Invitation to Sociology---Chapter 2

Other Chapters:
#1... #4... #5... #6... #8

Sociology as a Form of Consciousness

Sociology: A peculiarly MODERN & WESTERN phenomena


Its LANGUAGE must be precise because it already is familiar to the Public
------i.e. Use of the word "society"
------Common Usage has various meanings
----------1. a particular band of people
----------2. people with prestige or privilege
----------3. company of any sort
----------"a large complex of human relationships...a system of interaction"
----------"a complex of relationships...sufficiently succint to be analyzed by itself, understood as an autonomous entity, set against others of the same kind"

i.e. Use of the word "social"
------Common Usage has various meanings
-----------1. informal quality of a certain gathering of people
-----------2. an altruistic attitude
-----------3. anything derived from contact with others
-----------the "quality of interaction, interrelatedness, mutuality"

Thus: Society is a complex of social events
------"social situations" are people orienting their actions towards one another
-----------i.e. Weber's definition of the "social act/relation"

Social Interaction is a certain aspect of ALL human doings
------"The sociologist does not look at phenomena that nobody else is aware of. But he looks at the same phenomena in a different way"

What is (or must be) PRESUPPOSED to ask sociological questions?

---1. "interested in looking some distance beyond the commonly accepted or officially defined goals of human actions"

---2. "a certain awareness that human events have different levels of meaning, some of which are hidden from the consciousness of everyday life"

---3. "a measure of suspicion about the way in which human events are officially interpreted by the authorities, be they political, juridical, or religious in character"

THUS: Sociology is most likely to develop in a context of questioning self-conceptions
-----official and authoratative ones
-----essential nature of "society" is "hidden" by authoritative/cultural factors
----------a "seeing through"
----------a "looking behind"
----------the "art of mistrust"

-----AGAIN: is a FORM OF CONSCIOUSNESS (i.e. awareness)
----------Enables us to see "reality" behind the "facades"
------------i.e. the political organization of a community
------------i.e. church organizations
------------i.e.economic life
------------i.e.being in love

This is especially evident in the way we define "problems"
---a "problem" for the PUBLIC doesn't equal a "problem" for the SOCIOLOGIST

-----PUBLIC: "SOCIAL PROBLEM" is "when something in society does not work the way its supposed to according to the official interpretations"
---------i.e. Crime
---------i.e Divorce
---------i.e Worker efficiency
---------i.e. Soldier behavior

-----SOCIOLOGIST: "SOCIAL PROBLEM" is "what goes on here in terms of social interaction"
---------NOT why things go wrong (from authorities or "ideal" point of view
---------RATHER: How the whole system works in the first place
------------its presuppositions
------------by what means it is held together

---------THUS: "the fundamental sociological "social problem" is:
------------NOT crime, but the LAW
------------NOT divorce, but MARRIAGE
------------NOT racial discrimination, but a RACIALLY DEFINED STRATIFICATION SYSTEM
------------NOT revolution, but GOVERNMENT

---------ALSO: What is a "problem" to one social system is the "normal routine of things" to another system
------------the ability to see situations from the vantage points of competing system of interpretation is the:


BERGER then states that what he has been describing thus far is the first of FOUR MOTIF/THEMES of Sociological Consciousness
-----These motifs/themes are the substance of both sociological THEORY and RESEARCH

-----an "unmasking tendency"
-----the "roots" of this motif are NOT in the psychology of the sociologist in his METHODOLOGY (i.e. approach)
-----"its built-in procedure of looking for levels of reality other than those given in the official interpretations of society...a logical imperative to unmask the pretensions and the propaganda by which men cloak their actions with each other"

Berger then gives us four ideas/concerns which exemplify the Debunking Motif

-----1. Unintended Consequences (Weber and Marx)

-----2. "Autonomous character of social processes" (Durkheim)
------------SUI GENERIS
------------SOCIAL FACTS
------------Cannot take merely the social actor's individual views as indicative of what is going on

-----3. Manifest and Latent functions (Merton)

-----4. Ideology
------------Views which serve to rationalize vested interests of a group (or individual)
------------Distortions of social reality
------------Ideas which are "unmasked" or "debunked" as being SELF-DECEPTION
------------Often the official self-interpretations of entire social groups
------------------Examples in book


Western societies each have a "respectable" and "unrespectable" sector
-----in America...because of the dominant role of the bourgeosie in shaping our culture

LANGUAGE is probably the clearest example of how to identify them
-----Unrespectable = "the other America"
-------supression of certain language in certain situations -------away from the world of "middle-class propriety"

American Sociology has generally been associated with the "respectable" sector of society
-----the university, business, government

YET: there has been and still is an important "undercurrent" of "unrespectability" in it, too
(Kessel: this has grown considerably since Berger wrote)
---------i.e. Thorstein Veblen
---------"a series of non-Rotarian insights"

-----p.45--"But where there is intelligence and where it manages to free itself from the goggles of respectability, we can expect a clearer view of society than in those cases where the oratorical imagery is taken for real life."

THUS: This motif involves looking at the "social reality of the community not only from the perspective of city hall, but also from that of the city jail."
--------awareness of worlds other than middle-class respectability
--------"the seeds of intellectual unrespectability

I.E. "of course statements"---"statements that represent a consensus so strong that the answer to any question concerning them will habitually be prefaced with the words ‘of course’ "
-----Examples on 47-48 --Sociologist knows that "of course statements" have serious problems -----this is the "threshold of unrespectability"

YET: does NOT imply a "revolutionary" attitude in itself
-----This motif sees through the illusions of revolutionary utopias as well as the STATUS QUO
-----IS a detachment from ANY taken-for-granted postures

"Total respectability of thought, however, will invariably mean the death of sociology"

-----Berger: is why sociology is not big in totalitarian regimes
-----Kessel: is why sociology has been usurped/coopted in respectable American society -------good Quote on p. 48 about Police and "guardians of Public order"


--SOCIOLOGICAL CONSCIOUSNESS is "in tune with the temper of the modern era"
------because the "values in our day have been so "radically relativized"
-----For Some People: still maintain a narrowness about their own social location
-------individually AND collectively
-----------blatant ethnocentrism
-----For others: has been an opening or awareness of relativity of own views
-----have recognized change WITHIN and BETWEEN societies/cultures
---THUS, Personal and collective identity is "uncertain and in flux"

"To live in modern society means to live at the center of a kaleidoscope of everchanging roles"

--Insights into OTHER cultures
-----"variety of ways of looking at the world"
-----TV has brought it into our homes (Kessel: and now the Internet)
-----Yet, often superficial, with no real grappling with it
--Insights into OWN culture
-----social mobility has facilitated this
-----we literally have to "take the role of the other"
-----AGAIN: no guarantee of real understanding

This overall fluidity of world views:
-----Ours is an age of CONVERSION (no religious connotation necessarily)
-----Psychoanalysis is the "institutionalized mechanism of conversion"
-----change in the view of myself...and...
-----change in the view of the world in general
--THUS: is a multitude of new cults and creeds

YET: this sense of relativity/change is NOT always intellectual or emotional immaturity

"It is impossible to exist with full awareness in the modern world without realizing that moral, political, and philosophical commitments are relative..."

This leads us to an awareness of the ways in which systems "can provide a total interpretation of reality..."
-----INCLUDING an interpretation of alternative systems or views
RESULT: "this means that the individual's choice of viewpoint will determine the way he looks back upon his own biography"

A more "neutral" term(as opposed to "conversion") is:
---"may alternate back and forth between logically contradicting meaning systems"


1. an interpretation of his existence and or his world

2. an explanation of any meaning system abandoned (or being considered)

3. tools to combat own doubts

-----"in terms derived from the system itself, thus keeping him within it"
-----it "cuts off questions" which might threaten allegiance to the meaning system

IF can resist these kind of "defenses" and "face squarely" the "experience of relativity"
---THEN: there will be a growth in awareness that: "not only identities but ideas are relative to specific social locations


-----INVOLVES: "an openness to the world, to other ways of thinking and acting"
-----the ability to transcend one's own physical locatiion and attachment to it
-----to feel "at home wherever there are other men who think."
-----"a taste for other lands, inwardly open to the measureless richness of human possibilities, eager for new horizons and new worlds of human meaning"

IN SHORT: "The sociological perspective is a broad, open, emancipated vista on human life."

-----The realization that...NOTHING HUMAN IS ALIEN TO ME...(ala Marx)