Toward an Understanding of Cellular Sociology and Its Relationships to Cellular Biology

By Fredericks, Marcel; Miller, Steven I. et al. | Education, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Toward an Understanding of Cellular Sociology and Its Relationships to Cellular Biology


Fredericks, Marcel, Miller, Steven I., Odiet, Jeff A., Fredericks, Janet P., Education


Society has been viewed analogously as an organism that is seen to grow, display differentiation in structure and function as well as interdependence of parts. This is evidenced in the works of such diverse writers as Plato, Pascal, Hobbes, Hegel, Durkheim, Spencer, Comte and Parsons. The interests of early sociologists with biology encouraged many of them to make comparisons between society and the human organism. Terms such as "organs of society" and "the differentiation of its parts" were utilized extensively in their writings. Herbert Spencer in his famous work, Principles of Sociology, used findings from biology and anthropology to formulate his criteria of complexity, differentiation and integration to human society. Durkheim's links with the "organic school" resulted in the division of sociology into three classifications, a) social morphology, b) social physiology and c) general sociology (Randal, 1998).

While the root metaphor of society--as organism--has had a certain purchase within sociology, historically; it does have a number of constraints that must be acknowledged. Some of these limitations are connected with the problems of inductive reasoning in general and specifically with the structure of arguments by analogy. Analogical reasoning can take many forms, but the two most common ones involve analogies, which are purely illustrative in nature and ones that involve an inference (Manicas, 1976). Inductive reasoning involves attempting to make like-comparisons between two objects, situations, events, or states-of-affair. For instance, any attempt to illustrate similarities between the workings of a computer and the brain in terms of "circuits." The latter involves the construction of an actual argument whereby one identifies two domains of interest (i.e. a human body and society) lists several similarities between the two--for instance, organs and situations in terms of "functions"--and then suggests an inductive inference, which goes beyond the initial comparison. Thus, because "homeostasis" is present in the living organism, whatever happens to one part will have an effect upon the other parts of the system. These relationships are also valid for subsystems. Parsons' classic analysis of a biological system indicates that the function of any element in a system is the role it plays in the operation of the system. Parsons' finding is relevant to systems and subsystems in the societal realm. The unique characteristic of a system is the interrelationship of parts within the system. Every system is made up of two different forces: differentiation and integration. Robbins notes, "In a system, specialized functions are differentiated, which replace diffuse global patterns. In the human body, for instance, the lungs, heart, and liver are all distinct functions. Similarly, organizations (subsystems) have divisions, departments, and like units separated out to perform specialized activities" (Robbins, 1988).

Subsystems of the Cell of Society

Within a socially constructed subsystem there are three systems--social, cultural, and personality--all of which are interrelated to one another and to the larger systems of society, nations, or to the global village--the world. Change in any of the three systems of a subsystem will affect the whole subsystem and ultimately every subsystem within the society. The subsystem or "cell" of society accounts for human actions, reactions, and interactions. Within the cell is socially meaningful interaction (SMI)--the "nucleus" of the cell or subsystem of society (Figures I and IB) (Fredericks, 1998).

[FIGURE I OMITTED]

The social system of the cell of society is the observable structuring of relationships between and among social actors or the many "personalities." Thus the socialization process plays a very important role in this system. The cultural system of the cell of society is the organization of the rules, values, and meanings that direct social relationships within the social system. …

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