THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION This page intentionally left blank. THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION C. WRIGHT MILLS With a new Afterword by. Apply the sociological imagination to divorce and other topics. Define social facts. .. Internet 5 July, from soundofheaven.info Sociological imagination - The ability of understanding the intersection of one's own biography and other biographies with history and the present social.
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The Sociological Imagination. Chapter One: The Promise. C. Wright Mills (). Nowadays people often feel that their private lives are a series of traps. TO THE INDIVIDUAL social scientist who feels himself a part of the classic tradition, social science is the practice of a craft. A man at work on problems of. soundofheaven.info for downloading it from there; the download is very cheap Biology Questions and A.
Methodology, in short, seems to determine the problems. These central conceptions may refer to a god or gods, the Vote of the majority,' 'the will of the people,' 'the aristocracy of talent or wealth,' to the 'divine right of kings,' or to the allegedly extraordinary endowment of the ruler himself. It is, quite frankly, my hope to increase this uneasiness, to define some of its sources, to help transform it into a specific urge to realize the promise of social science, to clear the ground for new beginnings: To formulate issues and troubles, we must ask what values are cherished yet threatened, and what values are cherished and supported, by the characterizing trends of our period. In particular, I shall attempt to sort out statements about something from definitions of words and of their wordy relations. Yet despite this reluctance, intellectual as well as public attention is now so obviously upon the social worlds which they presumably study that it must be agreed that they are uniquely confronted with an opportunity. For example, in the hands of Comte, as in those of Marx, Spencer, and Weber, sociology is an encyclopedic endeavor, concerned with the whole of man's social life.
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The sociological imagination. C Wright Mills Publisher: New York, Oxford University Press, Social theory. English View all editions and formats Rating: Subjects Social sciences. View all subjects More like this Similar Items. Show all links.
Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Details Additional Physical Format: Print version: For example, in the hands of Comte, as in those of Marx, Spencer, and Weber, sociology is an encyclopedic endeavor, concerned with the whole of man's social life.
It is at once historical and systematic—historical, because it deals with and uses the materials of the past; systematic, because it does so in order to discern 'the stages' of the course of history and the regularities of social life. The theory of man's history can all too readily become distorted into a trans-historical strait-jacket into which the materials of THE PROMISE 23 human history are forced and out of which issue prophetic views usually gloomy ones of the future.
The works of Arnold Toynbee and of Oswald Spengler are well-known examples. Tendency II: It is, in short, concerned with a rather static and abstract view of the components of social structure on a quite high level of generality. Perhaps in reaction to the distortion of Tendency I, history can be altogether abandoned: Among what I shall call Grand Theorists, conceptions have indeed become Concepts.
The work of Talcott Parsons is the leading contemporary example in American sociology. Tendency III: Toward empirical studies of contemporary social facts and problems. Although Comte and Spencer were mainstays of American social science until or thereabout, and German theoretical influence was heavy, the empirical survey became central in the United States at an early time.
In part this resulted from the prior academic establishment of economics and political science. Given this, in so far as sociology is defined as a study of some special area of society, it readily becomes a sort of odd job man among the social sciences, consisting of miscellaneous studies of academic leftovers. Many course offerings in American sociology illustrate this; perhaps textbooks in the field of social disorganization reVeal it best.
Lazarsfeld are present-day examples. These tendencies—to scatter one's attention and to cultivate method for its own sake—are fit companions, although they do not necessarily occur together. The peculiarities of sociology may be understood as distortions of one or more of its traditional tendencies. But its promises may also be understood in terms of these tendencies. In the United States today there has come about a sort of Hellenistic amalgamation, embodying various elements and aims from the sociologies of the several Western societies.
But there is also an opportunity in our condition: The nuance and suggestion that students of sociology can find in their traditions are not to be briefly summarized, but any social scientist who takes them in hand will be richly rewarded.
His mastery of them may readily be turned into new orientations for his own work in social science. I shall return to the promises of social science in chapters Seven through Ten , after an examination of some of its more habitual distortions chapters Two through Six.
An element of a shared symbolic system which serves as a criterion or standard for selection among the alternatives of orientation which are intrinsically open in a situation may be called a value. But from this motivational orientation aspect of the totality, of action it is, in view of the role of symbolic systems, necessary to distinguish a Valueorientation' aspect.
This aspect concerns, not the meaning of the expected state of affairs to the actor in terms of his gratification-deprivation balance but the content of the selective standards themselves. The concept of value-orientations in this sense is thus the logical device for formulating one central aspect of the articulation of cultural traditions into the action system. It follows from the derivation of normative orientation and the role of values in action as stated above, that all values involve what may be called a social reference Expectations then, in combination with the 'double contingency' of the process of interaction as it has been called, create a crucially imperative problem of order.
Two aspects of this problem of order may in turn be distinguished, order in the symbolic systems which make communication possible, and order in the mutuality of motivational orientation to the normative aspect of expectations, the 'Hobbesian' problem of order. These standards are, in the terms used in the preceding chapter, patterns of value-orientation, and as such are a particularly crucial part of the cultural tradition of the social system.
Grand Theory —the associating and dissociating of concepts—is well worth considering. True, it has not had so important an effect as the methodological inhibition that is to be examined in the next chapter, for as a style of work its spread has been limited. The fact is that it is not readily understandable; the suspicion is that it may not be altogether intelligible. This is, to be sure, a protective advantage, but it is a disadvantage in so far as its pronundamentos are intended to influence the working habits of social scientists.
Not to make fun but to report factually, we have to admit that its productions have been received by social scientists in one or more of the following ways: To at least some of those who claim to understand it, and who like it, it is one of the greatest advances in the entire history of social science.
To many of those who claim to understand it, but who do not like it, it is a clumsy piece of irrelevant ponderosity. These are rare, if only because dislike and impatience prevent many from trying to puzzle it out.
To those who do not claim to understand it, but who like it very much—and there are many of these—it is a wondrous maze, fascinating precisely because of its often splendid lack of intelligibility. Those who do not claim to understand it and who do not like it—if they retain the courage of their convictions—will feel that indeed the emperor has no clothes.
Of course there are also many who qualify their views, and many more who remain patiently neutral, waiting to see the professional outcome, if any. Now all this raises a sore point—intelligibility. That point, of course, goes beyond grand theory,2 but grand theorists are so deeply involved in it that I fear we really must ask: Is grand theory merely a confused verbiage or is there, after all, also something there?
The answer, I think, is: Something is there, buried deep to be sure, but still something is being said. So the question becomes: After all the impediments to meaning are removed from grand theory and what is intelligible becomes available, what, then, is being said? I have already indicated my choice of example. I want now to make clear that I am not here trying to judge the value of Parsons' work as a whole.
If I refer to other writings of his, it is only in order to clarify, in an economical way, some point contained in this one volume. In translating the contents of The Social System into English, I do not pretend that my translation is excellent, but only that in the translation no explicit meaning is lost. This—I am asserting—contains all that is intelligible in it. In particular, I shall attempt to sort out statements about something from definitions of words and of their wordy relations.
Both are important; to confuse them is fatal to clarity. To make evident the sort of thing that is needed, I shall first translate several passages; then I shall offer two abbreviated translations of the book as a whole. To translate the example quoted at the opening of this chapter: People often share standards and expect one another to stick to them.
In so far as they do, their society may be orderly, end of translation Parsons has written: In the second place, the structuring of the reactions of alter to ego's action as sanctions is a function of his conformity with the standard. Therefore conformity as a direct mode of the fulfillment of his own need-dispositions tends to coincide with conformity as a condition of eliciting the favorable and avoiding the unfavorable reactions of others.
In so far as, relative to the actions of a plurality of actors, conformity with a value-orientation standard meets both these criteria, that is from the point of view of any given actor in the system, it is both a mode of the fulfillment of his own need-dispositions and a condition of 'optimizing' the reactions of other significant actors, that standard wiU be said to be 'institutionalized.
Therefore there is always a double aspect of the expectation system which is integrated in relation to it. On the one hand there are the expectations which concern and in part set standards for the behavior of the actor, ego, who is taken as the point of reference; these are his 'role-expectations. The relation between role-expectations and sanctions then is clearly reciprocal. What are sanctions to ego are role-expectations to alter and vice versa.
A role then is a sector of the total orientation system of an individual actor which is organized about expectations in relation to a particular interaction context, that is integrated with a particular set of valuestandards which govern interaction with one or more alters in the appropriate complementary roles. These alters need not be a defined group of individuals, but can involve any alter if and when he comes into a particular complementary interaction relationship with ego which involves a reciprocity of expectations with reference to common standards of value-orientation.
The institutionalization of a set of role-expectations and of the corresponding sanctions is clearly a matter of degree. This degree is a function of two sets of variables; on the one hand those affecting the actual sharedness of the value-orientation patterns, on the other those determining the motivational orientation or commitment to the fulfillment of the relevant expectations.
As we shall see a variety of factors can influence this degree of institutionalization through each of these channels. The polar antithesis of full institutionalization is, however, anomie, the absence of structured complementarity of the interaction process or, what is the same thing, the complete breakdown of normative order in both senses. Just as there are degrees of institutionalization so are there also degrees of anomie. The one is the obverse of the other. An institution will be said to be a complex of institutionalized role integrates which is of strategic structural significance in the social system in question.
The institution should be considered to be a higher order unit of social structure than the role, and indeed it is made up of a plurality of interdependent role-patterns or components of them. Men act with and against one another.
Each takes into account what others expect. When such mutual expectations are sufficiently definite and durable, we call them standards.
Each man also expects that others are going to react to what he does. We call these expected reactions sanctions. Some of them seem very gratifying, some do not. When men are guided by standards and sanctions, we may say that they are playing roles together. It is a convenient metaphor. And as a matter of fact, what we call an institution is probably best defined as a more or less stable set of roles. When within some institution— or an entire society composed of such institutions—the standards and sanctions no longer grip men, we may speak, with Durkheim, of anomie.
At one extreme, then, are institutions, with standards and sanctions all neat and orderly. At the other extreme, there is anomie: In fact, many of the ideas of grand theorists, when translated, are more or less standard ones available in many textbooks of sociology. But in connection with 'institutions' the definition given above is not quite complete. Well, those are institutions. Within them, the expectations of some men seem just a little more urgent than those of anyone 8 Parsons, op.
That is because, as we say, they have more power. Or to put it more sociologically, although not yet altogether so: Parsons writes: Furthermore, this attachment to common values, while it may fit the immediate gratificational needs of the actor, always has also a 'moral' aspect in that to some degree this conformity defines the 'responsibilities' of the actor in the wider, that is, social action systems in which he participates. Obviously the specific focus of responsibility is the collectivity which is constituted by a particular common value-orientation.
Finally, it is quite clear that the 'sentiments' which support such common values are not ordinarily in their specific structure the manifestation of constitutionally given propensities of the organism. They are in general learned or acquired. Furthermore, the part they play in the orientation of action is not predominantly that of cultural objects which are cognized and 'adapted to' but the culture patterns have come to be internalized; they constitute part of the structure of the personality system of the actor itself.
Such sentiments or Valueattitudes' as they may be called are therefore genuine need-dispositions of the personality.
It is only by virtue of internalization of institutionalized values that a genuine motivational integration of behavior in the social structure takes place, that the 'deeper' layers of motivation become harnessed to the fulfillment of role-expectations.
Though complete integration of a social system of motivation with a fully consistent set of cultural patterns is empirically unknown, the conception of such an integrated social system is of high theoretical significance. Parsons' footnote: This integration of a set of common value patterns with the internalized need-disposition structure of the constituent personalities is the core phenomenon of the dynamics of social systems.
That the stability of any social system except the most evanescent interaction process is dependent on a degree of such integration may be said to be the funda- GRAND THEORY 31 mental dynamic theorem of sociology. It is the major point of reference for all analysis which may claim to be a dynamic analysis of social process. When people share the same values, they tend to behave in accordance with the way they expect one another to behave. Moreover, they often treat such conformity as a very good thing—even when it seems to go against their immediate interests.
That these shared values are learned rather than inherited does not make them any the less important in human motivation. On the contrary, they become part of the personality itself.
As such, they bind a society together, for what is socially expected becomes individually needed. This is so important to the stability of any social system that I am going to use it as my chief point of departure if I ever analyze some society as a going concern, end of translation In a similar fashion, I suppose, one could translate the pages of The Social System into about pages of straightforward English.
The result would not be very impressive. It would, however, contain the terms in which the key problem of the book, and the solution it offers to this problem, are most clearly statable. Any idea, any book can of course be suggested in a sentence or expounded in twenty volumes. It is a question of how full a statement is needed to make something clear and of how important that something seems to be: To suggest Parsons' book, for example, in two or three phrases: We are asked: How is social order possible?
The answer we are given seems to be: Of course not, but it is the main point. But isn't this unfair? Can't any book be treated this way?
Of course. Here is a book of my own treated in this way: Who, after all, runs America? No one runs it altogether, but in so far as any group does, the power elite. What are the social sciences all about? They ought to be about man and society and sometimes they are. These actions are often rather orderly, for the individuals in the system share standards of value and of appropriate and practical ways to behave. Some of these standards we may call norms; those who act in accordance with them tend to act similarly on similar occasions.
That this is a metaphor I am now going to forget, because I want you to take as very real my Concept: The social equilibrium. There are two major ways by which the social equilibrium is maintained, and by which—should either or both fail—disequilibrium results. Part of this social making of persons consists in their acquiring motives for taking the social actions required or expected by others.
By Tine' of course, I refer to whatever action is typically expected and approved in the social system. The first problem of maintaining social equilibrium is to make people want to do what is required and expected of them. That failing, the second problem is to adopt other means to keep them in line.
The best classifications and definitions of these social controls have been given by Max Weber, and I have little to add to what he, and a few other writers since then, have said so well. One point does puzzle me a little: This I cannot explain very well, that is, in the terms of my Systematic and General Theory of the social system.
And there is another point that is not as clear as I should like it to be: About these two problems, I recommend that whenever you come upon them, you undertake empirical investigations, end of translation Perhaps that is enough. In the meantime, we have three tasks: My purpose in all this is to help grand theorists get down from their useless heights.
The basic cause of grand theory is the initial choice of a level of thinking so general that its practitioners cannot logically get down to observation.
They never, as grand theorists, get down from the higher generalities to problems in their historical and structural contexts. This absence of a firm sense of genuine problems, in turn, makes for the unreality so noticeable in their pages.
One resulting characteristic is a seemingly arbitrary and certainly endless elaboration of distinctions, which neither enlarge our understanding nor make our experience more sensible. This in turn is revealed as a partially organized abdication of the effort to describe and explain human conduct and society plainly. When we consider what a word stands for, we are dealing with its semantic aspects; when we consider it in relation to other words, we are dealing with its syntactic features.
These are three 'dimensions of meaning' which Charles M. I, No. University of Chicago Press, Grand theory is drunk on syntax, blind to semantics. Its practitioners do not truly understand that when we define a word we are merely inviting others to use it as we would like it to be used; that the purpose of definition is to focus argument upon fact, and that the proper result of good definition is to transform argument over terms into disagreements about fact, and thus open arguments to further inquiry.
The grand theorists are so preoccupied by syntactic meanings and so unimaginative about semantic references, they are so rigidly confined to such high levels of abstraction that the 'typologies' they make up—and the work they do to make them up— seem more often an arid game of Concepts than an effort to define systematically—which is to say, in a clear and orderly way—the problems at hand, and to guide our efforts to solve them.
One great lesson that we can learn from its systematic absence in the work of the grand theorists is that every self-conscious thinker must at all times be aware of—and hence be able to control—the levels of abstraction on which he is working. The capacity to shuttle between levels of abstraction, with ease and with clarity, is a signal mark of the imaginative and systematic thinker.
Around such terms as 'capitalism' or 'middle class' or 'bureaucracy' or 'power elite' or 'totalitarian democracy,' there are often somewhat tangled and obscured connotations, and in using these terms, such connotations must be carefully watched and controlled.
Around such terms, there are often 'compounded' sets of facts and relations as well as merely guessed-at factors and observations. These too must be carefully sorted out and made clear in our definition and in our use.
To clarify the syntactic and the semantic dimensions of such conceptions, we must,be aware of the hierarchy of specificity under each of them, and we must be able to consider all levels of this hierarchy. We must ask: And to what extent are we entitled to assume that, by definition, the term implies assertions about the political order as well as economic institutions? Such habits of mind I suppose to be the keys to systematic thinking and their absence the keys to the fetishism of the Concept.
Perhaps one result of such an absence will become clearer as we consider, more specifically now, a major confusion of Parsons' book. Seemingly, this is deliberate in the interest of making the concern of sociologists a specialized endeavor distinct from that of economists and political scientists. Sociology, according to Parsons, has to do with 'that aspect of the theory of social systems which is concerned with the phenomena of the institutionalization of patterns of value-orientation in the social system, with the conditions of that institutionalization; and of changes in the patterns, with conditions of conformity with and deviance from a set of such patterns, and with motivational processes in so far as they are involved in all of these.
Sociologists of my sort would like to study what people want and cherish. We would also like to find out why there is a variety of such values and why they change. When we do find a more or less unitary set of values, we would like to find out why some people do and others do not conform to them, end of translation As David Lockwood has noted,7 such a statement delivers the sociologist from any concern with 'power,' with economic and political institutions. I would go further than that.
This statement, and, in fact, the whole of Parsons' book, deals much more 6 Parsons, op. VII, 2 June Those in authority attempt to justify their rule over institutions by linking it, as if it were a necessary consequence, with widely believed-in moral symbols, sacred emblems, legal formulae.
These central conceptions may refer to a god or gods, the Vote of the majority,' 'the will of the people,' 'the aristocracy of talent or wealth,' to the 'divine right of kings,' or to the allegedly extraordinary endowment of the ruler himself. Social scientists, following Weber, call such conceptions legitimations,' or sometimes 'symbols of justification. Mosca's 'political formula' or 'great superstitions,' Locke's 'principle of sovereignty,' Sorel's 'ruling myth,' Thurman Arnold's 'folklore,' Weber's legitimations,' Durkheim's 'collective representations,' Marx's 'dominant ideas,' Rousseau's 'general will,' Lasswell's 'symbols of authority,' Mannheim's 'ideology,' Herbert Spencer's 'public sentiments'—all these and others like them testify to the central place of master symbols in social analysis.
Similarly in psychological analysis, such master symbols, relevant when they are taken over privately, become the reasons and often the motives that lead persons into roles and sanction their enactment of them.
If, for example, economic institutions are publicly justified in terms of them, then references to self-interest may be acceptable justification for individual conduct. Gerth and C. Legitimations that are publicly effective often become, in due course, effective as personal motives. This is, indeed, a useful and important subject. The relations of such symbols to the structure of institutions are among the most important problems of social science.
Such symbols, however, do not form some autonomous realm within a society; their social relevance lies in their use to justify or to oppose the arrangement of power and the positions within this arrangement of the powerful.
Their psychological relevance lies in the fact that they become the basis for adherence to the structure of power or for opposing it. We may not merely assume that some such set of values, or legitimations, must prevail lest a social structure come apart, nor may we assume that a social structure must be made coherent or unified by any such 'normative structure. In fact, for modern Western societies—and in particular the United States—there is much evidence that the opposite of each of these assumptions is the more accurate.
Often—although not in the United States since World War II—there are quite well organized symbols of opposition which are used to justify insurgent movements and to debunk ruling authorities. The continuity of the American political system is quite unique, having been threatened by internal violence only once in its history; this fact may be among those that have misled Parsons in his image of The Normative Structure of Value-Orientation.
Just as often, or even more often, such moral identities as men of some society may have rest on the fact that institutional rulers successfully monopolize, and even impose, their master symbols. The symbols that justify some authority are separated from the actual persons or strata that exercise the authority. In order to lend continuity to the sequence of these symbols, they are presented as in some way connected with one another.
Or, we may add, the Concept of 'normative order' may be fetishized. I have, of course, just paraphrased Marx and Engels speaking of Hegel. There is of course an interplay between justifying symbols, institutional authorities, and obedient persons. At times we should not hesitate to assign causal weight to master symbols—but we may not misuse the idea as the theory of social order or of the unity of society.
There are better ways to construct a 'unity,' as we shall presently see, ways that are more useful in the formulation of significant problems of social structure and closer to observable materials.
So far as 'common values' interest us, it is best to build up our conception of them by examining the legitimations of each institutional order in any given social structure, rather than to begin by attempting first to grasp them, and in their light 'explain' the society's composition and unity. GRAND THEORY 39 institutional order have taken over that order's legitimations, when such legitimations are the terms in which obedience is successfully claimed, or at least complacency secured.
Social structures that display such universal and central symbols are naturally extreme and 'pure' types. At the other end of the scale, there are societies in which a dominant set of institutions controls the total society and superimposes its values by violence and the threat of violence. This need not involve any breakdown of the social structure, for men may be effectively conditioned by formal discipline; and at times, unless they accept institutional demands for discipline, they may have no chance to earn a living.
A skilled compositor employed by a reactionary newspaper, for example, may for the sake of making a living and holding his job conform to the demands of employer discipline. In his heart, and outside the shop, he may be a radical agitator.
Many German socialists allowed themselves to become perfectly disciplined soldiers under the Kaiser's flag—despite the fact that their subjective values were those of revolutionary Marxism.
It is a long way from symbols to 11conduct and back again, and not all integration is based on symbols. To emphasize such conflict of value is not to deny 'the force of rational consistencies.
We might well imagine a 'pure type' of society, a perfectly disciplined social structure, in which the dominated men, for a variety of reasons, cannot quit their prescribed roles, but nevertheless share none of the dominator's values, and thus in no way believe in the legitimacy of the order.
It would be like a ship manned by galley slaves, in which the disciplined movement of the oars reduces the rowers to cogs in a machine, and the violence of the whipmaster is only rarely needed. The galley slaves need not even be aware of the ship's 11 Gerth and Mills, op. But perhaps I begin to describe rather than to imagine. And that, of course, may be true of any institutional order, not only of the political and economic. A father may impose demands upon his family by threatening to withhold inheritance, or by the use of such violence as the political order may allow him.
Even in such sacred little groups as families, the unity of 'common values' is by no means necessary: A society as well may of course flourish quite adequately without such a 'normative structure' as grand theorists believe to be universal. I do not here wish to expound any solution to the problem of order, but merely to raise questions. For if we cannot do that, we must, as demanded by the fiat of quite arbitary definition, assume the 'normative structure' which Parsons imagines to be the heart of 'the social system.
Events that are beyond human decision do happen; social arrangements do change without benefit of explicit decision. But in so far as such decisions are made and in so far as they could be but are not the problem of who is involved in making them or not making them is the basic problem of power.
We cannot assume today that men must in the last resort be governed by their own consent. Among the means of power that now prevail is the power to manage and to manipulate the consent of men. That we do not know the limits of such power— and that we hope it does have limits—does not remove the fact GRAND THEORY 41 that much power today is successfully employed without the sanction of the reason or the conscience of the obedient.
Surely in our time we need not argue that, in the last resort, coercion is the 'final' form of power. But then we are by no means constantly at the last resort.
Authority power justified by the beliefs of the voluntarily obedient and manipulation power wielded unbeknown to the powerless must also be considered, along with coercion. In fact, the three types must constantly be sorted out when we think about the nature of power. In the modern world, I think we must bear in mind, power is often not so authoritative as it appeared to be in the medieval period; justifications of rulers no longer seem so necessary to their exercise of power.
Furthermore, such ideologies as are available to the powerful are often neither taken up nor used by them. Ideologies usually arise as a response to an effective debunking of power; in the United States such opposition has not been recently effective enough to create a felt need for new ideologies of rule.
Today, of course, many people who are disengaged from prevailing allegiances have not acquired new ones, and so are inattentive to political concerns of any kind. They are neither radical nor reactionary.
They are inactionary. If we accept the Greek's definition of the idiot as an altogether private man, then we must conclude that many citizens of many societies are indeed idiots. This—and I use the word with care—this spiritual condition seems to me the key to much modern malaise among political intellectuals, as well as the key to much political bewilderment in modern society.
Intellectual 'conviction' and moral TDelief are not necessary, in either the rulers or the ruled, for a structure of power to persist and even to flourish. So far as the role of ideologies is concerned, the frequent absence of engaging legitimation and the prevalence of mass apathy are surely two of the central political facts about the Western societies today.
But we are not at all helped by the deviant assumptions of Parsons, who merely assumes that there is, presumably in every society, such a Value hierarchy' as he imagines. Moreover, its implications systematically impede the clear formulation of significant problems: To accept his scheme we are required to read out of the picture the facts of power and indeed of all institutional structures, in particular the economic, the political, the military.
In this curious 'general theory,' such structures of domination have no place. In the terms provided, we cannot properly pose the empirical question of the extent to which, and in what manner, institutions are, in any given case, legitimated. The idea of the normative order that is set forth, and the way it is handled by grand theorists, leads us to assume that virtually all power is legitimated.
In fact: No special mechanisms are required for the explanation of the maintenance of complementary interaction-orientation. Structural antagonisms, large-scale revolts, revolutions— they cannot be imagined. Not only does the 'collective behavior' of terrorized masses and excited mobs, crowds and movements—with which our era is so filled—find no place in the normatively created social structures 12 Parsons, op.
But any systematic ideas of how history itself occurs, of its mechanics and processes, are unavailable to grand theory, and accordingly, Parsons believes, unavailable to social science: Virtually any problem of substance that is taken up in the terms of grand theory is incapable of being clearly stated. It is, for example, difficult to imagine a more futile endeavor than analyzing American society in terms of 'the value pattern' of 'universalistic-achievement' with no mention of the changing nature, meaning and forms of success characteristic of modern capitalism, or of the changing structure of capitalism itself; or, analyzing United States stratification in terms of 'the dominant value system' without taking into account the known statistics of life-chances based on levels of property and income.
Indeed,' Alvin Gouldner has remarked, 'the extent to which Parsons' efforts at theoretical and empirical analysis of change suddenly lead him to enlist a body of Marxist concepts and assumptions is nothing less than bewildering It almost seems as if two sets of books were being kept, one for the analysis of equilibrium and another for the investigation of change.
Lockwood, op. It makes one entertain the hope that grand theorists have not lost all touch with historical reality. It is possible to be brief about it because in the development of social science it has been re-defined, and in its most useful statement might now be called the problem of social integration; it does of course require a working conception of social structure and of historical change.
Unlike grand theorists, most social scientists, I think, would give answers running something like this: First of all, there is no one answer to the question, What holds a social structure together? There is no one answer because social structures differ profoundly in their degrees and kinds of unity.
In fact, types of social structure are usefully conceived in terms of different modes of integration. When we descend from the level of grand theory to historical realities, we immediately realize the irrelevance of its monolithic Concepts. With these we cannot think about the human variety, about Nazi Germany in , Sparta in seventh century B.
Merely to name this variety is surely to suggest that whatever these societies may have in common must be discovered by empirical examination. To predicate anything beyond the most empty formalities about the historical range of social structure is to mistake one's own capacity to talk for all that is meant by the work of social investigation. One may usefully conceive types of social structure in terms of such institutional orders as the political and kinship, the military and economic, and the religious.
Having defined each of these in such a way as to be able to discern their outlines in a given historical society, one asks how each is related to the others, how, in short, they are composed into a social structure.
In that classical liberal society each order of institutions is conceived as autonomous, and its freedom demanded from any co-ordination by other orders. In the economy, there is laissez faire; in the religious sphere, a variety of sects and churches openly compete on the market for salvation; kinship institutions are set up on a marriage market in which individuals choose one another.
Not a familymade man, but a self-made man, comes to ascendancy in the sphere of status. In the political order, there is party competition for the votes of the individual; even in the military zone there is much freedom in the recruitment of state militia, and in a wide sense—a very important sense—one man means one rifle.
The principle of integration—which is also the basic legitimation of this society—is the ascendancy within each order of institutions of the free initiative of independent men in competition with one another. It is in this fact of correspondence that we may understand the way in which a classic liberal society is unified. Within the economic order, institutions are highly centralized; a few big units more or less control all operations.
Within the political order there is more fragmentation: Many parties compete to influence the state, but no one of them is powerful enough to control the results of economic concentration, one of these results—along with other factors —being the slump.
The Nazi movement successfully exploits the mass despair, especially that of its lower middle classes, in the economic slump and brings into close correspondence the political, military, and economic orders.
One party monopolizes and remakes the political order, abolishing or amalgamating all other parties that might compete for power. In these main orders there is, first, a corresponding concentration of power; then each of them coincides and co-operates in the taking of power. President Hindenburg's army is not interested in defending the Weimar Republic, or in crushing the marching columns of a popular war party.
Big business circles are willing to help finance the Nazi party, which, among other things, promises to smash the labor movement.
And the three types of elite join in an often uneasy coalition to maintain power in their respective orders and to co-ordinate the rest of society. Rival political parties are either suppressed and outlawed, or they disband voluntarily. Kinship and religious institutions, as well as all organizations within and between all orders, are infiltrated and co-ordinated, or at least neutralized.
The totalitarian party-state is the means by which high agents of each of the three dominant orders co-ordinate their own and other institutional orders. The symbol spheres of all institutions are controlled by the party. With the partial exception of the religious order, no rival claims to legitimate autonomy are permitted.
There is a party monopoly of formal communications, including educational institutions. All symbols are recast to form the basic legitimation of the co-ordinated society. The principle of absolute and magical leadership charismatic rule in a strict hierarchy is widely promulgated, in a social structure that is to a considerable extent held together by a network of rackets.
For the above account, see Gerth and Mills, op. Useful work on such problems will proceed in terms of a variety of such working models as I have outlined here, and these models will be used in close and empirical connection with a range of historical as well as contemporary social structures. If, for example, we observe American society at the time of Tocqueville and again in the middle of the twentieth century, we see at once that the way the nineteenth century structure 'hangs together' is quite different from its current modes of integration.
We ask: How have each of its instutional orders changed? How have its relations with each of the others changed? What have been. And, in each case, what have been the necessary and sufficient causes of these changes? Usually, of course, the search for adequate cause requires at least some work in a comparative as well as an historical manner. In an over-all way, we can summarize such an analysis of social change, and thus formulate more economically a range of larger problems, by indicating that the changes have resulted in a shift from one 'mode of integration' to another.
For example, the last century of American history shows a transition from a social structure largely integrated by correspondence to one much more subject to coordination.
The general problem of a theory of history can not be separated from the general problem of a theory of social structure. I think it is obvious that in their actual studies, working social scientists do not experience any great theoretical difficulties in understanding the two in a unified way. Perhaps that is why one Behemoth is worth, to social science, twenty Social Systems.
I do not, of course, present these points in any effort to make a definitive statement of the problems of order and change—that is, of social structure and history. Perhaps these remarks are also useful to make more specific one aspect of the promise of social science. And, of course, I have set them forth here in order to indicate how inadequately grand theorists have handled one major problem of social science.
In The Social System Parsons has not been able to get down to the work of social science because he is possessed by the idea that the one model of social order he has constructed is some kind of universal model; because, in fact, he has fetishized his Concepts. It is not used to state more precisely or more adequately any new problem of recognizable significance.
It has not been developed out of any need to fly high for a little while in order to see something in the social world more clearly, to solve some problem that can be stated in terms of the historical reality in which men and institutions have their concrete being.
Its problem, its course, and its solutions are grandly theoretical. The withdrawal into systematic work on conceptions should be only a formal moment within the work of social science. It is useful to recall that in Germany the yield of such formal work was soon turned to encyclopedic and historical use. That use, presided over by the ethos of Max Weber, was the climax of the classic German tradition. In considerable part, it was made possible by a body of sociological work in which general conceptions about society were closely joined with historical exposition.
Classical Marxism has been central to the development of modern sociology; Max Weber, like so many other sociologists, developed much of his work in a dialogue with Karl Marx. But the amnesia of the American scholar has always to be recognized. In grand theory we now confront another formalist withdrawal, and again, what is properly only a pause seems to have become permanent. Grand theorists have not often descended into the political arena; cer- GRAND THEORY 19 49 footnote continued tainly they have not often taken their problems to lie within the political contexts of modern society.
But that of course does not exempt their work from ideological meaning. I shall not analyze Parsons in this connection, for the political meaning of The Social System lies so close to its surface, when it is adequately translated, that I feel no need to make it any plainer. Grand theory does not now play any direct bureaucratic role, and as I have noted, its lack of intelligibility limits any public favor it might come to have.
This might of course become an asset: The ideological meaning of grand theory tends strongly to legitimate stable forms of domination. Yet only if there should arise a much greater need for elaborate legitimations among conservative groups would grand theory have a chance to become politically relevant. I began this chapter with a question: Is grand theory, as represented in The Social System, merely verbiage or is it also profound? My answer to this question is: It is only about 50 per cent verbiage; 40 per cent is well-known textbook sociology.
The other 10 per cent, as Parsons might say, I am willing to leave open for your own empirical investigations. My own investigations suggest that the remaining 10 per cent is of possible—although rather vague—ideological use. Both are withdrawals from the tasks of the social sciences.
Considerations of method and theory are of course essential to work upon our tasks, but in these two styles they have become hindrances: Accredited studies in this style now tend regularly to fall into a more or less standard pattern. In practice the new school usually takes as the basic source of its 'data' the more or less set interview with a series of individuals selected by a sampling procedure.
Their answers are classified and, for convenience, punched on Hollerith cards which are then used to make statistical runs by means of which relations are sought. Undoubtedly this fact, and the consequent ease with which the procedure is learned by any fairly intelligent person, accounts for much of its appeal. The results are normally put in the form of statistical assertions: Apart from advertising and media research, perhaps 'public opinion' is the subject-matter of most work in this style, although no idea which re-states the problems of public opinion and communications as a field of intelligible study has been associated with it.
The framework of such studies has been the simple classification of questions: The going definitions of the key terms are as follows: By 'public' I mean to refer to the magnitude involved—that is, to non-private, non-individualized feelings and responses of large numbers of people. This characteristic of public opinion necessitates the use of sample surveys.
By 'opinion' I mean to include not only the usual sense of opinion on topical, ephemeral, and typically political issues but also attitudes, sentiments, values, information, and related actions. To get at them properly necessitates the use not only of questionnaires and interviews but also of projective and scaling devices. What is probably meant runs something like this: The word public, as I am going to use it, refers to any sizable aggregate and hence may be statistically sampled; since opinions are held by people, to find them you have to talk with people.
Sometimes, however, they will not or cannot tell you; then you may try to use 'projective and scaling devices. Perhaps that is why they do not refine the meaning of 'public opinion,' or reformulate the major problems of this area.
They cannot properly do so, even in a preliminary way, within the historical and structural confinement selected for them. That, or something like it, may suggest the framework that is required for the selection and the design of studies of publics, public opinion, and mass communications.
Many problems with which its practitioners do try to dealeffects of the mass media, for example—cannot be adequately stated without some structural setting. Can one hope to understand the effects of these media—much less their combined meaning for the development of a mass society—if one studies, with whatever precision, only a population that has been 'saturated' by these media for almost a generation?
The attempt to sort out individuals less exposed' from those 'more exposed' to one or another medium may well be of great concern to advertising interests, but it is not an adequate basis for the development of a theory of the social meaning of the mass media. In this school's study of political life, Voting behavior' has been the chief subject matter, chosen, I suppose, because it seems so readily amenable to statistical investigation.
The thinness of the results is matched only by the elaboration of the methods and the care employed. Yet that is what happens in The Peoples9 Choice, a duly accredited and celebrated study of the election in Erie County, Ohio. But we learn little about the dynamics of American politics. The idea of legitimation is one of the central conceptions of political science, particularly as the problems of this discipline bear on questions of opinion and ideology.
The research on 'political opinion' is all the more curious in view of the suspicion that American electoral politics is a sort of politics without opinion— if one takes the word 'opinion' seriously; a sort of voting without much political meaning of any psychological depth—if one takes the phrase 'political meaning' seriously. But no such questions— and I intend these remarks only as questions—can be raised about such 'political researches' as these.
How could they be? They require an historical knowledge and a style of psychological reflection which is not duly accredited by abstracted empiricists, or in truth, available to most of its practitioners. Perhaps the key event of the last two decades is World War Two; its historic and psychological consequences frame much of what, over the last decade, we have studied.
It is curious, I think, that we do not yet happen to have a definitive work on the causes of this war, but then, we are still trying, with some success, to characterize it as an historically specific form of warfare, and to locate it as a pivot of our period. Apart from official histories of the War, the most elaborate body of research is probably the several-year inquiry made for the American Army under the direction of Samuel Stouffer. These studies, it seems to me, prove that it is possible for social research to be of administrative use without being concerned with the problems of social science.
The results must surely be disappointing to anyone who wishes to understand something of the American soldier who was in the war—in particular, to those who ask: But attempts to answer such queries take one far outside the scope of the accredited style and into the flimsy realm of 'speculation. Marshall, in his Men Under Fire, are of greater substantive worth than Stouffer's four volumes. In so far as studies of stratification have been done in the new style, no new conceptions have arisen.
In fact, the key conceptions available from other styles of work have not been 'translated'; usually, quite spongy 'indices' of 'socio-economic status' have served. The very difficult problems of 'class consciousness' and of 'false consciousness'; of conceptions of status, as against class; and Weber's statistically challenging idea of 'social class,' have not been advanced by workers in this style.
Moreover, and in many ways most grievously, the choice of smaller cities as 'the sample area' for studies persists mightily, despite the quite obvious fact that one cannot add up any aggregate of such studies to an adequate view of the national structure of class, status, and power.