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work on socialization has, however, begun

socialist feminism socialization


from the presumption that the process of producing

recognizably human beings out of infants

(or new versions out of extant adults) is a deeply

puzzling matter, especially given the hugely

variable detail of the experience of individual

members of any given society. The work of Harvey

Sacks (namely Lectures on Conversation, 1995) has

recently become important in questioning this

assumption. Conventional work has most usually

adopted an approach which has sought to separate

out (and often to quantify) the relative importance

of individual and environmental factors

or variables for human development and patterns

of sociality (a binary frequently referred to as

the nature versus nurture debate) – hence psychological

work since Freud on socio-cognitive development

(for example The Language and Thought of

the Child, 1923 [trans. 1926], by Jean Piaget (1886–

1980), moral development (such as Lawrence

Kohlberg’s The Meaning and Measurement of Moral

Development, 1981), or identity development (for

instance Erik Erikson’s Childhood and Society,

1950); sociological / social psychological work on

structural variables such as social class (for

example A. H. Halsey, Anthony Heath, and John

Ridge Halsey on Origins and Destinations, 1980) or

institutional forms (such as Phillip Zimbardo’s The

Power and Pathology of Imprisonment, 1971) or on

social conduct, the life-course, and social outcomes;

and, more recently, the highly contentious

studies in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology

by Edward O. Wilson (Sociobiology, 1975) and

Steven Pinker (The Blank Slate, 2002), which attempt

to demonstrate the hardwired nature of



Human beings are social animals and organize

their activities in groups. The term “society” is

used to describe a level of organization of groups

that is relatively self-contained. However, the

boundedness of groups is always relative and so

sociologists may refer to human society, where

the reference is to the interdependencies among

all social groups, or to subgroups such as family

society, where the reference is to the typical interactions

among the individuals making up a

grouping of close kin. Equally, the term society

may be used to indicate the wider activities of

those under the authority of a particular state,

for example, French society or Indian society.

The term society came into usage in the eighteenth

century with the rise of European modernity

and its distinctive public sphere of civil society

and state. Here the relative openness of association

and the range of cultivated activities available

created a space for social intercourse among the

better-off, who would go out into “society,” meaning

“high society.” This period coincided with the

emergence of social theory and its differentiation

from political theory, as writers became interested

in the distinctiveness of modernity and its institutions.

With the development of disciplinary

social science and the formation of sociology

as a distinct discipline, sociation and its differentiated

forms were seen as the special object of


The German sociologist Ferdinand To¨nnies proposed

a highly influential distinction between

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (usually translated as

“community” and “association”) to capture the difference

between premodern and traditional types

of societies. The former are characterized by ties of

reciprocity and mutuality; custom predominates

and they are largely rural. The latter are characterized

by voluntary association and exchange

relationships; rational calculation predominates

and such societies are urban and cosmopolitan.

Functionalist and associated structurally oriented

sociologies provide an analytical definition

of society. It is associated with the level of the

social system. Each social system must meet functional

imperatives (or structural principles) and

societies are classified according to the degree

of specialized institutional development around

each function. Modern society is characterized by

specialized and separated institutions of economy,

polity, legal system, and societal community (of

voluntary association); each is a subsystem and

the ensemble of subsystems makes up modern


In Marxism, where the mode of economic production

is held to dominate, other institutions of

law, politics, and ideology are sometimes characterized

as the social formation. The term society

is rejected as obscuring the real determinations

at work. In liberalism, which also gives priority to

the market economy, albeit seeing this as positive,

there is also suspicion of the term society, on

whose behalf the state might act in order to

restrict the market.

Feminists and postcolonial theorists have criticized

the dominant sociological representations

of society. For the former, the sociological concept

of modern society neglects gendered relationships

within the family household and how these structure

other social institutions. For the latter, the

idea of society as a relatively self-sufficient entity

has meant the neglect of the colonial relationships

integral to modernity. JOHN HOLMWOOD

society society



Originally, and sometimes still also, known as

“psychodrama,” sociodrama refers to a set of

group-work practices that originate in the theory

of Jacob Levry Moreno (1889–1974), who had a

diverse background in Viennese psychiatry, general

practice, health work with postwar refugees,

and theatre. He also worked in sociometry and

he subsequently founded the journal Sociometry.

A Journal of Interpersonal Relations. This diverse background

was brought together in a series of books

such as Das Stegreiftheatre (The Theatre of Spontaneity,

(1923 [trans. 1947]), Who Shall Survive? A New

Approach to the Problem of Human Interrelations

(1934), and Sociometry in a Cooperative Community

(1938). He worked to establish sociometrics as a

method of studying group relations and also as

an innovative approach to group psychotherapy,

the inception of which he officially dated from

April 1, 1921.

Finding Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis of

limited utility, particularly given its individual

focus, psychodrama was intended to draw upon

the creativity of groups to help solve interpersonal

and individual difficulties. It is perhaps of note

here that Moreno is commonly credited not only

with having set up the world’s first self-help group

(of prostitutes) in 1912, but also with coining the

terms group therapy and group psychotherapy.

Psychodrama is based, then, in concepts fromspontaneity

research, social role theory, and the empirical

study of groups, to provide a forum within

which, by taking on different roles and acting out

difficulties, problems, or conflicts in interpersonal

relations, patients or actors can be assisted to develop

alternative understandings of their problems

and – via group process – to develop new, and more

constructive, ways of relating to themselves and

other people.

While psychodrama concentrates on individual

personal concerns, sociodrama takes as its

site issues that belong to the group. Sociodrama,

then, represents the transfer of the concepts,

techniques, and practices of psychodrama (for

instance, role playing, doubling, role reversal,

and sculpting) into group, community, and nonclinical

organizational settings. Sociodrama has

been widely used in a range of organizational

settings such as education, social work, management,

the military, the police, and health care.

Sociodrama may, then, be described as a way of

simulating “real life” in order to facilitate social

learning in a group with shared (organizational)

goals. Sociodramatic techniques may be used to

develop consensual group understandings of the

social issues facing and affecting the group, to

foster more effective group problem-solving, planning,

and decisionmaking; to innovate, develop,

experiment with, and test alternative procedures;

and through the rehearsal of novel practices or

strategies, to assist in the identification of a range

of potential outcomes.



– see networks.


Usually regarded as originating in the work of

William Labov (1927– ) (in his seminal study, The

Social Stratification of English in New York City, 1966,

but also in Principles of Linguistic Change, 1994, and

Principles of Linguistic Change, 2001), this approach

was also important in his work on the varieties of

American English (such as Atlas of North American

English, 2001). Sociolinguistics has become a

highly diverse field of study in contemporary sociology.

Broadly speaking, sociolinguistics can be

understood as the study of the effects of social

and cultural variables on language usage, language

change and development, and the way in

which language is used in local contexts.

Sociolinguistics developing from this work is

primarily quantitative, may employ experimental

methods, and applies sophisticated multivariate

statistical analyses to the study of variation in

the (social and geographical) distribution of linguistic

variables, or language usage. As Labov himself,

in his chapter on “Quantitative Reasoning in

Linguistics” in Peter Trudgill, The Social Differentiation

of English in Norwich (1974), puts it, operationalizing

or defining “linguistic variable[s] is the

first and also the last step . . . [T]he most common

first step in quantitative analysis of a linguistic

variable is the binary division of the population

(of speakers or utterances) into salient groups:

men vs. women, middle class vs. lower class, preconsonantal

final clusters vs. pre-vocalic clusters,

and so on.” As such, sociolinguistic studies

document variations in a range of both “speech

particles” and also higher-order phenomena such

as “lects” (for example “dialects” – geographically

constrained forms of talk), “sociolects” (classbased

linguistic patterns), and “ethnolects”

(ethnic/culturally distinct vocabularies, syntax,

and grammar, for example New York English, or

Southern English). Sociolinguistics also examines

the variation in use of other sociolinguistic

sociodrama sociolinguistics


variables at the phonetic, phonological, morphological,

grammatical, lexical, and paralinguistic

levels of analysis across the usual range of

macro-sociological variables such as gender, race

and ethnicity, level of education, religious affiliation,

socio-economic status, and so on.

Thus work illustrative of the immense diversity

of current quantitative sociolinguistics might include

studies as apparently unrelated as Kristin

Anderson and Campbell Leaper’s “Meta-Analyses of

Gender Effects on Conversational Interruption”

(1998, Sex Roles) on the use of conversational

interruption, which suggests that men are statistically

significantly more likely than women

to interrupt their interlocutors, and L. Koch,

A. Gross, and R. Kolts’s study of “Attitudes Toward

Black English and Code Switching” among African-

American college students in the Journal of Black

Psychology (2001).

Quantitative sociolinguistics has come to be

complemented by work sharing the concerns of

the ethnological, ethnomethodological, conversation

analytic, and ordinary language philosophy

traditions. This stream of work, often associated

with key, but divergent, scholars such as J. L.

Austin (How to Do Things with Words, 1962), John

Gumperz and Dell Hymes (Directions in Sociolinguistics,

1972), John Searle (Speech Acts, 1969), Deborah

Schiffrin (Approaches to Discourse, 1994), and Emmanuel

Schegloff (“Discourse, Pragmatics, Conversation,

Analysis,” 1999, Discourse Studies), which is

often referred to as interactional sociolinguistics,

has sought to explicate “the linguistic and sociocultural

knowledge that needs to be shared if

conversational involvement is to be maintained”

(Gumperz, Discourse Strategies, 1982: 3). The diversity

of the field since inception may, however, be

appreciated by reference to one of the canonical

texts edited by Gumperz and Hymes in 1964.

Although originally a special issue of the journal

American Anthropologist (1964) which was called

“The Ethnography of Communication,” this was

later republished as Directions in Sociolinguistics as

a collection of papers by authors with disciplinary

affiliations as diverse as anthropology, psychology,

philosophy, linguistics, and sociology.

Subsequent scholarship that is recognizably related

to interactional sociolinguistics has broadened

into a diverse, and far from homogeneous,

field of research. Increasingly, attention has been

paid to discourse analysis as an analytic site,

with the incorporation of poststructuralist theoretical

influences, for example the work of Michel

Foucault, in the development of areas such as

“critical discourse analysis” (for example in

Norman Fairclough’s Discourse and Social Change,

1992) and discursive psychology (for instance

Derek Edwards and Jonathan Potter’s Discursive

Psychology, 1992). That is, a number of different

strands of scholarship, with widely differing

methodological and analytic emphases, may sensibly

be described as sharing in a common concern

with a relatively small set of issues. Key themes in

this field are: questions of how meaning is constructed

and conveyed in talk-in-interaction — for

example in the study of judicial settings in J. Max

Atkinson and Paul Drew’s Order in Court (1979);

how and to what extent shared cultural knowledge

is employed in the co-creation of intersubjectivity;

the influence of contextual cues

on the success or otherwise of interaction, as

well as attention to more “obviously” linguistic

features of talk such as grammar, syntax, and

the normative sequential structure of conversation

(for example in Harvey Sacks, Emmanuel

Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson’s “A Simplest Systematics

for the Organisation of Turn-taking for

Conversation,” 1974, Language).

Thus, for example, scholars such as Deborah

Cameron (“Theoretical Debates in Feminist Linguistics:

Questions of Sex and Gender,” in Ruth

Wodak [ed.] Gender and Discourse, 1997: 21–35)

have attended to the way in which a feminist

(socio)linguistics may explicate the relations between

gender, interaction, and power. At a more

micro-level, and drawing directly on the microsociological

work of Emmanuel Schegloff, scholars

such as Celia Kitzinger (for example C. Kitzinger

and H. Frith, “Just Say No? The Use of Conversation

Analysis in Developing a Feminist Perspective

on Sexual Refusal,” 1999, Discourse and

Society) have examined the ways in which claims

made in talk about knowledge can be understood.

Here the explicitly and self-consciously political

usage of conversational analysis to intervene in

what is both an academic and a social debate

(in this case concerning the extent to which miscommunication

about sexual consent between

men and women is a matter of gender-specific

“lects”) becomes apparent (for example Deborah

Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand, 1992).

It is in this subfield, however, that the key

difference between quantitative and qualitative

sociolinguistic work can be seen. That is, the issue

of the effects of “context” has a long and contentious

history (see Alessandro Duranti and Charles

Goodwin [eds.], Rethinking Context, 1994; John

Heritage, Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology, 1984; and

D. Lawrence Wieder, Language and Social Reality,

1974), and while quantitative and qualitative

sociolinguistics sociolinguistics


sociolinguistics are both concerned with context,

in the latter area — under the influence of the

Schegloffian variant of conversation analysis — attention

to contextual sociological variables such as

gender, ethnicity, or social class is dismissed unless

made explicitly relevant in the interaction in hand

by the members in question. However, even within

interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysts

argue that “context” is so over-determined as

to provide only analytic glosses, with no empirically

secure specification of local relevance, whereas

critical discourse analysts (such as Fairclough,

1992) contend that aspects of context which are

essential to comprehending social interaction are

identifiable, a priori, by socio-politically committed

analysts. Between these positions some have attempted

to outline a way of reading work inspired

by ethnomethodology in terms of either rhetorical

analysis or poststructuralist thought, and vice

versa (for example Mick Billig’s Arguing and Thinking,

1987; Mark Rapley’s The Social Construction of

Intellectual Disability, 2004, and MargaretWetherell’s

“Positioning and Interpretative Repertoires: Conversation

Analysis and Poststructuralism in Dialogue,”

1998, Discourse and Society). There is much

controversy that remains unresolved.


sociological imagination

– see C. Wright Mills.

sociological theory

Any form of sustained reasoning or logic that

endeavors to make sense of observable realities

of social life via the use of concepts, metaphors,

models, or other forms of abstract ideas may be

legitimately classified as sociological theory. The

need for theoretical reasoning is particularly

acute in sociology because of the remarkable

complexity and diversity of observable realities

within any given social group, among comparable

groups, and between dramatically different historical

epochs and culturally distinct civilizations.

Though several methodologists, most notably

John Stuart Mill in his System of Logic (1843), have

proposed inductive means to develop social theory

via generalizations from empirical research, most

methodologists agree with Auguste Comte, who

declared in his six-volume Course of Positive Philosophy

(1830–42 [trans. 1855]) that social facts, while

always numerous and easily observed, are too

vague and incoherent to be useful in the absence

of theory. However, in practice sociological

theorists need not confine themselves to abstract

reasoning. Theory is often developed by shuttling

back and forth between abstractions and empirical

evidence. Moreover, a number of extraordinary

works, including Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic

and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905 [trans. 2002]),

mile Durkheim’s Suicide (1897 [trans. 1951]), and

the Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912 [trans.

2001]), and Erving Goffman’s Interaction Ritual

(1967), develop theory by incorporating highly abstract

sociological insights in the abstract analysis

of empirical examples.

But whatever the relationship between theory

and facts, logical reasoning never makes sense

of social realities on its own. All original theories

begin with an inspiration of some kind, for

example novel insights that bring the prosaic

background of social events into the foreground

of sociological interest, new ways to discover or

explain puzzling social structures or forms of

behavior, or morally compelling visions of society

and its discontents. These inspirations are only

intuitions in themselves. Intuitions are transformed

into theory via the disciplined analytical

reasoning that follows.

Sociological theories may be classified in any

number of ways. Perhaps the most familiar distinction

is that between classical and contemporary

social theory. This entry begins with an

extended discussion of this distinction, followed

by more specific treatment of salient themes on

each side of the classical–contemporary divide.

Sociological theory written prior to 1930 is referred

to as classical sociological theory. Much of

it was written well before 1890 when the academic

discipline of sociology began to emerge.

Theory written from 1930 to the present is referred

to as contemporary social theory. Though

both forms of theory share a common purpose in

making sense of observable realities, they otherwise

differ in so many respects that they can be

regarded as separate genres, and this is how they

are taught in academic institutions around the

world today.

The historical transition from classical to contemporary

theory marks a large cultural shift in

how thinkers go about making sense of society.

The extraordinarily learned classical theorist

Max Weber observed in Economy and Society (1922

[trans. 1968]) that intellectuals have always been

driven by an inner compulsion to understand

the world as a meaningful cosmos. For much of

human history, this need was inspired by the apparent

senselessness of human suffering in light

of religious teachings as well as by the desire

to discover ways and means of release or relief

sociological imagination sociological theory


from the social and material miseries of human

life. Over many centuries and across many civilizations,

intellectuals created systematic theologies

and ethical philosophies to serve these ends. But

these theologies and philosophies are too removed

from observable social realities to qualify as

sociological thought even in the broadest sense.

The classical era in sociological theory began

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