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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Althusserian Claim

Louis Althusser:  This is a excerpt, more details HERE

And read more info at Wikipedia: Click HERE

Intellectual Revolutionary

Prior to and through World War II, 1939-1945, Althusser was involved in the Roman Catholic youth movement and advocated some of the church's more conservative teachings. During the Nazi occupation of France his thinking underwent a radical transformation, as he along with many others embraced Marxist ideologies. During this time he found himself involved with the French Resistance and attracted to one of its more prominent activists, Helene Legotier, eight years his senior and a member of the French Communist Party (PCF). In 1948 Althusser also joined the party. After the war Legotier continued her activism, while Althusser spent most of his time in academia. His lectures and writings became very influential and he was seen by many to be the party's most outstanding intellectual.

Althusser attempted to reconcile the views of French structuralism with those of Marxism by denying the primary role of the individual subject in the face of historically unfolding social structures. His most important works are For Marx (1965), Lenin and Philosophy (1969), and his contributions to a book of essays called Reading Capital, all of which were popular with student revolutionaries during the decade of social upheaval in the 1960s.

While many Marxists were looking for a more "humane" alternative to the totalitarianism unfolding in the Soviet Union and a way to resolve the split caused by the Chinese revolution, Althusser, taking the opposite tack, proposed a purely scientific approach, one he ascribed to the maturing Marx himself in For Marx, (1970). In Reading Capital and in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1971) he aimed at an objective account of how the total society works from its technological top down, generating the classes that run and do the work of a society. In the latter collection he described how such a structure operates through the languages we speak in common. These, he said, tend to instill in people their sense of reality and of themselves and their social roles, all in the interest of perpetuating the order of the given society: this is the thought-controlling use of language called "ideology."

Structuralist Analysis

Althusser sketched the underlying fabric of a society with the help of French "structuralist" theory. This led to the development of a comprehensive and intricate Marxist model for society as a whole, although access to the model is made difficult by Althusser's style and terminology.

In the structuralist view society cannot be understood through the subjective experience of individuals seen as in some way differentiated from the unfolding processes in which they are enmeshed. A society functions as a single organism in a manner determined by its technology and its modes of production. Every individual action is solely determined by its role in relation to that technology. Althusser's critique was partly in reaction to prevailing individualistic philosophies, as well as the increasingly embarrassing historical degenerations of the Marxist system under Stalin. Critics of Altusser's thinking largely objected to the extreme austerity of a system which denies the primacy of the subjective experience, insisting that a system which so entirely subordinates the individual to the "total" structure can never hope to sustain itself in any realm other than the theoretical.

The Chinese experience reminded Marxists that "contradictions" were the essence of their world view; unity is achieved only through the play of opposites, and all "wholes" contain and even consist of the struggles internal to them. As an organism breaks down food to build up nourishment, the state takes life to protect itself. Later disciples of Althusser would point out that both language and personality reveal inherent tensions in the makeup of the self. These as oppositions can be counted on to result in change and progress as they are products of the internalization of "idealistic" structures in the society as a whole. Marxists who preferred to see change as brought on from "the bottom up" (the oppressed, the working class) criticized Althusser for this scheme of resistance from "the inside out" (the repressed inside any group, body, or system: in the economic system, workers). Others found this to be one of his most fruitful new turns of thought.

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are sociological categories introduced by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies for two normal types of human association. (A normal type as coined by Tönnies is a purely conceptual tool to be built up logically, whereas an ideal type, as coined by Max Weber, is a concept formed by accentuating main elements of a historic/social change.) Tönnies' concepts of both Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, strictly separated from each other conceptually, are fully discussed in his work “Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft” (1887), seven more German editions during his life time, last: Darmstadt 2005). The second edition of 1912 turned out to be an unexpected success, and the antagonism of these two terms belonged to the general stock of concepts German pre-1933 intellectuals were quite familiar with and quite often misunderstood.


Gemeinschaft (often translated as community) is an association in which individuals are oriented to the large association as much if not more than to their own self interest. Furthermore, individuals in Gemeinschaft are regulated by common mores, or beliefs about the appropriate behavior and responsibility of members of the association, to each other and to the association at large; associations marked by "unity of will" (Tönnies, 22). Tönnies saw the family as the most perfect expression of Gemeinschaft; however, he expected that Gemeinschaft could be based on shared place and shared belief as well as kinship, and he included globally dispersed religious communities as possible examples of Gemeinschaft.

Gemeinschafts are broadly characterized by a moderate division of labour, strong personal relationships, strong families, and relatively simple social institutions. In such societies there is seldom a need to enforce social control externally, due to a collective sense of loyalty individuals feel for society.


In contrast, Gesellschaft (often translated as society or civil society or 'association') describes associations in which, for the individual, the larger association never takes on more importance than the individual's self interest, and lack the same level of shared mores. Gesellschaft is maintained through individuals acting in their own self interest. A modern business is a good example of Gesellschaft, the workers, managers, and owners may have very little in terms of shared orientations or beliefs, they may not care deeply for the product they are making, but it is in all their self interest to come to work to make money, and thus the business continues.

Unlike Gemeinschaften, Gesellschaften emphasize secondary relationships rather than familial or community ties, and there is generally less individual loyalty to society. Social cohesion in Gesellschafts typically derives from a more elaborate division of labor. Such societies are considered more susceptible to class conflict as well as racial and ethnic conflicts.

Since, for Tönnies, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are normal types, he considered them a matter of Pure Sociology, whereas in Applied Sociology, on doing empirical research, he expected to find nothing else than a mix of them. Nevertheless, following Tönnies, without normal types one might not be able to analyze this mix

Source: click HERE

Time-space distanciation

Time-space distanciation is a phrase coined by Anthony Giddens. According to Giddens, social life consists of interactions that are face-to-face or remote. Time-space distanciation describes the process whereby remote interaction has become an increasingly significant feature of human life, and through which social systems that were previously distinctive have become connected and interdependent.

In contrast to pre-modern cultures, "modern time" separates from specific place and acquires a uniformity of measurements across regions through technologies like clocks and calendars. This "empty time" is a prior condition for the "emptying of space," or the separation of space from place. Place becomes increasingly "phantasmagoric," ( a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined)  influenced by distant or spatially absent social influences. This separation of time and space has brought about time-space distanciation.

Social activity becomes disconnected from the context of presence, and opened up to the possibilities of change by breaking free from the restraints of local habits and practices.

Reflexivity (social theory)

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In sociology, reflexivity is an act of self-reference where examination or action 'bends back on', refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination. In brief, reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional; with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a situation that renders both functions causes and effects. Reflexivity is related to the concept of feedback and positive feedback in particular.

An example is the interaction between beliefs and observations in a marketplace: if traders believe that prices will fall, they will sell - thus driving down prices, whereas if they believe prices will rise, they will buy - thereby driving prices up.

The concept of reflexivity

In social theory, reflexivity may occur when theories in a discipline should apply equally forcefully to the discipline itself, for example in the case that the theories of knowledge construction in the field of Sociology of Scientific Knowledge should apply equally to knowledge construction by Sociology of Scientific Knowledge practitioners, or when the subject matter of a discipline should apply equally well to the individual practitioners of that discipline, for example when psychological theory should explain the psychological mental processes of psychologists. More broadly, reflexivity is considered to occur when the observations or actions of observers in the social system affect the very situations they are observing, or theory being formulated is disseminated to and affects the behaviour of the individuals or systems the theory is meant to be objectively modelling. Thus for example an anthropologist living in an isolated village may affect the village and the behaviour of its citizens that he or she is studying. The observations are not independent of the participation of the observer.

Reflexivity is, therefore, a methodological issue in the social sciences analogous to the observer principle. Within that part of recent sociology of science that has been called the strong programme, reflexivity is suggested as a methodological norm or principle, meaning that a full theoretical account of the social construction of, say, scientific, religious or ethical knowledge systems, should itself be explainable by the same principles and methods as used for accounting for these other knowledge systems. This points to a general feature of naturalised epistemologies, that such theories of knowledge allows for specific fields of research to elucidate other fields as part of an overall self-reflective process: Any particular field of research occupied with aspects of knowledge processes in general (e.g., history of science, cognitive science, sociology of science, psychology of perception, semiotics, logic, neuroscience) may reflexively study other such fields yielding to an overall improved reflection on the conditions for creating knowledge.

Reflexivity includes both a subjective process of self-consciousness inquiry and the study of social behavior with reference to theories about social relationships.


The principle of reflexivity was perhaps first enunciated by the sociologist William Thomas (1923, 1928) as the Thomas theorem: that 'the situations that men define as true, become true for them.'

Sociologist Robert K. Merton (1948, 1949) built on the Thomas principle to define the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy: that once a prediction or prophecy is made, actors may accommodate their behaviours and actions so that a statement that would have been false becomes true or, conversely, a statement that would have been true becomes false - as a consequence of the prediction or prophecy being made. The prophecy has a constitutive impact on the outcome or result, changing the outcome from what would otherwise have happened.

Reflexivity was taken up as an issue in science in general by Popper (1957), who called it the 'Oedipal effect', and more comprehensively by Nagel (1961). Reflexivity presents a problem for science because if a prediction can lead to changes in the system that the prediction is made in relation to, it becomes difficult to assess scientific hypotheses by comparing the predictions they entail with the events that actually occur. The problem is even more difficult in the social sciences.

Reflexivity has been taken up as the issue of "reflexive prediction" in economic science by Grunberg and Modigliani (1954) and Herbert Simon (1954), has been debated as a major issue in relation to the Lucas Critique, and has been raised as a methodological issue in economic science arising from the issue of reflexivity in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) literature.

Reflexivity has emerged as both an issue and a solution in modern approaches to the problem of structure and agency, for example in the work of Anthony Giddens in his structuration theory and Pierre Bourdieu in his genetic structuralism.

Giddens, for example, noted that constitutive reflexivity is possible in any social system, and that this presents a distinct methodological problem for the social sciences. Giddens accentuated this theme with his notion of "reflexive modernity" - the argument that, over time, society is becoming increasingly more self-aware, reflective, and hence reflexive.

Bourdieu argued that the social scientist is inherently laden with biases, and only by becoming reflexively aware of those biases can the social scientists free themselves from them and aspire to the practice of an objective science. For Bourdieu, therefore, reflexivity is part of the solution, not the problem.

Michel Foucault's The Order of Things can be said to touch on the issue of Reflexivity. Foucault examines the history of western thought since the Renaissance and argues that each historical epoch (he identifies 3, while proposing a 4th) has an episteme, or "a historical a priori", that structures and organizes knowledge. Foucault argues that the concept of man emerged in the early 19th century, what he calls the "Age of Man", with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. He finishes the book by posing the problem of the age of man and our pursuit of knowledge- where "man is both knowing subject and the object of his own study"; thus, Foucault argues that the social sciences, far from being objective, produce truth in their own mutually exclusive discourses.

Reflexivity in Economics

Billionaire investor George Soros has been an active promoter of the relevance of reflexivity to economics first propounding it publicly in his 1987 book. [2]

Reflexivity is discordant with equilibrium theory, which stipulates that markets move towards equilibrium and that non-equilibrium fluctuations are merely random noise that will soon be corrected. In equilibrium theory, prices in the long run at equilibrium reflect the underlying fundamentals, which are unaffected by prices. Reflexivity asserts that prices do in fact influence the fundamentals and that these newly-influenced set of fundamentals then proceed to change expectations, thus influencing prices; the process continues in a self-reinforcing pattern. Because the pattern is self-reinforcing, markets tend towards disequilibrium. Sooner or later they reach a point where the sentiment is reversed and negative expectations become self-reinforcing in the downward direction, thereby explaining the familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles

Reflexivity and the status of the "Social Sciences"

Flanagan (1981) and others have argued that reflexivity complicates all three of the traditional roles that are typically played by a classical science: explanation, prediction and control.

The fact that individuals and social collectivities are capable of self-inquiry and adaptation is a key characteristic of real-world social systems, differentiating the social sciences from the physical sciences.

Reflexivity, therefore, raises real issues regarding the extent to which the social sciences may ever be 'hard' sciences analogous to classical physics, and raises questions about the nature of the social sciences. 

Reflexivity - Reflexivity In Sociology

Reflexivity - Reflexivity In Sociology

The term's history in the social sciences has been somewhat more complex, as it has been used by different theorists to refer to different phenomena according to what both the object and subject of reflection is understood to be. The concept of reflexivity has a longer history in sociology than in anthropology. As a sociological term, it first appears in the work of Talcott Parsons where it refers to the capacity of social actors in modern societies to be conscious and able to give accounts of their actions. This usage was further developed by Anthony Giddens, who argues that one of the main characteristics of late modernity is a heightened importance of reflexivity in this sense, both at the individual and the societal level. In late modernity, he argues, most aspects of social activity are subject to constant revision in the light of new information or knowledge (sociology itself is a major source of such reflexivity at the level of the society). Individual social actors likewise must constantly revise their identities in light of the changing social categories at hand. A second meaning of the term in sociology is traceable to the work of Harold Garfinkel who used the term to mean the process by which social order is created through ad hoc instances of conversational practice. A third sense of the term is in the context of "reflexive sociology." The term was coined by Parsons's student Alvin Gouldner, who called for a sociological examination of the discipline itself as part of a liberatory "radical sociology." The theorist most closely associated with reflexive sociology in this sense is Pierre Bourdieu. In his work, reflexivity is understood as a strategic agenda, that of utilizing the tools of the discipline in order to demystify sociology as a power saturated social practice.

Modernization Theory

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:
Modernization Theory

Modernization Theory - Presentation Transcript

  1. Modernization Theory Dr. Christopher S. Rice
  2. Rise of the United States as a Superpower
  3. Spread of a (perceived) united world Communist movement
  4. Disintegration of the European colonial empires
  5. Evolutionary Theory
  6. Features of Classic Evolutionary Theory • Assumed social change is unidirectional • Imposed a value judgment on the evolutionary process • Assumed that the rate of social change is slow, gradual & piecemeal (evolutionary NOT revolutionary)
  7. Functionalist Theory
  8. The Functional Imperatives (AGIL) • Adaptation • Goal attainment • Integration • Latency
  9. Homeostatic Equilibrium
  10. Criticism of Parsons
  11. Parson’s “Pattern Variables” • Affective vs. affective-neutral relationship • Particularistic vs. Universal relationship • Collective orientation vs. self- orientation • Ascription vs. Achievement • Functionally diffused vs. functionally specific relationships
  12. Marion Levy Relatively Modernized Societies
  13. How is Modernization defined?
  14. Why does Modernization occur?
  15. Relatively non-modern societies are characterized by: • Low degree of specialization • High level of self-sufficiency • Cultural norms of tradition, particularism, & functional diffuseness • Relatively little emphasis on money circulation & market • Family norms such as nepotism • One-way flow of goods and services from rural to urban areas
  16. Relatively modern societies are characterized by: • High degree of specialization & interdependency of organizations • Cultural norms of rationality, universalism, & functional specificity • High degree of centralization • Relatively great emphasis on money circulation & market • The need to insulate bureaucracy from other contexts • Two-way flow of goods & services between towns and villages
  17. What if you come late to the party?
  18. Advantages Disadvantages • Knowing where they are • Problems of scale. going • Problems of conversion of • Ability to borrow initial resources, materials, skills, expertise in planning, etc. from one use to capital accumulation, another. skills, & patterns of • Problems of organization without the costs of invention. disappointment. • Able to skip some of the • Many people get hurt in a non-essential stages society’s movement associated with the toward relatively process. modernized patterns.
  19. Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth • “Traditional Society” • Precondition for takeoff growth • Takeoff • Drive to Maturity • High mass-consumption society
  20. PI from banks, capital confiscatory and markets, government bonds, taxation devices & the stock market How do you get the necessary capital for “Takeoff”? PI through direct foreign PI through capital investment foreign trade
  21. Theoretical Assumptions of Modernization Theory
  22. From Functionalist Theory • Modernization is a systematic process • Modernization is a transformative process • Modernization is an immanent process
  23. From Evolutionary Theory • Modernization is a phased process • Modernization is a homogenizing process • Modernization is an Americanization (or Europeanization) process • Modernization is an irreversible process • Modernization is a progressive process • Modernization is a lengthy process
  24. Policy Implications
  25. 4 Criticisms of Modernization Theory
  26. Unidirectional Development
  27. Need to Eliminate Traditional Values
  28. Ideological Critique
  29. “These epistemological sins led to the theoretical errors of belief in incremental and continuous development, the possibility of orderly and stable change, the diffusion of development from the West to the Third World, and the decline of revolutionary ideology and the spread of pragmatic and scientific thinking.” Sydney Almond
  30. 4 Epistemological Sins of MT • Belief in the possibility of an objective social science free of ideology. • Belief in the cumulative quality of knowledge. • Belief in universal laws of social science. • Export of these beliefs to the Third World countries.
  31. Neglect of the Issue of Foreign Domination