Prose and Presentation
Berger’s prose mannequin is neither elegant not convoluted. For in all probability essentially the most half it is a model of plain-spoken readability, though one ought to remember that he is an psychological and an professional sociologist, generally writing for a lot of who slot within the an identical or comparable courses. Moreover, generally and provide to produce he may resort to utilizing gratuitous neologisms, one factor that, in my experience, often leaves an author and his readers poorly served.
Nonetheless, neologisms are in response to Berger’s judgment that sociologists have an obligation to create concepts to serve the evaluation objective at and. Berger is unconvinced by claims that the established conceptual tools recognized to most sociologists is sufficiently versatile and exhaustive in safety to be of frequent price.
In The Homeless Ideas, as an example, Berger invoked concepts of his private making, or that he had borrowed from comparatively obscure sources, in an effort to further efficiently seize the complexities and troublesome substantive issues of modernization and modernity. His use of adventitious concepts much like mechanisticity and compenentiality was prompted by his judgment that understanding the institutions and forms of consciousness in a modernized world is sufficiently troublesome to require utility of newest and completely completely different ideas. Sadly, however, the consequence was a set of pointless, awkward, and by no means notably partaking or illuminating phrases that occur rather a lot a lot much less repeatedly than one may anticipate all by way of the rest of the e book.
On the oddly uncommon occasions throughout which I encountered a lot of of these clumsily mystifying locutions, I paused, translated it into regularly language or established social scientific concepts, and questioned why Berger had made this type of translation compulsory. Such a misguided linguistic inventiveness represents the repository of terminological pretentiousness and confusion that makes outsiders suspicious of sociology as an intellectually constructive self-discipline. That’s exactly the type of ill-conceived conceptual tools that Berger himself has often known as “the technical dialect for which sociologists have earned a dubious notoriety.”
Perhaps that’s an unduly harsh judgment, and undoubtedly, in principle, enchancment of newest concepts tailored to specific duties is also suggestion. It does seem, however, to lower the value of sociological concepts already in broad use. It moreover makes one marvel if Berger fails to grasp his estimable facility in dealing with difficult and troublesome social phenomena using regularly language devoid of extraneous, quasi-technical terminology. In any case, Berger himself has held that the majority sociology could possibly be efficiently supplied in unusual English.
In addition to, in several contexts Berger has confirmed that he is fully in a position to parsimoniously producing suggestively useful and linguistically new concepts properly suited to a selected enterprise. As an illustration, when working in South Africa as part of a gaggle charged with anticipating what the post-apartheid nation may seem like, he was requested to supply a conceptual framework which may info the efforts of the disparate assortment of shiny and achieved protection analysts with whom he was working.
Appropriately, Berger used “The Social Construction of Reality” as his degree of departure. In addition to, he invoked the time interval “cognitive maps” to talk to the pursuits of the numerous politically energetic groups with a stake in developments of their nation.
“Cognitive maps” strikes me as merely the suitable concept to grab the conflicting, over-lapping, and unbiased pursuits involved. There’s nothing awkward or mystifying about it, and it serves Berger’s objective pretty properly. Plainly Berger’s experience for inventing new concepts and suitably readable neologisms varies enormously from one enterprise to a distinct, with the much less the upper being a wonderful guideline.
As a latest sociologist of knowledge, Berger is primarily involved with what unusual people know — commonsense or recipe info — comparatively than arcane philosophical accounts of the ideas of extraordinarily specialised college students. Discovering actuality in response to some presumably infallible absolute and elementary regular simply is not part of Berger’s enterprise. In its place, his first concern is the reality of regularly life, or commonsense info. Since we dwell in an inter-subjective world, commonsense info is the knowledge we share with others in our regularly actions and mundane interactions.
Berger insightfully grasps the reality that that’s the type of info with out which society could not exist. The shared, all-purpose, commonsense nature of commonsense info provides an answer to a question of first significance to Durkheim and fairly a couple of completely different sociologists, notably “how is society possible.” The reply for Berger is that commonsense info provides the setting up blocks that make it so.
I really feel that a vital implication of Berger’s perspective is that it is a waste of time for the sociologist, comparatively than the philosophical anthropologist, to wrestle with a definition of human nature. If sociologists are involved with human nature as a foundation for his or her theorizing and substantive work, I really feel it’s best to construe it as contingent and context specific. We’re merchandise of the circumstances throughout which we dwell, and our nature is contextually mutable and historically distinctive. In impression, we produce ourselves and are produced as part of the dialectical technique of residing with others in models of circumstances that assure that our natures might be variable. Berger locations this exceptionally properly in The Sacred Cowl, the place he holds that “society is a dialectical phenomenon in that it is a human product and nothing but a human product, that yet continuously acts back on its producer.”
Berger’s emphasis on the sociology of regularly life as people actually dwell it’s a very important motive why his work, with occasional exceptions, has been continuously accessible. It moreover attunes us to the pervasively accessible meanings with out which no society may exist. It focuses on the character of the social context throughout which we dwell and what we take to be factual and precise.
People who would take the foregoing, in sum, to suggest that sociological info is transitory and contingent have some extent. Berger, however, presents a determined effort to make the case that sociology is in an advantageous place with regard to producing objective info that may not be dismissed a merely relativistic speculation dressed up in methodologically and theoretically elaborate social scientific garb. When he trumpets his discovery of the unparalleled virtues of capitalism, however, he steps away from this place, making a lethal error of his private. For in all probability essentially the most half, however, Berger’s place with regard to objectivity is totally tenable and devoid of specific pleading for sociology.
In the end, a e book titled “Peter Berger’s Sociology: An Unvarnished Overview,” may appear in print, an intensive and demanding dialogue of the material now we’ve merely launched. For now, people who want to be taught an account of numerous the material that provides the concept for Berger’s work can flip to “Classical Social Theory in Use: Interpretation and Application for Educators and other Non-Specialists,” printed by Knowledge Age.