aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,
aefenglommung
aefenglommung

For Michelle

The theory of society that one employs to analyze situations depends upon how one answers these two questions.
1. Is the individual or the group the primary building block of society?
and
2. Are people basically consensual or conflictual?

After answering these questions, you wind up with four basic sociological positions.
1. The group is the primary building block of society; people are conflictual.
There are several major political and social theories that employ this approach. Conflict Theory is one, the major tenet of which is, "all groups are in conflict for the resources of society." Resources include words and laws, as well as food, water, money. All agreements are tactical only: permanent understanding and/or equitable sharing are not possible. The only morality is what advances the group. This is sometimes called Neo-Marxism (a Poli Sci word), since it comes from the same quadrant of analysis that Marxism does. In recent American politics, it's called Progressivism. A hundred years ago, it was called Fascism (before that became a bad name).
2. The group is the primary building block of society; people are consensual.
The biggest representative of this approach is what used to be called Structural Functionalism, which is the idea that you can understand society well enough by describing the interactions of ethnic groups, social classes, professions, etc. All of these are seen as voluntarily coooperating to make the society as a whole advance. SF was common in the 1950s in Sociology; it is seen as a tool of oppression by the radicals of today.
3. The individual is the primary building block of society; people are conflictual.
I can't think of a major sociological school any more than encapsulates this view, but over in politics, Ayn Rand-style Libertarians and Objective Positivists probably come close. This is the view that the only law the matters in the end is the Law of the Jungle.
4. The individual is the primary building block of society; people are consensual.
This is where the "intersubjective bubbles of reality" come in -- a phrase coined by a group of scholars trying to understand society as a group of atomized individuals who must merge their personal spaces, including their highly personal experiences of the world, with other people in order to get anything done.
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