Understanding and explaining social reality
If natural science describes objects that do not need understanding, because they do not have freedom, then social sciences study the behavior of a person who must adhere to institutional rules. This means that social theories can not be built on the model of natural science, because they are targeted by social reality itself. German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) defined social behavior as motivated, socially conscious subjective activity. It can not be carried out outside of goals and values and observation in it is carried out as an understanding of symbols. This experience of understanding is not something arbitrary, because it is controlled by communication with the object, even if the object does not exist.
For example, it would be nice to ask Brutus directly why he killed Caesar, but this is no longer possible and therefore the interview in history is replaced by a lengthy and painstaking study of sources. However, this process is also carried out under the control of communicative rules.
Social actions are intentional and symbolic in the broad sense of the word. Among them, one can single out actions aimed at achieving power, wealth; implementation of institutional interests. But they can not be explained purely functional, as they are rooted in human nature, in cultural traditions, which act as conditions for understanding the meaning of actions. In activity, these intentions (meaning searches) are manifested as group expectations, behavior stereotypes, cultural patterns expressing the community's self-awareness.
Theories of social interaction
On the one hand, the interrelationships of people differ from the cause-effect relations between things and events in that they are meaningful. On the other hand, people are not always able to realize their goals and intentions. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are sometimes diametrically opposed approaches to describing social reality.
Bioheavistic, or functional, theory of social action relies primarily on facts.
Phenomenological understanding of an intentional action, based on a semantic interpretation, generally excludes both facts and theory.
The theory of interaction (interaction) is an intermediate construction between positivistic and hermeneutical programs. The system of norms of social behavior in this case acts as the basis of language communication. At the same time, linguistics uses the description of the rules for the use of language, and hermeneutics - the traditions that develop in culture. But the question rests on the docking analytical and hermeneutical programs. Sociology is guided by institutionalized values that fulfill the role of standards of action. This leads to a substantial modification of the behaviourist theory by supplementing it with normative and axiological disciplines. The resultant model is applied not to events or to semantic entities as such, but to institutionally significant norms which do not depend on the intentions of the subject, but, on the contrary, determine the subjective positing of meaning. Organizing the beginning of the behavior of isolated individuals is the unity of the system.
Thus, in the same way, two ways of revealing social connections are possible - on the basis of hermeneutics and the systems approach in the modern methodology of social cognition.
† The American sociologist, Talcott Parsons (1902-1979), defines the social system as the interconnection of institutions that integrate traditions and roles necessary for the existence of the socium. The cybernetic model turns out to be very effective for explaining the functioning of the norms: the institutes function as regulators that ensure the self-preservation of the system. Parsons distinguishes external and internal conditions of self-preservation and considers value parameters that are suitable for measurement to be especially important:
→ firstly, the degree of realizability of the goals set;
→ secondly, adaptability to extreme conditions;
→ Thirdly, the integration and stabilization of existing institutional norms and patterns.
† The logical foundations of the functionalist approach are developed by the German logician and philosopher of science Karl Hempel (1905-1997) and the American philosopher Ernest Nagel (1905-1985). Models, based on biological methods of behaviorism, are insufficient to describe society. Adapting to the environment does not explain the fact that the scale of historical life is determined by the interpretation of domination in a particular system. Values that determine people's behavior and are used for management are not given, and "are" and are discussed in the process of political activity, which makes them the subject of both objective explanation and intentional understanding.
In modern social theories, there is a desire for an analytical definition of the meaning of social action. However, this approach is suitable only for normative, but not for the empirical part of social disciplines, where one has to deal with such events, which are committed and perceived on the basis of values. Here we come to the model of social reality, once advanced by Wilhelm Dilthey: in the humanities, the subject is exploring an object that is itself a subject. Historians are dealing with objectifications of the spirit. So the question arises about the conditions for the possibility of intersubjective understanding.
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