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of western nations. A key idea here was that of a

profound cultural cleavage between the realms of

production and consumption. While the former

depended on the work ethic and deferred gratification,

the latter elevated hedonism and personal

fulfillment as the overriding values. This argument

disputed the contention, associated with

Talcott Parsons, that western social systems could


behaviorism Bell, Daniel (1919– )

be integrated around a relatively stable set of

normative frameworks. For Bell, by contrast, the

moral foundations of capitalism would remain

shaky and uncertain. In this way, Bell anticipated

certain postmodern arguments against the unitary

nature of social order. ROBERT HOLTON

bell curve

– see intelligence.

Bellah, Robert N. (1927– )

Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University

of California, Berkeley, and born in Los

Angeles, Bellah attended undergraduate and

graduate school at Harvard University, receiving

his PhD in Sociology in 1955. He taught at Harvard

in 1957–67, moving thereafter to his position at


Bellah’s work has centered on the sociology

of religion and cultural sociology. His earliest

book, Tokugawa Religion (1955), explored Japanese

religion in a comparative framework. In Beyond

Belief (1970), he wrote on a variety of religious

traditions, viewing religion not as an objective

set of timeless truths, but as an attempt to find

meaning in the modern world. In The Broken Covenant

(1975), a very controversial work, Bellah

discussed the idea of civic religion in the United

States. He argued that abstract but shared

religious values give American ideas such as

the republic and liberty a sacred dimension.

Critics accused him of collapsing the distinction

between religion and politics, a criticism rejected

by Bellah.

Bellah has continued his concern with the

moral life of Americans in his recent works, Habits

of the Heart (1985) and The Good Society (1991), both

written with Richard Madsen, William Sullivan,

Ann Swidler, and Steven Tipton. Bellah finds that

American democratic institutions are threatened

by a powerful and widespread belief that selfinterest

and self-expression are the essence of freedom.

He thinks that Americans have difficulty

grasping the interdependency of the contemporary

world and the complexity of many of their

basic values, including the meaning of success,

freedom, and justice. Bellah states that many

Americans have trouble conceptualizing and acting

on these issues because they assume that

individuals are isolated from their social and

cultural contexts. For Bellah, this is a fiction.

Most Americans are profoundly involved in social

relationships that entail community and caring,

yet they lack a language that articulates the

richness of their commitments to one another.

Bellah states that Americans lack such insight

into their communal obligations and experience

because they have privileged their individualistic

cultural beliefs over other aspects of their cultural

life and traditions. Yet these communal themes

run deep in American history. He labels these

communal traditions republicanism – which advocates

a society based on political equality and

participatory self-government – and the biblical

tradition – which posits a good society as a community

in which a genuinely ethical and spiritual

life can be lived. Bellah calls for a resurrection and

rethinking of the biblical and republican traditions,

which he sees manifested in Americans’

desire for meaningful work, their wish to make a

difference in the world, and their devotion to

family and friends which often overshadows their

commitments to work. For Bellah, these traditions

represent an ideal of a community of participatory

individuals who have strong ethical bonds with

one another. American institutions, from work to

government, must change so that people do not

view them as hindrances to self-development. Individuals

must be able to grasp the interconnection

of personal and public welfare, so that they can

actively participate in shaping their lives.


Bendix, Reinhard (1916–1991)

A German-born sociologist who emigrated to the

United States in 1938, Bendix taught at the University

of Chicago from 1943 to 1946, and then,

following a short stint at Colorado, at Berkeley.

Bendix’s work on political theory and historical

and comparative sociology fused theoretical depth

with expansive empirical detail. He wrote three

major historical-comparative books: Work and Authority

in Industry (1956), which examined the role

of bureaucracy; Nation Building and Citizenship

(1964), which followed T. H. Marshall’s arguments

concerning working-class incorporation into

modern society; and Kings and People (1978), which

expanded on Weber’s famous distinction between

feudal and patrimonial authority. He was, however,

most well known for his penetrating intellectual

biography of Max Weber (1960), which

provided an alternative reading to the then dominant

Parsonian interpretation of the German


In Social Science and the Distrust of Reason (1951)

and later works such as the two-volume Embattled

Reason (1988–9) and From Berlin to Berkeley (1986), he

advocated responsible partisanship which balanced

scientific scholarship with humanistic

ideals. He also edited two influential books with


bell curve Bendix, Reinhard (1916–1991)

Seymour M. Lipset: Class, Status and Power (1953)

and Social Mobility in Industrial Society (1959).


Benjamin, Walter (1892–1940)

Although not a sociologist and initially recognized

more as literary critic and philosopher, the

German theorist Walter Benjamin has had a significant

impact upon aspects of sociology in recent

decades. Perhaps most widespread has been the

debate upon and extension of his reflections on

“the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproducibility.”

In his essay of that title (1969; 2002)

[1936] and elsewhere, Benjamin argued that,

whereas the traditional work of art possessed auratic

qualities, the result of its uniqueness and authenticity,

mechanical reproduction of images and

art works removed their auratic qualities and potentially

opened up democratic possibilities. Benjamin’s

interest in the technologies of image and art

work reproduction led him to explore the media of

film, photography, radio, and new modes of operating

with existing media such as modern drama

and the press. This interest in images accords

with his assertion that an important feature of

modernity is the huge proliferation of images.

More recently, the translation of his massive,

unfinished prehistory of modernity, the Arcades

Project (1999), on which he worked for over a

decade collecting images, descriptions and evidence,

has been influential. This project focused

in a radical manner upon Paris as capital of the

nineteenth century and was intended as an excavation

of modernity that would be crucially relevant

to our contemporary experience. Defining

modernity as a world dominated by illusion and

fantasy (“phantasmagorias”), and especially the

illusion of the “new,” Benjamin maintained that

the origins of modernity lay embedded in the

nineteenth century. Their excavation was to be

approached methodologically through attention

to the fragments, the refuse of the past in our

present, through the construction of dialectical

images that would force the past into our present,

through a critique of the dream-world of historicism,

and through awakening from the illusions

of modernity. The investigation of the origins of

modernity were to be undertaken by the partly

metaphorical figures of the archaeologist / critical

allegorist, the collector/ragpicker, and the flaˆneur/

detective. The new reading of the city as text

revealed the transformations in experience of

modernity through a rich construction of the

city, commencing with its arcades, and moving

through to its streets, the bourgeois interior, the

masses, the phenomenal life of the commodity,

and the transformations in perception of things.


Berger, Peter L. (1929– )

Born in Vienna, Berger moved to the United States

after World War II and is currently a professor at

Boston University. Berger’s contribution to sociology

is prolific and extensive but he is most renowned

for his writings on religion and

secularization, and for the phenomenological

understanding of social life articulated in The

Social Construction of Reality (1966), coauthored

with Thomas Luckmann. In this highly influential

book, Berger emphasized what today might seem

an obvious point – that society is a product of

human design – but which in the 1960s, a time

when sociologists primarily emphasized the determining

power of large-scale impersonal social

structures (for example, capitalism) and processes

(for example, modernization), was highly innovative.

Berger’s focus on everyday life and the pragmatic

constraints of living in the “here and now”

was quite radical. It made scholars and students

alike pay attention to the small but potent ways in

which ordinary people get on with, make sense of,

organize, and find meaning in the everyday reality

that confronts them. Berger’s emphasis on the

thoroughly social foundation of institutions, and

the possibility that institutional and social change

emerges when the taken-for-granted institutional

routines no longer make sense in a particular

social context, opened up an emancipatory view

of human (social) agency, but one, clearly, that

recognized that humans as social beings – the

products too of society – are always in interaction

with socially institutionalized ways of organizing

collective life, for example, language. The dialectic

by which humans engage the objective, socially

created external world, and in turn internalize

and act on that external reality provides a highly

dynamic model of the interactive power of institutional

structures and individual consciousness

and meaning in the construction of social life.

One of Berger’s core interests has been how the

religious domain, itself the product of human

design rather than divine blueprint, allows individuals

to impose order on the chaos of everyday

reality. Religion provides like-minded individuals

who interact together within a symbolic universe

of shared beliefs, symbols, and meanings with an

overarching Sacred Canopy (1967), which facilitates

the plausibility of their sense-making and thus

enhances their social integration. But, as Berger

noted, in modern society – with its rationally


Benjamin, Walter (1892–1940) Berger, Peter L. (1929– )

differentiated institutional spheres and cultural

processes – religion is but one of many competing

universes of meaning; science and art, for

example, are other (often conflicting) sources of

shared meaning in society. Within the religious

sphere, moreover, Berger argued, the plurality

of denominations and choices available reduces

the plausibility or the certainty of any one

individual’s beliefs (or choices).

Berger was a leading proponent of secularization,

seeing it as an inevitable and global phenomenon

of modernization and the necessary loss of

domination of religious institutions and symbols

over social institutions, culture, and individual

consciousness. Although he acknowledged that

secularization did not proceed uniformly across

all societies or across all sectors of society, he

nonetheless argued that any continuing symbolic

power of churches would necessarily rest on

churches becoming more secularized themselves.

In recent years, however, Berger has revised his

earlier thesis in Christian Century (1997), stating

that most of the world today is not secular but

very religious. Berger’s Invitation to Sociology (1963)

remains an influential and accessible introduction

to sociology. MICHELE DILLON

Bernstein, Basil (1924–2000)

Within the British tradition of empirical sociology,

Bernstein was unusual in being open to the philosophical

currents in “continental” thought. His

early reading of Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), Benjamin

Whorf (1877–1957), Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934),

and Alexander Luria (1902–77), and his knowledge

of the work of E´ mile Durkheim, caused him to

become primarily concerned with how cultural

and linguistic frames of thinking mold our experience

of the world. Before and after studying at the

London School of Economics after World War II,

Bernstein had experience of working and teaching

in socially deprived parts of east London. His combination

of theoretical interest with concrete experience

of non-traditional or non-academic

contexts fostered the research which he undertook

and inspired at the Sociological Research

Unit at the Institute of Education of the University

of London from 1963 until his death. During this

period he was responsible for the production of a

series of studies under the general title of Class,

Codes and Control (1971, 1973, 1975). Both the first

and the third volumes of this series reprinted his

seminal article entitled: “On the Classification

and Framing of Educational Knowledge.” Bernstein

was responsible for drawing attention to

the correlation between class difference and the

capacity of people to draw upon “restricted” or

“extended” linguistic codes. He was necessarily

interested in pedagogical practices, and it is

significant that his research provided a basis

for examining sociologically the function of

schooling, at a time when thinking about education

was still dominated in the United Kingdom by

philosophers, and when opposition to schooling

was expressed in the de-schooling movement.



Bias refers to those aspects of the social research

process that may skew the findings in some way.

The main identified sources of bias concern the

researcher or informant, the measurement instruments

or methods, and the sampling procedures.

Biased measures fail to do a good job of measuring

the things they are purported to measure and

therefore lack validity. Biased samples are not

representative of the relevant population or set

of cases they are meant to reflect.

The issue of whether or not one can eliminate

bias is contested. Some argue that to eliminate all

sources of bias is to purge research of human life.

From this viewpoint, the task of the researcher is

not to eliminate bias but to be reflexive about

potential distortions of accounts. Others disagree

and stress that it is the researcher’s duty to make

every effort to eliminate or minimize distortion in

the research process.

The dispute arises because the meaning of bias

is ambiguous. The notion that bias is a systematic

deviation from a true score is problematic because

concepts such as “truth” or “objectivity” sit uneasily

with the study of the social world, where

“truths” differ across time and place. It is less

problematic to define bias as systematic errors

that distort the research process. The main safeguard

against such systematic distortions is that

others in the community of scholars will challenge

biased research. For example, feminist

scholars have played an invaluable role in challenging

pervasive sexism in sociological concepts and

measures. J ACKIE SCOTT

biological reductionism

– see biologism.


In its strongest form, this perspective suggests

that the social position of social classes or ethnic

groups (see ethnicity) largely stems from genetically

inherited levels of intelligence. Similarly, the

high levels of child-care or domestic work


Bernstein, Basil (1924–2000) biologism

conducted by women are an expression of their

innate caring capacities. As with social Darwinism,

such arguments clearly suggest that power and

inequality are mainly a product of an inherent

human nature. Criminality too is sometimes

seen as a product of biological inheritance.

Biologism, in its crudest forms, is a thinly veiled

ideology in which white males have exercised

power over women, nonwhites, and others. Such

pseudoscience is clearly unacceptable. On the

other hand, blank rejection of the natural sciences

by sociologists runs the risk of throwing out the

biological baby with the bathwater. Humans, like

all animals, remain a natural datum. Their biological

structures and potentials must be related,

however loosely and distantly, to their behaviors,

social positions, and identities. Biological and

psychic mechanisms are certainly overlaid with,

or “overdetermined” by, social relations, but this

cannot mean that biological mechanisms can

never offer explanatory purchase. Social institutions

and social structures may be realizing or

suppressing biologically based structures and capacities

in complex and varied ways which are not

well understood.

Sociologists are therefore right to criticize extreme

forms of biologism. But they must also

guard against charges of “sociologism,” a denial

of biological or psychic bases to human behavior

and/or crude assumptions about the plasticity of

the human body and human nature. Neither sociology

nor biology can offer total explanations, and

dogmatic charges of “biologism” could result in

the premature closure of transdisciplinary analysis.

Despite a legacy of suspicion, sociology must

remain open to contributions from the natural



A general term referring to the way biology intersects

with politics, commerce, the law, and morality;

more specifically, the term refers to the

contentious politics and conflicts concerned with

nature and the environment. Environmentalism

and animal rights are two social movements

whose cognitive and political praxis can be characterized

as forms of biopolitics.

The term has a more specified meaning in what

is called the “transhumanist movement.” The

phrase was first coined by James Hughes, an

American professor, to refer to a pro-technological

outlook which takes the Luddites as its polar opposite.

As a form of biopolitics, transhumanism is

a movement towards a posthuman or cyborg society.

Leading social theorists associated with the

concept are Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway,

and Peter Singer. RON EYERMAN


This term is used to describe a process through

which biological materials are modified. Specifically,

it refers to the use or development of

techniques employing living organisms, such as

cells and bacteria, in industrial or commercial


The field of biotechnology not only integrates a

number of disciplines, drawing on molecular

biology, biochemistry, cell biology, microbiology,

genetics, immunology, and bioinformatics, it also

employs a range of different techniques and technologies

including, among others, DNA sequencing,

the polymerase chain reaction, and microand

macro-injection. Although interventions such

as the selective breeding of plants and animals

and the use of yeast to make bread have been

taking place for centuries, the term biotechnology

is associated with more recent developments, such

as the late twentieth-century breakthroughs in molecular

biology, genetic engineering, and the current

convergence of science and technology aided

by bioinformatics.

The birth of modern biotechnology is generally

dated to the early 1970s when American scientists

developed recombinant DNA techniques. This is a

method for transferring genes from one organism

to another unrelated organism. Since then, a

number of other technologies have been developed

leading to innovations such as genetically modified

foods, stem cell research, and gene therapy.

A new industry sector has been built up around

biotechnology. This sector is playing a critical role

in knowledge transfer, where knowledge from

universities is transferred into commercial applications,

and contributing to the emerging, global

knowledge-based economy. Biotechnology companies

tend to be recent start-ups established by

researchers from universities or research institutes,

funded by venture capitalists, and having

extensive networks of research alliances and collaborators.

They are usually built up around a

single idea backed up by patents, with few, if any,

products on the market. Biotech firms often initiate

drug development, selling their products to

large pharmaceutical companies which continue

with the process of bringing the drug to market.

In drug development, biotech firms commonly

rely on continual investments from venture capitalists

and bankers for an eight- to ten-year period

before the products are realized or larger pharmaceutical

companies acquire the firm.


biopolitics biotechnology

Since the first biotech firms were established in

the late 1970s, the industry has expanded rapidly.

The subsequent successful production of cloned

genes for producing proteins that enabled the

production of new pharmaceutical drugs and agricultural

applications prompted massive governmental

investments in the United States, Europe,

and emerging markets around the world.

As with recent developments in genetics, biotechnology

has been heralded by scientists, policymakers,

and the business world as having the

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