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Sociology Over the last four decades Jurgen Habermas has revealed an innovative and much-discussed theory of contemporary capitalist society. He built his theory on Max Weber's thesis that the dynamic growth of capitalism destroyed individual freedom and the meaningfulness of social life. Habermas considered contemporary social conflict as resistance to this dynamic by a variety of social groups. In his theory of 'communicative action' he tried to show the possibilities in contemporary society for moving toward a more balanced social life that would not sacrifice the truly progressive features of complex modern societies. There were some other theories which were taken into consideration by Habermas. The problem was reviewed in works of symbolic interaction ists, ethnomethodologists and feminists.
And it is necessary to have a look through main principles of these theories. Symbolic interaction ists prove that behavior is based on a pattern of stimulus and response. They added that, in the case of human behavior, the mind, not only stimulus and response plays an important role. In developing his ideas, they made a division between the act and the gesture.
The act refers to interactions with objects, but gesture refers to interactions with other people. Gestures are the movements that serve as stimuli to others. The most important kind of gesture is the significant symbol (Mead). Language is the most complex and important type of significant symbol for human beings. Language is especially important to the development of the mind and the self. If a person is able to take oneself as an object we can talk about the self as a special kind of mental process.
Symbolic interaction ists think that mental processes, and in particular the self, reflect behaviors and society. They prove that it is not the reality of a situation that influences behavior, but the individual attitude to the situation affects behavior. The idea of the looking-glass self was introduced with a purpose to observe how a person is perceived by others. Ethnomethodology is the other source that gave the beginning for criticism contemporary society.
The theory describes the variety of techniques that people use to understand, and make their way through, everyday life. One of the ways is through accounting practices. These are the various ways in which people make sense of their actions to themselves and others. Ethnomethodologists argue that deeds are reflexive. It means that we can change the situation and the possibility for interaction within that situation by offering accounts of ourselves to others. Ethnomethodologists make experiments with the idea to understand the way that people construct social reality.
They have also shown how the natural category of gender is socially constructed. It was proved that gender is a social component that requires constant attention to the commonplace practices. It allows people to pass as men or women. As Habermas pointed, the sphere of everyday action should consist of free and open communication. But they were being captured by the progressively rationalized structures of the system. These structures cover the family, the legal system, the state, and the economy.
The structures of the system increasingly limit free and open communication. They grow increasingly differentiated, complex, and self-sufficient. As a result, people have fewer opportunities to make substantively rational decisions based on the force of argument. Examples of critical sciences include feminist theory according to Habermas. Feminist theorists prove that everyday efforts to construct interpersonal meaning are not as free and unconstrained (as many theorists of everyday life show). Womens opportunities are limited by power differences that favor men.
In contemporary society womens opportunities that have to relate to one another in free and open dialogue are limited. While symbolic interaction ists say that an important aspect of everyday experience is the ability to see one through the eyes of others, feminist theorists argue that most women see themselves only through the eyes of the male other. Feminist theorists challenge the view that there is a unified consciousness of everyday life. Critical Theory emphasizes that one must become conscious of how an ideology reflects reality, what factors influence the consciousness which it represents, especially reified powers of domination. Habermas' transformed consciousness is relative to some other researches that say that sexual, racial, religious, educational, occupational, political economic ideologies create or contribute to our connection with 'reified powers'.
Habermas did not agree with previous theorists that a transformed consciousness should lead to a predictable form of action, the abolition of private property. Habermas posits no predictable outcomes. Habermas differentiates three primary generic cognitive areas in which human interest generates knowledge. These areas determine categories relevant to what we interpret as knowledge. That is, they are termed 'knowledge constitutive' these areas define cognitive interests or learning domains, and are grounded in different aspects of social existence: work, interaction and power. Work broadly refers to the way one controls and manipulates one's environment.
This is commonly known as instrumental action. Knowledge is based upon empirical investigation and governed by technical rules. The criterion of effective control of reality direct what is or is not appropriate action. Much of what we consider 'scientific' research domains such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology are classified by Habermas as belonging to the domain of Work.
The Practical domain identifies human social interaction or 'communicative action'. Social knowledge is governed by social norms, which define expectations about behavior between individuals. Social norms can be related to empirical or analytical propositions, but their validity is grounded 'only in the inter subjectivity of the mutual understanding of intentions'. The criterion of clarification of conditions for communication and inter subjectivity (the understanding of meaning rather than causality) is used to determine what appropriate action is. Much of the historical-hermeneutic disciplines such as social science, history, ethnographic literary are classified by Habermas as belonging to the domain of the Practical.
The Emancipatory domain reflects 'self-knowledge'. This involves 'interest in the way one's history and biography has expressed itself in the way one sees oneself, one's roles and social expectations. Knowledge is gained by self-emancipation through reflection leading to a transformed consciousness. Examples of critical sciences include feminist theory according to Habermas.
Some of the most long withstanding social theories of communication of our time are categorized symbolic interaction. The basic to understanding this, is the notion that reality is a process, an unending dynamic relationship between subjects and objects, not a stable and wholly objective state of nature. The location of this relationship between subjects and objects is in the "self. " The dialectic between individual and society is a generic feature of human life. The idea of this dialectic is that it is a process by which an immediately experienced sense of individual self is realized in the context of an a priori institutional order.
So, having analyzed main theories, connecting with the subject, we can make our own decisions. We cannot agree that contemporary society influences our life greatly and that any progress can lead towards regression in other fields of human activity. But I agree with Habermas that humans life is a constantly changing and unpredictable process. I consider that his ideas for ameliorating the negative effects of contemporary society (taking into consideration transformed consciousness) are realistic.
We are human-beings and have an ability to adapt and develop our feelings and emotions though put aside residual ones. Bibliography: George River. Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its classical roots: the basics. Jonathan H. Turner.
The structure of Sociological theory. 7 th edition. Peter Kivisto. Social theory Roots and Branches. 2 nd edition.
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Research essay sample on Symbolic Interaction Contemporary Society