Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Science is STILL Science

According to Horkheimer science can only deal with that which already exists. He also believes that science is geared towards the continued exploitation of certain groups while the few elite continue to prosper. Do you agree with this? At first it sounded reasonable to me, but then I started thinking about all of the things that could be learned through science. A thousand years ago we didn't know that germs existed, but here we are studying them today. Somewhere along the line, someone had to have used science to find out that they even existed. So, in a weird way, we CAN study something that doesn't exist. And what about the oppression part? Do you really believe Horkheimer when he says that science only serves to continually oppress people? Do you really believe EVERY science is like this? And if so, what about Social Science? Are all the people that we are reading about trying to keep us down? Could Horkheimer have been wrong? Could he have just been so critical about the way that some scientists worked in the past that his thoughts were tainted and bias? After all, isn't social science still science?

Critical Theory of Societal Oppression

Critical theory presents a paradigm shift in sociological study bringing a new perspective with a social consciousness to sociology while it seeks to analyze society as an environment consisting of insidious, detrimental & deceiving forms of oppression inflicted on society in the form of culture industry. Critical theory is concerned with identifying all the many subtle, nuanced, covert and obvious ways that humans are oppressed by society today. Critical theory indicts society as being so brain-washed by the system that it cannot develop an objective viewpoint that would expose the status quo for the systemically oppressive machine that it actually is.
What are some of the specific ways in which cultural industry manipulates society?
Do you personally see and feel some aspect of the cultural industry intruding into your life? What are they, and how are you affected?

Critical Theory, the Leviathan, and the Necessity of Oppression

In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes (1651) argues that in nature all people have the rights to all things. This results in lives dominated by fear, violence and power. This is the natural state of war that Hobbes describes as:

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

As a result society is created by citizens yielding the rights to all for the security of inclusion. This would of course lead to desires that could not be fulfilled by socially accepted means. This is inherently oppressive, as doubtlessly the critical theorists would agree, but fundamental to the existence of society. Not to be an apologist for oppression by any measure, but the general anti-oppressive nature of critical theory cannot seem to account for this necessity.

Is there a discernable manner to judge a form of oppression’s necessity or must we be required to reject either critical or Hobbesian standpoints?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Functional Conflict

Both of these theories set up unique paradigms that are extremely useful in understanding society at large. Functionalism is useful in understanding how societies operate and perpetuate their existence, while conflict theories will allow for the understanding of inequality and how populations are manipulated and exploited. A normal critique of structural functionalism is that it can be used as a justification for accepting marginalization and exploitation of populations. With conflict theory there is clearly a tendency to cynicism. How much use are these theories individually and coupled?

Coser's Internal Conflict

Lewis Coser considers that conflict is goal related and mentions that there are two types of goals, rational and transcendent; however, he does not mention the eventual interrelations between these goals. On one hand, Coser implies that to achieve rational goals, violence is not necessarily used “if people perceive conflict as a means to achieving clearly expressed rational goals,” if that happens, “then conflict will tend to be less violent” (Allan 2008). Following Coser’s assertion that internal conflict’s goals are rational; their achievement will not imply the strong use of violence. On the other hand, Coser links transcendent goals with strong uses of violence since these types of goals imply an emotional involvement. However, he falls short in considering that conflicts can have the presence of both types of goals. For instance, the beginning of a war could imply emotion directed goals; however, conflict development needs rational and clearly expressed goals to plan both how to protect a society and how to attack an enemy. This is the relation that Coser is not taking into account since he does not mention that both goals could work together.

Do you agree with Coser’s assumption that internal conflicts only works with emotional goals?

Allan, Kenneth. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory. California: Sage Publications, 2007.