Sociological Snippets cont.

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**All social phenomena are socially constructed, and therefore can be deconstructed and then reconstructed. If people create something, they can recreate it. If we can imagine it, we can do it. Many dreams can become reality. Things can be different. "It could be otherwise" ( Everett C. Hughes). There are an infinite number of ways to (re)arrange society and other social systems (social constructionism). Ideologies are overly simplistic yet seemingly holistic explanations for very complex and widely disparate phenomena. Ideologies serve to dignify discontent and identify targets, as well as to unite people and ideas for a common purpose ( David Apter; Sidney Tarrow(**).

**Dichotomies, and Weberian "ideal types", are (over)simplifying devices that may be useful and common in method, but are rare in reality. Social phenomena (almost) always fall on a continuum somewhere between the dichotomous endpoints (infinitism; soft/fuzzy logic).

**Class is a vitally important category (Karl Marx). Money (or capital) has the power to influence all social phenomena, as well as interact with them, from "birth (and before) to death (and beyond)" and everything in between. "Money changes everything—and huge amounts of money change things almost beyond recognition" (Elizabeth Gleick). "Money makes the world go round" (proverb).

**Human nature is little more than typical human behavior at a given time in a given place. We are less biologically, genetically, or psychologically pre-determined than we are socially and environmentally capable.

**People participate in, observe, and change reality simultaneously. Facts and values are inseparable and objectivity is illusory (fact-value problem).

**Governments, corporations, religious institutions, militaries, prisons, hospitals, schools, and most other complex organizations are inherently hierarchical and coercive, and are increasingly routinized, rationalized, and bureaucratized (George Ritzer(**); Max Weber Michel Foucault).

**Writing history is an exercise in constructing, not recording, pieces of past social reality; just as making maps is an exercise in constructing, not reproducing, the world. "Who controls the present controls the past" (George Orwell). "Only when lions have their own historians will hunters no longer be glorified" (African proverb). "Those who are dominated do not have a history, it’s a history of the dominator" ( Samuel Ruiz Garcia; Edward P. Thompson; Eric Wolf; Howard Zinn; Michael Parenti).

**Everything is relative, based on time, place, ideology, and culture. People are extraordinarily flexible and adaptable.

**"Power and powerlessness corrupt; absolute power and powerlessness corrupt absolutely" (Edward Abbey? following John Acton; Michael Lerner; TR Young). People pushed to the extremes tend to go to extremes. "Brutal conditions breed brutal behavior" ( E. Currie), while comfortable conditions more often foster generosity and tolerance (D. Morris; Ronald Inglehart(**), with notable exceptions. "Scarcity—not familiarity—breeds contempt" E. Barbara Phillips.

** "Blaming the victim" is a common technique to shift blame and responsibility from systems and structures onto particular individuals and groups. This approach justifies inequality and suffering by finding fault in the victims of inequality, either innate or cultural, thereby diffusing any systemic critique or threat, and supporting the dominant interests of society. The formula for blaming the victim is quite simple: identify a problem, study those affected to find differences, and then define the differences as the cause of the problem (William Ryan(**).

**Humor is often employed to soften or disguise the delivery of uncomfortable speech, beliefs, information, or action (James Scott). "Often what is said in jest is meant in earnest" (Talmud). "There is truth in jest" (proverb).

**There are multiple forms and dimensions of intelligence, in addition to the standard "logical" form (traditionally measured by imperfect IQ tests), including emotional, social, intuitive, artistic, spatial, temporal, musical, linguistic, athletic, mathematical, analytic, and others (Harold Gardner(**); C. Handy Daniel Goleman ).

**Most people follow most of the norms most of the time, yet deviance from the norms always exists and is itself normal(Emile Durkheim). Deviance can be personally dangerous or rewarding, as it can also lead to social control, social repression, and/or social change.

**"We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are".(Talmud). People don’t "tell it like it is", they "tell it like they see it" (Ernst von Glasserfeld). "Reality is in the eye of the beholder" (E. Barbara Phillips). The world is (re)interpreted through our multiple lenses. However, it has also been stated that if you really want "to understand reality, try to change it" (Henry Volken).

**People aren’t inherently either good or bad; we can be horrible, heroic, neither, or both. Very few people or things, if any, are all good or all bad.

**People are more likely to believe or do things if they are led, or otherwise supported, to do so. People often obey orders, but will resist authority when they feel compelled to do so and are more likely to do so the more support and leadership they get (Stanley Milgram; Solomon Asch; Philip Zimbardo). When people feel oppressed, they may engage in individual and collective resistance along a continuum of activities, ranging from the common "everyday forms" such as slander, pilfering, and other secretive attacks to the much less frequent forms such as arson, rebellion, and insurrection (James C. Scott).

**Politics, economics, and culture can only be separated for analytical purposes; they are inextricably linked in practice, if not always in theory.

**All people (and societies) have potential beyond their actuality. There are virtually no limits—besides imagination—to what can be done.

**The powerful always try to legitimate their power, often by blaming the victim, though also by employing force, myths, legends, rituals, signs, symbols, flags, xenophobia, expertise, knowledge, nationalism, tradition, historical events, custom, religion, ideology, and other forms of culture as well as coercive socio-political techniques (Antonio Gramsci’s "hegemony").

**People are always on stage. They play roles, act out parts, give performances, read from scripts, wear masks, put on shows, and present themselves, although they do so on a set that has already been constructed. People are also directed and produced by others. People are what they say and do. People are who they pretend to be (William Shakespeare; Kenneth Burke’s "dramatistic" model;Erwing Goffman's "dramaturgical" model).

**Symbols are cultural representations used to simplify and communicate more complex and abstract messages. They are not inherently meaningful, but only become meaningful and therefore useful through the social interaction of a group. People communicate through symbolic exchanges, which include the ways people act and react to others as well as influence each other (symbolic interactionism(**)).

**People and organizations can affect social change, but only when opportunities and circumstances allow for change to occur ( Charles Tilly; Sidney Tarrow(**); political process model). People and organizations, the "active minority", can help make opportunities and circumstances arise, and expand them, by their words and actions which frame issues in such a way so that they resonate culturally within a population (Erving Goffman; Mark Granovetter; David Snow; Michael Gladwell; frame analysis).

**Social life may be complex, but it is not random. There are patterns and tendencies amongst the seeming chaos in the world.

**People tend to anthropomorphize their world. People are not created in the image of any god, but rather create gods in their image. Therefore, gods are not so much phenomenal as they are epiphenomenal (Ludwig Feuerbach) .

**Organizations and institutions have inertial qualities. They tend to reproduce themselves and stay on their trajectories unless they are externally influenced otherwise. Successful organizations, which tend to become bureaucratized, are much greater than the sums of their parts Max Weber.

**There’s no one Truth, History, National Interest, Answer, Common Sense, or Right Way. There are multiple realities and these are all social, cultural, historical, psychological, ideological, biased, relative, tentative, negotiated, and contested processes, which are manifestations of power relations. Nothing and nobody is neutral or value-free. There are always more than just two sides of a story (post-modernism). Whereas Margaret Thatcher spoke of TINA (the acronym for "there is no alternative", referring to economic globalization), empirical evidence suggests for nearly any issue or problem TAMA, "there are many alternatives".

**Hierarchy, stratification, domination, and elite rule are ubiquitous but not inevitable; there are few but notable exceptions throughout time and space ( power elitism).

**Cooperation and competition usually exist side by side and are practiced simultaneously (Peter Kropotkin). People and organizations compete with some, while they cooperate with others; they may also compete on some levels and cooperate on others. "Politics is the art of uniting friends and dividing enemies" (Kevin Danaher). Corporations and governments ultimately cooperate with each other more than they compete with each other. The rhetoric of the primacy of competition(**) is ideological. There is, however, competition between classes, and often between races and sexes among others, for social goods ( conflict perspective). "Without struggle, there is no progress" (Frederick Douglass). Cooperation, however, is often perceived as more rewarding and more meaningful than competition. People are ultimately more alike than they are different.

**Individual social problems are often manifestations of collective societal issues (C. Wright Mills). Effective leaders make the connections explicit and inspire the socialization and mobilization of private energies for allegedly public purposes by constructing meaningful stories.

**New and oppositional ideas typically become accepted and part of common knowledge by being ignored, marginalized, ridiculed, opposed, resisted, attacked, and then finally accepted as obvious ( John Stuart Mill(**); Thomas Kuhn(**); paradigm shifts; Arthur Schopenhauer). During these processes, there are always "tipping points" at which time an idea goes from being unknown and impossible to being common sense and inevitable ( Michael Gladwell; Feigenbaum points; threshold points; hundredth monkey; Epidemiology(**).

**Sociology may study the sacred and the profane, but it does not consider anything to be sacred or profane.

**Simplicity is seductive while complexity seems chaotic. People usually seek parsimony. "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler" (Albert Einstein; William Occam(**).

**All rules have exceptions.


Sydney Tarrow
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George Ritzer
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Ronald Inglehart
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John Stuart Mill
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Thomas Kuhn
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William Occum
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Social Epidemiology
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William Ryan
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Harold Gardner
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Symbolic Interactionism
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Competition Another Site