Dictionary of Critical Sociology
AARP: The American Association of Retired Persons. This organization was founded to help solve the problems of the elderly who were often discarded after a life-time of productive or reproductive labor. It is concerned with social security, medical care, housing, nutrition and well being of elderly people. It is now the biggest union in the USA with over 40 million members. Of late, it has expanded its concerns to include children and women's needs. In so far as it calls for government support of social justice programs, it has become a serious problem for Republicans.
Abortion: The process by which a pregnancy is terminated, usually within three months of conception. This activity has aroused great debate and much direct social action to prevent it. Many people argue that every life is sacred and that to abort a fetus is the same as murder. Many people believe that such activity is a matter of private concern to be decided in terms of the circumstances in which the mother and/or the father find themselves. Some countries provide abortion on demand at very low fees; other countries forbid it entirely. Some see abortion as a major device for birth control while others see it as a way to avoid collective care for unborn children. See birth control/'over' population for more things to consider.
Abuse, Child: The use of force against a child to force it to obey and comply to rules or orders of adults. Often a polite synonym for child rape. It can include psychological acts which distress a child greatly.
Abuse: spousal: The use of force or violent language to intimidate a marriage partner. Usually males abuse females; there are three common sources of spousal abuse; refusal to provide sexual access, failure to provide housekeeping services and refusal to defer to and show respect to the male. Abuse of male partners occurs but is rare. See Macho, Sexism, Gender.
Act: Latin: agere = to do. Early philosophers called the Scholastics used the concept, first act, to refer to the form of a thing while second act was used to refer to what it did. In symbolic interactional theory, Mead used the concept of the act to refer to the basis unit of social meaning. An act is not just behavior but behavior which is used to hang meaning on. The gesture is, for Mead, a physical motion with which one conveys meaning to another person who has learned how to interpret it. See Act, Philosophy of.
Act, Philosophy of: One of the more important issues in all of social philosophy centers around the question, 'To what degree are humans the passive object of history and/or acting subjects which can plan and fulfill their own destiny. The structuralist answer, in its more deterministic claims, is that single human beings are the object [not subject] of social forces. The Interactionist view, in its most reductionist moments, argues that each individual is the object and agent of its own destiny. If a person is rich or poor, it is due to their own merits or failings.
In philosophical terms, an act is only an act when there is insight and the conscious use of material goods to change outcomes. For example, McDonald's claims to sell the same Big Mac in every restaurant in the world and thus defeat both individual action and culture variety. Your assignment, if you care to take it, is to check it out; is Big Mac the same in England, Japan, Nicaragua or Vienna? Do McDonald's clerks do and say things to customers not scripted and rehearsed and sanctioned by supervisors?? If so, not even a corporation as large and as powerful as McDonald's can defeat human action. See alienation, the 'I,' Praxis.
Acton, Lord (1834-1971): Acton's dictum on power is basic to all efforts for social justice: power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. T.R. Young offers a complementary dictum: poverty tends to corrupt; absolute poverty corrupts absolutely.
Adolescence: An age grade composed of young people between 12 and 17. Every society has age grades. Usually they begin with infants, 1-3; children, 4-11, adults, 12-65, aged, 65+. All societies socialize children until puberty then confer adult status on them in a rite of passage. Industrial societies extend the socialization process to include mastery of reading, writing and calculating thus childhood is extended to age 18 and call the people between 18 and 18, adolescents [small adults]. High tech societies extend childhood even further and postpone adult status until 23, 27, 31, and in the case of psychiatrists, until 40+.
Figure 2. Peg McCull on TV [from p. 129]
Advertising: A 200 billion dollar industry (1996) in which market demand is created for products in order to realize profit. Products which are essentially similar to others of the same kind are endowed with special symbolic meaning [sexuality, power, magic, or status] in order to increase demand and thus expand a market enough to absorb all that is/can be produced. In capitalism, markets are made small since workers are not paid 100% of the value of the goods they produce--hence cannot buy back 100% of the product. The too, capitalism disemploys ever more people and the market shrinks more. Then too, the quest for profits lowers qualities; advertizing offers the dramaturgical facsimile of quality or necessity to those who buy time and talent on the mass media. Advertising is usually directed at those who have discretionary income; young, single working professionals (since they have relatively more discretionary income) or the housewife (who must make a choice between items produced under standardized conditions). A major problem generated by the advertising world is the preemption of artistic talent and information media for commercial purposes. A secondary problem is the use of sex, violence and sports to generate publics for products otherwise without special merit. See Realization, the problem of.
Adventist [religious groups]: Adventist religious groups assume that the end of the world is near and that a savior will arrive [advent] to save those who believe. They put away things of the flesh and seek spiritual purity in expectation of the second coming of a Christ. The 7th Day Adventists are the best known sect but periodically new sects appear; especially at each millennium [see which] after the death of Christ.
Aesthetics: Greek aisthesis = sensation. In Philosophy, the ideas about beauty in nature and in cultural products. Pre-modern and modern sensibility argue there are absolute standards for determining that which is beautiful, superb and excellent. Postmodernists hold that such definitions are a matter of power and convention. In some cultures, heavy women are considered beautiful; in other cultures, slim women are so considered.
Aesthetic (Socialist): The socialist understanding of all forms of art is not divorced from everyday life nor restricted to an elite in the form of "high culture." In socialist thought, art and society as a totality are reunited. Art is at once an affirmation and a critique of social life. While capitalist art aims to celebrate privatism and consumption, socialist art speaks to questions of solidarity, species being, and liberated nature. It is neither one-sidedly subjective nor one-sidedly objectified. It does not tend to freeze social relations. Rather it emphasizes the processual character of society and nature. It does not "redeem" the bitter imperfection of life by diversion, but transforms, illuminates, and mobilizes people to action.
Affect: Emotional response. Different societies define different emotional states as appropriate to given social situations. Fear, anger, joy, love, delight, rage, tenderness, sorrow, sympathy and such are closely regulated by a society. Failure to feel and express the proper emotional state (affect) is cause for great concern for those charged with socializing youngsters. Capitalist and elitist societies suppress affect since emotion gets in the way of the mass processing of people and thus jeopardizes profit and/or control.
Age: One of the more important systems of stratification and differentiation found in all societies involves the chronological age of members. Human infants are very dependent upon adults for both food, protection and rich interaction. After this first period of dependency, age grades become increasingly reflective of economic and cultural factors. In sociology, age grades are usually offered in five year blocs. These together give a picture of birth rates and death rates. As such they are good indicators of the degree to which social justice is instituted in all other social divisions. Infant mortality rates are especially sensitive to racism, sexism and class privilege.
Age grades: A system of allocating status (and tasks) to a series of age cohorts. Each age cohort is initiated into a particular status at the same ceremony wherein rights and duties are defined. Age grades are destroyed in capitalism as "irrational." It is profitable for the young to work at "adult" jobs for lower pay and the rationality of the market requires anything be sold to anyone with the cash at hand. The same is true of sex differentiation, ethnic differentiation and racial distinctions--much of the liberalism of capitalism is this thin, profit-oriented liberalism restricted to economic advantage rather than a complete, rounded social liberation; still it is progressive in this respect.
Aged, lmmiseration of: The marxist theory of the problems besetting the aged focuses upon the dynamics of capitalism. Older workers are less productive, more assertive and prone to illnesses-all of which affect costs and profit. The aged (arbitrarily defined as 55+) are forcibly retired since capitalist can make more profit on the labor power of the younger, more docile worker. And when the aged have nothing to exchange for profit, they are excluded from the various delivery systems in capitalism: health and medical, food, shelter, clothing, transport, recreation and education. In a popular democracy, such as the U.S., the state, responding to voting, provides goods and services to the pauperized aged but, in a depersonalized rather than social mode. Thus many people who built the roads, bridges, houses and provided essential services at one stage in their life find themselves miserable as they grow older in the wealthiest country in the history of civilization.
Agency, human: The ability of people to change the institutions in which they live. In both pre-modern and modern sensibility, human agency is absent, minimal or viewed as madness and deviancy. In many pre-modern cultures, there are Gods who know and control every act of every living thing, hence very little agency is possible. In modern science, 'laws' are said to regulate all human behavior; sexual, economic, criminal, or political. In postmodern science, human agency has much more room. In Chaos theory, there are moments when agency is possible and times when it is very difficult to change things. Democracy presumes people have both the wit and the ability to change 'social laws' to some other pattern. Radical scholarship tries to enhance that capacity.
Agitation: There are two major purposes of radical politics including research and education; first is to connect good theory with good organization and good politics. To do this, one takes every day events of interest to students, workers, women or minorities and lays them in a structural context together with a plan for remedy. The second is to seek the moment at which progressive politics is possible. Particularly outrageous incidents of gender violence, police brutality, worker insult or university policy provide a wealth of such opportunities to the radical scholar/activist. It takes wisdom, judgment and considerable courage to wait or to act. See also Utopianism.
Agnosticism. This word means, literally, without knowledge. Usually without sure and certain knowledge of the existence of a God. Agnosticism arose in the 18th c. as capitalists and bourgeois philosophers mounted a challenge to the 'divine right' of kings to rule. See also atheism and postmodern theology.
Agrarian society: A vanishing form of social life based upon the labor intensive production of crops by families and small communities. In 1790, twenty farm families produced enough surplus value to support one city family. In the USA, the Amish, Hutterites, some few Mormons and other fragments of Agrarian life survive. Now huge industrial farms using capital intensive production can produce food for thousands. The rural population, driven from the land, gathers as a surplus population in the city and as a reserve army of cheap labor. Without work to pay for food, the surplus population goes hungry while the industrial farm production is shipped abroad to feed the middle classes. In Costa Rica, protein and grain production are up as agribusiness displaces agrarian society while the per capita consumption is down. Most of the beef produced in Costa Rica goes to fast food hamburger chains in the U.S. like Burger King, McDonald's and Arby's.
Agriculture: The process of tending crops and herds for food. There have been several different ways of producing food in human history; hunting and gathering wild plants and animals slowly turned into planting, herding and harvesting crops. When that happened, new social forms developed; people settled down and built more permanent homes and more permanent relationships. The next big event in agriculture was irrigation [or hydraulic agriculture]. It provided enough food to support specialist and a division of labor and skilled crafts appeared. The most recent development in agriculture is called agro-business; it refers to giant corporate farming which uses capital intensive production: huge machines, chemicals, and vast fields to grow and harvest crops. Now, genetic engineering and synthetic foods are under development. Again, social organization is affected: small farms disappear; almost all food is commodified.
Agriculture, hydraulic societies: There have been five great hydraulic societies in human history: the first what in Persia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The second was along the Nile in Egypt; the third along the Ganges in India; the fourth along the Yellow River in China and the fifth in around what is now called Mexico City. Hydraulic agriculture required social differentiation [specialization]; it did not require social stratification as so many historians argue. But both occurred to change forever the ways in which people live. But see the new developments above.
Agrippa: 3rd Century Greek philosopher who laid the basis for a postmodern philosophy of knowledge in five tropes [headings]. 1) There is no sure basis for deciding among different philosophical claims. 2) All data are relative to the beholder. 3) Every proof rests upon assumptions which in turn have to be proved ad infinitum. 4) One cannot trust the hypotheses when the truth value of its premises are unknown. 5) There is a vicious circle in which sense data are used to inform reason which, in turn, is used to establish what is to be taken as data.
Ahistoricism: The term refers to a scientific trick by which a given social form is endowed with the appearance of being part of the eternal and natural order of things. For example, Weber's study of bureaucracy ignores the origins, the changes, the many variations produced by historical conditions. Similarly, Hegel and Simmel's ideas about Ideal Forms tends to destroy the changing, variable historical nature of social realities. All social issues are seen as purely technical questions since the basic form is seen as eternal and unchanging. Ahistorism tends to freeze analysis in the present and to reify the status quo. Bureaucracy, gender, class, racist and other social forms thereby cease to be a human products and begin to be a means of domination (or structural force). (After Goldman).
Alienation: The domination of humans by their own products; material, political, and ideological. The separation of humans from their humanity; the interference with the production of authentic culture; the fragmentation of social bonds and community. Any process which reduces people to their animal nature. Liberal definitions of alienation have to do with feelings; socialist definitions have more to do with relations and positions in a social order. In Marx, a variety of terms are used to capture the flavor and variety implicit in the process of alienation: "Trennung" (divorce or separation), "Spaltung" (division or cleavage), "Absonderung" (separation or withdrawal), "Verderben" (spoiled, corrupt), "sich selbst verlieren" (lost to oneself), "auf sich zuruckziehen" (withdrawn into oneself), "ausserlich machen" (externalized), "alle Gattungsbande zerreissen" (ties with others disintegrated), "die Menschenwelt in eine Welt atomisticher Individuen auflosen" (humanity dissolved into fragmented individuals). Taken together these constructs constitute and create the meaning of the term "alienation" (Entausserung, Entfremung). (From Meszaros).
Alienation (assumptions): A militant humanism makes the following assumptions: (1) that humans may become dominated by their own social and cultural products, (2) that alienation is the chief source of conflict in society, (3) that there is a hierarchy of forms (economic, ideological, political and religious) and 4) that in capitalist societies, alienation is produced by a economic system in which people and cultural products are transformed into a commodity to be sold for private profit. These contrast to the premarxian view that alienation involves separation from God; the hegelian view that alienation involves failure to understand objective reality or the freudian assumption that alienation involves separation between different parts of the psyche. Each view entails a different solution; The first social revolution, the second an effort to return to a state of grace by hard work, faith and/or meditation; the hegelian views calls forth modern, order-oriented science as a solution to alienation, while the freudian approach requires that one come to terms with one's own anxieties and compulsions.
Alienation, psychological: Most American sociologists reduce alienation to psychological states: feelings of loneliness, powerlessness, hopelessness. For socialist sociology, happy and well paid workers can be alienated; they can be fired tomorrow, they can lose their pensions overnight, they can be re-assigned from friends and family, they must be polite and helpful to those defined as 'superior' in the table of organization of the firm in which they work (after C. Wright Mills). And those at the bottom of a stratification system can live for years with perfect peace of mind: women, slaves, wage laborers, migrant workers are able to fashion both culture and solidarity out of the fragments of wealth they receive (after E.P. Thompson).
Algorithm: The term used to mean any arithmetic operation using arabic notations. In Chaos theory, it refers to two or more numerical values, at least one of which is a constant and one of which is a variable. The feedback loop generated by multiplying a constant by a variable produces very complex patterns some of which cannot be predicted. This fact grounds a postmodern philosophy of science in which the quest for precision and order is decentered to be replaced by a quest for knowledge of the changing mix of order and disorder.
Analogy: Greek; ana = according to, logos = reason, ratio. The use of the features of a known thing to explain an unknown thing. Reasoning by analogy is very tricky; usually there are significant differences hidden or set aside by the analogy. Thus a whole society resembles an organism but can also be said to resemble a ship or a machine or an imaginary beast. Each is quite different. Beware of organic analogies when studying the parts of a society, one can justify stratification, elitism, sub-division of labor and any number of other social features which should be the subject of politics more so than poetry.
Analysis: Greek: analyein = to break down into component parts.
Figure 3 Cobb on Anarchy
Anarchy: Greek: a = without; archos = head, ruler. It has come to be used to condemn all efforts of impose order by a state as hopelessly oppressive. Lenin said that an anarchist is just a bourgeois turned inside out. There is a more benevolent view that social behavior should emerge through free and open interaction among responsible members of a society. Bakunin, Proudhon, Kropotkin are credited with these views on anarchy. In this view that all human interaction should be uncoerced by power relations. Anarchy assumes the possibility of full socialist consciousness in every adult member of a society. Bourgeois versions substitute elites for the state. Anarchy is often used as a pejorative word to refer to those who would dismantle the forms of privilege and hierarchy.
Marx made the case that capitalism in its pure form is anarchy. Capitalists compete fiercely with each other; rules are set only to be broken as opportunity for profit comes along, they try to take markets from each other, they use the state apparatus in one country to exploit capitalists in another country, they neglect essential but low profit lines of production and they have no moral foundation other than profit. But see Capitalism, advantages of. See also corporate crime for forms of co-operation.
Anti-semitism: Activities which harass and oppress Jews. This usually diverts the discontent of workers from the real sources of economic insecurity and puts the blame on 'jewish bankers' or an alleged plot to take over the world. In turn, Irish, Indians, Italians, Polish, Afro-Americans, Catholics, Muslims, Japanese and Hispanics have been harassed and vilified. See also racism, sexism and ethno-centrism for such pre-theoretical answers to real problems created by the stratification of class, power and/or social honor. Such practices divide opposition to powers elite.
Animal functions: Eating, sleeping, dressing, drinking. In general, those activities which keep a person alive physically but not morally. Capitalist society tends to reduce evermore people to animal functions as they become surplus to the productive needs of capitalism.
Anomia: A phrase coined to refer to the psychological feelings produced by Anomie: normlessless. The idea is that a normative order brings security and psychic peace to people. Such a phrase neatly switches attention from the social conditions of alienation to the individual response to that disorder. Those who resist and rebel within racist, sexist, slave or elitist normative structures suffer from 'anomia:' they are said to be ill, maladjusted, sinful, or poorly socialized.
Anomie: Normlessness (lit. without order. a=without; nomy=order). A term used by Durkheim to indicate "the collapse of the normative order." The term implies that conformity to norms is natural and normal; that resistance is pathological. Then too, embedded in the concept is the idea that norms are above and beyond the individuals who are said to organize their behavior in terms of the normative structure. However, there is a marxist position that the normative structure is a product of transacting humans rather than a "superorganic" thing. To imply, as did Durkheim, that the normative structure is a thing apart from the behavior of people actively engaged in producing situated patterns of behavior through judgment, insight, and mutual purpose is a conservative political act. The political character of the act comes from a misleading of students of sociology about the nature of norms, normative structures and norming. Norms are not eternally fixed directives for behavior to which all normal people subscribe and which collapse apart from the understanding of people that the norms are inadequate to deal with the present situation. See alienation.
Anthropocentrism: Greek: anthropos = human being; kentron = center. The practice of treating human species as if it were the center of all values and the measure of all things. Pre-modernists and most modernists take this position uncritically. Postmodernists point out that 99% of the species which have ever lived are now extinct; that one day human beings too will evolve into quite different species or self destruct themselves or their habitat.
Anthropomorphism: Taking human form. The practice of assigning human characteristics to a nonhuman entity: to gods, animal, plant, or material item. For example, one might treat cars and dogs or cats as though they were capable of human thought or feelings. A comparable process is to attribute inanimate status to humans (objectification). Both anthropomorphism and objectification strip people of their humanity.
Apathy: Greek: a + pathos = suffering. Greek and Asian philosophy held apathy to be the most desirable human state. Now it is used to refer to a pervasive disinterest in human life, in the moments of praxis, or in the production of culture. In liberal theory, apathy is a result of ignorance, laziness, or stupidity. The remedy is education, chemotherapy, group therapy or institutionalization. In the marxian view apathy is a product of class inequality, stratified power relations, coercion and massified communication structures. The solution in socialism is common ownership, control and use of the means to produce culture, labor intensive socialization, and systematic attention to criticism/self-criticism,
Apology: The term is often used to demystify bourgeois theory when one says that a 'theory" is an 'apology' [justification] for a system than a fair description of it or an explanation of how it works. Often theories describe that which exists well enough but fails to consider that there are other, better ways to organize social life; these too are 'apologies' even if they are well done.
Apollonian: Both Nietzsche and Margaret Mead used the word to refer to societies which had as a central theme, the quest for order, harmony and moderation. Compare to Dionysian societies.
Apple, and temptation to knowledge: A symbol of forbidden things; Adam is said to have been given 'the fruit of the tree of knowledge,' [an apple; some say orange] and then rebelled against his Father and Creator. While at one level, it is a tale which accounts for rebellion, crime and deviancy in terms of innate evil [on the part of Eve for tempting Adam]; on another level, the tale speaks to the responsibility one takes when one learns about one's own self and society. This book is the fruit of the tree of knowledge given you in anticipation that you will take that responsibility all the days of your life and work for social justice. I give you joy in the work.
Appropriation: The practice of defining some part of the wealth produced by the social power of workers as "profit" and using it for private purposes rather than for the common good. Actually, there is no such thing as profit; production always absorbs energy and is a net drain on the larger social and natural system. Profit and therefore appropriation are possible only by transferring the costs of production to the workers, to the consumers, to the environment and/or to the future generation.
Appropriation (Mechanisms): The means by which the surplus value of labor is appropriated directly and controlled by those who do not produce are varied indeed. These mechanisms include sharecropping, tenancy, tribute, debt peonage, slavery, wage relations and impressment into work crews. Indirect ways to appropriate labor power and its products include taxes, profits, interest, rents, tithes, tolls, and fees. Think about the social relations such mechanisms require, and the kind of political apparatus necessary to enforce them as well as the costs to a society to pay for these mechanisms of appropriate of wealth.
Aquinas, Thomas, St. (1225-1274): Aquinas is credited with the most effective grounding of the God concept through reason. As such he adds reason to faith in support of belief in God and incorporates Aristotlean logic into Christendom. Later on, this legitimation of rationality will help protect fledgling modern science from the inquisition. His five arguments are: 1) the fact of motion in the world implies a first mover, i.e., God. 2) there are efficient causes in the world but the notion of causality implies a first cause, i.e., God. 3) all things are contingent and can, presumably, disappear entirely at the same time. Since we cannot get something from nothing [assuming they did or will disappear], there must be something is non-contingent, absolute, i.e, God. 4) In practice, we assume degrees of truth, beauty, goodness and nobility. Since we have such things in degree, there must be some absolute standard/pattern from which we can make such judgments, i.e., God. 5). all things are goal directed; inanimate objects cannot direct themselves toward a goal [think of an arrow], therefore there must be someone guiding/directing them, i.e., God.
Aquinas is important in the sociology of law as well; he specifies four kinds of law: a) divine law which is eternal, b) natural law which is given to humans via revelation [and now, reason]; natural law has two sub-forms, c) civil law which can be variable to fit the circumstances of differing societies and d) the law of nations which govern all societies. (After WL Reese)
Aquinas was instrumental in uniting the teaching of Aristotle and Christian theology. In so doing, he helped create a modern theology in which order, reason, science and logic were both part and parcel of God as well as a pathway to prove the existence of his God. One must make the jump from reason to faith. Those with more powerful intellects can go farther with less faith in the quest of God. After Aquinas, the god concept became more and more like a remote clock-maker who set the world into motion and made it operate according to universal and rational laws. Thus, by Newton's time, the quest for these laws became a quest for the essence of God. But see Theology, pre-modern and Theology, postmodern.
Archeology: Greek: Arche = that which was in the beginning = ology = reason, order. The study of primitive societies and the material artifacts which survive in order to guess what social life was like before written history was invented.
Archetype: Greek: primal figures, patterns or forms. For Plato, archetypes were the original or true form of a thing of which real things were more or less close copies. Modern phenomenology is dependent upon this assumption. In modern psychology, Jung used the term to refer to basic ways of being human. He set down a whole list which reside in every human being and pre-shape behavior by their strength and interplay. Jung held that different cultures supported different archetypes and thus mental health depended upon adjusting society to permit a diversity of being.
Aristocracy: From the Greek: Aristos = best, cracy = rule. Those who 'owned' the land in feudalism. After conquest by another people, some of the victors remained to claim title to the best land. They also claimed the right to own or to rule the conquered people. The conquerors transformed into an aristocracy after a few generations. Plato called for a political from in which the 'best' ruled...not on the basis of conquest but on merit. For Plato, merit meant those who had the good of the people at heart and had four capacities to use on their behalf: wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. The socialist/marxist view is that these virtue are distributed widely throughout the population and that politics should be democratic in order to draw them out. See government, forms of.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE): A Greek philosopher, student of Plato and, later, tutor to Alexander the Great. Aristotle was a leading architect of what is now modern science. He worked in the philosophy of knowledge and what was then called natural philosophy. To Aristotle's credit, he set as the primary task of science the discovery of the truth value of middle terms upon which depended the truth value of deductions. His view of ethics continues to be profoundly wise; a virtuous life requires that one do the right thing in the right way to the right person at the right time to the right degree. He specified the Golden Mean and gave it a mathematical grounding. Aristotle listed three acceptable forms of government; monarchy, aristocracy [which see] and polity, a sort of constitutional democracy. Three undesirable forms were tyranny, oligarchy and popular democracy. Aristotle set art to work as exploration in what was possible rather than celebration of that which existed; this view continues to inform emancipatory art. Poetry has the task to conceptualize and verbalize universal truths about life and nature while history dealt with actual events. His contributions to the philosophy of law still survives in the concepts of Natural law and positive law [which see].
His system of syllogistic logic [see which] continues to inform, inappropriately, the knowledge process; we know now from Chaos/Complexity theory that the world itself is non-linear and does not sustain logical derivations nor does it exclude contrarieties as does aristotlean logic. (After WL Reese)
Art: Socialist/marxist theory of art is that it should grasp the central contradictions/problems of life; make their sources visible; affirm and politicize workers, students, women and other oppressed minorities. It should be integrated into all aspects of daily life [food, furnishings, clothing, tools, factories, and housing] rather than confined to a museum or gallery to be viewed once in a while. Most capitalist, feudal or bureaucratic socialist art tends to celebrate those in power and defuse political critique.
Artificial Intelligence: A term used to suggest that a machine can be made to think in such a way that it cannot be distinguished from human thought. A.M. Turing gave a proof that a machine could be built that was more complex than the sum of its parts. Today there is much work in artificial intelligence; some chess programs are better than most human chess players.
Artificial Stupidity: A term introduced by T.R. Young in a lecture at the Fielding Institute in 1992 with which to refer to societies which had the technical capacity to develop authentic self knowledge but did not do so for political and economic reasons. Compare to naturally stupid societies which do not have the information technology and so could not be intelligent if they tried. Simple societies could be, however, wise.
Asceticism: Greek: self-denial. Asceticism informs many religious which hold that the pathway to knowledge is denial of the senses and of desires. Weber say asceticism as part of the social psychology of religion which lead to capitalism.
Ascribed status: The standing which is assigned to a person by other people, regardless of the wishes of or the concrete circumstances surrounding the person. Perhaps the most frequently used example of an ascribed status is one's kinship, one's ethnicity and one's sex. In sexist or racist societies, such an assignment is hostile to praxis and community. In socialist societies, ascribed status is routine. As such, it means that one is able to create culture by virtue of the fact that one is part of a collective apart from merit, sex, race or other irrelevant characteristics. See commune.
Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety: a requirement for an ultrastable system is that, in order to maintain match with its environment (and thus obtain order), it is necessary to have at least one option stored in the system for every change in the environment. Ashby says that only variety (change) can destroy (cope with) variety. Capitalism is irrational in that it produces irreversible changes in the environment, degrades the environment and resists change by which to transform the system. (after H. Ross Ashby).
Assimilation: A process by which one culture is destroyed and another culture imposed on a people, usually by force. In the process, the young people of a status group defined as 'low' adopt the values and norms of status groups defined as superior. People do not readily surrender their culture (i.e., their capacity to create a particular form of culture). The recent (1977) television series, Roots documents the brutality involved in the destruction of culture as Blacks were assimilated into American culture as slaves.
Atheism: Greek: a = without; theos = god. Disbelief in gods. The tradition is informed by the work of Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, Feuerbach and Marx. In humanist thought, atheism is the annulment of God and the emergence of theoretical humanism. In Marx, atheism requires one to be authentically concerned with fellowship, community, affirmation, and festivity as human activities rather than as divinely inspired or as divine worship. In capitalism, atheism can be only a dull resentment of religious hypocrisy or an intellectual doubt about supernatural beings. It then is a negative act rather than one affirming human relatedness as in some forms of postmodern theology. See Theology, postmodern, God, death of.
Attitude: A predisposition to act based upon internalized values, roles, rules and/or upon conditioning. Attitudes are useful in that they provide generalized solutions of action but may be obstacles to judgment and self-determination if rigidly embodied. Some theorists seriously challenge the fact of "attitude" holding that all behavior is situationally produced through transactions. This is not likely in a mass society where there is little opportunity for transactions.
Attractor: In nonlinear theory, an attractor is that region in time space to which a system tends to go [seems to be attracted]. There are five generic attractors in Chaos theory, 1) a point attractor so called since simple systems such as a pendulum can be found at a given point at a given time with great precision. 2) a limit attractor so called since a system cannot exceed the upper and lower values for any given measure; think of a thermostat. 3) then nonlinearity sets in; a Torus is a dough-nut shaped region in space within which a system can be found. We can't tell just where inside the dough-nut the system will be found but we know that the boundaries of the dough-nut set the limits for the movement of the system on selected variables; think of the norms controlling braking at a stop light; most people vary around a mean; few come to a full stop; few dash right through. 4) a butterfly attractor is most interesting since, when these appear, the same system without the addition of any new parts, will suddenly move to two [or more] outcome basins of attraction. Instead of one and only one outcome for a given kind of system [say a drop of water or a gender relations], suddenly new patterns emerge. The drop of water may take up two regions in time-space with very uncertain paths between these two points. Or, in some conditions, men and women may form 2, 4, or more marriage forms quite different from traditional relationships. 5) then there is a region of very unpredictable patterns which we call deep chaos. But even in deep chaos, there are regions of order; it is in deep chaos where one finds qualitatively more life forms, forms of crime, forms of religion, politics, economics or forms of marriage emerging. The factors driving the change to new and more complex dynamics are the text of postmodern science.
Attractor, Strange: The concept refers to the behavior of a system. In modern science, systems are supposed to behave with enough precision such that formal, axiomatic and logical theory can be built. Most complex systems do not behave so predictably; they are strange in terms of the expectations of modern scientists but not in terms of natural occurring dynamics.
Augustine, St. (354-430): An African theologian and architect along with St. Aquinas of modern theology. Augustine held that the pathway to true happiness is self-knowledge. The quest becomes one for truth, beauty and goodness; this gives a theologian endorsement for philosophy, psychology and sociology in times when such sciences are seen to be secular and hostile to revealed truth. It also focus attention upon social relations in this world rather than preparation for salvation in a second, spiritual world. He also gave us a Utopia; The City of God which is contrasted with the City of Man [sic]. Each person must make a choice between the two; the City of God is exempt from change and collapse; the City of man is not. In the City of God, Church law is superior to Civil law.
(After WL Reese).
Author: In postmodern discourse, any one who does physical, natural or social science is an 'author.' This usage derives out of the larger notion that all science is a 'text' which is one of many stories which could be generated out of the incredibly complex fabric of natural and social dynamics. See 'writerly.'
Authority: Many societies allocate more social power to some statuses and require those in 'lower' status comply with the orders, commands, wishes or expectations of 'higher' authority.
When social power is vested in an office or person, such person has 'authority.' Weber lists three kinds: traditional [that of a parent or priest], legal-rational [that of a formal organization with rules and people to enforce them] as well as charismatic. As Simmel noted, such "power" is always a social product and lasts only as long as the "subordinates" continue to reify the person/office as an "authority." However, when authority is naively reified, people do give up some of their autonomy and allow others to direct their behavior. Both human agency and personal morality are thereby subverted.
Authoritarianism: A form of government in which one person or a small group controls state power; law, police, military, and other public and semi-public institutions such as school and church. The private sector is usually given over to other authorities who in turn support the government. Patriarchy thrives in authoritarian societies. See Totalitarianism, Fascism, Elitism.
Authoritarian personality: A stabilized pattern of learned behavior exhibited by a person which is characteristically intolerant, rigid and marked by extreme reliance on formal authority. The source of this personality type appears to be found in unequal power systems, beginning with the patriarchal family, in which people become extremely sensitive and responsive to "higher" authority and insensitive, even brutal, to those in the lower echelons. (After David Franks).
Automation: The practice of controlling machines with machines. The transformation from labor intensive production to capital intensive production. Up until 1960, most of the time automation replaced unskilled workers. Now automation threatens to replace lower level white collar workers. IBM, Xerox and other "word processor" are developing machines controlled by computers to process words. Secretaries, teachers, professors, postal workers, and others who use words become surplus to the corporate needs as "artificial intelligence" systems are designed. Automation in capitalist societies increases production and prices while eliminating wage workers. Without work, demand falls and the surplus population grows. Socialism and communism distribute on the basis of need and merit, therefore crisis is not necessary.
Autonomy: Greek: self-regulation. An autonomous person has principles which s/he uses in organizing responses to events in everyday life. An autonomous city or nation made its own laws and directs its own affairs. In marxian theory, autonomy is one of the moments of praxis [see which] which are mediated by other important factors. Kohlberg set the principled individual as more moral than one who based judgments upon utilitarian notions of reward and punishment.
Away(s): Standard ways of avoiding involvement in a given social occasion. Usually such involvement is pointless, exploitative or demeaning and yet people have cause to remain and to feign interest. Examples include day-dreaming, shielded mockery, doodling, spacing-out, and boundary collusion by subsets of persons. [Goffman].
Axiology: Greek; axios = value. Theories of value. See Value, theory of.
Axiom: Greek: axioun = to think worthy. The word refers to unprovable but necessary assumptions in a set of theoretical propositions based on the axioms. Agrippa refused to accept axioms without proof and doubted that all such 'worthy' assumptions could be grounded. Postmodern philosophy of knowledge takes his view.