Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

He must "go out" and learn about them, just as he must to learn about nature. This remains true even though the social world, as a humanly produced reality, is potentially understandable in a way not possible in the case of the natural world.

It is important to keep in mind that the objectivity of the institutional world, however massive it may appear to the individual, is a humanly produced, constructed objectivity. The process by which the externalized products of human activity attain the character of objectivity is objectivation. The institutional world is objectivated human activity, and so is every single institution. In other words, despite the objectivity that marks the social world in human experience, it does not thereby acquire an ontological status apart from the human activity that produced it. The paradox that man is capable of producing a world that he then experiences as something other than a human product will concern us later on. At the moment, it is important to emphasize that the relationship between man, the producer, and the social world, his product, is and remains a dialectical one. That is, man (not, of course, in isolation but in his collectivities) and his social world interact with each other. The product acts back upon the producer. Externalization and objectivation are moments in a continuing dialectical process. The third moment in this process, which is internalization (by which the ohjectivated social world is retrojected into consciousness in the course of socialization), will occupy us in considerable detail later on. It is already possible, however, to see the fundamental relationship of these three dialectical moments in social reality. Each of them corresponds to an essential characterization of the social world. Society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social product. It may also already be evident than an analysis of the social world that leaves out any one of these three moments will be distortive. One may further add that only with the transmission of the social world to a new generation (that is, internalization as effectuated in socialization) does the fundamental social dialectic appear in its totality. To repeat, only with the appearance of a new generation can one properly speak of a social world.❖

Dorothy Smith ( 1926-) studied in the 1960s at the University of California at Berkeley, from which she received her Ph.D. in sociology ( 1963). A resident and citizen of Canada, Smith taught at Berkeley, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Essex before joining the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, Canada, in 1977. She is the author of numerous articles and books on such topics as the family, teaching, gender, suicide, and mental illness, in relation to which she has developed her feminist social theory. Recently, Smith's work has enjoyed renewed attention among general social theorists as well as feminist theorists. Her books include The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge ( 1990) and Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology ( 1987).


Knowing a Society from Within: A Woman's Standpoint

Dorothy Smith ( 1974)

Women's standpoint, as I am analyzing it here, discredits sociology's claim to constitute an objective knowledge independent of the sociologist's situation. Sociology's

____________________
Excerpt from "Womens Experience as a Radical Critique of Sociology", The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge ( Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990 [ 1974], pp. 21-24. Copyright 1990 by Dorothy E. Smith. Reprinted with the permission of Northeastern University Press.

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