Epigramatic Sociology

EPIGRAMATIC SOCIOLOGY: little wisdoms to ponder

Here are 25 little sayings that thinkers about society have bequeathed us. I first listed them in my Sociology: The Basics but here they are again. There are many more – and they can be found  in epigrams, under fascinations – will be following shortly.

They are worth puzzling a little.

  1. Dare to think. (Kant’s Enlightenment challenge.
  2. How is society possible? (A disturbing little question posed by Georg Simmel in an essay with that title
  3. Man was born free but everywhere he is in chains. (Rousseau’s challenge in The Social Contract).
  4. Society is a contract, a partnership between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born. (Edmund Burke’s conservative attack on the French Revolution inReflections on the Revolution in France (a best seller in 1790; Oxford edition 1993:p96)
  5. Things are not what they seem. Peter Berger: Invitation to Sociology
  6. Things are what they seem. Zen saying.
  7. The sociologist is a destroyer of myths.  Norbert Elias: What is Sociology?
  8. Defamiliarise the familiar. Zygmunt Baumann. Thinking Sociology.
  9. Treat social facts as things. Emile Durkheim. The Rules of Sociological Method.
  10. We are mere bundles of habits. William James
  11. Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness’ Marx : German Ideology  164
  12. We live in the minds of others without knowing it.   Charles H. Cooley
  13. All science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and essences of things directly coincided. Marx: Capital,III
  14. Human beings cannot live together without acknowledging and, consequently, making mutual sacrifices… Every society is a moral society”. Durkheim , in Division of Labour
  15. Be a good craftsman: Avoid any rigid set of procedures.. Avoid the fetishism of method and technique…Let every person be their own methodologist; let every person be their own theorist……   and so on   C.Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination 1959 Appendix
  16. The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise’. C. Wright Mills
  17. Objectivity is the term that men have given their own subjectivity ..Stanley and Wise, Breaking Out p49
  18. .. There is no best way to tell a story about society. Many genres, many methods, many formats – they can all do the trick. Instead of ideal ways to do it, the world gives us possibilities among which we choose. Every way of telling the story of a society does some of the job superbly but other parts not so well……Howard S Becker      Telling About Society  2007 : 285
  19. Every human is in certain respects
    a. like all other humans.
    b. like some other humans.
    c. like no other human.
    The Clyde Kluckholn-Henry Murray Aphorism from their Personality in Nature, Culture and Society (1953)
  20. When people define situations as real they are real in their consequences”. W.I.Thomas.
  21. There is no way out of the game of culture….. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction Chapter 1
  22. From now on nothing that happens on our planet is only a limited local event… Ulrich Bech
  23. Civil society is a project. It inspires hope for democracy. Jeffrey Alexanderin The Civil Sphere.
  24. I define postmodernism as incredulity towards metanarratives. (Jean-Francois Lyotard: The Post-Modern Condition (1979)
  25. We only become what we are by the radical deep –seated refusal of that which others have made of us.      Jean Paul- Sartre.  Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth  1968:17

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