SOCIOLOGY

Introduction


INTRODUCTION

Part 1:

More than fifty years ago, just after the autumnal equinox of 21 September 1963, I entered my first sociology lecture theatre at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario.  I was 19.  After taking the introductory course in sociology that year, 1963/4, and teaching sociology off-and-on until I retired from FT teaching in 1999 and PT as well as casual/volunteer teaching in 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 the most relevance to an understanding of many of the social questions bedevilling our society—or so it seemed to me back then in the 1960s, & so it seems to me now more than half a century later.  It was also a subject that was useful in my exploration of the Baha'i Faith and its place in society. I became a Baha'i in 1959 after first coming in contact with it in 1953 as a child due to my mother's interest and activity.

Sociologists generally have viewed their field proudly within the liberal arts and sciences not part of job training.  Sociology, certainly back in the 1960s, was seen as part of a culture that valued higher education for its civilizing influence.  When I first came across sociology's liberalizing and civilizing influences it was seen, at least in some ways, as an academic discipline that could and should civilize and temper the worst impulses of humanity. Sociology has gradually expanded its focus since I studied it in the 1960s to include: health, medical, military and penal institutions, the Internet, education, and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods within sociology has also expanded.   Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-twentieth century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches towards the analysis of society. Conversely, more recent decades have seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically and computationally rigorous techniques, such as social network analysis and agent-based modelling. For more of this overview of sociology go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociology

In the 21st century sociology has come to have a highly vocational orientation.  The idea of sociology producing better citizens was a much questioned view in the 1960s, and even more questioned half a century later.  Most students now study sociology to be more employable.  I'm not so sure sociology helped civilize or liberalize me or others back in the 1960s.  It certainly did not help me in my vocational aspirations, at least not until it became an add-on to a practical teaching qualification. I now have 32 years in classrooms as a teacher and tutor, as a lecturer and adult educator behind me, and 18 years as a student.  After 50 years in classrooms & lecture-halls, I am more than a little aware of sociology's liberalizing and civilizing influences, much more aware than I was back in those 1960s when I was just starting my adult life.

Part 2:

At one large public university, more than 600 undergraduates are currently classified as sociology majors. Students pick among 5 concentrations & one, the criminal justice concentration, attracts more than half of the majors. Yet of the 30 faculty members, only 3 specialize in criminology. The department is trying to bring the criminology majors into the fold of sociology, but the department is finding that many of the students interested in criminal justice aren't necessarily interested in sociology, especially sociology theory, said a professor in the department.  The students want hard core probation or forensics courses, not sociology, said the professor. For more on this dichotomy, this internal problem within the discipline of sociology, go to:https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/08/04/asa

I have drawn on the structure of the last major sociology theory syllabus I taught in the 1990s in the Human Services section of Thornlie Tafe, a Technical and Further Education, College. That college became a part of the Swan College of Tafe in Perth Western Australia, and 15 years later was a polytechnic.  I have altered that syllabus in these years of my retirement, 1999 to 2015,  as I have extended my base of resources to include some 8 arch-lever and 4 two-ring-binder files in what has always been for me an interesting field of study.  What is found in the notes that I now keep in my study, then, represents my interests in sociology after more than half a century of study.  It is a study of what I have found to be an illuminating sub-discipline within sociology.   Some other aspects of sociology, aspects with a religious, historical and psychological orientation, can be found in other files in my study here in Tasmania under those discipline titles in what has become, inevitably, an interdisciplinary world. For a short video introducing sociology go to:http://www.sociology.org/

Ron Price
23/1/'11 to 28/5/'15.


SOCIOLOGY: AN OVERVIEW

Part 1:

The science of sociology focuses on the study of human society, culture, groups, and social structure. Like political science, economics, cultural anthropology, and some specializations within history, cultural geography, and linguistics, sociology is a social science. Most sociologists utilize the deductive-inductive, or scientific, method in their researches. An emerging field of clinical sociology, also known as sociological practice, is an application of sociological theory and research design outside of the academy. Clinical sociologists sometimes maintain their own consulting businesses.

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 my own theoretical orientation or perspective for explaining sociological data.  I am ecclectic 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/

Part 2:

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 for the portal to his 29 domains and 26 websites: http://www.markfoster.net/

STUDENT PRIORITIES AT UNIVERSITY

After a decade of research, Daniel F. Chambliss, an organizational sociologist at Hamilton College, a small college in upstate New York, believes he knows what most determines how students feel about their time at college.  It comes down to factors like dorm design, friends and extracurricular involvement more than what happens in the classroom. In their new book, “How College Works,” Dr. Chambliss and Christopher G. Takacs describe the findings from an ambitious study of Hamilton students and alumni, using interviews, surveys and even an analysis of academic writing samples to tease out how college has affected them. Although Hamilton is a small, selective, expensive liberal arts college in New York state, and has little in common with the large state universities and community colleges that most students attend, Dr. Chambliss said the lessons learned could apply everywhere. For more on this subject go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/13/education/edlife/what-makes-a-positive-college-experience.html

After half a century since my college days, I remember those days as if they were yesterday. What Chambliss says in the above paragraph was true in many respects in relation to my four years spent at two universities in Ontario in the 1960s. I have written about this aspect of my life experience in my autobiography and so will not add any more on this subject here.

THE WORLD SOCIAL SYSTEM OR SOCIOSPHERE

The following two quotations from two different social scientists raise many questions that the field of sociology attempts to answer.  Sociology  describes and explains, analyses and discusses the increasing complexity of modern society.  I have been reading the literature of this discipline of sociology for over 50 years.

Kenneth Boulding wrote the following in his book Earth as a Spaceship back in 1965: "when it comes to understanding the world social system or the sociosphere, we are not only ignorant but proud of our ignorance."  Kenneth Ewart Boulding(1910-1993) was an economist, educator, peace activist, poet, religious mystic, devoted Quaker, systems scientist, & interdisciplinary philosopher. He was cofounder of General Systems Theory and founder of numerous ongoing intellectual projects in economics and social science. 

John Dewey wrote the following in his book The Public & Its Problems, in 1927: "People are now caught in the sweep of forces too vast to understand or master. Thought is brought to a standstill and action paralyzed." John Dewey(1859-1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the founders of functional psychology. A well-knownpublic intellectual, he was also a major voice ofprogressive education and liberalism. Although Dewey is known best for his publications about education, he also wrote about many other topics, including epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics,art, logic, social theory, and ethics.

SOCJOURNAL

The Electronic Journal of Sociology (EJS) was an online open access academic journal of sociology. It was established in 1994 by Michael Sosteric. Dr. Mike Sosteric believed that it was time to bring sociology out of the ivory tower — and he is now doing so through his new media journal, renamed The Socjournal.  It was attracting 5 million hits a month as of January 2012.  Sosteric is an assistant professor of sociology in Athabasca University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.  He became frustrated with traditional modes of academic communication such as scholarly journals and academic conferences. The Socjournal, founded in 2010, functions “by providing content interesting to students, in a language students can understand, in ways students can relate to, in forms easily accessible to them,” he says. Go to these 2 links for more: http://www.sociology.org/ and http://www.sociology.org/columnists/michael-sosteric/socjourn-demystifies-sociology

SOCIOLOGY: CULTURE

"Culture" has since become an important concept across many branches of sociology, including resolutely scientific fields like social stratification and social network analysis.  As a result, there has been a recent influx of quantitative sociologists to the field. There is now, after more than half a century of this development,  a growing group of sociologists of culture who are, confusingly, not cultural sociologists.  These scholars reject the abstracted postmodern aspects of cultural sociology, and instead look for a theoretical backing in the more scientific vein of social psychology and cognitive science.  "Cultural sociology" is one of the largest sections of the American Sociological Association. The British establishment of cultural studies means the latter is often taught as a loosely-distinct discipline in the UK. Wikipedia has a useful article on this subject for readers who would like a more extended discussion of the sociology of culture. (1) Donald Levine, editor, Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms, Chicago University Press, 1971. pxix.

Cultural Sociology is a peer-reviewed academic journal published jointly by the British Sociological Association and SAGE Publications. The journal includes sociological analysis of culture from a range of theoretical and methodological positions, and from a variety of national contexts. Cultural Sociology publishes sociologically-informed work concerned with cultural processes and artifacts, broadly defined. For more on this journal go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_Sociology_(journal)  For several pages, in a sub-section of my website, on "Sociology: Culture" go to: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/SOCIOLOGY-Culture.html

SOCIOLOGY AUSTRALIA

A thoroughly revised and expanded third edition of this widely used introductory text, Sociology Australia, shows how to develop a sociological perspective on what is happening in Australia today. Sociology gives students the tools they need to understand their life and the lives of the people around them.  Sociology is a discipline which I have found reveals that our commonsense view of the world isn't always right, and enables us to find out what actually shapes our experiences. This, among other reasons, is what attracted me to sociology back in the mid-1960s. In this widely used and very readable introductory text, Judith Bessant and Rob Watts show students how to develop a sociological perspective on what is happening in Australia today. Rapid and far-reaching social changes are taking place which affect us all: globalisation is impacting on our economy & culture; technological developments increase the pace of life; & many people worry about the decline of traditional values & about environmental and personal security.

Sociology Australia is an ideal introduction to the discipline of sociology and to the dynamics of Australian society today. This 3rd edition of Sociology Australia has been substantially revised & updated, and includes new chapters on religion, education and  sustainability. 
Using a sociological perspective students can come to explain why different groups of people experience these changes as exciting, unsettling, perplexing, devastating, and/or mystifying. Sociology Australia is structured around six key questions: (i) What is sociology?, (ii) Who are we and how do we come to be who we are?, (iii) How do we know the world in which we live?, (iv) Can we make our lives as we want them?, (v) Who makes the decisions that shape our society?, and (vi) What changes are taking place in Australia today?

THE COMPLEXITY OF GLOBAL CIVILIZATION

Since I began to study sociology and history, philosophy and politics more than 50 years ago, it has always been obvious to me that these social sciences and humanities subjects have been inextricably intertwined.  I have now been reading and studying, teaching and writing about these disciplines for more than half a century and, in article after article, I come across writers from all these disciplines. The ideas of these writers are woven together in a matrix, a pastiche, of ideas which the average person without a background in these disciplines is left right out to lunch. Knowledge of these fields has been helpful to me in understanding the individual in society in our complex world.

In this section below I highlight a philosopher with a political message, and I place him and his ideas in this sociology section of my website because I could just as easily highlighted any one of dozens of other writers whose subject matter is increasingly and inevitably inter-disciplinary. In volume 18, issue 3 2013 of the online journal Angelaki Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Greg Bird and Jonathan Short have written an introduction to the political theory of Roberto Esposito. Their essay is entitled: "Community, Immunity, and the Proper".  Roberto Esposito is an Italian philosopher, who is important for his work in biopolitics. He has been featured in the Summer 2006 issue of the journal Diacritics, and the Fall 2013 special issue of Angelaki.  For more on Esposito go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Esposito . Their introduction to Esposito begins as follows:


"It is widely apparent in our hyper-globalized world that the epistemologies, institutions, and practices underwriting that world have reached a state of profound crisis. Intimately bound up with this sense of crisis is its apparent multiplicity and lack of isomorphism, as increasingly no single crisis can be seen to function independently of others.  Isomorphism is a term used in biology, chemistry and mathematics, and it has several meanings. For our purposes here, It means similarity in form and structure. In the globalized world, everything is inevitably brought into proximity and correlation, be it wars, natural disasters, climatic upheaval, or political & economic turmoil.  Nothing that can be effectively isolated, insulated, instituted, even immunized, as something apart, something that might be considered proper only to itself. In this light the globalized world appears as the sustained crisis of the proper and simultaneously as the endgame of the project of modernization as manifested in ever more intensified, crisisridden forms. Even the very framework of crisis theory is itself starting to implode, thus becoming a crisis of second-order proportion." For more: (i) of this overview of the crisis, and (ii) essays on Esposito's ideas  go to: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cang20/current  and http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0969725X.2013.834661  

CLINICAL SOCIOLOGY

Clinical sociology is a helping profession. According to Jan Marie Fritz, “... clinical sociology is the application of the sociological perspective to facilitate change. The clinical sociologist is primarily a change agent who is immersed in the client’s social world.” Clinical sociology courses 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 victims assisting and drug rehabilitation, and teach the student how to integrate sociological knowledge with other fields. They may go into such areas as marriage and family therapy, and clinical social work. A sociotherapist practices sociotherapy. This is a social science. It is a form of social work and sociology that involves the study of groups of people, their constituent individuals & their behavior, using learned information in case and care management towards holistic life enrichment or improvement of social and life conditions.

Applied, or clinical, sociologists work in all kinds of fields. One example is applied demography and population control. During the mid-twentieth century, the population of developing nations was growing rapidly and policymakers the world over were concerned about the effects of overpopulation. To address this problem, governments and international organizations, such as the UN, worked with sociologists & demographers, that is sociologists who study population, to devise strategies to reduce population growth. Sociologists led campaigns to distribute contraception, modernize countries, and encourage education and equal rights for women. Together, these efforts began to slow population growth. The strategies were based on sociological findings that fertility rates are lower in modern industrial and post-industrial economies. Here people put off having children in order to pursue education and economic opportunities. They were also based on sociological findings that fertility rates are lower when women have opportunities to pursue education and work outside the home. Thus, applied sociologists took findings from pure research and applied them to solving real-world problems. For more on clinical sociology, as well as medical sociology, go to: https://www.google.com.au/#q=clinical+sociology+wikipedia

ERVING GOFFMAN AND ME

Erving Goffman is a 20th Century Sociologist. He was born in Canada in 1922. Before his death in 1982, he was a professor of sociology at UC Berkley. He received his B.A. at the University of Toronto in 1945. I was only one year old at the time and would not hear of Goffman or read about him until 1963, during my first year of an arts degree in Ontario. Goffman received a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1953. This was a significant year in my life since it was the year my family began its association with the Baha'i Faith, an association now 60 years old.

Goffman's professional career has included serving as a visiting scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington, D.C.  He has written many articles and several books including The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which was first published in 1956. Goffman has faced much criticism of his work, as his research methods have been somewhat controversial, not following the more traditional and accepted forms of research conducted by classic theorists. Goffman himself did not consider himself as a theorist or a theoretical sociologist. What he did was to "borrow", "adapt", and "modify" different theories and use them to organize his own observations. Goffman's own "claim to fame" was that he was able to observe others, and make sense of those observations.  I mention Goffman here because his approach to sociology was and is similar to my own. In the 50 years that I have been a student of sociology, I have borrowed, adapted, modified, synthesized and analysed a wide-cross-section of sociological theory.

GOFFMAN'S MAIN THEORY

In every situation involving communication with others, we all assume roles. There are the roles that we play, and there is a stage on which we act out these roles. That stage is everyday life. There is also an audience.  That audience is other people. Goffman sees this as the core, the framework, within which we all interact with one another; social interaction is a performance. The study and theory behind this concept 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. For more on this go to:http://www.cybersociology.com/files/1_2_sannicolas.html

Goffman was the 73rd president of the American Sociological Association. He is considered "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century." For more on Goffman go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erving_Goffman

THE OLYMPICS: THE WORLD AS A SINGLE SPACE

Part 1:

As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, it seems obvious that global connections are rapidly increasing, along with a growing consciousness of the world as a single place. The sheer size and complexity of this increasingly dense network of social linkages poses difficulties for sociologists among other social scientists.  These academic communities are challenged to develop theories and methodologies that apply on a global scale.The concept of 'a transnational society’ has emerged out of a growing focus on the ‘social’ side of globalization. Transnationalism refers to the growing connectivity of individuals, groups and institutions across multiple national contexts. But how is transnational society being created and where is this process leading? How do the Olympics and other world sport events contribute to the making of transnational society? For an overview of the history of the olympics from 1924 to 2014 go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Olympic_Games

Ever more pressing global problems such as the worldwide financial crisis, environmental destruction, and widespread social unrest due to economic inequality, demand that social scientists should develop better ways of conceptualizing and understanding world systems and processes. International sport and sport mega-events enable us to elucidate the question of how social links, networks and communities are maintained across national and transnational layers. In these ways, sport affords social scientists a valuable crucible for forging and testing theories and methods for studying globalization. In keeping with trends in other social sectors, a broader set of transnational forces is exerting a growing impact on sport. The cumulative, worldwide television audiences have multiplied over the past few decades, while new social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and digital messaging services are crammed with sports-related content.

Part 1.1.:

Sport’s transnational social reach is attested by the basic statistics generated by the Beijing Olympics in 2008: 204 national teams participated – more than in any previous Olympics – and approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population, 4.7 billion viewers, accessed television coverage (Nielsen Co. 2008). At the same time, trans-societal processes of rationalization, commercialization, and politicization, as well as more sophisticated forms of transnational connectivity, are reshaping world sport and its largest megaevents. Thus, we find that global events like the Olympics are meticulously organized in accord with the latest ‘best practices’ in event management & communications, are associated with billions of dollars in commercial activity, and are closely followed and patronized by political elites across all continents. For more on these themes go to:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2012.01406.x/pdf


MY OWN APPROACH TO SOCIOLOGY

My theoretical orientation, or perspective for explaining sociological data, is eclectic and has been most influenced by Roy's Bhaskar's critical realism.
Roy Bhaskar(1944- ) is a British philosopher, best known as the initiator of the philosophical movement of Critical Realism. Go to this link for more on Bhaskar, who was born 10 weeks before me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Bhaskar  I have also been influenced by: (i) George Lakoff's embodied realism as well as (ii) Anthony Giddens' structuration theory. I have also been influenced by many other sociologists and, given my eclectic tastes, this should not be surprising. I recommend that readers interested in the above two influences google them, or go to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia where they will find the basic information they need.

STRUCTURATION THEORY

About structuration theory John
Lie, a professor of sociology and Dean of International and Area Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote: structuration theory is a constructionist theory.  A constructionist theory is one which holds that humans are social constructs and that all their institutions are also constructs upheld by humans acting according to their images of what reality is. The formulator and major exponent of structuration theory is Anthony Giddens. I have drawn on the insights of Dr Mark Foster, a professor of sociology in the state of Kansas and these insights, his orientation and many of his articles can be found at: http://foster.structurization.com/
http://www.markfoster.net/old/transmodern.html


SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIOLOGY

Social work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and the subjective well-being of individuals, families, couples, groups, and communities. This is done through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching for the benefit of those affected by social disadvantages such as poverty, mental and physical illness or disability, and social injustice, including violations of their civil liberties and human rights. The profession is dedicated to the pursuit of social justice and the well-being of oppressed and marginalized individuals and communities. A person who practices social work is called a social worker. In the UK, the title "Social Worker" is protected by law, and only those who have undergone approved training at university either through a Bachelor or Master's degree in Social Work and are registered with the appropriate professional regulatory body.

This regulatory body is the Health and Care Professions Council in England, the Scottish Social Services Council in Scotland, and the Care Council for Wales, or the Northern Ireland Social Care Council. These bodies define who may practice social work & who may be called a social worker. To do otherwise is a criminal offence. Student social workers typically undergo a systematic set of training and qualifications that are distinct from those of social care workers or care assistants, who may undertake a social work role but not necessarily have the qualifications or professional skills of a qualified social worker. Social work is an interdisciplinary profession, meaning it draws from a number of areas, such as: psychology, sociology, politics, criminology, economics, ecology, education, health, law, philosophy, anthropology, counseling, psychotherapy, inter alia. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_work

IS ASTROLOGY SOCIOLOGY?

In her article in the New York Times 2 June 2001 entitled "Star Wars: Is Astrology Sociology?" Emily Eakin writes: "
Elizabeth Teissier is well known in France as the weekly horoscope columnist for a popular television guide, the author of a half-dozen books on astrology, and the astrologer to the French president François Mitterrand. But Ms. Teissier, 63, has recently found herself on the front page of French newspapers for something that hundreds of people do every year: defending her dissertation.  A Ph.D. candidate in sociology, Ms. Teissier spent almost 10 years completing a 900-page thesis on astrology and in April 2001 received a passing grade at the Sorbonne for her efforts. For more on this article which throws light on the nature of sociology go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/02/arts/star-wars-is-astrology-sociology.html

MAX WEBER:1963 TO 2014


Max Weber(1864-1920), a German sociologist and political economist, has been in the backdrop of my reading life for more than 50 years. Weber profoundly influenced sociology, especially social theory and social research. He wrote: “An ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility are not absolute contrasts; they are, rather, supplements and only in unison do they constitute a genuine man. A genuine man is one who has the ‘calling for politics.’”  The calling for politics that has always interested me, at least since my teens back in the early 1960s, has been non-partisan, non-party, politics.  I will write more of this later.  Weber has influenced my thinking in my years as a student of sociology, now for than half a century, and I will write more here as well as in the sub-section of this site on 'sociological theories' at a later date. For a u-tube on Weber go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICppFQ6Tabw For an overview of his life and work go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Weber

WORLD SYSTEMS THEORY

World-systems theory, also known as world-systems analysis or the world-systems perspective, is a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change. Its roots are in the 1970s & in sociology when I first started to teach the subject in post-secondary educational institutions in Australia.  This thoery stresses that the world-system, and not nation state, should be the primary, but not exclusive, unit of social analysis. Immanuel Wallerstein has developed the best-known version of world-systems analysis, beginning in the 1970s. Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein(1930-) is an American sociologist, historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst. His bi-monthly commentaries on world affairs are syndicated.

Wallerstein traces the rise of the capitalist world-economy from the "long" sixteenth century (c. 1450-1640). The rise of capitalism, in Wallerstein's view, was a contingent, not inevitable, outcome of the protracted crisis of feudalism (c. 1290-1450). Europe and the West utilized its advantages and gained control over most of the world economy, presiding over the development and spread of industrialization and capitalist economy, indirectly resulting in unequal development. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World-systems_theory

DANCING WITH THE BUTTERFLY

As a poet I write on a number of disparate landscapes, and I try to bring these landscapes, through my several poetic idioms, into some relation with each other.  I try to convey some developed understanding, an understanding that penetrates to the realm of my feeling. Thought and feeling interact. Without some feeling engaging with my thought, it is impossible for me to write poetry.  Writing poetry and, to a lesser extent, all my writing across many disciplines, is a result of some inner force, some compulsion.  Part of my motivation is the desire to get away from the surface, the ordinary, the everyday perception and its endless and rugged literalness.  I have the desire, and have had this desire since the late 1950s and early 1960s, to achieve a more intense understanding, beyond the world of swimming thought and images, the booming and buzzing confusion of everyday reality.  

It is an understanding which begins by movements in my mind and my emotions, seemingly endless, restless, compulsive, and somewhat random movements.  The act of writing poetry establishes a creative milieux where my faculties can transform the meaning of my world, and the thought that assails it.  I have been writing poetry for at least half a century, but only extensively and seriously since the early 1990s. This literary milieux often contains a cluster of themes, and it exists within a personally-felt condition of belonging to community.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, Sociology as an Art Form, Heinemann, London, 1976, pp.5-29.

One of the last of my poems,
more than 7000 in 75 booklets
over thirty-four years: 1980 to
2014.......is an inhabitant of a
structure, which presupposes
a centre with its point of origin
and its meaning, its being and
its very presence....with some
established metaphysical.......
imperatives of truth, as well as
a consciousness and essence.

This structure tells of life, my life,
my experience......with its myriad
overlapping-intersecting layers, &
its truth as relative, fluid, changing
and caught inextricably in history’s
and language’s reality......like some
will-o’-the-wisp and some butterfly
dancing through the air above me.

And, by God, you’d better dance
with the butterfly in his so very
unpredictable path, holding onto
that great noetic integrator......(1)
or you will simply never learn to
dance in this cognitive world of
never-ending oppositions, & of
its psycho-linguistic yin-yang.(2)

(1) A noetic integrator is a symbolic or conceptual construction which serves to interpret large fields of reality, to transform experience into attitude, factual knowledge into belief, and provide a common frame of reference. The world's major disease is the absense of this common frame of reference.(Julian Huxley, 1960, p.88) Huxley borrows this concept from Teilhard de Chardin. A 'noetic system' is the totality of man's thoughts, feelings and activities.

Noetic science emphasizes that the structure of the universe is made in the image of its underlying field. The physical character of atoms, proteins, cells, and people are controlled by immaterial energies that collectively form that field. The cellular community comprising each human responds to a unique spectrum of the universe’s energy field. This unique spectrum, referred to by many as soul or spirit, represents an invisible moving force that is in harmonic resonance with our physical bodies. This is the creative force behind the consciousness that shapes our physical reality.  Noetic consciousness reveals that collectively we are the “field” incarnate. Each of us is “information” manifesting and experiencing a physical reality. Integrating and balancing the awareness of our noetic consciousness into our physical consciousness will empower us to become true creators of our life experiences. When such an understanding reigns, we and the Earth will once again have the opportunity to create the Garden of Eden.  The concept of a Garden of Eden needs to rest on some conceptual construction. For the Baha'i, this construction is the totality of the Baha'i paradigm, system, model, universe of ideas, Texts, inter alia. For more on this concept go to: http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/anisa/overview/jordan_streets_releasing


(2) See “Post-Structuralism or Nothing,” Internet, 2000.

Ron Price
27/12/'00 to 20/2/'14

SOCIOLOGY AND THE STUDY OF EMOTIONS

Sociologists have recently shown great interest in emotions, passions, sentiments, and feelings, evinced by the publication of numerous books, articles, and edited volumes. Emotionalizing Organizations and Organizing Emotions contributes to this growing body of literature. Sociological interest in emotions follows a considerable period of time during which emotions were assumed to be of scholarly interest to psychologists alone. Though Emotionalizing Organizations and Organizing Emotions stems from a meeting of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network on the Sociology of Emotions, it is not intended to be a contribution to sociology proper if, indeed, it is proper to invoke the idea of hard and fast disciplinary boundaries now in this second decade of the 21st century.  With its trans-disciplinary and multiparadigmatic character, uniting scholars from organization and management research and sociology, this book conveys deep insights into the multidimensional 'nature' of emotion and its appearance in organizations. Barbara Sieben and Åsa Wettergren's Emotionalizing Organizations
and Organizing Emotions
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, 300 pages) is reviewed in several places of which this is one: http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/?sf1=id_product&st1=407616

NOVELISTS AS SOCIOLOGISTS

Part 1:

Recently a notable sociologist sent an email to a fellow sociologist.  The writer of the email was inspired by the French critic and historian, Hippolyte Taine(1828-1893). Taine was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_%28literature%29, a major proponent of sociological positivism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positivism, and one of the first practitioners of historical criticism:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_criticism


The email contained Taine's famous reflections on literature. I will quote from this email since many readers of novels never read any sociology or much history.  “Hippolyte Taine, in the introduction to The History of English Literature, wrote: ‘It is mainly by studying our contemporary and historical literature that we are able to produce moral history, and arrive at some knowledge of the psychological laws on which events depend.  Nobody has taught us better than Stendhal.'

Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism
. Stendhal's writing shows readers how to observe with their own eyes. He observes the humanity all around him and life as it is.  He also utilizes old and authentic documents and, in the process, he is an example to us of: (i) how to read more than merely the black and white on the page, and (ii) how to detect under old print and the scrawl of the text the veritable sentiment and the train of thought, the mental state in which the words were penned. 

Part 2:

Many novels, like those of Stendhal, are rich in social analysis and, if we know how to interpret them, we will find the psychology of a particular soul, often that of an age, and sometimes that of a race. In this respect, a great poem, a good novel, the confessions of a superior man, are more instructive than a mass of historians and histories, sociologists and sociologies.  Taine goes on: 'I would give fifty volumes of charters and a hundred diplomatic files for the memoirs of Cellini, the epistles of Saint Paul, the table-talk of Luther, or the comedies of Aristophanes. I have undertaken to write a history of a literature and to ascertain the psychology of a people,’ Taine wrote this in 1863 when the Civil War was waging in the USA, and when "myriad veils of light" were partially lifted "vouchsafing to mankind an infinitessimal glimmer of the effulgence of the peerless, most sacred and exalted Coutenance of Baha'u'llah."-Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.151.

This email of this sociologist, inspired as he was by Hippolyte Taine, continued as follows: "Taine wrote in the same years that the great sociological novels were being written in Russia by Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevski; and in France by Flaubert and soon after by Zola, not to mention Dickens, George Eliot, and the early pioneer Balzac. What Taine called ‘the psychology of a people’ was a crude early conception, but it is what Durkheim and others would begin to analyze sociologically 30 years later. For a further half century, novelists would still be our best empirical sociologists. Thus the first great era of sociological observation took place under a different name, under the name of the novel. This took place roughly from Jane Austen to Ernest Hemingway." If readers would like more of this article from Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews go to:http://csx.sagepub.com/content/41/5/557.full


Part 3:

For those who never read novels, the above paragraphs will not be of much value. I have never been much of a novel-reader, although I have been an occasional dipper-into its vast landscape from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, some 35 years.  I do read autobiographies and memoirs, diaries and journals and, since my retirement in 1999, I have read a great deal about novelists and novels. In my 65 years of reading, 1949 to 2014, I have read novels by: Thomas Hardy, Graham Green, Herman Hesse, Emily Bronte, Patrick White, Jane Austen, George Orwell, John Fowles, Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, and Marcus Clarke,   Some of what Taine has written applies to the works of these novelists.

Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas".  Science fiction has been used by authors as a device to discuss philosophical questions of identity,  of desire, morality, and social structure. I have read a little sci-fi:  Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Jonathan Swift and Aldous Huxley. Going back as far as my childhood in the 1950s, there have been other writers of fiction whose books I have read, but that is all I can recall on a cursory survey of my 65 years of reading.


Part 3.1:

Professor Richard Sennett recently gave a lecture on "sociology as literature."  Sennett was trained at the University of Chicago and at Harvard University, receiving his PhD in 1969.  He then moved to New York where, in the 1970s he founded, with Susan Sontag and Joseph Brodsky, The New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.  In the 1980s he served as an advisor to UNESCO and as president of the American Council on Work; he also taught occasionally at Harvard.  He is currently academic governor and Professor of Sociology at LSE, and divides his time between LSE and New York University. In addition to these academic homes, he maintains informal connections to MIT and to Trinity College, Cambridge University.


"What's dead, white, and male? The literary canon." Such was the conclusion of a generation of literary critics by the 1980s when I began to teach some of the literary canon to matriculation students wanting to enter university in Western Australia.  A great deal of the scholarship of these literary critics worked to recover the writing by women, people of color and other excluded groups.  They wanted to refashion, if not break the monopoly, of the accepted canon. Traditionalists were appalled at this questioning of the canon. They proclaimed that none of these excluded groups produced a Tolstoy.  They also procalimed that such loosening of the gates of the canon augured the downhill slide of Western civilization. For more on this theme go to:http://www.theminnesotareview.org/journal/ns61/guillory.htm

LITERARY FICTION AND SOCIOLOGY

Part 1:

Literary fiction can also be used as a tool for teaching social theory and critical consciousness in sociology courses. Literary fiction can be used in the social theory classroom.  It can serve as a mechanism to encourage the development of critical consciousness,  Literary fiction can expand classroom dynamics and establish engaged dialogue between students and teachers. In particular, it has the potential to make social theory interesting and meaningful to students who are often anxious about learning social theory.

The acquisition of radical or critical knowledge also necessitates the learning of theory. Students learn the subtleties of Marxist or critical theory in order to gain understanding of the dialectics of freedom and necessity of the historically specific structures and processes that shape their lives while contradictions unfold, opening new spaces for qualitative changes in their experiences and consciousness.

Social theory is what we do when we find ourselves able to put into words some of the complexities of society that nobody seems to want to talk about or have great difficulty doing so.  When we find those words, and say them, we begin to survive in life more effectively.  For some, learning to survive leads to uncommon and exhilarating pleasures. I found this to be true by studying sociology among other social sciences. Such a study can lead to the common pleasure—a pleasure rubbed raw, as Charles Lemert put it, with what is the simple but necessary power of knowing that one knows what is there because one can say it. —Charles Lemert (2004:20)

Part 2:

As a person who has studied sociology for nearly half a century, and who taught social theory, there is a great deal of pleasure both in finding the words to say what one knows and watching others discover the empowerment of knowing that one knows what is there because one can say it. The pleasure students gain as they learn to read, interpret, and articulate the writings of social theorists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim is a continual reminder that social theory is meant not to be a passive experience but rather an engaged commitment to understanding how one’s personal experiences are tangled up with social life. In other words, social theory is an important component in the process of developing critical consciousness.

Initiated by critical pedagogues, critical consciousness is a process by which individuals become “empowered subjects,” developing their awareness of the relationship between the social world and their own lives, while resisting passivity by realizing their own capacity to shape the social world. It is with a commitment to engagement and empowerment that I once taught social theory, which once--and still does---ground my position as a critical pedagogue.


Yet the pleasure of teaching social theory to undergraduates carries with it the challenge of introducing dense, abstract, and historically dislocated texts to students. Of great concern to me are questions involving how one teaches these dense texts as a tool for critical consciousness when the language can be disaffecting and alienating to students without the background in reading theoretical texts. One of the greatest struggles for me as a teacher involved how to develop students’ appreciation for the language of these texts. It is also a challenge to me at this website. For more on these themes go to this September 2010 article in the journal Teaching Sociology by  Christina D. Weber: "Literary Fiction as a Tool for Teaching Social Theory and Critical Consciousness" :http://tso.sagepub.com/content/38/4/350.full


Readers might enjoy some of my posts on the internet on the subject of sociology. They can be found at:

Politicalfray

Helium.com-memoirs-working-in-sociology

Theforumsite.com

There are three more sections on sociology at this site for interested readers on: physical and cultural anthropology and sociological theory. For a Professor of Sociology on whose work I often draw, Dr. Mark Foster, readers are advised to go to:

http://heartfulness.bahaifaith.info/

http://markfoster.biz/

http://markfoster.org/


SOCIOLOGICAL STUDIES: BY COUNTRY

Sunera Thobani’s Exalted Subjects: Studies in the Making of Race and Nation in Canada is an important contribution to the burgeoning field of critical Canadian sociological studies. When I read the review at: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/CJS/article/view/1995/1416  I was reminded of Amiercan sociological studies, Australian sociological studies, British sociological studies, European sociological studies, inter alia, for each of many of the more than 200 countries, continental regions, and territories of the planet.

HISTORY OF SOCIOLOGY AND HISTORICAL SOCIOLOGY

Sociology emerged from enlightenment thought, shortly after the French Revolution, as a positivistscience of society. Its genesis owed to various key movements in the philosophy of science and thephilosophy of knowledge. Social analysis in a broader sense, however, has origins in the common stock of philosophy and necessarily pre-dates the field. Modern academic sociology arose as a reaction to modernity, to capitalism, urbanization, rationalization, & secularization, bearing a particularly strong interest in the emergence of the modern nation state; its constituent institutions, its units of socialization, and its means of surveillance. An emphasis on the concept of modernity, rather than the Enlightenment, often distinguishes sociological discourse from that of classical political philosophy.

Historical sociology is a branch of sociology focusing on how societies develop through history. It looks at how social structures that many regard as natural are in fact shaped by complex social processes. The structure in turn shapes institutions and organizations, and they affect the society - resulting in phenomena ranging from gender biasand income inequality to war. For more on historical sociology go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_sociology   For more on the history of sociology go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sociology

SOCIOLOGY AND HISTORY

Single-sentence answers to intellectual history, the meaning of history, and various basic definitional questions rarely get us very far. The labels of all the various branches of history are flags of convenience not names of essences, and the real question concerns the distinctiveness and validity of their claims to occupy a separate room in Clio's spacious house. In Greek mythology, Clio is the muse of history, or in a few mythological accounts, the muse of lyre playing. Like all the muses, she is a daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Mnemosyne. Along with her sisters, she was considered to dwell either Mount Helicon or Mount Parnassos.

For intellectual history most certainly is a part of history, part of the attempt to understand past human experience. Its role in the division of labour is the understanding of those ideas, thoughts, arguments, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes and preoccupations that together made up the intellectual or reflective life of previous societies. This intellectual life was, of course, continuous with, and not rigidly separable from, the political life, the economic life, and so on, of the same societies. In practice a rough and ready distinction is intuitively recognisable: where the economic historian may, for example, want to know about the kinds of crops grown on the lands of medieval monasteries, the intellectual historian will characteristically be more interested in the ideas to be seen at work in the monastic chronicles or in the theological basis of ideals of the contemplative life. For more on intellectual history go to:
http://www.historytoday.com/stefan-collini/what-intellectual-history