Radical Sociology

By J. David Colfax; Jack L. Roach | Go to book overview

(9)
Social Reality and Consciousness *

RICHARD LICHTMAN

1.1. The uniqueness of social inquiry lies in the fact that while physical theory is not itself an instance of physics, social theorizing is itself a social fact. The inquirer is a social being reflecting on some aspect of social reality. Since the inquiring subject is generically identical with the object of inquiry, the enterprise of social theorizing is self-referential. The social inquirer discovers his own nature in the object of inquiry; he discovers the nature of his object in reflecting upon himself.

1.2. Human beings are social and conscious prior to any explicit inquiry which is directed toward them. They have their view of the world and of themselves as social beings at a level of ordinary practical understanding embodied in social institutions. Human beings define themselves as human as part of the very process through which they achieve humanity. Human beings cannot become human without acquiring some view of what it is to be human—without a view of time and space, of history and society, of the distinctions and connections among men and women, superior and subordinate, labor and leisure, science, art, religion, given reality and unfulfilled ideal. We shall refer to this

____________________
*
This work is not an essay and should not be read as such. These reflections are literally pages from a philosophical notebook. They constitute a selection of skeletal themes for a work in progress. If the reader finds these remarks inchoate, his impression is correct. I am simply taking advantage of the opportunity afforded me by the editors to share a developing body of thought with others who are critical of contemporary academic social science. We on the left need to break with standard patterns of communication and publication if we are to offer and receive constructive criticism to the fullest degree. Another version of these reflections, which omits the first part of this paper and expands the second part, appears in the Berkeley Journal of Sociology (1970). It contains an analysis, omitted here, of The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1966).

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