Sociological Perspectives Relationship

This essay is a presentation of various arguments brought forth by sociologists in the realm of social sciences including; Tocqueville, Tonnies, Durkheim, Gothman (1959), Putnam (2000), Sennett (2006), Riesman (1950), Merton (1938), and Bellah (1985). A critical review of every sociologist is presented with a focus to identify whose argument brings forth the most useful relationship between individuals and the community.

Emile Durkheim provides the most useful analysis of the relationship between individuals and the community. Durkheim was among the first thinkers from the west to analyse how the perception of individuals on the world was affected by the social milieu of the individual. His book, Form which is the most definitive book he ever wrote was dedicated not only to the study of religion but also to developing an understanding of how logical thoughts come to be in societies (Durkheim, 1970). The sociology of knowledge of Durkheim argues that societies influence the majority of the facets of the thoughts of individuals together with their perceptions of the world. In addition to our languages, ideas and common beliefs been determined by our social milieu, those categories and concepts that are necessary for logical thought, for example, number, causality, space and time also have their roots in societies. The logical structure goes a long way to order and subsequently interpret the world, something that ensures that individuals develop an enhanced understanding of the world together with how it operates and that is less homogenous.

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And because all societies have in their histories had some form of logical understanding that guides their understanding of the world, it can be concluded that there exists no society that has never been in chaos at some certain point of its existence, or that is pre-logical (Durkheim, 1964b). To better understand the analysis by Durkheim, it would be necessary to discuss representations collections, which is a concept of his sociology that is quite fundamental. Durkheim is of the view that there is no knowledge in the world that would be possible without being represented in some way by humanity. Additionally, Durkheim rejects the idea of the transcendent thing in itself. That implies that the extent to which the world exists is as far as it is represented, and all the worlds knowledge refers back to the way with which it`s representation happened. The concept of representations collectives is the central part of the theory of knowledge by Durkheim. The concept revolves around those bodies of representation used by societies in representing to themselves things in reality, as such, how things affect and relate to the societies. It is worth noting that representations collectives to things are a result of the interaction between the society and the external world; when it comes to being represented by societies, things are infused to the collective experience elements of societies (Craib, 1997). As such, Representative's collectives, are the transmitters and repositories of collective experience that express and further embody the reality of the collective existence of societies.

Finally, while myths, fables, photographs and religious imagery are some of the forms taken by representations collections, Durkheim goes ahead and provides an analysis that is special to conceptual language and thought, which in the later years of Durkheim`s life, he considered as being the main enablers of social life.

Additionally, in numerous ways, the analysis of language by Durkheim illustrated both what he meant by representation collectives and the way in which he viewed societies as operating in levels that were fundamental. According to the explanations of Durkheim, concepts and words are unlike the sensory representations of individuals, which are in a flux that is perpetual and which are not capable of providing forms to the thoughts that are consistent and stable (Fenton, 1984). Concepts are characteristically impersonal, becoming and stand outside of time, and the thoughts they engender are characteristically fixed and resistant to change. As such, Durkheim posits that language is also the realm through which the ideas of truth come into being, because, it is through language that individuals get to conceive of a world of ideas that are stable and that are common within different bits of intelligence. As such, language is a product of interactions socially, with its necessity being observed to become apparent when there are two or more individuals present, and language only comes into being through the fusion of the consciences of individuals, bringing about results that are new and different completely from the parts that make it up in addition to being irreducible to its different parts (Gane, 1988).

According to Durkheim, another critical role played by the society in the construction of human knowledge is the fact that it organizes objects of experience actively into a system that is classificatory coherent that encompasses entire universes (Giddens, 1978). It becomes possible, with such classificatory systems to attach things on one another and to further establish the existing relationships between them. That allows humans to view things as being functions of one another as if they were following interior laws that whose basis was their nature and with that provide order to worlds that are otherwise chaotic (Morrison, 1998).

Other sociologists, also analysed the relationships between communities and individuals even though their analyses were not as sound and useful as those of Emily Durkheim. Putnam’s research is constructed on the intrigues of democracy and society whereby he argues that contemporary society have seen an unprecedented decrease in the sense of community. The advent of technology and information technology has tremendously induced a loss of interpersonal attachment among people (Putnam, 2001). Putman observed that there had been a paradigm shift towards human isolation and interaction as opposed to how it used to be before the conception of media. It is along such grounds Putman perceive communities without mutual collaborations and bonds which can be established and maintained.

Alongside media which seemingly is stealing the sense of community; Putnam also comes up with other tenets which break the authentic community bonds. He views that the other biggest cause encompasses changing family structure towards solitary living, urban migration where people get adapted to solitary and the introduction of electronic entertainment of all kinds. All these tenets have reoriented the original constructs of human-human interaction, and thus a sense of community.

Putnam digs into the relationship between institutional performances and the reputation of civic life; and realizes that the relationship contributes to the basketry of structure-agent controversy. Whereas Putnam’s theory is inclined towards structure, he clarifies that the agency is the keynote causative agent of structure on the proposition that a civic community is a characterization of civic engagement, solidarity, political equality tolerance and trust alongside robust associational life (Putnam, 2001). According to Putnam, civic engagement is not only all about politics but also various connections which people have with life and their society. He finds various organizations and clubs as a threshold to study democracy and maintains that social networks conceived through associations encompass trust astride the entire society.

Unlike Putnam, Richard Sennett’s perceptions deviate in the perspective of what is the causative agent of dismantled community attachments in individuals, especially in Western Culture. According to him, the tyranny of intimacy constitutes one of the most robust conventional tenets which is dismantling the public men apart. The tyranny of intimacy has tremendously tyrannized the public hemisphere and consequently bred forth disintegration and falling of a public man.

Sennett upholds a view that psychology is the primary causative agent of individualization and egocentrism. He gets curious about how psychology invents individualization and its originality as the keynote value; the meaning of life. Placing the originality of a person’s individuality at the middle results into a situation where everything returns to motive: “Is this what I really feel? Do I really mean it? Am I genuine?” (Luoma-Aho, 2009). Sennett uses the term narcissism to describe to refer not to the love for one’s beauty but a character disorder which hampers one from comprehending that which belongs outside it. Moreover, Serrett presented forth a premise stating that conventional culture is the motivating factor for the permeability and spread of egocentrism. It is the prospects of narcissism which brings forth ignorance of the public sphere as not directly linked with individual personality.

Goffman's propositions are relevantly constructed on the pedestal of dramaturgical sociology whereby he believes that dramaturgical sociology is an agglomeration of creating, maintaining and destroying the shared understanding of reality by individuals working collectively and individually to bring forth a common and unified image of reality. In his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life 1959; Goffman places huge significance in the process which he maintains lies hidden deep within every human interaction and which he views as familiar to humans as a form of theatre. In a play, the performers seek to disseminate to the audience a specific impression of the world around them. By the application of scripted dialogue, props, gestures, and probably costumes; the actors achieve creating a new reality for the audience to consider.

Goffman, therefore, argues that social reality is a performed event which is largely dependent on different parameters of a theatre. In order for some people to effectively communicate the social reality which is beneficial to them, they ought to assimilate roles regarding their vocations. Goffman applies the concept of theatre as metaphorical and maintains that ultimately the world is not a stage and should not bring forth complications in understanding the difference therein (Goffman, 1971).

David Riesman’s 1950 scholarly book “The Lonely Crowd” significantly unleashed a sense of self-criticisms in America and contributed in ideas and descriptive phrases to a famous culture. The book instigated many Americans to begin characterizing their colleagues and friends in terms of inner-connected, outer-connected or tradition-connected mannerisms (Riesman and Gans, 1979). Professor Riesman identifies such traits and maintained that the prevalence of every single of it within a society was determined by trends in the spectrum of population growth. Riesman contends that in the cultures where there is a relatively large population.

Riesman thus argues that conventional man is losing his identity. He spoke of "other-directed people" whose success in life is embedded by their tendency to live up to the preferences and expectations of others (Riesman, Denney and Glazer, 1961). These other-directed people are the middle-class citizens of the large American cities. When a man starts to take too much direction from outside himself, he is walking along the road leading loss of identity.

Robert Merton (1938) proposes major strain theories to exemplify people’s relationships with monetary success and cultural success. He perceives the lower class members of the society are barred from scrambling for cultural goals and monetary success. The incapacitation is built on legitimate inability to acquire relevant skills and attitudes which are crucial in academic excellence. Consequently, lower-class individuals more often exhibit strain, with this strain being a function of the obstacle between their goals and the legitimate means for achieving them.

Merton argues that there are various approaches by which to adapt to the induced strain with some engaging crimes (Merton, 1967). People may be enticed to attain monetary success through illegitimate ways including theft, prostitution and drug selling. Besides, they can opt striking out at others in their frustration. Others may involve in drug use in pursuit to erase their frustration. Individuals may reject the goal of monetary success and reflect on the achievement of other goals, certain of which involve crime. According to Merton many strained people live with their strain rather than cope through crime, and went forth to study the factors which affect the probability of criminal coping including; the extent to which individuals are socialized to condemn the crime.

Bellah et al., (1985) argued that people seem to seek “the attainment of a private lifestyle lived, perhaps, in a lifestyle enclave”. The scholars viewed that in the current dispensation, people are belonging to particular societies and live in specific communities, as long as they do not have to attend meetings, organization scheduled events, or take part in community programmes. This focus results in ambiguity concerning ourselves and our place in the larger perspective of the world and thus “threaten to deprive private life of meaning when there is no longer any purpose to involvement except individual satisfaction.”

In the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville provided a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the link between society and character. In his book Democracy in America, based on vivid observation and broad chats with Americans, Tocqueville described the morals which he on occasion called "habits of the heart" of the Americans and demonstrated how they assisted to mould character (Tocqueville, 1994). He presented out that family life, our religious practices, and our involvement in community politics as assists to induce the kind of person who can sustain a link to broader political society and thus consequently safeguard the maintenance of independent institutions. Tocqueville equally warned that some elements of our traits (individualism) eventually get to separate Americans one from another and thereby compromise the conditions of freedom.

This essay upholds the sentiments by Emile Durkheim as the most useful in the context of exemplifying the relationship therein between human beings and social communities. In summary, Durkheim`s school of thought strives to make an account for total knowledge sociology. Through their representations collectives, societies build for themselves networks of logical thought and language that are vast and that are pivotal in allowing their individuals to think more of the world and even develop a better understanding of the world. And because it is only to the extent to which the world is thought that it exists and because it is only by societies that the world is totally thought, it is in the societies that the world takes shape. What this implies is that the limits of possibilities in societies are extracted from expression linguistically, rationality and knowledge generally.

To conclude, the essay has presented various scholarly views on the relationship between human beings and the community as argued by various psychologists. The paper views the sentiments by Durkheim as the most useful in the conventional dispensation. Durkheim viewed the self as being integrated into a web of social relations that influence their actions, interpretations of the world in a big way and even their logical thought abilities. As such, the individual could assimilate social forces to the point where they are able to operate on an instinctual level that is completely automatic, where the individuals lack an awareness of the effects on their tastes, perceptions of reality and inclinations morally brought about by the societies they live in (Morrison, 1995). the strength of Durkheim`s sociology precisely lies in its deconstruction and illumination of such societal elements whose bearing is the greatest.

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References

  • Durkheim, E. (1964b) The Rules of Sociological Method. New York: The Free Press.
  • Durkheim, E. (1970) Suicide: A Study in Sociology. London: Routledge.
  • Fenton, S. (1984) Durkheim and Modern Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gane, M. (1988) On Durkheim's rules of sociological method. London: Routledge.
  • Giddens, A. (1978) Durkheim. London: Fontana//Collins.
  • Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin Books.
  • Goffman, E. (1971) Relations in public: Microstudies of the public order. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Luoma-Aho, V. (2009). Bowling together-applying Robert Putnam’s theories of community and social capital to public relations. Public Relations and Social Theory: Key Figures and Concepts/Edited by Ihlen, O., Van Ruler, B. & Fredrikson, M.(Eds.).-ISBN 978-0-415-99785-0.
  • Merton, R. K. (1967) On Theoretical Sociology: Five essays Old and New, including Part One of Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.
  • Merton, R.K., 1938. Social structure and anomie. American sociological review, 3(5), pp.672-682.
  • Morrison, K. (1995). Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought. London: Sage.
  • Riesman, D. and Gans, H. J. 1979. On the making of Americans : essays in honour of David Riesman. [Philadelphia]: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Riesman, D., Denney, R. and Glazer, N. (1961) The Lonely Crowd. A study of the changing American character. By David Riesman with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney. Abridged edition with a new foreword. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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