Classical Soc – November 30 – Lecture 11
- The Future of Democracy
o Sociology in hierarchy of sciences
o Nature of sociology
o Order (how’s it’s produced and maintained)
o Progress (what evolution means, how societies get better)
The Future of Democracy
- Revolution (about politics)
o Less poverty
You have fewer people living in poverty, and the distinctions between the rich
and poor are less clearly marked. Although there are rich people, they tend not
to have a status as a separate class that exists forever. It’s always fluctuating.
If people from the aristocracy want to go up the hierarchy, they have to
eliminate those above them.
o Middleclass property owners
Own a bit of property. If there were to be a revolution, that would be bad for
you because you have something to lose. In general, people who are
middleclass tend to be the least revolutionary of all classes.
Aristocrats are more revolutionary because they don’t care about
money and don’t have much property. They have nothing to lose.
The middleclass has enough money to care about keeping it, but not so much
that they start thinking about other things in life that they really want.
Strike against Revolution.
o Commercial habits
People who are in the markets buying, selling, trading are against revolutions
because they prefer predictability. This way they can plan for the future.
o Lack of Public Spirit.
Most people only care about their own little private worlds and so they don’t
get worked up in the great questions of politics and revoltutions. They don’t
work very hard to promote a revolution because they don’t really care.
You don’t really care about the public issues, you’re more concerned about
yourself and your small world.
- Why don’t ideas change very much? (The following list is about culture)
o People have very similar opinions.
When we’re all thinking similar thoughts, it’s rare that someone comes up with
We’re not truly individual; we’re unique, but we’re doing the same things. o Incremental innovations
In an aristocracy you can have radical innovation because one guy at the top has
a new idea, and that changes everything. He only has to convince a few more
people at the top, and everyone else follows.
In a democracy change isn’t so radical because a few elites can’t command
everyone to change. Everyone has to accept it and we all have to be convinced
one by one. That is more gradual, thus, it is not revolutionary.
o Domestic concerned
We’re all focused on our home life, so we don’t have time to think of
In a democratic society we’re just one little person in a big society. We think
that if everyone else is thinking one idea, they’re probably right, and so we just
tend to agree.
- The real threat that Toqueville is concerned about is not revolution, but NOT being able to
change: stagnation. (616). Democracy in any society will at times need to have great public
movements. But we’re often so comfortable in our position that we’re afraid to do that.
Everyone knows change needs to be implemented, but they don’t want to do it. The threat is
not constant revolution, but the inability to change themselves when the time comes
Everyone trying to be unique
- Democratic people tend to have an emotional desire for giving the central authority and
government a lot of power. Since democratic people want to think of everyone as equal, it
makes us very resentful of people who get special privileges. There’s a tendency in democracies
to try to take away special privileges, and give an abstract to a central government as opposed
to people. There’s a pressure to have a centralized government that will run people’s lives with
abstract, universal rules.
o Tocqueville was worried that this would lead to the idea that the central government
would be like parents: it will solve your problems. The idea that a government will give
you welfare if you don’t have a job, you go the state if you have problems. You don’t
rely so much on your personal connections. You give your children away to the
government for 7-8 hours a day in order to school them with a curriculum set by the
government. The government can regulate you in whatever way they wish. The state
can treat you like a child.
Ie. Trans-fat has become illegal in some states because it’s unhealthy; what, you
can’t decide whether or not you want to eat fast food?
Soft Despotism : don’t let yourself be turned into a child.
It’s not inevitable. There are factors which influence whether or not a
country is likely to succumb to this:
o Tradition of Freedom
If the people are more likely to participate anyways,
they are less likely to be controlled by the government.
o Violent Revolution
How did the country become democratic? If it was a
violent revolution, that country is much more likely to
have a stronger central authority because in the process of revolution the existing elites, which provide a buffer
between the central authority and the average person,
would probably be killed.
o Education Level
Of the country entering democracy. If they have a lower
education level, they’re less likely to develop secondary
associations (bowling clubs, dancing groups, political
groups). They don’t create them and instead give the
government more power, assuming that they know
what they’re doing.
The more wars a country participates in, the more the
government is centralized.
If you’re constantly feeling threatened as a country,
you’re more likely to be centralized.
- Stagnation is the inability to change when problems arise (the more centralization you have, the
more you may stagnate), but centralization is the gathering of the authority into one
Born in 1798, died in 1857
Person who came up with the term “sociology”
Original label or name for it was social physics
Lived through the revolutionary period in France. For Europe, the French
revolution was much more significant than the American revolution because it
happened in the heart of one of the most permanent regimes.
An order that had been around for thousands of years collapsed.
After the revolutionary generation, had a different perspective. Revolutionaries
killed everyone associated with the hierarchy. Napoleon came up, and he led a
series of wars throughout Europe (seen as a dictator).
The old order (based on aristocracy) was gone, but what the new one
would be was uncertain.
Compte asks where can we find a new sense of order in the chaos?
o Charles Fourier was very influential. Produced the science of
human character and arranged society so that everyone would
have a job that they loved. There would be no disorder in
society. You’d also be able to match couples based on their
personalities. This was cause happiness in society.
There were a few communes created in Texas where
people tried to live this theory out.
o Saint-Simon’s idea was that it’s important in order to fill the
void in society left by the decline of the aristocracy, to use a
religion of science led by the captains of Industry.
Compte uses the idea of having science as the center of
society. He thought that ideas drove history, not
underlying economics. - Sociology is the queen of all sciences and takes into account everything,
- Complex Sociology
Simple General - Specific
Astronomy Meteorology, Navigation
of planets etc.
Physics Mechanical Engineering, nuclear engineering,
Chemistry Chemical engineering, drugs
Biology Medicine, Agriculture
Sociology – Public Policy, Education, Counseling, Social Work, Criminology, Psychology
the laws that
brings order to
society and how
- These can all be better understood if you have an understanding of the laws of society.
- How do you have a theory of the laws of society?
o What is the task of sociology?
To provide a positive, scientific, understanding of society.
The easiest way to see this is by comparing it to alternative ways of
understanding society. The alternatives are:
Theological (why did Metaphysical (based in Positive (Scientific)
some god want it?) some account of the
nature of that thing)
Why does a rock fall? God wanted it to fall. It is the nature of heavy The law of gravity.
things to fall.
Why is there disease in Sin; divine punishment. It’s the nature of human Viruses and bacteria
the world? life to be brutal and exist.
short. Life is nasty.
Why are there wars? Divine retribution; It is Human nature is Depends on the level of
fun for Gods to have aggressive. social development. It’s
humans participate in not just a natural fact
war. that there’s inequality
or resource inequality-
all those become
excuses for justifying
social inequality (?) - Characteristics of positive understanding:
o Observation instead of saying that human nature is aggressive; we observe wars and
try to figure out the rules.
o Seeks rules not causes a formula or a regularity – if x and y occur, z will happen.
o Relative not absolute a scientific explanation is always relative to certain conditions.
- What are the objects of sociology?
o Social statics = order
How all the different parts of society coexist or interrelate with one another.
o Social dynamics = progress
What you study when you study change, evolution. The goal is to try to figure
out the laws or regularities that govern change or movements in society. Are
there stages? What order do they have?
- Means: How do you go about studying things?
o Observation you don’t just read about it, you have to go out and observe for
yourself. Compte however did not think that merely looking will give you answers, you
need to study with some theory.
Example. (82), if you have a theory about the differences between the US and
Canada. The theory is that the US is a country born in a revolution against a
government (anti-establishment revolution) that threw out a regime, and
Canada was formed against that revolution. In that theory the initial moments
of founding that country defined the differences between those nations going
forward. You go out and observe the theory: ie. The symbol is the cowbow and
mountie respectively. What does that mean? The cowboy is a lone ranger who
does what he needs to do to survive. The mountie is a symbol of the
o Experiment -> look at pathological cases and treat them as an experience to try to figure
out what would happen in a normal case.
Ie. If we look at detroit’s deteriorating situation, we can figure out what went
wrong there, and apply it to the rest of society,
o Comparison seeing whether or not the same causes lead to the same affects.
Ie. In the US, people with higher incomes vote for republican, people with lower
vote for democrats. This doesn’t apply to every state. Then you compare this
within states and you’ll figure out the regularities.
- How to study social order; How is social order produced and maintained?
o Individual; how do the qualities and properties of individuals lead to more or less social
Relative level of the affective versus rational
Affective = feelings; rational = intellect and mind
Each of us has a ratio of these. This is an individual quality, but as the
ratio changes, this affects society.