The Analysis of Social Change Reconsidered: A Sociological Study

By J. A. Ponsioen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THEORIES EXPLAINING DYNAMICS OF INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES BY GENERAL LAWS OR REGULARITIES

In explaining changes in societies nobody would go so far as to argue that individuals never play a significant role in provoking or directing changes. History would not support this argument. Some theories, however, are concerned primarily with internal dynamics. The latter are then regarded as a quasi-automatic process, which stimulates, provokes or produces individual activities. Such theories do not, therefore, envisage society as a product of individuals. Many American authors reject this "mythical" view on society considering it to be something more than individual interactions and reactions. Others who agree with Durkheim that society possesses its own originality, will agree, too, that it may have its own internal dynamics which are imposed on its individual members.

Since Hegel, the purpose, meaning and direction of human history have been fascinating problems. Several sociologists, or students halfway between sociology, history and philosophy, have tried to study the dynamics of society with this question in mind. Some of them did so in a more historical way like Toynbee, and some in a more empirical way like Sorokin, others, such as Marx, chose a more intuitive way, formulating theoretical laws and choosing facts as examples. All three authors used that typical mixture of intuition and empirism, which is well known to-day as a phenomenological approach.


A. SOCIETY AS A DIALECTIC PROCESS

There are but few sociological theories which are so complicated and at the same time so oversimplified by the epigones as the Marxian theory.

1. The Philosophy of Marx . Marx was a disciple of Hegel, whose philosophical interest was in the field of history of culture -- culture being a self-realisation of the Spirit. The Spirit is not something outside or above

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