The social construction of uncertainty 1
Our theories of human behavior split into largely independent systems of thought: psychology and social science. When we think psychologically, we mostly take the institutional relationships, the economy and culture of society for granted, and attend to the way people manage, successfully or not, the circumstances of life. When we think as sociologists or economists, we treat human beings as if they could be reduced to a definable role in a system of relationships – the rationally self-interested economic actor; the bureaucrat; the mother's brother – and go on to explore the implications of that system. We rarely explore the interaction between each unique human actor and the social systems of which she or he is part. Yet, surely this interaction ought to be at the foundation of any theory of human behavior. How can we begin to understand ourselves except as creatures of the societies from which we learned the language itself to think about ourselves? And how can we understand society except as a network of patterns of relationship which each of us is constantly engaged in creating, reproducing, and changing? For lack of this crucial theoretical link, we have never developed within psychology a strong tradition of social criticism, while our sociology and economics have often been psychologically naive and insensitive. We need a way of thinking about the interaction between unique human beings and the social relationships they form, not only because our theories are crippled without it, but because without it we cannot articulate clearly many of the gravest causes of social distress.
I want to present the argument that attachment theory powerfully links the social and psychological aspects of human behavior. John Bowlby's contribution will, I believe, be seen to be as central to the development of sociology as it has been to psychology. Talcott Parsons, the outstanding American social theorist of the 1940s and 1950s, recognized this many years ago. In a paper first published in 1958 he noted: 'In this connection [the interaction between personality and culture] I am particularly indebted to a paper by John Bowlby, “The Nature of the Child's Tie to its Mother” … and to personal discussions with Bowlby' (Parsons 1967: 83). Parsons, however, continued to work with Freudian concepts and did not fully
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Publication information: Book title: Attachment across the Life Cycle. Contributors: Colin Murray Parkes - Editor, Joan Stevenson-Hinde - Editor, Peter Marris - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 77.
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