What can kill sociology?
Berger writes “total respectability of thought, however, will invariably mean the death of sociology” (1963, p. 47).
What does he mean?
There are a number of situations in which Berger’s statement might apply. This paper briefly
describes just four such situations.
People of power
People of power within the social unit or society of study can deter—if not kill—sociological study of that social unit or society.
Hitler’s Germany is an example of potential death of sociology, with Germany being “a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life” (Dictionary.com, 2011).
Berger says that “unrespectable sociological consciousness is always potentially dangerous to certain minds . . . since it will always tend to relativize the claim to absolute rightness upon which such minds like to rest. Thus, where this danger is not perceived, one is not likely to find ‘sociological consciousness’ of the type Berger advocates” (Kessell, n.d.).
In plain English, what Berger is saying is that if you give the society or social unit the opportunity to study their behavior objectively, they might protest, start an upheaval and possibly revolt against the power. By having total control over all the people of Germany, with the upper echelon having such power, they could eliminate sociological study of or within Germany.
To understand the concept of marginality we must first look at the literal meaning of the word ‘marginality. ’ In plain terms marginality refers to the “the property of being marginal or on the fringes” (wordnet. princeton. edu/perl/webwn). To understand marginality think of a square, everything within the square is central, everything on the boundaries has been marginalized. It is outside the ...
People within a society
People within a society can kill sociological study of their own society through denial. They may not want to accept the reality of their society. Many people in this course may be too young to remember Jonestown as the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, a religious community founded in the United States, but which moved to northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple, a cult led by Jim Jones.
It became internationally nortorious when, on November 18,1978, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nerby airstrip and in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital.
The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.
A total of 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at a nearby Port Kaituma airstrip. The victims included Congressman Leo Ryan, the first member of Congress assissinated in the line of duty in the history of the United States. Four other Temple members died in Georgetown at Jones’s command.
To the extent the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide, it is the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the larget single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001 (Jonestown, 2011).
People apparently followed Jones and other cult leaders blindly, without question. Religious/cult leaders can deny or discourage study of social realities they do not want their followers to question, thus denying sociological access. Many organized religions simply declare any questioning of some or all doctrine as an act of defiance.
People can become overloaded
People can become so overloaded with the reality of the world in which they live that they simply ignore sociology, overall, or those studies they cannot accept. They hibernate from social reality; they find a way to escape so they do not have to consider a reality that is so unlike their own core beliefs that they cannot accept it. This is something like closing one’s eyes during the “gory” parts of horror film, or simply avoiding opportunities to face realities we cannot handle, like not watching/hearing world news that might be unsettling.
Society’s Construction of Reality Many times sociologists speak about the “social construction of reality” and are never truly understood. In this essay I will try to explain what they mean. Renowned social analyst W.I. Thomas once made this statement: “If men define a situation as real, it is real in its consequences.” What Thomas is stating is that man, his actions ...
People and religion
Roman power appointed the priests who were in charge of the religious sites of Palestine. And Jesus openly denounc these priests, so much is known. This indirect threat to Roman power, together with the Roman perception that Jesus was claiming to be the “King of the Jews”, was the reason for his condemnation. The Roman apparatus saw itself merely dealing with a minor problem which otherwise might have grown into a greater threat to their authority. So in essence, the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion was politically motivated (The Beginnings of Christianity, n.d.).
Again, the priests saw this as a threat so they would debunk all other notions of religion that was different to their mandated beliefs that sociology again could have been killed. People were expected to follow the rules blindly without question to avoid punishment. For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has been widely known to excommunicate any such heretics, and burning at the stake has been a common punishment.
This list of four situations in which sociology could be killed is certainly not complete. These four situations appear to me to be some of the more obvious ones. It would seem that sociology as a behavioral science is in a highly fragile position. I had never thought of any field of study to exist in such imminent danger of its knowledge and wisdom being lost to humanity. This is truly scary.
Berger, P. L. (1963).
Invitation to sociology: A humanistic perspective. New York: Doubleday/Anchor Press.
Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse
Jonestown. (2011, March 30).
Retrieved April 07, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonestown
Kessell, D. (n.d.).
Fromm, Mills, Berger, and sociology. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from
WHAT IS RELIGION? T he anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace defined religion as “belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings, powers, and forces” (1966, p. 5). The supernatural is the extraordinary realm outside (but believed to impinge on) the observable world. It is nonempirical and inexplicable in ordinary terms. It must be accepted “on faith.” Supernatural beings— gods and goddesses, ...
The Beginnings of Christianity. (n.d.).
Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://www.roman-empire.net/religion/religion.html