Category Archives: All about sociology

Book reviews, summaries, and other articles about sociology when I’m busy being the professional MPhil student.

Literature Review: Enough is enough

Another 6 days passed since I updated my blog – I’m still working on my MPhil thesis.

The problem? I started out too broad. After sending an (overdue) partial draft to the supervisor, she suggested I stop reviewing new literature. I then began wrapping things up.

After drawing the limit of literature, writing suddenly becomes much more easy.

I in fact write faster.

I also read faster. On papers on attitude change, it became easier to identify key arguments and let go of minor ones. On news about background and the history of protests in Hong Kong, it became easier to focus on what and how much is needed for my case. I briefly discussed about types of movement histories in Hong Kong, without going deeper about SMO strategies.

Thus, a lesson might be drawing boundaries is a hard but crucial step.

The lesson might also be having a clear delivery improves efficiency.

For example, this PhD spent 10+ years in his program… And it seemed he had a similar problem. On the surface, it might be procrastination. One level down there is anxiety, shame, guilt and low self-esteem. On level down, this is because of the unclear goals and priorities.

What can I do better to have finished this quicker?

  • Talk to experienced people more often. Drawing boundaries is hard and there is no clearly defined rule. Thus only way is to learn from experience, and let them judge if this is enough! (Tacit knowledge / uninstitutionized knowledge)

 

Literature Review: delete part of your writing might be the solution

I got stuck writing the second half of my literature review in the past few days. This post describes a solution to it.

My initial literature review has something on

  • 1) belief structure — in cultural sociology and cognitive sociology
  • 2) attitude change  — in social psychology
  • 3) political socialization — in political psychology

For a while, I was stuck and did not know why I was stuck. I tried to write on agents of political socialization (family, peers, school, reference group…).

But then I found some literature on undergraduate political socialization, and that leads me to another rather broad field. I then became idle.

As with programming, when you find yourself thinking instead of writing, something is wrong.

After talking to a PhD student, I realized my problem was I was trying to say too many things.

“Belief” / “opinion” / “attitude” / “understandings” are not merely words in social science. They are concepts. So, for each of them, the literature is vast.

I cannot possibly write about both belief and attitude in my literature review, because that would be too much. More, they are not the same thing so they do not hold together.

After deleting all writings about belief structure and cognitive sociology, the literature review becomes much clearer.

A broad lesson is it takes practice to recognize the scope of literature, the theories and what is useful. A good idea is a clear idea.

 

I will probably applying for psychology grad programs. And I will write my first chapter of literature like this

/This post described 1) my past few days’ work since Christmas ( not very much) and 2) my change of future plans and reasons and 3) my progress on MPhil thesis literature review chapter.

My last few days work

After Christmas break productivity decreased (from ~ 11 hour per day to ~ 8 then to ~ 5). Hypothesis seems to be validated that a structured environment and external accountability is important.

After coming back to my old office in Hong Kong, my productivity immediately decreased at least 70%. Truly amazing. Possible explanations: 1) jet lag. I woke up at 4am the day before, slept at 4pm, then woke up 10 pm that day. In-between I experienced periods of alternating hallucination (no kidding) and absent-mindedness. I sing along Youtube videos for 2 hours early this morning (3am – 5am). Weird.

Explanation 2) this environment arose certain negative emotions associated with past experience. Whenever I sit at my old desk I found it hard to concentrate, falling back to old patterns. In a new place where I had not worked before I felt much better.

My changed future plans and why 

On another note, to the readers of this blog, I very likely will apply for PhD programs in psychology next year. Continuing working on my master’s thesis (will talk about it shortly) makes me realize my past struggle started from misaligned interest with my supervisor, my department, ethnography, and sociology in general.

The question I was interested in was in fact studied more by psychologists, and I am much satisfied with their approach to the question (belief formation, political attitude formation, etc.)

This is the reason I struggled for so long in my study. I first read about social movement when I was at UW-Madison. Then in my first few months in MPhil in 2015, I found some literature in public opinion research close to what I would like to know, although they are not directly on protests. Protest scholars on the other hand are not that interested in opinions per se – they are interested in opinions (grievances) as an independent variable in explaining emergence of protests and participation.

That’s the first time I was confused. I treated the literature review process as finding answers, but I found that the answer did not exist. Mistake 1: For research, this is supposed to be a good thing (research gap), but I did not realize at that time. Because of the habit of an undergraduate, I just thought if I did not find an answer that meant I didn’t work hard! (Two years later, in 2017 I wrote to Pam Oliver, then a social movement mail list she was in, then  John Josh asking them for literature – and indeed there is none from the angle I would like to know. )

Back to Nov 2015. With supervisor’s pointer I went to methodological literature (Grounded theory, Methods of Discovery, two books by Howard Becker – find them not that helpful). I dislike my ethnography class from week 1. Complained to supervisors but decided to hang on to it (while secretly hate it). Then during Chinese New Year 2016 I read about  necessarity of narratives / contingencies , which lead to some reading in the sociology of science – combined with a previous RA task in tacit knowledge— basically literature justifying why interpretative sociology / narrative methods in historical sociology are useful. I did not like the arguments, becasue I found the concepts vague and the logic shabby. Mistake 2: did not take action immediately due to fear of authority.

Then it’s March 2016 or so. I went to sit in at Xiang Biao’s anthropology class. Read some beautiful anthropology, but they are not relevant to my research. Foucault write about biopolitics, power / knowledge which led to some efforts in vain. Probably around the same time still trying to make sense of ethnography, so researched Alice Goffman’s On the Run and Sida Liu’s doctoral thesis. Not much progress on thesis.

In the mean time, read into cultural sociology (cognitive sociology?) but did not find a fit. Cultural sociology concerns culture / action, but 1) I’m not interested in culture and 2) I’m not interested in action.

In the meantime I read Andreas Glaeser’s book political epistemics recommended by my supervisor. We seemed to agree using this framework. This books reads further lead to phenomenology and social otology. Nobody cites the book back then. In 2017 my supervisor published a paper using this book. Now I think back, I do not really like or believe the theory. I tried to read so many times, and I will use the theory in my thesis for graduateion. But if I’m being uttly honest, I don’t understand why the theory is good and I do not feel comfortable using this theory. I don’t know why.

By this time I’m basically disillusioned and disenchanted with sociology and academia. Around May or Jun I began seriously considering a career change. Mistake 3: In facing a problem, not thinking about solutions but want to run away!

For around 12 months I did not seriously work on my thesis. In Nov and Dec I did a whole round of data coding, but not much writing. Thinking back, this is typical procrastination. In 2017 I started to learn about machine learning and coding. Read briefly into cognitive sociology, ideology… Late April to July, internship. Mistake 4: poor time management skills and no priority.

Reflecting this experience. The root problem is my literature review always felt uncomfortable, so I can not formulate a research question using any of the directions I had searched. I felt uncomfortable because belief formation is a problem in social psychology not sociology, which I realized pretty late.

Thus I will proabably applying for grad schools in psychology next year.

I will write my literature review draft this way

The literature review will have two chapters: why do people have different understandings of the same social movement, and how do they form these understandings.

Why question is tricky. I imagine myself talking to scholars in sociology on protests. Thus I should cite them. But they have not studied the problem directly. The closest I can find is 1) relative deprivation theory and 2) framing and 3) social identity and 4) system justification. The end goal of all these theories is explain participation. But I can use them to say, because some have feelings of relative deprivation while others’ don’t.

Then a natural question is, what leads to perceptions of relative deprivation? Here, sociology stops and is fine with describing the understandings themselves (meaning-making). Psychologists answer this, one theory is frustraction-aggression, the other is cognitive dissonance. These two theories are what I really wanted to know.

I will do the same for framing, social identity and system justification. The part of them that describes psychological process is useful, while the other part on how psychological process leads to participation is not useful. Lesson 1: how to selectively use a theory when it is not a good fit but it’s the only thing I can find. (I might not be doing this right though.)

How do they form these understandings? This part will likely be in political socialization, pursuation, attitude change. Still quite broad. Lesson 2: When reading about a new field for a question, do not be taken away by their arguments. One paper leads to another and this needs to be controled.

I developed a standard workflow that I currently find helpful:

  • Read one highly cited document. Any paper contain the key words. Better be a review paper.
  • Use the Harvard thesis guide literature review template, trace the theory history. Note key sources.
  • Write down 5 ~ 7 key sources biblography information.
  • Download these papers. Do not download anything more than these 5 ~ 7. Keep the most important papers! (Dr. Tian had once taught me to find the citation list. Use these with highest citations.)
  • Take notes and read these 5 ~ 7 papers using the Harvard thesis guide template.
  • Print out the reading notes. Select the top priority papers again.

This is like preventing over-fitting in machine learning. Because both deals with the trade-off between generalziation and spceific problems. The best strategy is thus early stopping – leave some of the specific data points unvisited for better generalization.

 

Updates 2018 Mar 13 : I gave up with this idea after taking a course in psychology. Reason is that I am not really interested in their debates.

论文和地图

这几天在欧洲玩。今天空了下来,接着“整理数据”,谓之”data coding”。不知道码农们看到了会怎么想。社会学(文科?)的人老喜欢用些特别牛逼,你都搞不清楚发音的词,指代其实不怎么动脑子的工作,例如 transcription = 听音打字,coding = 复制剪切/概括整理录音稿,participate observation = 记日记, field work = 和人聊天,collecting archive meterials = 做剪报。更绝的是民族志系列,不完全统计有 ethnology, ethnography, autoethnography, ethnomethodology, historical ethnography, cyber-ethnography 等等。

上学期当助教的时候,学生如果不识相,问了我回答不了的问题,我便噼里啪啦一串大词砸过去,效果很好。

我刚入坑的时候,对这些词充满太过酷炫的想象,不敢相信崇高的学术工作者竟然做着这么平凡枯燥的事情。为了满足知识优越感,硬要把他们上升到哲学高度去讨论。但凑过去一瞄人家真正的哲学讨论,我又不够智商和耐心,几轮后就放弃抵抗,跑回来心安理得地打我的transcription,做我的 data coding。

活脱脱一个窝里横。对定性偏见的人讲定量,对定量偏见的人讲定性。对又喜欢定性又喜欢定量的人,只能讲本人观看 gossip girl 多年的心得了。

刚刚看着访谈稿,发现细节和线索太多,不知道怎么串成一个故事。前两轮访谈时东拉西扯,问出来很多焦距不同的叙述。A谈论大学四年的友谊变迁,B进行了深度灵魂反思,C就香港时局发表颇有洞见的看法。有些细节叙述性和情景性太强,有些看法又太过抽象。要把他们条分缕析,洗洗干净,放到各自的格子里去,真是有些头大。

也许这就是写论文的难处?关于丰富和清晰的取舍。几位老师和同学都谈到,”it’s hard to let go of data, but you have to start from something simple”。有次偶然看到 Samuel Huntington 在《文明的冲突》一书的序言里谈到,构建理论就像画地图。细节太丰富,就失去了指路的作用。细节太简单,又会找不着地方。我觉得这个比喻好记又好用。我不学无术,看书经常把内容忘个精光,序言里的八卦倒记得很清楚。谁是谁的学生,谁和老婆关系怎么样,看得我乐不可支。

再回过头来理解 Lei Ya-Wen 博士论文里的三个层次,就像画出三个不同焦距的格子,把故事拆分开来讲。交换的时候,听过一个 job talk,当时的应聘者仿佛是用历史社会学的方法,发现了某个大定理,PPT上的时间跨度让人胆战心惊。刚毕业的博士,西装革履,努力自信着。他似乎对 “zoom in” 这个词组很骄傲,不停重复着,忘记了在强调什么。

现在我也得来zoom in 又 zoom out 我的数据了。半年前想当个德艺双馨的大学者,现在只想当个有耐心的学术流氓,也不知道是进步还是退步。十分惭愧,最近想转去一个赚钱的行业,朋友们有什么鼓励、鞭策、建议或心得,请联系我,谢谢。

开始懂了

这篇博文,是个高兴的记录。我似乎好像仿佛终于搞清楚了我想研究的东西,和那个关键的原因。虽然理论层次上,还没有检查那个大牛已经发现我要研究的东西。但是经验层次上的脉络终于清楚了。

First thing first,我想研究的问题,是为什么有的人支持占中而有的人不支持占中。注意,我的问题完全是在理解层面上的,不是行为。我不是问,为什么有的人参加占中有的人不参加。只是关于理解,是关于人们脑子里的想法。

现在我的答案是,不支持占中的人,通常(几乎全部)是因为不相信占中会有用。支持占中的人,通常是觉得占中会有用。

继续下去,觉得占中有用的人,通常都见证过成功的社会运动,而且不相信警察会对人民使用暴力。觉得占中没用的人,通常都没有见证过成功的社会运动,而且相信警察可能会对人人民使用暴力。

脉络是这样,归纳起来就是,对政治运动的看法和日常经历有关(废话)。具体如何相关?除了这条脉络,还有很多丰富的叙述性细节来补充。一个令人信服的故事。

“具体如何相关”,如果回答是“党员身份”,“收入地位” 等抽象变量,那么只能得出一个静态的结论。我在*无数*地方读到,定性研究讲求“机制”, mechanism/process,现在终于懂了。在我的研究里,这个机制就是“过往经历”。它和定量变量不同的地方是:定量变量是个盒子,里面装着每个人的小物品。机制却是个传送带,把每一个人(解释点),从解释起点运送到解释终点。Variable is the substance, a concrete thing; but process is the form, is an abstract relation.

再抽象一点,机制具有时间性,自带关系性。(此处思路没通畅,暂不延伸。)

初入田野时只有一个模糊的问题,连问什么都不知道,常常被人质疑,你这做的什么东西?田老师却坚信,做定性你得从田野入手而不是从理论入手,不然岂不是会自证么?我当时还半信半疑,瞧不起田野,导致数据整理过了很久,也没有参考她的建议去问一问 local 学生。年初的时候问得还很浅,因为没有及时整理已有思路,而且访谈的全是大陆生。等到六月访谈第一个local之后,真的是豁然开朗。连忙快手打transcript,柳暗花明。Grounded theory 诚不我欺也。

好了,这流程终于走过了,想想确实不容易。过去一年,刚进去时信心满满,自视甚高。结果后来80% 的时间都不知道自己在干嘛,居然问了出来,我自己都不相信。

年初的时候,在讨论班上展示自己当时的研究,做了个表格。Thomas Wong 不相信,说 no no no, not this fast。现在再去跟他争,也许能说服了吧?

理想主义,和我的理想主义

这段时间心中焦虑,几乎每小时都在想要不要留在学术圈,还是另谋一个赚钱的行业。数次烦躁到在网上乱逛,静不下心来做正事。我自己一方面想要理解行业的区别,另一方面也明白,这样的转折点时刻,更重要的是了解自己。表面上的迷茫和焦虑,深层次很可能是对真实自我的难以接受。

所谓理想主义,既有对结构性现实的误会,也有对自己能力的误会。而后者更让人绝望。

要不要选择学术圈,其实是几个问题。学术圈能给成功者什么?学术圈里失败又是什么后果?成为学术圈里的幸存者,需要什么品质?我是否具备这些品质?前两个问题是整体性的,然而如谢宇教授与Andrew Abbott所言,组内差异远远大于组间差异。因此在挑剔行业之外,还得挑剔下自己才是。

这一年的经历,算是在这个“middle ranking”的系里面提前体验了一把graduate school。在日常生活层面,反思如下:

  1. 学术圈结构性限制的缺失,对我是很大的挑战。必须承认,这一年我体会到了极大的自由。大到论文题目,访谈数量,田野进度;小到见导师的频率,课程作业的完成质量,每天几点到办公室,周末和晚上是否休息,一周出去吃饭几次,我几乎都有完全的决定权。但自由意味着责任,我必须承担起好好规划时间,严格遵循计划的责任。更糟糕的,为了完成计划,必须做一些对我而言非常艰难的选择,例如拒绝他人的邀请。这一点我做得并不好。每周定下的计划,总是完成不了。大部分是因为懒惰,小部分是因为软弱。田老师曾建议take log,说最难的是 create structure。我自己,日历,log book 倒是做了不少,可能也略有进步,但这懒病实在是难以克服。
  2. (创作性)写作并没有想象中的容易。一部分当然是因为这是思维活动极其密集的工作,要动脑子,做起来很累,很难。另一部分,因为很累,而很容易懒。我又常常眼高手低,担忧自己写出垃圾,因此总是迟迟不动笔,导致 Point 1 之中拖延的结果。
  3. 文科对记忆力和整理能力的要求。我心中一个理想的文科生至少应对事实性信息有很好的把握。这方面,我之前受过的历史训练实在太少,看书后又忘的太快。有时看书没有走心,看后因为侥幸,也没有记笔记。心想,记了笔记也不会用。但是记笔记这项活动除了产出物,更是一个锻炼思维和写作的过程。刘思达老师曾建议,每看过一篇文章都写一篇小的summary。Erik Olin Wright 称他的笔记”very messy”,但也至少有一个乱糟糟的文档和一句话概括。初期我尝试过,但是没能坚持,也是很大的损害。笔记的整理,也是一个老大难问题。目前尝试的方法还是by project,一篇一篇文献综述的来,用过就扔掉。虽然看上去浪费,但是生活不总是这样更新?吃饭还要一天三顿呢。

回想当初对研究生两年有过的期待,曾经希望能

  1. 又快又好地写完MPhil 论文,最好一年能搞定
  2. 和导师合写一篇文章
  3. 把之前的统计FYP整理成文,并编出相应的 R package
  4. 每周坚持更新公众号
  5. 做一个称职的朋友

这些都没能实现。其一,任务之繁重可能确实超过常人能力。其二,我的能力也不过如此。其三就是客观环境。怪两位导师是不公平的,她们和系里给了我很多资源。办公环境舒适,课程负担也少,图书馆什么书都能借到。我执意要去交换,也给两边系里面添了很多麻烦。但是另一方面,系里也有一些局限,虽不至于达到完全限制能力的程度,但至少是不鼓励的。

  1. 系里学生之间的交流讨论很差。竞争氛围很差。发表压力很小。大家精气神都不太好。和我的学术目标并不一致。因此没有什么同辈之间的激励。我几次想搞读书会,都应者寥寥。当然不能说,不搞读书会我就不能看书。读书会是给自己添加外在结构性限制的一次努力,至少对于提高生产力利大于害。对比起曾经交流过的UW Madison,一周四个讨论班,真是天差地别。在浙大时曾问过老不得志的黄兆镇教授,香港人,他对港大非常鄙夷,道:不是老师的错,只是你的同学太差了。本科时理工科尚有几位一心向学的大神,现在他们都去名校读硕了。我能力有限,只能留在这里,没想到最终还是被温水煮了青蛙。
  2. 当然我去了名校读博,可能也是一样。文科的博士,工作性质太为独立,导致表面上的竞争环境不够,没有很大压力。找工作的竞争又太遥远,我没有能力将其visualize到日常生活。我以为这和文科资源少有关。老师给的关注不够,相较其他环境,竞争者数目也少些。因此容易一拖很久。毕竟也有牛人如 Lei Ya-Wen, 6年在密歇根拿到四个学位。尽管她似乎也在Harvard 做了三年 fellow 才晋身AP。

研究生读到今天,一个问题是对环境的变化没有及时反馈,能力所限,也没有能意识到我想做的事情对我的生活方式提出了怎样的挑战,我又该怎样调整“自己”来适应。最大的毛病是没能克服懒病和软弱,对自己生活的边界不够强硬。这也是没有想清楚吧。

研究生也是一种职业,因为声望,金钱等资源稀缺,很可能对其成功者在某些方面的要求更高。(参见前文对日常生活的几点反思。)学术圈的错,只在于资源太少,位置太少,竞争太残酷,风险又大,一输就非常难看。我总在嚷嚷,却舍不得真的离开,无非是自高自大,觊觎幸存者的光辉,对自己的成功还抱有渺茫的希望,不愿意承认失败。比嚷嚷更重要的是真的改变。我说的太多,做的太少,对生活的失望,其实是对自己的失望。转不转行,在哪里都是一样。

 

Book Review: Methods of Discovery by Andrew Abbott

If I am to recommend one book on sociological methodology, Methods of Discovery is definitely the book to go to. With his smooth proses and sharp mind, Prof. Andrew Abbott teaches apprentices in the sociological profession valuable lessons about how to generate ideas for their research. In his words, this is a book about “heuristics for the social sciences”.

The book is devoted to three parts: an overview of basic epistemological debates in sociology, a collection of heuristics tricks for discovery, and more general remarks on ideas and puzzles in research projects. In the first part, the author discusses three types of explanatory programs in sociology: pragmatic, semantic and syntactic ones. They emphasize on the interactions between explanatory system and real world, translation from one explanatory system to a more familiar one, and the syntactic coherence of the explanation system itself, respectively. He then proceed to outline nine basic pairs of themes in methodological debates in sociology, and situates familiar methods such as ethnography, historical narratives and small-N analysis in this scaffolding. Abbott offers a structured way of thinking through and compare different methods from their more fundamental, epistemological divergences.

The majority of this book (or the second two hundred pages, in Abbott’s page-counting style) is devoted to his heuristics tricks. He roughly divides the tricks into three groups: additive heuristics that can add to existing arguments but usually lead to more ordinary discoveries; narrative and descriptive heuristics that develop new arguments with regard to time and space; and fractal heuristics that twist the arguments themselves, often along the nine pairs of methodological debates. The use of fractal heuristics sheds light on the point that, methodological issues in fact have profound epistemological origins. In a sense, “all methodological are fundamentally theoretical.” Thus said my supervisor, a student of Abbott at Chicago.

The final part of this book deals with more general topics as puzzles, ideas, taste and personality. There are the factors that ultimately determines “good” research, but are hard to specify as the hardness of research itself. “Puzzles” translates to discrepancies in literature and empirical world. Ideas are just that, ideas. Taste and personality are more about styles of finding ideas.

Abbott does not offer any step by step instructions on how to build taste and personality that are prone to good research. It seems this can only be researched by broad reading, as Abbott himself does. Indeed, the book is filled with numerous examples drawn from multiple disciplines of social science, not limited to sociology. I wonder how Abbott has managed to find time to read all these books.

I would like to conclude this review with a comparison of this book with two other pieces I have read on methodology: Shehui Yu Zhengzhi Yundong Jiangyi (Lectures in Social and Political Movements) by Prof. Zhao Dingxin at Chicago, and Tricks of the Trade by Howard Becker. There are other pieces on specific methodological issues, say, Michael Burawoy on “extended case method”, but these threes’ interest are somewhat broader and more fundamental. Zhao spends one chapter of his book compare different methodological foundations on social science and natural science, offers a two by two classification system dimensioned by structure/individuals and formal/empirical. Parsimonious as this might be, this model is more like an insufficient subset of Abbott’s comprehensive scaffolding. For Becker, however, even such a clear model like Zhao’s is missing. Tricks of the Trade is a book in which important ideas scatter here and there in a suspiciously casual manner. I wonder why this book has been so popular among American sociological departments, as I regret not having read Abbott’s book back in my undergraduate years.

Reference:
Abbott, Andrew. (2004) Methods of Discovery. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company.

Theory week: Anthony Giddens

The author cracks four myths and establishes two implications in the study of sociological theories. The four myths are: the myth of the great divide between 1890-1920 generation by Parsons, the myth of the problem of order, the myth of the conservative origins of sociology, and the myth of schism. The two implications are to reformulate the theory of industrial society and to reconsider the epistemological status of social theory.

Four myths
First, the myth of the great divide refers to the “fundamental watershed that separates the prehistory of social theory”, located between 1890 and 1920, especially between Durkheim and Weber. This divided was largely promoted by Parsons in his 1937 book The Structure of Social Action. For the same reason, Marx and Engels were excluded from this part of discussion because they were reduced to limbo.

Second, the myth of the problem of order refers to the notion that most non-Marxist authors of the 1890-1920 period were being preoccupied with an abstract “problem of order”. Parsons phrased this ,especially with reference to Durkheim’s Divisions of Labor, as the “Hobbes problem”, that was, how do men escape from the nature status of “war of all against all”? But according to Giddens, Durkheim was not primarily concerned with this problem at all. Not only did Durkheim dismissed the “Hobbes problem” at early stage of his writing, but he was not criticising the utilitarianism of Hobbes but German idealism – both the holism of Wundt and Schaffle and neb-Kantian philosophy. Parsons treated The Division of Order in an ambiguous way to establish his own structural functionalism, but Durkheim intended to show the anthesis between individualism and holism. Parsons also framed Durkheim as dominated by the notion of moral consensus, but the latter also cares for institutional analysis and institutional change. That is, it is not Durkheim that was conservative – but Parsons himself was.

Third, the myth for the conservative origins of sociology was promoted by Nisbet, who claimed Durkheim was conservative because he drew from conservative sources, and who processed anti-individualism ideas himself. However, Durkheim both drew from neb-kantian sources that were not conservative at all, and was again methodological individualism instead of moral individualism.

Finally, the myth of schism was invented by Dahrendorf, means “consensus versus coercive” resolution of the problem of order. The former is attributed to Durkheim by Parsons, while the latter is attributed to Marx. But this is also misleading in that both authors at least agreed that the “nonalienated and free”, the “man in nature” arose exactly as a product of social development, instead of the pre-condition of capitalism. According to Giddens, Marx and Durkheim were only different in the question “what form of society” will there be anomie?

Two implications
In the 1970s when Giddens wrote this essay, there were there response to the malaise of social theory. First, a resurgent critique of positivism in the social sciences; second, the argument that sociology is tied to ideologies and thus need a radical sociology; and third, the fight between theory of order and theory of conflict. For the latter two, Giddens responded that they were resulted from the problematic theory of industrial society, that the fundamental contrast in the modern world is between traditional agrarian society and industrial urban society. This is reflected in paris of notions like “mechanic and organic solidarity” and “Gemeinschaft versus Gesellschaft”. But this is no longer our problem for now, because the assumption under this theory, that society develops in endogenous way, that all societies share the same path of development soled based on technological and economic development, no longer held in the globalizing 1960s. Thus there should be more mature and international theories. In the end, Giddens also rejected the positivism trends in sociology, but I failed to understand this part.

Theory week: Metatheories

Alert: This is yet another post on sociological theories that can bore you to death. Worse, the post is mostly about my bluffing about my random “insights”, which means it is probably not well-structured and will remain that way. This is what happens when a romantic pretends to be a scholar, and when you do sociology in a poetic way.

There is no way I cannot finish it today, but I post it anyway simply to keep myself motivated. (Thank you, my imaginary audience!) It will be a thread organised by dates and “how-do-I-feel-today”. If I am lucky, it will also be organised by themes.

// too much rambling already…

Dec 9, 2015
I didn’t coin the term “meta-theories”. It must have be used by someone and read by me in Rizter’s theory textbook. When you use “meta” as a prefix, that usually means an upgrade of analytical levels, or a grouping of individual properties. Then what’s individual becomes collective, unique becomes common.

That at least shows one hidden property of “meta”, that it can only be used on groupable abstract things. You cannot say “meta-apple”, but you can surely say “meta-field” (Bourdieu’s “field of power”). You can also view life as “meta-cells”.

Well I was wrong. Upgrading of analytical levels doesn’t equal to grouping of individual properties. Because grouping might change the structural of analytical levels. That is, they might not be subject to the same methods of analysis… (Stop here to consider the question: what is an analytical level?)

Like in Bourdieu’s field of power is where legitimacies compete for domination, meta-theory would be something about the legitimacy of (classical) theories.

Dec 10, 2015
Principle one: Happy theories are all alike; every unhappy theory is unhappy in its own way.

Theory week: prologue

This is a quick post on two things. First, it starts with a short summary of a historical sketch of sociological theories after 20th century. Second, I will lay out my ambitious plan to skim three theory books this week. This is a long overdue task of mine. Lack of proper theory training, I always felt somewhat missing in the glorious realm of sociology. Sorry to those of my readers that are not so interested in my subject. Well there are only four so…

Summary
The original text is already a sketch, so the summary here is more like an item-list of who-is-who. The author starts with the liberal orientation of early American sociologists, their emphasis on social change and scientific method, and the establishment of (old) Chicago School who connect to religious ideas, scientific method and urban problems. There were also a bunch of female sociologists at that time who, due to gender politics in the discipline, are seldom read today. With the left of Mead and the rise of Parson, Harvard replaced Chicago as the center of US sociology, and American Sociological Review was established to challenge the triumph of American Journal of Sociology. Structural functionalism was on rise. Then it was Marxian theory, largely ignored by sociology from 1930s to 1960s, was rediscovered in the 1960s (possibly of social turbulence in the 60s and the Soviet Union?). Around the same time there was the sociology of knowledge by Mannheim – remember Berger and Luhmann “social construction of reality”?

Since the Mid century structural functionalism began to decline possibly due to its tendency towards conservatism. [This is reputed by Giddens 1979] Arising are radical sociology that wants to challenge the conservative origins of sociological theories (C. Wright Mills), Exchange theory of Homan and Blau that deals with elementary forms of social behaviour, Dramaturgical analysis of Erving Goffman, phenomological sociology of Schutz and ethnomethodology of Garfinkel. Also there are radical paradigms like Marxian theory and Feminist theory. Then there are more recent trends of micro-macro integration, agency-structure integration, and post-modern theories.