Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Postmodern Thought

What is Postmodernism?
Postmodernism (Wikipedia)
What is Postmodernism? (Mary Klages)
What is Postmodernism? (Jay Lemke)
What is Postmodernism? (Larry Solomon)
etymology: post modern (John Unsworth)
Basic terms and definitions (Tim Spurgin)
Postmodern, Postmodernism, Postmodernity (Martin Irvine)
Postmodernism, Pedagogy, and Philosophy of Education (Clive Beck)
Postmodernism and its Critics (Shannon Weiss & Karla Wesley)

Statistics Primer for Sociology - Introduction

Statistics Primer for Sociology

Representation of Data

Descriptive Statistics

Correlation Statistics

Inferential Statistics


To understand God's thoughts we must study statistics; for these are the measure of his purpose.
(Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910)

Sociological research can have three distinct goals: description, explanation, and prediction. Description is always an important part of research, but most sociologists attempt to explain and predict what they observe. The three research methods most commonly used by sociologists are observational techniques, surveys, and experiments.
In each case, measurement is involved that yields a set of numbers, which are the findings, or data, produced by the research study. Sociologists and other scientists summarize data, find relationships between sets of data, and determine whether experimental manipulations have had an effect on some variable of interest.

The word statistics has two meanings: (1) the field that applies mathematical techniques to the organizing, summarizing, and interpreting of data, and (2) the actual mathematical techniques themselves. Knowledge of statistics has many practical benefits. Even a rudimentary knowledge of statistics will make you better able to evaluate statistical claims made by science reporters, weather forecasters, television advertisers, political candidates, government officials, and other persons who may use statistics in the information or arguments they present.


SociologyOnline | The site for all students of sociology and social theory

SociologyOnline | The site for all students of sociology and social theory: "'The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.'
John Dewey "

Monday, May 16, 2005


Functionalism Recap

Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics
George Ritzer, University of Maryland


Modern Theoretical Portraits of the Social World

Chapter Overview

Macro-Theoretical Portraits of the Social World

This chapter discusses macro-level theories that portray static portraits of the social world, including structural functionalism, conflict theory, system theory, and feminist understandings of stratification and gender oppression. These theories are static in the sense that they do not offer explanations of how society changes over time, but focus on how societal structures operate or function at a particular moment in history.

Structural Functionalism

Structural functionalism concentrates on the positive and negative functions of social structures. Societal functionalism is a particular type of structural functionalism that aims to explain the role of social structures and institutions in society, the relationship between these structures, and the manner in which these structures constrain the actions of individuals. According to structural functionalists, individuals have little to no control over the ways in which particular structures operate. Indeed, structural functionalists understand individuals in terms of social positions. For example, when structural functionalists discuss social stratification, they do not refer to individuals, but to the positions these individuals occupy. It is not individuals who are ranked, but positions that are ranked according to the degree to which they contribute to the survival of society. High-ranking positions offer high rewards that make them worth an individual’s time and effort to occupy. The structural functionalist account of stratification has been criticized on the grounds that there must be other ways to motivate individuals to occupy particular positions and perform certain tasks without such a disparate system of rewards.

Talcott Parsons’s Action System

Talcott Parsons’s version of structural functionalism is perhaps the best known. According to Parsons, four functional imperatives are embedded in all systems of action: adaptation, goal attainment, integration, and latency (also known as pattern maintenance). Adaptation refers to the fact that a system must adjust or cope with its external environment, particularly when this environment is deemed threatening. In order for a system to function effectively, it must first define the goals it hopes to achieve. Parsons called this functional imperative goal attainment. Integration is also important to a system, because it needs to regulate the interrelationship of its component parts. Finally, a system needs to furnish, maintain, and renew motivation for individual participation, including the cultural patterns that create and sustain this motivation. Parsons referred to these functions as latency and pattern maintenance. Parsons further differentiated between four types of action systems: the cultural, the social, the personality, and the behavioral organism. Each of these systems performs a specific functional imperative. The behavioral organism takes care of adaptation, the personality performs goal attainment, the social controls integration, and the cultural is responsible for the latency function.

Robert Merton’s Middle Range Theory

Robert Merton expanded Parsons’s understanding of structural functionalism by explaining not only the function of social structures, but also their dysfunctions, nonfunctions, and net balances. Merton’s theory of structural functionalism has been called "middle range" because he moved away from trying to analyze society as a whole toward studying different levels of the social world such as organizations and groups. Merton also introduced the concepts of manifest and latent functions — referring, respectively, to intended and unintended consequences. According to Merton, functions can also be characterized as displaying unanticipated consequences.

Ralf Dahrendorf’s Conflict Theory

While structural functionalists tend to emphasize the orderliness and stability of society, conflict theorists like Ralf Dahrendorf characterize society as being in a state of flux and dissension. According to conflict theorists, coercion holds society together, not norms and value. Dahrendorf focused on the role of authority in society, which he viewed as involving the superordination and subordination of groups occupying particular positions within what he called imperatively coordinated associations. Groups within a given association are defined according to their specific interests. These interest groups have the potential to turn into conflict groups, and their actions can lead to changes in social structures.

Nicklas Luhmann’s System Theory

Nicklas Luhmann’s system theory combines aspects of Parsons’s structural functionalism with cognitive biology and cybernetics. According to Luhmann, a distinction can be drawn between a system and its environment. A system develops relational subsystems to simplify the complexity of an environment. This process of simplification involves making choices that are contingent and entail risk. Luhmann focused on autopoietic systems that are characterized by the fact that (1) they produce the elements from which they are constituted; (2) they are self-organizing in terms of boundaries and internal structures; (3) they are self-referential; and (4) they are closed. In order for a system to deal with the complexity of its ever-changing environment, it engages in a process of differentiation, or an effort to copy the difference between itself and its environment. This in turn engenders an increasing complexity of the system itself. Luhmann distinguished between four types of differentiation: segmentary, stratificatory, center-periphery, and functional. Functional differentiation is the most complex; it is the form of differentiation that dominates contemporary society. Although functional differentiation provides a system with wider flexibility, it also has the potential to break the system down if it becomes too complex. Systems use distinct codes, or languages, to set elements that belong to it apart from those that do not.


Merton's Midrange, Latent, Metho v. theo

ROBERT MERTON: Social Theory and Social Structure

Chapter 2: Sociological Theories of the Middle Range

There are two tendencies in sociological inquiry which Merton finds unacceptable and attempts to criticize. One is radical or narrow empiricism which stresses solely on the collection of data without any attention to a theory. The other is the abstract theorizing of scholars who are engaged in the attempt to construct a total theoretical system covering all aspects of social life (e.g. Parsons). Merton proposes sociological theories of the middle range as a solution to the two extreme positions. According to Merton, middle range theory starts its theorizing with delimited aspects of social phenomena rather than with a broad, abstract entity such as society or social system. Middle range theories may seem to be similar to general, total theories in the sense that they also involve abstractions. However, unlike those in the general theories, the abstractions in theories of the middle range are firmly backed up by observed data. Middle range theories have to be constructed with reference to phenomena that are observable in order to generate an array of theoretical problems as well as to be incorporated in propositions that permit empirical testing (39). The examples of middle range theories are a theory of reference groups, of social mobility, of role-conflict, of the formation of social norms, etc. Merton's objective in proposing the notion of middle range theory can be summarized by his statement that:

'Our major task today is to develop special theories applicable to limited conceptual ranges -- theories, for example, of deviant behavior, the unanticipated consequences of purposive action, social perception, reference groups, social control, the interdependence of social institutions -- rather than to seek the total conceptual structure that is adequate to derive these and other theories of the middle range' (51).

'Sociological theory, if it is to advance significantly, must proceed on these interconnected planes: 1. by developing special theories from which to derive hypotheses that can be empirically investigated and 2. by evolving a progressively more general conceptual scheme that is adequate to consolidate groups of special theories' (51).

Note: 1. see summary of pros and cons of middle range theory on p. 68 2. see definition and description of paradigm on p. 69-72

Chapter 3: Manifest and Latent Functions

In this chapter, Merton presents a review of chief concepts and modes of reasoning of functional theory. His aim is to improve functional analysis by pointing out its major problems and finding the way to remedy them. According to Merton, all variations of functional analysis always involve two major confusions. One is the tendency to confine observation merely to the contributions of items or practices to the social or cultural system in which they are implicated. The other is the tendency to confuse the subjective category of motive with the objective category of function. To solve these two conceptual confusions, Merton introduces two, new analytical concepts - i.e. the notion of multiple consequences and a new balance of an aggregate consequences to deal with the first problem, and the notion of manifest and latent functions to tackle the second (see summary on p. 105).

1. The Problem of an Overly Positive Interpretation The common tendency among functional analysts to advocate merely the positive contribution of certain items and practices to a social system is based on three fundamental postulates which Merton is to criticize. These three postulates are:
1. The postulate of functional unity of society, or the assumption that in any social system, there exists a certain kind of unity or solidarity which will 'benefit every single member.' Thus, in analyzing certain items or practices, such are always interpreted in references to this unity.
Merton argues against this assumption, saying that one cannot assume 'full' integration of all societies since even a mere institution can tell that different societies do not have the same kind and degree of integration. However, to establish a statement concerning different kinds and a range of degrees of integration, one has to rely mainly on empirical findings, not on intuition.
Finally Merton concludes that in regard to issue of functional unity, functional analysts have to specify which and what kind of social unit/system they are going to analyze. The reason is different social units always have different degrees of integration, and hence the manner in which certain cultural items or practices contribute to differing social units may not be similar. Besides, such items of culture must be recognized to have multiple consequences, some of them functional and others, perhaps, dysfunctional.
2. The postulate of universal functionalism (84), or the assertion that all persisting social and cultural forms are inevitably functional or having a mere positive function to a society (84). Against this postulate, Merton contends that we need to look for the negative or dysfunctional side as well as functional consequences of these forms. And if the sociological research is to have bearing on social technology, sociologists have to be able to assess the net balance of functional consequences, i.e. the sum between the benefit and disadvantage that a certain cultural or social form brings about.
3. The postulate of indispensability, which contains two propositions, namely:
3.1 the indispensability of certain functions, or the assertions that there are certain functions which are indispensable in the sense that unless they are performed, the society will not persist (87). This assertion sets forth a concept of functional prerequisites, or preconditions functionally necessary for a society.
3.2 the indispensability of existing social institutions and cultural forms, or the assertion that the presence of existing cultural or social forms implies their indispensability to a society.
Like his earlier criticism of the first two postulates, the two assertions concerning the postulate of indispensability is refuted by Merton's concept of multiple consequences (i.e. functional and dysfunctional), and the new balance of aggregate consequences.

2. The Confusion Between Subjective Dispositions and Objective Consequences
One of Merton's major contributions to the improvement of functional analysis is his distinction between manifest and latent functions. Merton states that such distinction is devised to preclude the confusion often found between conscious motivations for social behavior and its objective consequences (114). According to Merton, these two entities: motive and functions vary independently. One should not be confused the categories of subjective disposition with categories of generally unrecognized but objective functional consequences.
Manifest functions refer to the objective consequences contributing to the adjustment or adaptation of the system which are intended and recognized by participants in the system. Latent functions, on the other hand, refer to those consequences which are neither intended nor recognized. Merton further clarifies that unintended consequences can be seen as having three sorts of functions (or three ways that they can be related to a social system). These are functional (beneficial), dysfunctional (harmful), and non-functional (irrelevant).

Note: 1. see Merton's clarification of various meanings and usages of the term function which often cause conceptual confusion on p. 74-77.
2. see Merton's interesting discussion about how conservatism and Marxism can be seen as converging and diverging in regard to functional analysis. According to Merton, the logical structure of both conservatism and Marxism are similar in that such a structure is characterized by functional mode of reasoning. The difference between the two lies in their differing ideological content (see details in p. 91-96).

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Role of Language points to Mindfulness of Things Around You


Japan Glossary
As a young scholar, Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) concentrated on linguistic studies; the particular branch of kokugaku that he made his own was the recovery of the Japanese language. If one can sum up his attitude towards language it would be thus: Motoori believed that human beings should experience language directly, to understand the idea or thing in the word in an unmediated fashion. Ordinary Japanese (aohitogusa ) speaking their ordinary language use language in this direct way. Chinese writing gets in the way of this direct understanding of speech and the Chinese in general tend to be "murky" in their use of language. As a result, the use of language in Japan should take its model from the living, changing language of the ordinary people.

Ancient Japan
The Flowering of Japanese Literature

Japan Glossary
Mono no aware
In the middle of his life, he turned to historical and literary studies when he shifted his concentration to the Kojiki , which was the oldest history of Japan written in Japanese. He first turned to the Kojiki in order to translate it into "living" Japanese; he was the first to "discover" that the work was meant to be read in Japanese even though it was written in Chinese writing. From the Kojiki , he turned to the first collection of Japanese poems, the Manyoshu , to discover what is truly Japanese both in language and in sensibility. It is from this latter study that he derived his most famous concept, one that would greatly define Japanese culture in later centuries: mono no aware , "the sensitivity to things." Motoori wanted to show that the unique character of Japanese culture (and he considered Japanese culture to be the "head" of the world; other nations were the "body") was the capacity to experience the objective world in a direct and unmediated fashion, to understand sympathetically the objects and the natural world around one without resorting to language or other mediators. The Japanese could understand the world directly in identifying themselves with that world; the Japanese could use language to directly express that connection to the world. This, for Motoori, is the aesthetic which lies behind the poetry of the Manyoshu ; this certainly was the aesthetic that lay behind the haiku (17 syllable poems) revival of the Tokugawa period. The poetic and historical texts present the "whole of life," which has meaning because all of nature and life is animated by the "intentions" of the gods. People experienced this wholeness of life by encountering things (mono); these encounters "moved" or "touched" them—hence the unique Japanese character: "sensitivity to things" (mono no aware ).
Richard Hooker

ฉ1996, Richard Hooker

For information contact: Richard Hines
Updated 6-6-1999


Birth of Bushido

Hooker, World Civilization,

Yamaga Soko Perhaps the most important cultural application of Confucianism in Japan was the invention of bushido or "the way of the warrior," an invention of Yamaga Soko (1622-1685). Like Kumazawa, Yamaga was a ronin , a samurai without allegiance to any specific lord. Now the samurai class was a rough and illiterate class in medieval Japan; their job was simply to fight. But Tokugawa Japan was a period of domestic peace, so the samurai class found themselves with little to do. In addition, the Tokugawa regime, in an effort to guarantee peace, rigidly enforced class distinctions and made the samurai class an important class in this system. The purpose was to prevent the large-scale arming of commoners by individual lords trying to raise an army; if you make the warrior class an exclusive class with certain privileges (only the warrior class could bear arms) and if you don't allow entrance by non-warriors into that class, you can keep territorial armies at a reasonable size. These two developments—the creation of warriors as an exclusive and privileged class and the lack of any productive labor for these warriors to do—led to a redefinition of the samurai: their purpose, their character, and their ethical standards.

Both Kumazawa and Yamaga were deeply concerned about the constant inactivity of the samurai, and Yamaga went about defining what the samurai in times of peace should be doing with all that free time they found on their hands. The purpose of the samurai class according to Yamaga is to serve as a model for the rest of society; in School of Mind Neo-Confucianism it is not enough to understand moral behavior, one must put it into action for to be truly moral. The samurai would serve as a model of cultural, moral, and intellectual development; in particular, the samurai would exemplify a devotion to duties (giri ) and unswerving loyalty. The moral life of the samurai would center around the obligations he has willingly agreed to meet for his lord; his life would be one of temperance, self-sacrifice, high discipline, and fearlessness, particularly fearlessness in the face of death. In addition to these qualities, the samurai would cultivate intellectual, cultural, and political arts; the new role for the samurai, as Yamaga saw it, was to assume political and intellectual leadership. This new educated and politically savvy class would eventually tear down the Tokugawa bakufu and invent a new, centralized government around the figure of the emperor in the late nineteenth century. It is fitting that these samurai leading the Meiji Restoration and government also led the charge in adopting Western social and political models, for Yamaga Soko was one of the first Japanese intellectuals to call for the adoption of Western technology, a warning that went largely unheeded until Commodore Perry sailed up with his gunboats in 1853. The term, bushido would in later years be applied to Yamaga's writings on the role and character of the samurai, which he called shido (the way of the samurai) and bukyo (the warrior's creed).

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Bushido Through Various Historical Period

The samurai (or bushi) were the members of the military class, the Japanese warriors.
Samurai employed a range of weapons such as bows and arrows, spears and guns; but their most famous weapon and their symbol was the sword.

Samurai were supposed to lead their lives according to the ethic code of bushido ("the way of the warrior"). Strongly Confucian in nature, Bushido stressed concepts such as loyalty to one's master, self discipline and respectful, ethical behavior.

After a defeat, some samurai chose to commit ritual suicide (seppuku) by cutting their abdomen rather than being captured or dying a dishonorable death.

Below follows a short history of the Japanese warrior:

Heian Period (794-1185)

The samurai's importance and influence grew during the Heian Period, when powerful landowners hired private warriors for the protection of their properties. Towards the end of the Heian Period, two military clans, the Minamoto and Taira, had grown so powerful that they seized control over the country and fought wars for supremacy against each other.

Kamakura Period (1192-1333)

In 1185, the Minamoto defeated the Taira, and Minamoto Yoritomo established a new military government in Kamakura in 1192. As shogun, the highest military officer, he became the ruler of Japan.

Muromachi Period (1333 - 1573)

During the chaotic Era of Warring States (sengoku jidai, 1467-1573), Japan consisted of dozens of independent states which were constantly fighting each other. Consequently, the demand for samurai was very high. Between the wars, many samurai were working on farms. Many of the famous samurai movies by Kurosawa take place during this era.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573 - 1603)

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi reunited Japan, he started to introduce a rigid social caste system which was later completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu and his successors. Hideyoshi forced all samurai to decide between a life on the farm and a warrior life in castle towns. Furthermore, he forbade anyone but the samurai to arm themselves with a sword.

Edo Period (1603 - 1868)

According to the Edo Period's official hierarchy of social castes, the samurai stood at the top, followed by the farmers, artisans and merchants. Furthermore, there were hierarchies within each caste. All samurai were forced to live in castle towns and received income from their lords in form of rice. Masterless samurai were called ronin and caused minor troubles during the early Edo Period.

With the fall of Osaka Castle in 1615, the Tokugawa's last potential rival was eliminated, and relative peace prevailed in Japan for about 250 years. As a result, the importance of martial skills declined, and most samurai became bureaucrats, teachers or artists.

In 1868, Japan's feudal era came to an end, and the samurai class was abolished.

Any question, advice or opinion? Voice them in the forum!


Bushido Today


After the time of the samurai, Japan went through many changes. However, Bushido values could still be seen. During W.W.II, Japanese suicide pilots, known as kamikaze, looked to the samurai and Bushido for their inspiration. The word kamikaze means 'divine winds.' During the 11th century when the Mongols were trying to invade Japan a series of storms stopped their invasion. These were thought to be divine winds which were sent by the gods to save Japan. The Japanese again believed that these pilots were sent to save Japan. Kamikaze pilots had no fear of death. Their loyalty to their country made them willing to die.
After W.W.II, the Japanese army was disbanded. A new type of warrior evolved: those who wanted modernization and industrialization. Huge companies called zaibatsu formed. They were more like families rather than companies. Loyalty for one's company and company name was great. Even today within these companies workers have great respect for their bosses and for the heads of the companies. To be unjust or commit a misdeed would bring shame to their company and themselves. Today Japanese have a term, 'Business is War.'
Bushido values can still be seen today in Japan. The Japanese have the utmost respect and loyalty to their country, and they would not do anything to bring shame upon their family.
Today the two most popular religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism. Both were great influences on Bushido. Zen Buddhism "

What is Bushido?

What is Bushido?: "The final rationalization of Bushido thought occured during the Tokugawa period (17th century ff.), when Yamaga Soko (1622-85) equated the samurai with the Confucian 'superior man' and taught that his essential function was to exemplify virtue to the lower classes. Without disregarding the basic Confucian virtue, benevolence, Soko enphasized the second virtue, righteousness, which he interpreted as 'obligation' or 'duty'. This strict code of honour, affecting matters of life and death, demanded conscious choice and so fostered individual initiative while yet reasserting the obligations of loyalty and filial piety. Obedience to authority was stressed, but duty came first even if it entailed violation of statue law. In such an instance, the true samurai would prove his sincerity and expiate his crime against the government by subsequently taking his own life.
By mid-19th century, Bushido standards had become the general ideal, and the legal abolition of the samurai class in 1871 made Bushido even more the property of the entire nation. In the public educational system, with the emperor replacing the feudal lord as the object of loyalty and sacrifice, Bushido became the foundation of ethical training. As such, it contributed both to the rise of Japanese nationalism and to the strengthening of wartime civilian morale up to 1945. "

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