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where geographers stop at the moment of abstraction

from space and sociologists take over to

theorize beyond space, is now considered a vacuous

question. That said, the best sociological

work on space has been accomplished by geographers

in the last few decades, for example by

Edward W. Soja in Postmodern Geographies: The

Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (1989).

The question is, then, why have sociologists lagged

behind geographers in producing sociological

analysis of space? Before we proceed to

give an answer to that question, we need to elaborate

on what we mean by sociological analysis

of space.

Consider the sociological analysis of sexual or

ethnic identities. There have been excellent studies

on the ways in which sexual identities are

constructed and how these identities enact and

perform themselves in and through social action.

But, as many have been quick to emphasize, sexual

or ethnic identities are not constructed, enacted,

and performed the same way everywhere (or

everywhen). In other words, space matters. But it

matters in a more complex way than it appears –

for example Andrew Sayer, Space and Social Theory

(1991). First, it matters obviously because such

identities differ in different places. That is fairly

easy to grasp and perhaps agree with. But space

matters also because specific arrangements that

constitute a space are not arrangements in which

social action takes place but they constrain,

enable, influence, form, articulate, render, and

condition such social action – for example Doreen

B. Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (1994). Sociological

analysis that grasps spatiality would take

into account both these ways in which space

matters. Thus, studying space as such sociologically

would mean studying both these aspects.

Why have sociologists lagged behind geographers

in investigating space sociologically? Some

have argued that the reason was in the origins

of sociological thought and that classical sociologists

did not have interest in space – for example

Peter Saunders, Social Theory and the Urban Question

(1981), and John Urry, The Sociology of Space and

Time (1996). While that argument might be sustained

for Karl Marx, it is difficult to see it especially

in Max Weber, The Agrarian Sociology of

Ancient Civilizations (1909 [trans. 1976]), Georg

Simmel, “Metropolis and Mental Life” in The Sociology

of Georg Simmel (1903 [trans. 1977]) and “The

Sociology of Space” in Simmel on Culture (1903

[trans. 1997]), and E´mile Durkheim, Professional

Ethics and Civic Morals (1890 [trans. 1957]). Rather

than assuming that classical sociologists did not

have interest in space, it is more accurate to argue

that subsequent sociologists held a specific conception

of space, a static and “container” view

of space, and, as a result, associated society as

their ostensible object of analysis coterminously

with the state and, perhaps more appropriately,

the nation-state. The study of the city in urban

sociology illustrates this well. For much of the

twentieth century, urban sociology was largely

occupied with those things that happened in

cities rather than studying the essence of the

city, despite notable exceptions such as Manuel

Castells, The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach

(1977), David Harvey, Social Justice and the City

(1973), and Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New

York, London, Tokyo (1991). That meant understanding

and interpreting the city as a container that

staged events rather than a space that both enabled

and enacted social, political, and cultural

relations. As Mark Gottdiener in The Social Production

of Urban Space (1994) argued, the modern city

appears as a container within a container, the


But the age of assuming a world that reveals

itself in contiguous containers called states, or

more problematically, nation-states is all but

over. For those who understand sociality of space

and spatiality of the social, boundaries, flows,

frontiers, camps, borders, and margins have

become both social metaphors and spatial objects

of sociological and geographical investigations.

Questions of diaspora, transnational identities,

space space


and crosscultural and cosmopolitan spaces are

slowly but forcefully becoming central questions

of sociological thought. ENGIN ISIN

spatial inequality

– see space.

spatial processes

– see space.

spatial turn

– see space.


– see Guy Debord.

Spencer, Herbert (1820–1903)

Widely regarded as the most important proponent

of social Darwinism, Spencer’s evolutionary ideas

were first formulated before Charles Darwin’s

Origin of Species (1859). His writings were very considerable

and wide-ranging. They covered the

rearing of children (Education, 1861), political economy

(Man Versus the State, 1884), social theory (The

Study of Sociology, 1873; The Principles of Sociology,

1893), and psychology (Principles of Psychology,

1870), as well as the natural and life sciences

(Principles of Biology, 1864–7). Central to Spencer’s

thought is the idea that a common form of evolutionary

development underlies all forms of animal

and plant life and human society. It is often forgotten

that Spencer’s work was based on an interpretation

of the First Law of Thermodynamics.

This states that the total inflow of energy into a

system must equal the total outflow from the

system. Energy cannot therefore be created or destroyed,

it can only be converted from one form to


This concept was seen by Spencer as underlying

social and organic evolution throughout the

entire cosmos (see evolutionary theory). Biological

systems therefore survive and reproduce by transferring

energy between their component parts.

Similarly, a social system survives and changes

through interacting with its environment:

changing not only its overall structure but the

flow of energy and resources between its institutions.

Spencer’s application of the First Law of

Thermodynamics made him one of the first proponents

of a systems understanding, one which

saw social as well as physical and biological entities

as self-balancing and adapting. It is a view

taken up and developed by later sociologists such

as Talcott Parsons and Neil Smelser in their Economy

and Society (1956).

As regards human society, Spencer argued that

individuals, like all organisms, are constantly struggling

to survive. They also undergo change in

order to adapt to the forces and environments

which they confront. Those individuals with the

most advantageous characteristics survive and

propagate in the struggle for survival. But,

whereas Darwin argued that natural selection

was the main mechanism underlying all organic

evolution, Spencer believed this only applied to

the earliest stages of evolution and to the most

inferior organisms. Like many Darwinian writers

in the nineteenth century, Spencer’s version of

evolution, especially as it applied to humans,

strongly depended on a notion of heredity and

on acquired characteristics being handed down

between generations. Humans, like other higher

animals, acquire structures and powers during

their lives (the blacksmith’s muscles, for example)

which can be passed on to their offspring. This

raises a central feature of Spencer’s sociology.

This is his determinism: people having to adapt

to the society and environment in which they live.

There is little sense here of human autonomy

within the evolving social system.

Spencer also argued that societies change in a

certain direction. They develop from unstructured

homogeneity to a structured heterogeneity.

Simple, homogeneous societies are therefore displaced

by heterogeneous compounded societies,

a process that is parallel to the change from

simple amoeba-like organisms to complex beings

such as humans. Spencer also distinguished between

militant and industrial societies, arguing

(unlike one of his main supporters, William G.

Sumner) that the overall tendency is towards a

harmonious industrial society and away from endless

war. This is because industrial society fosters

and perpetuates sentiments such as kindness,

forgiveness, and truthfulness. Like Sumner, however,

Spencer believed it was a mistake for governments

to intervene in the social winnowing

process. Such intervention runs counter to the

survival of the fittest, leaving the intellectually

and physically inferior to survive and propagate.

Spencer therefore belongs to the classical liberal

tradition, one insisting on limits to state power.

Spencer was the most widely read social scientist

of his era, but his work finds a relatively

small readership today. “Spencer is dead,” Parsons

famously wrote and asked “Who reads Spencer

now?” (The Structure of Social Action, 1937: 3). But

Spencer has been important in the development

of sociology. His emphasis on the ways in which

natural organisms and societies differentiate into

spatial inequality Spencer, Herbert (1820–1903)


elements (each element having a particular function

to play in its survival) was important in the

development of E´ mile Durkheim’s sociology. Spencer’s

work also prefigured today’s arguments that

social and economic achievements are largely a

product of heredity.

Developing a sociology sensitive to the links

between social and environmental systems is

clearly of major importance today. But Spencer’s

approach is not especially helpful. His grand

theorizing, his overemphasis on the First Law

of Thermodynamics, and his analogies between

biological and social evolution do not offer adequate

insights into the detailed and complex

links between social, physical, and biological

systems. While the disciplinary scope of his

work is to be admired, his synthesis of these disciplines

is highly problematic. This is one reason

why Spencer remains largely unread.


sponsored mobility

– see social mobility.


Organized play, a pastime, or a diversion –

according to Johan Huizinga (1872–1945) in Homo

ludens (1938 [trans. 1950]) and Louis Mumford

The Myth of the Machine (1967), play is an elemental

feature of human groups. Both writers associate

it with creativity, the development of selfdiscipline,

the team spirit, and the origins of

civilization. However, until the 1960s, the subject

featured as a relatively minor part of the curriculum

in sociological study. In the late nineteenth

century, the rational recreation movement, various

youth movements, and imperialists promoted

sport as a central mechanism in self-improvement

and social solidarity. Baron de Courbetin’s revival

of the Olympics in 1896, as an international festival

of amateur sports, provided a global stage

for the cultural awareness of sport and for financial

sponsorship through advertising, media

coverage, and government subsidy.

The cultural profile of sport was vastly enhanced

in the twentieth century by the professionalization

and commercialization of games. This

generated the adhesion of strong patriotic emotions

to national teams and the emergence of a

variety of personality cults around sporting

heroes. Rationalization and bureaucratization

are also evident in the organization of national

leagues, international competitions, scientific

training and management programs to improve

performance, and commercial sponsorship deals

with the sports “celebritaariat.” More recently, the

development of satellite broadcasting has turned

sport into a staple of television culture and

sports stars into icons of popular culture. This

has been reinforced by the cult of the body and

the popularity of diet and fitness regimes.

The increasing financial price of spectatorship

and the monetization of major sports have

resulted in some critics claiming that sport has

become commodified. Similarly, the financial

stakes involved in high achievement, together

with the cultural prestige attached to sporting

success, have made the issues of match-fixing

and the use of performance-enhancing drugs central

topics of debate and research. However, despite

these various developments, professional

sport retains powerful popular cultural connotations

with authenticity, spontaneity, glamor, and

social solidarity. It has been theorized as a compensation

for the deprivations of the work ethic

and a safety valve which permits the discharge

of pent-up emotions caused by the requirements

of the civilizing process.

While scholarly attempts to classify and analyze

modern sport reach back to the eighteenth

century, the first sociology of sport is generally

acknowledged to be Soziologie des Sports (1921) by

Heinz Risse, a student of Theodor Wiesengrund

Adorno. Risse’s book failed to achieve significant

impact, perhaps reflecting the emphasis on

economic production, rather than leisure, in

European sociology at that time.

It was not until the mid-1960s that the sociology

of sport became institutionalized. The key

developments here were the foundation of the

International Committee of Sport Sociology

(ICSS) and the establishment of the journal

International Review of Sport Sociology (IRSS). The

growth of the sub-discipline produced multiparadigmatic

rivalry. The main theoretical approaches

today are functionalism, Marxism,

cultural studies, feminism, interactionism, figurational

sociology, and postmodernism. As interest

in the subject has matured, sports studies has

emerged as a synthetic interdisciplinary discipline

drawing on sociology, political science, psychology,

business, management, and bio-mechanics.



– see statistics.

standard deviation

– see statistics.

sponsored mobility standard deviation



The term state is treated as synonymous with

modern state, for its understanding presented

here applies only to polities which have arisen,

or have been extensively refashioned, in the

course of modernization – although of course

one can find precedents and similarities


The state represents a distinctive way of structuring

a particular form of social power, namely

political power. Here a group exercises some

control over the activities of other groups with

which it interacts, thanks to its privileged access

to facilities for the organized use of violence,

which allows it to threaten those groups with

strong negative sanctions. In routine situations,

however, that threat remains in the background,

and political power operates chiefly through

commands issued by those who hold it, and which

find more or less prompt and willing obedience

on the part of those to whom they are directed.

The probability of this occurring is increased to

the extent that political power becomes institutionalized

– that is, according to H. Popitz in

his phenomenological study of violence such as,

Pha¨nomene der Macht (1986), it undergoes three

processes: depersonalization – formalization –


The raw will that a person’s command may

otherwise express, is filtered through that person’s

occupancy of a role, that is a more or less

elaborate set of entitlements and obligations. The

state takes this strategy much further than other

polities, for it consists in a vast ensemble of highly

differentiated organs, each endowed with expressly

conferred (and regulated) faculties and

facilities of rule. They are all integrated, ideally,

both by a commitment to a shared (though highly

abstract) interest – the public order, the country’s

security – and by the unique social resource

they accumulate and deploy – the monopoly of

legitimate violence.

To be legitimate, commands must comply with

certain expectations concerning their formation

and their execution, which to a greater or lesser

extent restrict their discretionality. In the state,

this standardizing of activities of rule is chiefly

done by law – not, as was the case, for instance,

in the Chinese Empire, chiefly by ritual. Western

law has been used to perform (besides other tasks

common to law in all cultures) in addition, a peculiar

task – instituting and activating political

entities, framing their policies, and arranging

for the implementation of such policies.

Jurisdiction was seen to characterize the

essence itself of rule, and doing justice was

recognized as a primary task of rulers. Constitutionalism–

a critical component of political modernization

– refers in the first instance to a

distinctive legal instrument (written or otherwise).

Together with other such instruments, constitutions

were widely employed to establish the

roles we have referred to above.

The creation of a body of public law setting up

offices, specifying their competences, assigning

them facilities and faculties of rule, arranging

how those manning them would be selected,

monitored, and rewarded, constituted the driving

edge of a phenomenon of great cultural significance:

the positivization of law. Law, that is, could

be purposefully made, not just found and sanctioned,

by political actors (see law and society).

Yet, while laying down the law became the prerogative

par excellence of the holders of political

power, legal instruments not only instituted and

activated the state’s organs and agencies, but

also constrained and limited their activities. The

expressions rule of law and Rechtsstaat are not

synonymous, but both signify that some of the

norms the state produces are (or should be)

binding on the state itself.

This means, according to Popitz, that political

power “gears itself” into the broader social order,

imposing burdens on it but also delivering services

to it. The state does this chiefly via its complementarity

to civil society – a complex of social

processes and structures not themselves political

in nature, and which the state acknowledges as

not only autonomous of itself but as needing to

be politically safeguarded, even if their workings

generate forms of social power (economic, ideological)

distinct from the political form.

The formation of western civil society is signaled

by two most significant developments. First,

the secularization of the state: the state, that is,

progressively disclaims responsibility for fostering

religious interests and ceases to privilege one

Church over against the others, and to attach

political and juridical significance to the individuals’

confessional memberships and loyalties.

Second, after the mercantilist phase, the state

progressively ceases to perform economic tasks

directly through its own institutions. The absolutist

monarch claims all imperium, that is all expressly

political faculties and facilities of rule.

But at the same time he recognizes and validates

the dominium (in the Roman sense of private property)

of private individuals. Generally, the state

state state


attaches high priority, in its own legislative and

judicial activities, to securing, in particular, the

rights of property and of contract. More generally,

individuals pursuing their varied interests within

the civil society are seen by the state as the bearers

of subjective rights.

A further critical step in the process of integration

consists in the formation of a public sphere.

Not only does the state oversee and secure the civil

society from above, as it were, and allow the forms

of social power operating within it to interact

with one another, it also allows them to communicate

legitimately with itself from below. Arrangements

such as the freedom of opinion and

association allow individuals to form and communicate

opinions on public affairs. Typically,

elections are employed for the selection of the

political class, and public competitions for the

selection of administrative personnel. In availing

themselves of these possibilities, the members of

a state’s population begin to operate no longer

just in the capacity of its subjects but also in that

of citizens.

Of course, all this takes place within divided

societies, which raises the problem of which social

interests will be favored by the state’s activities.

For instance, the state’s commitment to the protection

of private property will unavoidably

favor groups in possession of it, conferring on

them an advantage as they interact in the market

with groups deprived of significant property.

But the state’s policy may also counteract this

situation, without subverting it, by conferring

also on the latter groups the entitlement to public

goods and services, thus expanding and enriching

the content of citizenship. As if to counter the

centrifugal pull exercised by contrasting social

interests, the state often, particularly from the

nineteenth century onwards, projects itself as

the political expression of the nation. This is construed

as an intrinsically unitary entity, whatever

the basis of that unity – ethnic origin, language,

cultural traditions, religion, territory, historical

experience, or historical destiny. Each nation is

seen as entitled to self-rule, and asserts its distinctiveness

(often construed as superiority) vis-a`-vis

other nations. Such entitlements, however, are

often contended over between nations, and have

to be made good through political means.

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