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enabled patients, staff, and relatives to handle it.

They identified “trajectories of dying”; the lingering

death, which placed greatest strain on those

around it; the expected quick death, which the

staff could handle, but which took the relatives

by surprise; and the unexpected quick death

which challenged everyone’s account of the situation.

David Sudnow, in Passing On: The Social

Organisation of Dying (1967), demonstrated the

medicalization of dying in the hospital, where

the doctor decides when death has taken place,

certifies its occurrence and announces it, and coordinates

the process so that those affected perform

according to the rules. He also showed how

the diagnosis of death would be delayed and

heroic measures taken to save the life of an individual

based on their perceived social standing:

the young, the white, and the apparently well-off

were all subjected to more medical interventions

before they were finally “dead.” Sociologists have

also argued that social death can occur long

before biological death. In this, individuals (for

men as a consequence of retirement from work

and for women as a consequence of widowhood)

lose their social networks, become socially isolated,

and lose the social roles that had provided

their identity.

As a consequence of the demographic transition

as a result of which more individuals now survive

infancy and more women survive childbirth,


de-schooling death and dying

social reactions to death have also changed. In the

past, as Philip Arie´s (1914–84) has shown (Western

Attitudes Towards Death From the Middle Ages to the

Present, 1974), the presence of death in everyday

life was commonplace. As such it involved the

whole community, with the dying person at the

center of the event, presided over by a priest, with

extensive public mourning. Modern death, under

the control of the medical profession, is hidden

away in the hospital, individualized and medicalized

with little or no scope for public mourning.

Death has become dirty and disgusting and an

affront to modern medicine. The cultural highpoint

of this attitude to death was reflected in

the development of funeral parlors in the United

States where morticians recreated the dead person

as life-like, making them up and setting their


Arie´s’s picture has in part been challenged by

the rise of the hospice movement, established in

England in 1967 by Dame Cicely Saunders (1918–

2005). In a reaction to the prolongation of death as

a consequence of medical interventions, Saunders

sought to free death from medical control and its

bureaucratization in the hospital, and to reassert

its meaning in the context of a secular society.

With the growth of hospices and the occupation

of bereavement counselors we are now urged to

talk about our death, to anticipate it as a serene

and comfortable process, even to experience it as

an opportunity for growth. Legislative changes

around the rights of the terminally ill reflect

this change: living wills allow us to stipulate donot-

resuscitate orders if we suffer neurological

damage from accidents or medical misadventure;

and lobbying for euthanasia – the right to a good

death – is on the agenda of many European political

parties. The assertion of the right to experience

bereavement, too, has been legitimated by

the popularity of the works of Elizabeth Kubler-

Ross (On Death and Dying, 1969) and her argument

that denial and anger were appropriate responses

to death. As the population ages in the West,

issues of rationing at end of life, definitions of

death, euthanasia, and various forms of physician-

assisted suicide will all become major social

policy issues. KEVIN WHITE

Debord, Guy (1931–1994)

Born in Paris, Debord committed suicide in 1994.

He was a founding member of the revolutionary

group Situationist International, whose journal

of the same name he established and edited from

1958 to 1969. He was influenced by, and critical of,

Dadaism and Surrealism, and more importantly a

critical reading of Karl Marx’s work, Korl Korsch’s

Marxism and Philosophy (1923 [trans. 1973]) and

Georg Luka´cs, History and Class Consciousness (1923

[trans. 1971]), as well as at crucial junctures works

by Georges Bataille and especially Henri Lefebvre.

Debord is best known for his writings for Situationist

International but, above all, for his Society of

the Spectacle (1967 [trans. 1970]). He is much less

well known for his films, including La Socie´te´ du

spectacle (1973).

Set out in the form of theses, and lacking a

specific definition of the spectacle, Debord outlines

a critique of capitalist society as a whole as

a society of the spectacle of the commodity. For

him the spectacle should not be understood as a

collection of images (and therefore is not confined

to mass media technologies) but as a social relation

between people that is mediated by images.

The social relations in question are those of the

dominant capitalist economic order, a world of

appearances, of independent representations.

The spectacle unites individuals as spectators

only in their separation. Such reflections constitute

Debord’s attempt to think through Karl

Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism (see alienation)

and Luka´cs’s conception of reification in

the context of contemporary capitalist societies,

with an apparent abundance of commodities,

such that the latter have totally colonized social

life. The suggestive nature of the theory of the

spectacle impacted upon later social theories of

consumption and consumer society, and in the

critique of modern urbanism and the notion of

the city and its spaces as spectacle. The historical

analyses of techniques for the creation of the

spectacle have also been informed by Debord’s

work. As an intended revolutionary theory, it

informed the student revolt of 1968 and beyond.



This concerns a deliberate process of shifting

attention away from prison towards the use of

alternative measures in the community. While

the search for alternatives to imprisonment has

roots in the nineteenth century, the decarceration

movement developed in the 1960s as part of a

general critique of institutional responses to

crime and deviancy and as part of what Stan

Cohen in Visions of Social Control (1985) has termed

the “destructuring impulse.” Prisons and other

total institutions (see Erving Goffman) attracted

criticism for their degrading treatment of offenders,

and their ineffectiveness in deterring and

rehabilitating them.


Debord, Guy (1931–1994) decarceration

The decarceration movement is closely associated

with the radical penal lobby and abolitionist

movement in Scandinavia, western Europe,

and North America. Strong as these movements

have been, there is seemingly little evidence to

suggest effectiveness; on the contrary, prison rates

soar on a worldwide basis. Thus “prison-centricity”

continues to dominate political thinking about

punishment. Critics have also indicated unintended

consequences of decarceration. Andrew

Scull, for example, in Decarceration: Community

Treatment and the Deviant – A Radical View (1984),

has pointed to the benign neglect of offenders

within the community. Cohen has suggested that

the extension of community treatment and punishment

in place of prisons serves to reflect Michel

Foucault’s notion of “dispersed discipline” in Discipline

and Punish (1977). Thus, ever wider and

stronger nets of social control are created rather

than community measures displacing imprisonment.

In recent years, the boundaries between

liberty in the community and confinement in

prison have been blurred through the development

of home curfews and electronic monitoring,



By the end of World War II, European conquest

left some 750 million people, roughly one-third of

the world’s population, living under colonialism.

Propelled by national liberation movements, decolonization

proceeded relatively rapidly, albeit unevenly

in time, space, and form, with experiences

ranging from violent revolution via guerrilla warfare

in Algeria – theorized by revolutionary Franz

Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth (1961 [trans.

1965]) – to India’s non-violent resistance led by

Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948). Uprisings were

often brutally repressed, as Caroline Elkins, Imperial

Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in

Kenya (2005), makes clear. Tragically, independence

often ushered in new ruling elites, an

“administrative bourgeoisie” as Gerard Chaliand

argues in Revolution in the Third World (1989). In

other instances, peoples elected to remain part

of the metropolitan country as citizens, as in the

Caribbean island of Martinique, in a move supported

by leading figure of the African diaspora

Aime´ Ce´saire.

While Haiti and Latin America underwent decolonization

during the revolutions establishing

independent republics in the 1800s, in 1945 parts

of the Middle East and much of Africa and Asia

were still colonies. In the context of Cold War

rivalry, postwar American sociology and western

social science became engaged in the study of

decolonization and newly independent Third

World states, initially as part of the field of modernization

studies. Yet the transformation of academic

life during the turbulent 1960s opened up a

variety of new approaches towards these questions,

emphasizing social conflict over consensus.

Among the new approaches seeking to understand

the decolonization process were variants of

what became know as development theory, including

dependency and world-systems analysis.

More recently, a host of other approaches to the

question of decolonization have appeared, from

postcolonial theory to the work of the subaltern


Recent work by sociologists emphasizes that

colonization and decolonization come in waves,

with the latter intimately related to hegemonic

transitions and great power wars. So, for example,

the global wars that characterized the period

before the final emergence of British hegemony

in the 1800s set off the Hispanic American revolutions.

Likewise, World War II helped set off the

period of formal decolonization of much of the

rest of the world during the period of American

hegemony. Peruvian sociologist Anibal Quijano

coined the term “coloniality of power,” to deal

with the continuation of colonial-type relationships

between core states and racial-ethnic, class,

and gender groups even after formal decolonization.

Mahmood Mamdani in Citizen and Subject

(1996), and Crawford Young in “In Search of

Civil Society,” in J. Harbeson, D. Rothchild, and

N. Chazan (eds.), Civil Society and State in Africa

(1994: 33–50), have brilliantly analyzed colonialism

and decolonization in Africa. There is now a dialogue

taking place on these questions, with calls

for a new, more radical, round of decolonization.

Imperialism, colonialism, and decolonization

are key processes that have shaped the world,

with reverberations right up to the present. The

varieties of the colonial and postcolonial experiences,

and perspectives on the aftermath of

European, Japanese, or Soviet conquest, whether

they be from the frameworks of neocolonialism,

postcolonialism, or the coloniality of power,

will continue to play an important part in debates

regarding the past, present, and future of

humanity. THOMAS R E I FER


This refers to a poststructuralist philosophy, associated

with structuralism, much of whose impetus

was provided by the writings of the French philosopher

Jacques Derrida (1930–2004). Its early key


decolonization deconstruction

texts were his Of Grammatology (1967 [trans. 1977])

and Writing and Difference (1967 [trans. 1978]). The

contested nature of this philosophy, which has

had a significant impact in literature, Cultural

studies, architecture, gender theory, and some

postmodern social theory, lies in its rejection of

traditional philosophical groundings of knowledge

and language. The latter assumes that the

meaning of something is directly accessible to

consciousness by its presence. Derrida, in contrast,

argued that our understanding of an object necessitates

grasping how it relates to other things and

contexts, that is, to its difference. In particular,

claims to universality would be challenged by this

position. So too would be the binary oppositions

found in structuralist analyses, in sociology

(sacred/profane; community/society) and in wider

discourse (man/woman).

The deconstruction of such oppositions or

dualisms, which hierarchically privilege the first

of the two oppositions in the dualism, also has

a subversive intention. This is directed at what

Derrida termed the “logocentrism” of western

thought, which has been devoted to the search

for an order of truth and a universal language.

Derrida argued that there were no fixed orders

of meaning. Deconstruction therefore challenges

the legitimacy of such preestablished hierarchical

dualisms, in order to remove their authoritative

status. It therefore also aims to empower

those marginalized by such discourse, and to

encourage the proliferation of difference.



– see explanation.

deferential workers

These workers were identified by David Lockwood

in The Blackcoated Worker (1958) while he was

researching car workers in the British General

Motors plant at Vauxhall. Many workers entered

the automobile industry from other occupations,

attracted by high postwar wages. Lockwood analyzed

their images of society. Some had deferential

attitudes to authority, which, as Howard

Newby in The Deferential Worker (1977) explored,

were ingrained in rural life and which translated

into their attitudes to authority in the plant. Not

everyone shared the same image of society and

the differentiation was patterned. For Lockwood,

the patterning was attributable to social origins

and their social reproduction through extended

networks of social interaction; it was through

the latter that the former were reproduced or

transformed. Where the moral framework of the

dominant value system promotes the endorsement

of existing inequality in ways that the subordinated

accept as legitimate, and this legitimacy

is expressed through their deference both to those

in positions of localized and immediate authority

and to the social status order in general, which

they exemplify through the types of civil society

that they choose to construct through their networks,

then deferential workers are reproduced.

These deferential workers presume that the social

order comprises an organic entity, with the rich

man in his castle and the poor man at his gate.

Thus, inequality is seen to be inevitable as well as

just; the social order is seen as fixed and the

individual’s place within it is relatively unchangeable.

The idea of the deferential worker has been

widely used and generalized to address the overlay

of both gender and ethnic relations on the

basic social class model of society that Lockwood


definition of the situation

– see William I. Thomas.


– see deviance.

delinquent subculture

– see deviance.


– see medicalization.


Derived from the Greek terms demos (the people)

and kratos (power), democracy usually describes a

form of political rule that is justified and exercised

by the people for the benefit of the people.

Democracy is a model of government that can

apply to different types of political communities

and levels of political organization. In the contemporary

context it is most commonly associated

with the institutional framework of the nationstate.

However, modern democratic states are

representative democracies and therefore quite

different from the democratic order that was initially

proposed in the classical Greek model of

direct democracy. This distinctiveness is probably

best expressed in terms of different notions of

freedom, as described by Benjamin Constant in

The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of

the Moderns (1819 [trans. 1988]). In the classical

direct democracy system, each citizen had a fair

chance of holding political office and, therefore,


deduction democracy

of influencing the political choices of the state. In

a modern representative democracy, in contrast,

individual citizens can only influence the political

decisionmaking process at the margins, and their

involvement in democratic governance is generally

limited to electing the political representatives

who will speak in their name. It must be

stressed, however, that early forms of democracy

could only provide such political opportunities by

restricting the political franchise to certain categories

of citizens. In later democratic systems, the

franchise slowly expanded to include the poor,

women, slaves, and other ethnic/racial groups,

but this greater inclusiveness unavoidably

reduced the number of opportunities for direct

political involvement available to any one citizen.

Early critics of representative forms of democratic

government, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau

(1712–78), argued that this model of democracy

was so far removed from the original conception

of this political process that it did not deserve its

name. This criticism is also at the heart of many

contemporary critiques of democratic politics (for

example neo-Marxism, radical democracy, grassroots

democracy), which argue that people experience

a very limited form of democracy in the

institutions of the modern nation-state. There

are, however, powerful arguments that support

the notion of representative democracy as the

most appropriate form of modern governance.

Max Weber presented the emergence of this representative

model as a consequence of the rise of the

bureaucratic state and the bureaucratization (see

bureaucracy) of politics. In “Politics as a Vocation”

(1919 [trans. 1994]), Weber argued that, because of

the complexity of government and society, political

parties staffed by professional politicians were

needed to organize mass politics in a manageable

and effective way. This process was conducive to a

plebiscitarian type of democracy, in which people’s

ability to govern themselves was to be understood

principally in terms of their being able to

choose their leaders from amongst those professional

politicians running for office. This empirical

approach to understanding the functioning of

modern democracy was reinterpreted by Joseph

Alois Schumpeter, and it became popularly known

as a “minimalist” model of democracy. In Capitalism,

Socialism, and Democracy (1942), Schumpeter

likened this approach to democratic politics to

an analysis of the economic behavior of agents in

free-market capitalism. To liken voters’ behavior

to consumers’ choice is to say that the agents’

freedom essentially consists in buying or not

buying the products that are being offered by

competing parties/companies. Such an approach

provided the impulse for the statistical study of

electoral politics in terms of voters’ behavior that

dominates political life today.

The other important difference between modern

and ancient democracy is the role of the

liberal Constitution. Building on the tradition of

liberalism, modern democratic states are constitutional

orders that stress the importance of a

rule of law (see law and society) that protects

the rights of the individual. This constitutional

model, which, in the tradition of Baron Charles

de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748 [1989]),

usually involves a degree of formal separation

between executive and legislative power, protects

citizens not only from the despotism of unelected

leaders, but also from the abuses of democratically

elected governments. This latter concern is

probably best presented in terms of the opposition

between constitutional democracy and majoritarian

democracy. Liberal constitution orders are

designed to avoid the main drawback of majoritarian

systems that Alexis de Tocqueville described

in Democracy in America (1835–40 [trans. 2000]) as

“the tyranny of the majority.” While in a majoritarian

democracy it is possible for the majority to

vote in favor of the elimination of a minority, in a

liberal democracy such a possibility can be countered

by constitutional provisos. Although the

people can change the Constitution, this process

is a lengthy and complex one, which ensures that

in the short term at least certain political options

are not available to the elected political leaders –

but as the example of the Weimar Republic

(1919–33) illustrates, this system is never entirely


At the end of the twentieth century the notion

that democracy is most meaningfully embodied by

a liberal democratic form of government has

become widespread, particularly after waves of

democratization swept across Latin America and

southern and eastern Europe as far as Russia. However,

the idea that democracy and liberalism necessarily

go hand in hand has been challenged in east

Asia and in the Muslim world by proponents of

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