Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weber and the academic roots in the spirit of the capitalism

After having analyzed Durkheim’s perspectives about the methodological and sociological approaches and his theoretical paradigms, we have Weber and his new methodological contributions. Weber focuses on the ideal type of the social action and the analysis of the origins of the capitalism as the motives by which the culture of the current economic system has been deeply assimilated by the Western society. The assimilation of the spirit of capitalism involves not only the bureaucracy social class, but also involves the different educational institutions which have assumed the economic ethics as part of its unconsciousness of knowledge reproduction. Weber points out that, nobody has the option to choose to be part of the economic systems.

As Mary Douglas has analyzed, there is a great encouragement from institutions to the get the people involve in their systems, based on the rational organization of the orbital economic system and under its reinforcement. In addition, this author describes how those institutions reinforce the social and cultural characteristics. In addition, Bourdieu describes how the educational systems reproduce the social class (even economic) and establish a competence. His perspective is rooted in the Weberian descriptions of capitalism and its expansion to the all the components of the cultural components, becoming the main or common style of life. Bourdieu points out that the habitus and the field of the social scientists (among others scientists) are the space where the scientists compete, trying to achieve what Weber would call the individual success. By this way, the modus operandi described by Bourdieu can be seen as a result of Weberian descriptions of the spirit of capitalism.

Weber and Bourdieu would coincide in the points mentioned above. In addition, we could say that Bourdieu´s analysis of the academic system as a file of competence is rooted in Weber’s perspectives about the influence of the economic systems in the different spheres of the society. However, those authors would not coincide in some points related to the participatory of social scientists, which implies different steps and methodological approaches for both of the authors.
Weber has influenced all his predecessors with his strong explanations of the origin of the capitalism. Thus, we can see how, many of the contemporary theories take his academic reflexivity about the system of life (that now is not only economic), and the extraordinary analysis about the “vulnerability” of the Western culture to the external and dominant economic spirits born in a small group of poeple not many centuries ago.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Once everything becomes an economic profit =$

Weber’s historical context was characterized by the implosion of mechanical and technological developments and the expansion and advance of agriculture. That mean of production started to use land and natural resources never imagined before, for the benefits of the big cities where the upper coming classes needed new goods and services.

As Weber describes the religious affiliation and the social stratification have two clear causes which can be observed: the separation of business from the households and the rational book keeping. Agriculture was one of the production in which we can observe the transformation from small scale and domestic p to industrialized and utilitarian production. The expansion of capitalism to all the different kinds of production was characterized by the idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of his capital, which is assumed “as an end in itself”. According to Weber man is dominated by the making of money, by the acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life.

As Weber describes the religious affiliation and the social stratification have two clear causes which can be observed: the separation of business from the households and the rational book keeping. Agriculture was one of the production in which we can observe the transformation from small scale and domestic p to industrialized and utilitarian production. The expansion of capitalism to all the different kinds of production was characterized by the idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of his capital, which is assumed “as an end in itself”. According to Weber man is dominated by the making of money, by the acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life.

Weber analyzed the origin of the “rationalism” of the capitalism and its relationship with religion. Those aspects are deeply rotted in western history and all our comprehension of the reality as a consequence of that historical process.

“Remember that time is money (…) Remember, that money is of the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on." (Benjamin Franklin in M. Weber, 1902)
See this interesting video/example of someone who wanted to make money from nature, becoming an entrepreneurship in agriculture:

Monday, April 6, 2009

The division of labor and Durkheim’s concepts about society, groups, individuals, and equilibrium…

The analysis of Durkheim’s writings have to be contextualized in his historical time and his analyses of primitive societies where men seemed to be more free and equal to the others. According to this author the conditions by which the society was established in western cultures were based on the assumption that humans have received some natural heredity for being social agents. This author points out that an individual receives at birth tastes and aptitudes that predispose him to certain functions, and these predispositions have certainty and influence upon the tasks are distributed.[1] Thus there is a strong relationship between the human nature and the division of labor. The greater the role of heredity in the distribution of tasks the more invariable that distribution is within each society. However, the heredity is only part of the secondary factors of Durkheim’s description of human nature, being the human natural condition of cooperation the most important one. According to this author, solidarity is an essential aspect of the human nature. Thus, the society is not a collection of individuals which a machine keeps united and compressed against each other by the use of force. For Durkheim solidarity comes from the inside of the society, and humans are attached to one another “as naturally as the atoms of a mineral and the cells of an organism” (Durkheim 1895). The affinity that the individuals feel, and which holds them together, is based upon sympathy like an essential human condition. In addition, this solidarity is expressed by social structures such as the state or the religion. That argument has been questioned by some contemporary authors, mainly by those which base their arguments in the functions of social conflicts. For Lewis Coser (1956), the kind of relationships among the individuals is strongly related with the conflicts. Contrary to the equilibrium searched by Durkheim, this author points out that conflicts are part of the dynamic social life , and that close relationships provide frequent occasions for conflicts. If, however, conflicts occur despite suppression, they tend to disrupt the relationship because they are likely to assume peculiar and accumulation of suppressed hostilities.[2]
Among other more contemporary theorists, Coser (1954) was one of those who has recognized and used some of the methodological bases pointed out by Durkheim, but has made differences about the social predisposition of solidarity, which have been easily understandable considering the different historical contexts of those authors. As Coser (1984) points out in his introduction to one of Durkheim’s book, he attempted systematically to distinguish the type of solidarity prevalent in relatively simple societies from those to be found in the modern world.[3]
Today, the complexity and the specification of the division of labor imply the social analysis from different approaches. Many of the theories which are based on qualitative and ethnographical methodologies are used as part of the methodological fashion among the academia. However, the current complexity developed by our “organic” economic system seems to have many units of study as part of a huge system. The whole picture of that big social system or web seems to be closer to Durkheim’s ideas about rules of methodologies. But the small unit of analysis (Durkheim’s villages or tribes) can serve us to analyze some facts such as conflicts and those described above, where the psychological aspects avoided by Durkheim, seem to easily arise and be observed or investigated.

[1] Durkheim, E. 1997, The Division of Labor in Society, p.246, The Free Press, US.
[2] Coser, Lewis, 1956, The Functions of Social Conflict, The Free Press, Ney York, US.
[3] Coser, Lewis, 1984, in Introduction of The Division of Labor in Society, p. xiv, The Free Press, US.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Division of labor, its natural selection and evolutionary perspective according to Durkheim, and social power

The mechanical and organic solidarity are based on the presumption that the social evolution has drawn the current characteristic of modernity. From my perspective, Durkheim did a great effort to understand the modern society trying to compare with “undeveloped cultures”. We may find in Durkheim a great influence of Darwin and his Theory of Evolution.

“Moreover, it was through a slow process of evolution that the passage from one state to another took place when the memory of the common origin had faded” (Durkheim 1893: 135)

Although many of his explanations about the evolution from villages to town, and then to cities, are simplified and generalized, his examples refer to how modernity has fixed in the western culture. He says that mechanical solidarity characterized those societies that lack of complex social structures. However, he also admit that, although our current society (occidental) is based on organic solidarity, mechanical solidarity still can be observed in the same conditions that we could find it in villages or clan societies. Thus, based on the different levels of evolution Durkheim’s statements about evolution or “involution” of society from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity, can facilitate our comprehension of the current social division of labor. In addition, his analyses about sacred and profane may illustrate the dependence of humans on the major forces, considering God and the Devil as both sacred things. That dependence contradicts some of his rational and evolutional terms for society, and shows his spirit anti-rationalism.

As Wright Mills (1963) pointed out, the post-modern age, where liberalism and socialism have collapsed and rationality can no longer rule all decisions: ideas of freedom and of reason have be come moot; that increased rationality may not be assumed to make for increased freedom. However, we may find that the roots of certain discourses of powerful levels of societies (governments, armies, companies, etc) are rooted in sacred things, trying to implement a false mechanical solidarity or consciousness. The complexity of the organic solidarity creates and reinforces the power of institutions by which individuals reinforce their identity and their thoughts in the sacred spheres of power. The collective representations are based on the power given by the social power which expects to be guided as a complex and structured apparatus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Franz Boas- 1858-1942

Born in Minden, Germany, Franz Boas earned his Baccalaureate from the University of Heidelberg in 1881 and in that same year, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Kiel, Germany. In 1899, he became a Professor at Columbia University.

Franz Boas is best known for his work with the Kwakiutl Indians from Northern Vancouver and the adjacent mainland of British Columbia, Canada. While studying the Kwakiutl, he established a new concept of culture and race. He decided that everything was important to the study of culture. In his view, collecting data on everything was important.

Boas added cultural relativism to the body of anthropological theory and believed in historical particularism. In addition his cultural relativism pointed out that the differences in peoples were the results of historical, social and geographic conditions and all populations had complete and equally developed culture. Historical particularism deals with each culture as having a unique history and one should not assume universal laws govern how cultures operate. This view countered the early evolutionist view of L.H. Morgan who had developed stages that each culture went through during their development.

The views of Franz Boas who was called the “Father of American Anthropology”, and some of his students changed American anthropology forever. He was one of the first anthropologists that did field work, gathering information about their culture and all their components.
Boas had many students that went on to become some of anthropology's most famous names.
Boas wrote many books during his lifetime:Growth of Children (1896 - 1904)The Mind of Primitive Man, 1938Primitive Art, 1927Anthropology and Modern Life, 938Race, Language, and Culture, 1940Dakota Grammar, 1941.

One of the greatest accomplishments of Boas and his students was their critique of theories of physical, social, and cultural evolution current at that time. This critique is central to Boas's work in museums, as well as his work in all four fields of anthropology.
For this reason, some people have argued that Boasian anthropology is at odds with Darwin’s theory of Evolution. This argument is unfounded, and mistakenly assumes that people using the word "evolution" always mean the same thing. In fact, Boas supported Darwinian theory, although he did not assume that it automatically applied to cultural and historical phenomena. He ridiculed many of the social approaches to the evolutionism perspective. However, if we analyze from the current athropological perspective we have to consider his historical context and we can claim that he was not isolated from the theories of evolution.

His studies about languages helped many other scientists of his time, particularly Sapir-Whorf and their studies about the languages learning among the Inuits in North America. In addition, some of his students continued to studying those cultures, achieving great data and information about them. If we consider those studies today, we can value them not only by their detailed descriptions and ethnographical work, but also by their “natural state”.
Today, it is practically impossible to find cultures without western culture like those described by Boas and his students. However, many of his ethnographical descriptions can still be applied in our culture or sub-cultures. One of the examples is the behavior of communities (about the Inuits) about migration and the search of natural resources. Nowadays, there are many anthropological and ecological works that describe the same patterns for modern communities which directly depend on the extraction of natural resources.