Monday, December 7, 2020

Summary: Sociology as an Individual Pastime / Peter Berger

From: Invitation to Sociology

According to Peter Berger the public's appreciation of sociologists does not come close to their appreciation of psychological tools. A distinction should be made between a social worker and a sociologist - a distinction that is not usually made, since a social worker uses psychology in his work much more than in sociology. The social worker is perceived as encouraging activities for society and the individuals that make it up, while the sociologist as a "spectator" is not necessarily a sympathetic audience, or a hateful audience of society, the character of the sociologist is not essential to his work.


Sociologist Max Weber argued that sociology is devoid of values, the values ​​of sociologist are irrelevant to his work as a sociologist and the only value relevant to him is his scientific integrity. The sociologist ignores prejudices and looks only at the evidence, as much as possible, and thus sociology can be seen as a spy - since it only reports evidence, and not what is expected of it to report to the initiators of the study.


The sociologist can also be likened to a social reformer. In the 19th century, the French philosopher Auguste Comte coined the term sociology and saw in it the secular heiress of theology. The concept of the reformer disappeared in the development of French sociology, but had echoes in the United States. Today there are few cases where sociologists are expected to prepare plans for reforming social problems, and yet an application of sociological understanding for social causes can be seen in the use of sociological studies for US Supreme Court rulings on racial segregation in public schools. However, sociology is not always used by the "right" factors; For example, the sociologist's understanding of the dynamics of prejudice in racial matters can be effectively exploited both by those seeking to cultivate tolerance and by those who incite group hatred - a totalitarian regime can make excellent use of sociological understanding for brainwashing purposes.


The four images mentioned above, the sociologist as a social reformer, the sociologist as a social activity promoter, the sociologist as a social worker and the sociologist as a spy are, according to Berger, outdated, and we will now examine the number of images prevalent in the public today:

1.  1.The sociologist as a compulsive collector of statistics on human behavior: the disparaging image - the sociologist wastes public money in vain, in questionnaires, and in finding trends that emerge from his research, and some argue that the results of research have been under his nose all along. This image probably originated in the extensive empirical research for diverse needs conducted after World War II - during which many surveys were conducted. Statistics do not in fact constitute sociology, they become sociology only when they are interpreted sociologically. Kinsey's reports, until clarified from a sociological point of view, are nothing but a database. The sociologist trusts the research and analysis of those data. In a statistical technique, however, this is not the bulk of sociology.

2.  2.The sociologist as a developer of a scientific methodology so that he could later enforce it on human phenomena. Regarding this image sociology absorbs many derogatory remarks, mainly because it is worded in strange and inflated jargon. From its inception, sociology has treated itself as a science, and the data that the sociologist uses are carefully examined so that others can test his findings, make controls as in any other exact science. Sociologists in the United States immediately delved into the methodology so that they almost reached a state of total disregard for society itself. This state stemmed from the sociologists' desire to resemble their colleagues in the older natural sciences. In summary, sociologists are in a methodological inferiority complex. Within this image we will also note that sociology is attacked more than once because of the language it has adopted for itself; Although sociology deals with terms that have not yet been defined in dictionaries, it can still use phrases that exist in dictionaries to formulate most of the phenomena and processes it deals with.

Interim Summary: The figure of the average sociologist is composed of all the images mentioned above; The sociologist deals with understanding society in a systematic-scientific way, and as a scientist when it comes to analyzing processes, he tries to maintain objectivity. Like other scientists, he does not claim that his approach to observing society is exclusive. The jargon he uses is a result that is at least in part the product of a real need to define new terms in which sociology deals, and the impossibility of always using colloquial language.

Next part: the sociologist's motivation

See also: Sociology as a Form of Consciousness

Great books by Peter Berger and other invitations to sociology: