heart of
this new age, born of visions from seeds-to-seeds,
born of a mystic intercourse, that had come West.
It had come as if on the wind, by 1892 in the first
trembling of the veil, the first radiance unclouded
by flesh, and energizing the world to a degree
unapproached in the life of that most precious
Being ever to walk on the surface of this speck
of radiance in the vast, the profound, universe.
3 March 1997 to 12 September 2011
(1) In 1908 ‘Abdu’l-Baha was released from prison. The intensification of the Modern Movement began in that year says Bradbury.
A NEW PHASE IN CIVILIZATION
There were many who blew the horn that I blew, albeit differently shaped, different sizes and styles, but many ordinary people and many thinkers and intellectuals, writers and social scientists blew many of the tunes I was trying to blow both in my autobiography and in other works. Fernand Braudel, for example, of the French annales school of history, recognised the justice of the sociologist Raymond Aron's observation that 'the phase of civilisation we have had is coming to an end and, for good or ill, humanity is embarking on a new phase.' That phase is one of a single civilisation which could become universal. I don’t want to list and comment, quote and analyse, all those who share this global, one world perspective. Suffice it to say, it was a horn, a musical instrument, which as the epochs advanced in my lifetime was blown by more and more serious students of history’s longue duree. Some of these students of society and culture, history and civilization, had a grand interpretation of history, a meganarrative, a metanarrative, along the lines pursued by Oswald Spengler, H. G. Wells or Arnold Toynbee. And some did not. Much of the discussion remains nebulous and unsatisfactory. The story, the blowing, is far from over.
SOME SITES-LINKS THAT INTIMATE THAT COMING CIVILIZATION
NOT EDITED IN CELLULOID SAFETY
A poetic point of view is caught from the poets one lives with and the literary influences which have a poetic manner, a style and voice that resonates in one’s life. Through perpetually studying and enjoying certain writers one acquires a sense of their application of ideas to life in verse. While I have caught a poetic point of view from Roger White and Emily Dickinson, Wordsworth and Dawe; while historians like Toynbee and Gibbon and sociologists like Nisbet and Mills have played their part in some individual flower that has sprung up from within me; while philosophers like Russell and Nietzsche, among others; and psychologists like Rollo May and Erik Erikson have all helped me find and articulate a voice, I would also have to acknowledge a range of other influences that make me want to sing, to talk, from my very inmost soul in the highest seriousness, free from simple verbiage and utterance of the ordinary kind. -Ron Price with thanks to Matthew Arnold, “The Study of Poetry,” Gateway to the Great Books, William Benton, 1963, pp. 38-9.
I don’t want to be an actor
who finds himself, extends
his sense of who he is on
some stages or in movies.
Some seem to find their soul,
their language, their voice,
on screen in its technicolour
manipulation & perfect sound.
I don’t want to put myself
imaginatively into Bonanzaland
or play the role of a perennial
outsider with a predictable victory
in choiceless invulnerability.
The final torrid clinch with
several along the way with
a compliant, mysterious blonde
sounds superficially attractive.
The predictable wonder of my
ordinary life: unscripted and
flawed and so very plausible,
my undeclared guilts and my
poetry, which like the Greeks,
is one with my religion, will not
emerge edited in celluloid safety.
16 November 2000 to 12 September 2011
HOMO LUDENS* *Man the player.
Jack Kerouac had an evolving set of etymologies for the term "beat." In The Origins of the Beat Generation originally published in Playboy in 1959, Kerouac wrote: "The word "beat" originally meant poor, down and out, deadbeat, on the bum, sad, sleeping in subways." But he added that in the 1950s the word gained an extended meaning to denote people who had “a certain new gesture or attitude which I can only describe as new mores." Kerouac suffused the “beat” label with positive connotations; he later extended the word "beat,” giving it a religious significance.
For Kerouac the importance of the "beat" label lay in its openness of signification among other purposes. He returned to it in the 1960s several times to pour into its useage new meanings. In several letters he claimed to have shown that "beat" was the Second Religiousness of Western Civilization as prophesied by Oswald Spengler. This second phase always takes place in the late stage of a civilisation. This second phase, he stated, possesses something of the beatific, the sublime, but it coexists with coldhearted times of urban skepticism and cynicism. This religiousness is the reappearance of an earlier spiritual springtime in history. It also becomes well-rooted and grounded in the culture. To Kerouac, the Beats were also saints in the making, walking the Earth doing good deeds in the name of sanctitude and holiness.
These beats only lasted until 1949 Kerouac said in another context, in one of his many interpretations of the term, an interpretation he gave toward the end of his life in 1969. Kerouac also said that “the beats” was just a phrase he had used in his 1951 written manuscript of On the Road to describe young men who run around the country in cars looking for odd jobs, girlfriends and kicks--to get their rocks-off as it is often said now colloquially.
In 1958 a San Francisco columnist Herb Caen coined the phrase "beatnik" to denote members of the growing Californian bohemian youth culture which Caen associated with new barbarian tendencies in America. The appellation “beatnik” came to enrage Kerouac in the last decade of his life: 1959-1969. By the late 1960s Kerouac was denouncing the youth culture which had followed his example. To Kerouac they had gone off the road, so to speak. Kerouac continued to flirt with numerous religious systems, but he became in that last decade of his life someone who preferred to stay at home, no longer King of any Road or King of any Beats. –Ron Price with thanks to Bent Sørensen, “An On & Off Beat: Kerouac's Beat Etymologies,” philament: An Online Journal of the Arts and Culture, April 2004.
You were never impressed(1)
with the hippies who had
evolved during those Plans
of the 1940s and 1950s(2)
from the beatniks-hipstirs.
I was 21, 22 and 23 when
hippie was catching on(3)
in its two strands: art/
bohemian and peace/
civil rights. And it was
reaching its height when
I was among the Eskimos,
experiencing a mild schizo-
affective disorder and trying
to teach primary school kids.
These hippies had dropped out
of a world they found meaningless,
played with sex, drugs, rock-‘n’-roll
while I played with a new religion---
but for some of us the play was as
serious as it could be: homo ludens.(4)
1 Jack Kerouac(1922-1969).
2 Plans: 1946-1953 & 1953-1963.
3 The term hippie was first used in a newspaper on September 6th 1965. Six weeks before I had just turned 21. The term began to be used extensively by mid-1967.
4 The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga discusses the seriousness of play, the role of play, in culture in his book Homo Ludens(1938).
June 14th 2005 to 8 July 2011
FOUR BOOKS IN 1962: AS I WAS STARTING OUT AT 18
The year I began my travelling-pioneering life, 1962, and the year before I took my first course in sociology and its theories, sociologist and culture theorist, Jürgen Habermas published his The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere(1962). Habermas was, then, a student of the Frankfurt School of Social Research which, since the 1930s, had been advancing a Marxist critique of western capitalism and its discontents. Habermas wrote The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962) to explore the status of public opinion in the practice of representative government in Western Europe. Habermas defined the public sphere as a virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space. In its ideal form, the public sphere is "made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state.” -Ron Price with appreciation to Jurgen Habermas, op.cit., p.176.
Through acts of assembly and dialogue, the public sphere generates opinions and attitudes which serve to affirm or challenge and, therefore to guide, the affairs of state. In ideal terms, the public sphere is the source of public opinion needed to "legitimate authority in any functioning democracy" -Ron Price with thanks to Paul Rutherford, Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Good, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2000, p.18.
In that same year, 1962, I was 18 and my family moved to a nearby town. I did my matriculation studies and my mother finished her working life of paid employment. Jacques Ellul echoed Habermas' concern in his 1962 book Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. Ellul's term "the propaganda of integration" included biased newscasts, misinformation and political education which worked over time to shape the individual to suit the needs of social mechanisms. Ellul argued that propaganda is necessary in a democracy, even though it can create zombies of its citizens. "Propaganda is needed in the exercise of power for the simple reason that the masses have come to participate in political affairs."
In 1962 Herbert Marcuse was finishing his One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. This book analyzed the new "voice of command" used by managers, educators, experts, and politicians. This style of address, appropriated from advertising, had a hypnotic effect, argued Marcuse. The syntax of this speech and writing is abridged and condensed, giving the language more directness and assertiveness; it uses an emphatic concreteness, constant use of "you" and "your," and endlessly repeats images to fix them in people's minds. This style of rhetoric in Marcuse's terms creates the "one-dimensional" citizen, incapable of protest or refusal. In the opening lines of that work, Marcuse speaks of "a smooth, easy, reasonable democratic unfreedom." Through revolutions in the conditions of life, humans become in ever greater numbers, unfree instead of free".
Marcuse offers a wide-ranging critique of both contemporary capitalism and the Communist society of the Soviet Union, documenting the parallel rise of new forms of social repression in both these societies, as well as the decline of revolutionary potential in the West. He argues that "advanced industrial society" created false needs, which integrated individuals into the existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, industrial management, and contemporary modes of thought. For a useful overview of One-Dimensional Man, published in 1964 and which I first read in 1965-6 while I was studying sociology at McMaster University, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-Dimensional_Man -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, April 7th 2006.
WITHOUT MR VANCE PACKARD
By far the most significant writer who has written popular books about American society and found a niche outside the academy in the print media from the late 1950's to the late '80's was Vance Packard. He was famous for The Hidden Persuaders (1957), Status Seekers (1959), Pyramid Climbers (1962) and a succession of books until his last in 1989. Through the publication of these books, Packard probably had more influence on the lay public regarding the social dimensions of American society than any other writer or sociologist. Packard's books frequently appeared on best seller lists and young scholars were routinely shocked to find that Packard's works were considered beneath respectable discussion in many classrooms and tended to be disparaged by professional sociologists and public intellectuals, perhaps because they displayed none of the more abstract theorizing that social scientists look for in sociological writings.
Packard was not fully trained in sociology but majored in English and then earned a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia, and from there embarked upon a career in journalism at the start of the Baha’i teaching Plan in 1937. Through the resourceful use of his talents as a writer and his unique insights into American society, he contributed significantly to public understanding of a whole range of topics typically studied by academic sociologists: family and childrearing, sexual patterns, the media, consumerism and wastefulness, isolation and loneliness, and the super rich. In the years immediately before and after I became a Baha’i in Canada, Packard was a very popular writer. My contact with his writings was limited because in the late fifties I was more interested in sport and in graduating from high school. In the early to mid sixties, in my four years at university, I had a massive reading list in the humanities and social sciences; my concentration was on just getting though and out into the marketplace, into the world of jobs and earning a living. By the end of those four years I was also interested in marriage. -Ron Price with thanks to “Internet Sites on Vance Packard,” Poetry Booklet Number 58, Ron Price, July 10th 2006.
I remember seeing your books
back in those years when I’d
first started hearing about birds
flying over Akka and martyrs
by the score in lounge rooms
on cold Canadian evenings
when I waited for the talks
to be over and the hot coffee
and cakes to arrive—they seem
like distant cousins, those years.
Those years were as distant as
Packard himself as I plowed my
way through more books than
my little brain could stomach,
motivated as I was to make it in
the marketplace, get a job, marry
and raise a family ‘cause that was
what everyone did, eveyone whom
I knew and Packard was never on
reading lists &, my-god, I had more
to read than I ever thought I could
get through, but get through I did
even without the insights of that
famous Mr Vance Packard......!!!
July 10th 2006 to 11 May 2012.
David Émile Durkheim(1858-1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology. I post a few remarks here because his ideas have strongly influenced my own since I first came into contact with his ideas in 1963/4 and again in 1965/6. I was not able to properly evaluate his ideas back then in the 1960s, swimming as I was in the burgeoning resources of the social sciences. I was also swimming in the first years of an affective disorder that came, in time, to be called bipolar disorder. The opposite sex, a new religion and its activities, the death of my father and just surviving the tempest that was my life kept me busy. I could not really become an enthusiast about some corner of an academic subject: that would take years of slow development.
Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in modernity; an era in which traditional social and religious ties could no longer be assumed, and in which new social institutions had come into being. His first major sociological work was The Division of Labor in Society(1893). In 1895, he published his Rules of the Sociological Method and set up the first European department of sociology. He became, in the process, France's first professor of sociology. In 1898, he established the journal L'Année Sociologique. Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide (1897), a study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), presented a theory of religion, comparing the social and cultural lives of aboriginal and modern societies.
Durkheim was also deeply preoccupied with the acceptance of sociology as a legitimate science. He refined the positivism(go to this link for an overview of positivism:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positivism as it was originally set forth by Auguste Comte, arguably the first sociologist. He promoted what could be considered as a form of epistemological realism, as well as the use of the hypothetico-deductive model in social science. For him, sociology was the science of institutions; its aim was, as he saw it, to discover structural social facts. Durkheim was a major proponent of structural functionalism, a foundational perspective in both sociology and anthropology, and one that was at the core of my first course in sociology in 1963/4. In his view, social science should be purely holistic; that is, sociology should study phenomena attributed to society at large, rather than being limited to the specific actions of individuals.
In discussing Durkheim in these paragraphs it is necessary for me to use words with which the average reader, Everyman, is not familar. These words, like 'epistomological,' are part of the essential lexicon of academic study in sociology in particular, and the social sciences in general. I encourage readers to do some Googling if they want to get a solid handle on the topics being mentioned herein and the language being used.
Durkheim remained a dominant force in French intellectual life until his death in 1917, presenting numerous lectures and published works on a variety of topics, including the sociology of knowledge, morality, social stratification, religion, law, education, and deviance. Durkheimian terms such as "collective consciousness" have since entered the popular lexicon. If I had to summarize briefly my relationship with Durkheim, I would say he is a writer with whom I often disagree but who challenges me, questions me, stimulates me, and makes me react. This is true of many writers who have influenced my thinking. For more on Durkheim go to these two links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfjycYvlZGg
In sociology, deviance describes actions or behaviors that violate social norms, including formally enacted rules (e.g., crime), as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores). It is the purview of sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and criminologists to study how these norms are created, how they change over time and how they are enforced. Readers at this site will find discussions on crime in the "Industry and Government" sub-section, as well as on abnormal behaviour in the "Psychology Theories" sub-section. For more on deviant behaviour go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deviance_(sociology)
"Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges" is an article in The New York Review of Books(21/5/'15) by Jed S. Rakoff. He writes a review of a report entitled: What Caused the Crime Decline? by Oliver Roeder, Lauren-Brooke Eisen, and Julia Bowling. Rakoff begins: "For too long, too many judges have been too quiet about an evil of which we are a part: the mass incarceration of people in the United States today. It is time that more of us spoke out. The basic facts are not in dispute. More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in US jails and prisons, a 500 percent increase over the past forty years. Although the United States accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The per capita incarceration rate in the US is about one and a half times that of second-place Rwanda and third-place Russia, and more than six times the rate of neighboring Canada. Another 4.75 million Americans are subject to the state supervision imposed by probation or parole. For more go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/may/21/mass-incarceration-silence-judges/
MORE ON POSITIVISM
For a review of several books which place positivism in a helpful perspective go to this link:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v05/n08/barry-glassner/homo-duplex The books reviewed at that link are: Positivism and Sociology: Explaining Social Life by Peter Halfpenny, Allen and Unwin, 150 pages, 1982; The Rules of Sociological Method and Selected Texts on Sociology and its Method by Emile Durkheim and Steven Lukes, Macmillan, 260 pages, 1982; The Sociological Domain: The Durkheimians and the Founding of French Sociology edited by Philippe Besnard, Cambridge, 300 pages, 1983; and Durkheim and the Study of Suicide by Steve Taylor, Macmillan, 250 pages, 1982,
This review, which appeared in the London Review of Books more than 30 years ago in May 1983, begins by focusing on what it calls "residual unresolved positivism," that is, the need for sociology to cleanse itself as a discipline of the remnants of positivism. Contemporary scholarship is disadvantaged by positivism. ‘Positivist’ seems to have become the most demeaning name one can call a sociologist. It signifies a fetish for numbers, and for machines that grind and brew them, as well as an allergy toward social theory, philosophy, and anything abstract or otherwise unobservable. High in the ranks of those to blame for the residue of positivism in sociology has been Emile Durkheim, who among the founding sociologists like Marx, Weber, Simmel, and Durkheim, was most sympathetic to positivist dogma. Unlike Marx, Durkheim is not represented by sections of sociological associations, nor do journals and political groups bear his name. Nor is his writing Germanically dense. Weber and Simmel experimented, almost playfully, with concepts and methodologies that might explain society, and their tastes in prose were toward the personal, historical and discursive – an invitation to generations of exegesis. But Durkheim fancied a science of society with rigorous inquiry akin to the biologists’ and findings stated as laws of cause and effect. For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v05/n08/barry-glassner/homo-duplex
Richard Sennett(1943-) has been one of my favorite sociologists for years. He is the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and University Professor of the Humanities at New York University. Sennett has studied social ties in cities, and the effects of urban living on individuals in the modern world. He has been a Fellow of The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Royal Society of Literature. He is the founding director of the New York Institute for the Humanities. In 2006 Sennett was the winner of the Hegel Prize awarded by the German city of Stuttgart, and in 2008 was awarded the Gerda Henkel Prize, worth 100,000 Euros, by the Gerda Henkel Foundation of Düsseldorf, Germany. For more on Sennett go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Sennett
For a review of his latest book Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-Operation by Richard Sennett(Allen Lane, 320 pages, 2012) go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n06/jenny-turner/superficially-pally
MORE ON MARK FOSTER
Mark Foster is a full-time, tenured, college sociology professor. He has a Ph.D. in sociology and history, a M.A. in sociology, a A.B.J. in magazine journalism, sociology, and English; and an A.A. in English. Additionally, his areas of expertise and/or interest are: social theory, the sociology of religion, critical realism, public sociology, clinical sociology, cultural history, and advocacy journalism. He has a BA in journalism, and is a member of the Bahá’í Faith. Finally, Foster is an autistic rights activist, an autist, and a ventriloquist. Follow this link: http://www.markfoster.net/, for the portal to Foster's 29 domains and 26 websites. Some of sociology professor Mark Foster's sociology and related links are also found at:
http://markfoster.org/ct.html and http://www.markfoster.net/jccc/soclinks.html