Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics

Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics

Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics

Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics

Excerpt

So much fact-finding sociological work has been done during the past few decades that the greatest need of contemporary sociology is not so much a further collection of facts as assimilating the existing data, presenting them in a sound, logical order, and rebuilding the framework of sociology as a systematic science. Otherwise we are in danger of being lost in a maze of intractable facts.

In a modest and imperfect way this work endeavors to meet this need. It attempts to present a system of sociology as a generalizing science of sociocultural phenomena possessing its own set of referential principles, its own meaningful-causal method, and its own special task among the other social and humanistic disciplines. The work unfolds a systematic theory of the structure and dynamics of social, cultural, and personality systems. It is little concerned with physical, biological, and other "presociological" problems; instead it confines itself to a study of sociocultural phenomena in their structural and dynamic aspects.

It remains faithful to the general principles of science, but it modifies these principles to fit the peculiar nature of sociocultural phenomena. Its meaningful-causal method, and the logic of sociocultural systems as contrasted with that of congeries, are examples of such a modification.

In harmony with the generalizing nature of sociology, the bulk of the empirical propositions consists of more or less generalized formulae of meaningful-causal uniformities (structural and dynamic), of the main types of sociocultural systems, or of the typical ways in which social, cultural, and personality systems emerge, function, change, and decline. A description of specific, nontypical cases is omitted. The concrete corroboration and illustration of the general formulae can be supplied by any intelligent teacher, student, or reader.

The generalizing propositions do not aim to be precise, but only to be approximately valid. At the present stage of our knowledge of the complex constellations of sociocultural systems and congeries absolute exactness is hardly attainable. When it is attempted, the result is ordinarily a misleading preciseness acquired at the expense of approximate validity.

The tentative generalizations are based upon the existing body of empirical evidence: experimental, semi-experimental, statistical, historical, and clinical, and on other observational data. For the sake of economy the work does not reproduce the concrete data and procedures of the enormous body of empirical studies utilized. Instead, it simply takes their results, critically analyzes and compares them, and derives from their totality what seems to be the soundest conclusion. A minimum of empirical evidence is given in the text; the bulk of it may be found in the works referred to in the footnotes. For the same reason -- that of economy-the literature cited in the footnotes is intentionally reduced to a minimum.

The analysis of each basic problem includes a critical survey of the existing theories in the field, followed by a constructive solution.

I am indebted to the Harvard Committee for Research in the Social Sciences for financial assistance in the preparation of the manuscript. To the American Book Company and E. P. Dutton & Co. I am indebted for permission to use some of the text matter and diagrams in my Social and Cultural Dynamics and Crisis . . .

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