Invitation to Sociology---Chapter 4

Other Chapters:
#1... #2... #5... #6... #8

Sociological Perspective--Man in Society


In this chapter, Berger is presenting "Society as a Prison". He portrays the individual over against Society, pitting them against one another, finding man dominated by society, AS IF in a Prison. In other words, his main thesis is that if we are to understand the relationship between individuals and society, we must draw out fully the meaning of what it is to be "LOCATED IN SOCIETY." To do so, he uses five themes or issues:

1. social location of "self"
2. social control mechanisms
3. social stratification (class)
4. the "definition of the situation"
5. institutions

All five of these themes portray the individual as dominated by the MACRO level, BOTH "objectively" and "subjectively". Thus, Berger is presenting a basic Durkheimian perspective of the PASSIVE individual, without any sense of the "creating" or "emerging" role of the MICRO. This will come later in Chapter 6. Chapter 4 thus will have a decidedly "DETERMINISTIC" tone to it. Dipping into the MESO level as a more limited form of MACRO, Berger seems deterministic in order to make a point.


---as children we learn who we are by locating ourselves in relation to other people
---we are given "assigned coordinates" by parents, family, and authorities (especially schools)
-------it becomes normal for us to believe in them

---"social location" tells the individual:
-------A. just what he may do and not do
-------B. what he can expect from life

---p. 68: "location in society constitutes a definition of rules which have to be obeyed"
-------obeying them and living accordingly is what Berger calls the "COMMONSENSE VIEW OF SOCIETY"
----------the grown up view of societv takenforgranted


---I.E. How is this "social location" enforced?
---SOCIAL C0NTROLS = "various means used by a society to bring its recalcitrant members back into line" (p. 69)
---Methods of social control will vary with:
-----1. the social situation
-----2. the purpose and character of the group

Berger discusses six(6) mechanisms of social control
---1. VIOLENCE (pp. 6970)
-------A. physical force
-------B. Threat of violence
----------"restraining influence of the generally known availability of the means of violence.(p. 70)

-------both fear of being fired AND fear of NOT being hired

---3. VERBAL/MENTAL PRESSURES (Group pressures and mechanisms) (pp. 71-73)
-------A. Persuasion
-------B. Ridicule and gossip
-------C. Ostracism
-------D. Fraud (fraudulent claims)
----------"making claims" which others pay attention to

------SOME are legal sanctions---most are informallv enforced
------"adjustmentoriented groups" can define some as "sick"

-------A. Formal
----------being in trade unions
----------formal rules and regulations of employers
-------B. Informal
----------from colleagues and coworkers
-------In BOTH: "Code of Conduct"
-----------to behave in a certain way (within bounds)

-------"Far more serious Psychological weight"
-------"American Familism" (as a place of peace and harmony)
----------"set of values that strongly emphasizes the home as a place of refuge from the tensions of the world and a place of personal fulfillment.
-------Home as the "sphere of the intimate"
----------our major source of "selfdefinition"
----------likely to maintain as much harmony as possible so our sense of ourselves is maintained


(CAUTION: Berger maintains a structuralfunctional view of inequality)

YET: can agree that CLASS is the fundamental unit of stratification
---"one's general Position in society is basically determined by economic criteria" (79)
---"status symbolism" (79)
---Weber: defined class "in terms of the expectations in life that an individual may reasonably have" (79)
---pp. 8081 has excellent portraya1 of how differences in income leads to differences in quality of life
---Major Point: while there ARE "external controls" on matters concerning class, MOST ARE UNNECESSARY
-------I.E. Class is the "way in which society penetrates the insides of our consciousness" (82)
-----------our personality is shaped

---"a social situation IS what it is defined to be by its participants" (p. 84)
---for the sociologist: "reality is a matter of definition"
---DOS: bring the "past" into the present (tradition/custom)
-------i.e. courtship and dating (8587)
---POINT: DOS' seem real and objective to us (PARAMOUNT REALITY)
-------a whole life policy & personality follows from DOSí
---W. I. Thomas

INSTITUTIONS (reified or structured DOS's)
---"distinctive complex of social actions" (87)
---relates to individuals as a REGULATORY AGENCY
-------channels human actions
-------same function as INSTINCTS (8788)

"Institutions provide procedures through which human conduct is patterned, compelled to go, in grooves deemed desirable by society. And this trick is performed by making these grooves appear to the individual as the only possible ones" (p. 87)

-------an "inner voice" we THINK is our own
-------seemingly inevitable

---WHAT do institutions do?
-------1. grooves (patterns) which protect us from quandry
-----------given scripts, answers, solutions
-------2. shuts out other options: devalues them
-------3. even bars options from consciousness
-------4. provides formulas for living
-------------desire to love = desire to marry
-------------desire for possessions = desire for happiness
-------------desire for education = desire for good job
-------5. makes us "behave according to type"

---THUS: this seeming inevitability of institutional behavior leads us to see that:
-------DECEPTI0N is inherent in any social arrangement
-----------"That is, he is deceiving himself(or more accurately, being deceived by society) when he looks upon his course of action as inevitable. This means that every institutional structure must depend upon deception and all existence in society carries with it an element of bad faith" (90)
-----Bad Faith = the belief that something is necessary which in fact is voluntary (MORE in CHAPTER 6)

BLAM!!! the "prison door" is closed and locked
---YET, on p. 98 Berger hints at what's to come, that is, "institutional behavior and deception allows us to see potentia1 freedomaway from the alldetermining sense of society"

SUMMARY: In this chapter Berger, step by step, portrays our fate as individuals IN society
---We gain a sense of ourselves by becoming aware of our social location...
---it is enforced by mechanisms of social control
---our material existence within a stratified society (in a particular class) gives us a sense of what we can expect from our location and which others can aspire to
---certain DOS' are maintained by different classes, some dominating all others
---these are patterned in such a way, institutionally, that we rarely question them, thereby deceiving ourselves and others.