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York University
PHIL 2050

The text “Invitation to Sociology,” written by Peter L. Berger explores a sociological approach as he says that there are various levels of reality which allow us to see through social structures in context to the ideas of society and social problem. Berger looks at Sociology in many ways however to explain society, his ideas of society in man and man in society will be discussed. John Stuart Mills, has written “On Liberty,” in which he explains the value of liberty, through a utilitarian approach. “On liberty” is about man and society and about giving humans full freedom, so they can make their own decisions and expand themselves in the vast amount of complicated situations. These texts by Berger and Mills have been analyzed and two central issues; including the control of society over the individual and the liberation of the individual will be highly focused on. To begin with Mills says that people do not rule themselves, and those with powers, will rule those without power. Mill writes about a “concept of a tyranny of the majority” and continues saying that the power of public opinion is probably more stifling to the individuality of people, than any law could be (Mills, 1859). According to him there must be protection for people against public opinions, and the tendency of our society to impose its values on others. As Mills states, the imposition of public opinions on individuals is not pondered upon much amongst people and when it is, the focus is more on what the public opinion should be rather than the fact that public opinions shouldn’t be imposed on anyone (Mills, 1859). There is often an argument that society can interfere with individual liberty in order to protect that individual. Mills however argues that saying a certain law or societal interference, is for an individual's own good or welfare, is not reason enough to justify public opinion as a coercive force and coercion is only acceptable when an individual is a threat to others (Mills, 1859). To argue with an individual about his/her actions is fine but to force something upon them is not. Mill writes, "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." (Mills, 1859, p. 13) Mills divides human liberty into three categories including, the domain of conscience and liberty of individual thought and opinion, planning one's own life, and the liberty of tastes and pursuits and the liberty to unite with other consenting individuals for any purpose that does not harm others (Mills, 1859). These liberties reflect the idea that true freedom means that one pursues their own good in a way that they desire as long as it does not prevent others from doing the same and oppose societies idea of conformity (Mills, 1859). Mills says “We have a right, also, in various ways, to act upon our unfavorable opinion of any one, not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours. We are not bound, for example, to seek his society; we have a right to avoid it (though not to parade the avoidance), for we have a right to choose the society most acceptable to us.” (Mills, 1859, p. 71). Individuality is essential to the growth of a person and although people should be trained as children to gain knowledge, as adults they should have the liberty to re think about it and apply it to personal experiences. If we are not making choices, we are not putting full use to us being human and as Mill says, "One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam engine has character.” (Mills, 1859, p. 73). Mills discusses his “harm principle” which is that actions can only be punished when they harm others and realizes that our actions affect those in society. Mill gives examples of unjust violations of freedom such as the banning of alcohol, the banning of recreation on the Sabbath, and the persecution of Mormons for polygamy. People can be preached against activities but there shouldn’t be any sort of force (Mills, 1859). As one looks into the ideas of Berger, he explains social control by stating that no society can exist without it and it is used to bring members who may have gone astray, “back into line” (Berger, 1963, p. 68). He goes further to explain that in the older days social control meant physical violence and was necessary to maintain order in society. As an example Berger mentions that a state cannot exist without a police force or something along the lines of a violent force keeping people intact (Berger, 1963, p. 69). In continua
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