Monday, December 7, 2020

Peter Berger on the sociologist's motivation - Summary

This summary is a part of Peter Berger’s “Invitation toSociology”, chapter Sociology as an Individual Pastime

According to Peter Berger The sociologist is a person who is interested in the intensity and consistency of human actions, he is in all the places where people live together. Nothing related to a person's behavior will be perceived as boring about him. He will examine both the routine and the special events, and will not feel disgust even when he discovers phenomena that we will define as perverts. In less academic language, we can claim that he is the gossip among the gossipers, the neighborhood voyeur, the snooper who intrudes on people's privacy. The sociologist will be interested in interactions within the intellectual elite, but no less so in the relations between the so-called "common people." The main focus of his interest is not the certain meaning of what human beings do, but action itself, as another example of the infinite richness of human behavior.

Along with the sociologist, there are other "voyeuristic" passers-by - the economist, the ethnologist, the psychologist and many others. All of these will study one phenomenon, however the sociologist's research will be radically different from that of the ethnologist. The sociologist's point of view is different - so he also does not claim that his involvement in the study of the particular phenomenon would be an exclusive right. Of all those passers-by, the sociologist very often encounters a historian, and indeed - when the sociologist investigates phenomena from the past, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two's occupations.

The excitement from the sociologist's discoveries will be somewhat different from the other scientists' discoveries, since most of the time the sociologist walks in areas of experience known to him and most of the people in his company, he researches institutions and communities that one can read about in various dailies. It is not the excitement of the mishaps of the completely unknown, but rather, the excitement of discovering the known when it changes its meaning. The perspective of sociology forces us to see in a new light the same world in which we have spent our entire lives. All this and more, sociological discoveries affect our lives - and can not be detached from the moment they are discovered - unlike other scientific discoveries - the atomic scientist can marry and vote without thinking about the internal composition of the atom, the geologist examines rocks only at designated times. However, the sociologist lives in society even outside of working hours. Hence for sociologists there is also a certain problem with separating professional insights from their daily affairs.

In conclusion it can be said that according to Berger first the wisdom of sociology is this: things are not what they seem. A built-in social reality is made up of layers and layers. The discovery of each new layer changes the perception of everything. Sociology will cause satisfaction, over time, only to those who can think of nothing more captivating than looking at people and understanding human affairs. Berger concludes that he strongly recommends getting into the intricacies of interesting and exciting sociology, but at the same time warns us that some of the revelations will not leave the viewer indifferent to say the least.

Great books by Peter Berger and other invitations to sociology: