Social Solidarities: Theories, Identities, and Social Change

Social Solidarities: Theories, Identities, and Social Change

Social Solidarities: Theories, Identities, and Social Change

Social Solidarities: Theories, Identities, and Social Change

Synopsis

• What is the significance of social solidarity? • Has social change undermined the potential for people to come together and act coherently? • What can we learn from comparing the solidarities of families, communities and wider societies? Social solidarity is important in many areas of our lives, or at least in how we wish our lives to be. Family and kinship relationships, community life, trade union activity and the identity politics of new social movements are just some of the numerous ways in which social solidarity features in contemporary social arrangements. This book explores the ways in which people strive to come together and act as a coherent, unified force. It considers the arguments of those who claim that solidarity is increasingly fragile, and of those who are concerned to revitalise solidarities in our unsettled societies. The author shows how social change can be understood in the context of the limitations as well as the potential of the pursuit of solidarity, drawing on research findings on social relationships in families, communities, and the post-communist world. Written with undergraduate students and researchers in mind, Social Solidarities will be an invaluable text for those studying social theory, and family, community or comparative sociology.

Excerpt

Collectively, the social sciences contribute to a greater understanding of the dynamics of social life, as well as explanations for the workings of societies in general. Yet they are often not given due credit for this role and much writing has been devoted to why this should be the case. At the same time, we are living in an age in which the role of science in society is being re-evaluated. This has led to both a defence of science as the disinterested pursuit of knowledge and an attack on science as nothing more than an institutionalized assertion of faith with no greater claim to validity than mythology and folklore. These debates tend to generate more heat than light.

In the meantime the social sciences, in order to remain vibrant and relevant, will reflect the changing nature of these public debates. In so doing they provide mirrors upon which we can gaze in order to understand not only what we have been and what we are now, but to inform possibilities about what we might become. This is not simply about understanding the reasons people give for their actions in terms of the contexts in which they act and analysing the relations of cause and effect in the social, political and economic spheres, but also concerns the hopes, wishes and aspirations that people, in their different cultural ways, hold.

In any society that claims to have democratic aspirations, these hopes and wishes are not for the social scientist to prescribe. For this to happen it would mean that the social sciences were able to predict human behaviour with certainty. One theory and one method, applicable to all times and places, would be required for this purpose. The physical sciences do not live up to such stringent criteria, whilst the conditions in societies which provided for this outcome, were it even possible, would be intolerable. Why? Because a necessary condition of human freedom is the ability to have acted otherwise and thus to imagine and practice different ways of organizing societies and living together.

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