Communication and Social Order

Communication and Social Order

Communication and Social Order

Communication and Social Order

Excerpt

The best we have done thus far in communication theory in sociology is to make vague statements about the reciprocal relationship between society and communication. We have also elaborated biological, physical, mechanical, and, more recently, electronic analogies of communication into models, or "designs," for exercises in research technique. These analogical models are spun out in great detail through elaborate research techniques, which are often not so much a statement of relationship between a hypothesis and data, as an attempt to rephrase old propositions in the new jargon, or to describe how techniques were applied to data selected to fit the technique.

Social acts are now described as events that order themselves through a "tendency to self-maintenance." Social systems are likened to solar systems, and social roles are said to "bring out" possibilities of behavior which fit the "needs and tolerances of the particular patterned structure." In this model of society, attitudes "gear" and "mesh" because "patterned structure" and "integrative patterns . . . bring it about that all the statuses of the society intermesh like a series of interlocking wheels." Communication of expressive symbols is not studied as an enactment of social order, but as a process of cathexis in which meanings are "attached" to objects and persons.

In other analogies, men are likened to dogs, rats, chickens, or pigeons, and we are told that what is true of pigeons in cages is also true of men in society, or, among the more sophisticated technicians, that if men were held like pigeons in a cage then what is true of the behavior of pigeons would be true of men. Such wild analogical leaps from animals and machines to men are often justified on the basis of technique alone. For if (so the argument runs) a certain technique for ordering data about pigeons is "scientific," then the same technique applied to men in society will yield studies of similar "scientific" value. How a study is done, not . . .

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