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Robert Merton July 4, 1910 – February 23, 2003 Biographical Background Information Birth name: Meyer R. Schkolnick Born in Philadelphia to working class Jewish Eastern European immigrant parents While growing up in Philadelphia in high school, he became a frequent visitor of the nearby Andrew Carnegie Library, The Academy of Music, Central Library, and the Museum of the Arts Best known for coining the phrases “self-fulfilling prophecy,” “role model,” and “unintended consequences” It is a popular misconception that Merton was a student of Talcott Parsons, who was actually only a junior member of his dissertation committee along with Carle Zimmerman, George Sarton, and Pitirim Sorokin – a man who greatly influenced Merton His sociological career began at Temple University studying with George E. Simpson and then under Pitrim A. Sorokin at Harvard Dissertation was on the social history of the scientific development in England in the seventeenth-century Merton was married twice, including once to fellow sociologist Harriet Zuckerman He had one son and two daughters, including Robert C. Merton, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in economics Honors and Recognition Taught at Harvard then became a professor and chairman of the Department of Sociology at Tulane University (1939) 1941- joined the faculty of Columbia University and became a Giddings Professor of Sociology (1963) 1974 - achieved the highest rank at Columbia University as a University Professor and later a Special Service Professor upon his retirement (1979) One of the first sociologists elected to the National Academy of Sciences First American sociologist elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (through which he received a Parsons Prize), the National Academy of Education, and Academica Europaea 1961 – received a Guggenheim fellowship 1983-88 – the first sociologist to be named a MacArthur Fellow Was awarded with honorary degrees from over twenty institutions including Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Chicaco, and many universities abroad 1994 – received the U.S. National Medal of Science as the first sociologist to receive the award Major Theories Theories of the middle range Clarifying functional analysis “fills in the blanks” between empiricism and all-inclusive theory Influenced by Weber and Durkheim Functionalism is centralized in interpreting data by consequences for larger structures Society is analyzed with reference to cultural and social structures in regard to how well or badly they are integrated Influenced by Durkheim and Parsons Dysfunctions His work implies that all institutions are inherently good for society, emphasizing the importance and existence of dysfunctions Approaches conflict theory He states that we can only explain and discover alternatives to disfunction if we recognize the disfunctional aspects of institutions Major Theories (continued) Manifest and latent functions Manifest functions are expected or observed consequences Latent functions are those that are not recognized or intended Merton sees attention to latent functions as increasing understanding of greater society in going beyond individuals’ motivation Says that dysfunctions can also be manifest or latent Functional alternatives Like other functionalists, believes that societies must have certain characteristics to ensure survival Merton emphasizes that other institutions are also able to fulfill the same functions This is important because sociologists have become aware to the similarities between functions of different institutions and “reduces the tendency of functionalism to imply approval of the status quo” Major Theory: Deviance Typology Used the term anomie (from Durkheim) to mean “A discontinuity between cultural goals and the legitimate means available for reaching them.” Ritualism is the acceptance of the means but the forfeit of the goals Retreatism is the rejection of both the means and the goals Rebellion is a combination of rejection of societal goals and means and a substitution of other goals and means. Innovation and Ritualism are the pure cases of anomie as Merton defined it because in both cases there is a discontinuity between goals and means. Image: Ryan Cragun 2005 (from Wikipedia) Major Theory: Sociology of Science Sociology of science Developed the Merton Thesis which explains causes of the scientific revolution and the Mertonian norms of science, identified commonly by the acronym “CUDOS” CUDOS is a set of ideas that are, in Merton’s view, the goals and methods of science, including: Communalism - common ownership of scientific discoveries, according to which scientists give up intellectual property rights in exchange for recognition and esteem Universalism - according to which claims to truth are evaluated in terms of universal or impersonal criteria, and not on factors such as ethnicity, status, gender, or faith Disinterestedness - according to which scientists are rewarded for acting in ways that outwardly appear to be selfless Organized Skepticism - all ideas must be thoroughly tested and be made subject to community scrutiny Merton’s Publications Social Theory and Social Structure (1949) The Sociology of Science (1973) Sociological Ambivalence (1976) On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandea Postscript (1985) The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science (2004) Manifest and Latent Functions (1957) Robert K. Merton Distinguishing Manifest and Latent Functions there has often been confusion between conscious motivations for social behavior and its objective consequences difference between motives and functions manifest functions: those objective consequences for a specified unit (person, subgroup, social or cultural system) which contribute to its adjustment or adaptation and were so intended latent functions: unintended and unrecognized consequences Heuristic Purposes of the Distinction clarifies the analysis of seemingly irrational data distinction aids the interpretation of social practices which persist even though their manifest purpose is not achieved when group behavior does not attain its supposed purpose, there is an inclination to attribute its occurrence to lack of intelligence, innocence, etc • Hopi rain dance does not produce rainfall, it can be labeled as superstitious and the Hopi people viewed as primitive concept of latent functions extends beyond whether or not behavior attained its purpose directs attention towards individual personalities involved in behavior, and the persistence and continuity of larger group • the Hopi rain dance ceremonial has non-purposed functions reinforce group identity Directs Attention to Theoretically Fruitful Fields of Inquiry confinement sociologist will be concerned with determining whether a practice instituted for a particular purpose does, in fact, achieve this purpose confinement to study of manifest functions to study of latent functions sociologist will examine the familiar (or planned) social practice to determine the latent, unrecognized, functions • distinctive intellectual contributions Impact of Merton’s Theory The discovery latent functions represents significant increments in sociological knowledge findings concerning latent functions represent a greater increment in knowledge than findings concerning manifest functions, because they describe practices and beliefs which are not common knowledge Precludes the substitution of naïve moral judgments for sociological analysis moral evaluations in society are usually in terms of the manifest consequences of a practice or a code analysis is terms of latent functions, then, often run counter to the prevailing moral evaluations proceeding from the functional Recommendation that we should ordinarily expect persistent social patterns and social structures to perform positive functions which are at the time not adequately fulfilled by other existing patterns and structures. The “publicly criticized organization” is, under present conditions, satisfying basic latent functions On Sociological Theories of the Middle Range What does it mean? Socialogical Theory refers to logically interconnected sets of propositions from which empirical uniformities can be derived. Theories of the middle range-theories that lie between the minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance during day-to-day research and the all-inclusive systematic efforts to develop a unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behavior, social organization, and social change Cont’d. Middle Range Theory is principally used in sociology to guide empirical inquiry Each theory is more than an empirical generalization-an isolated proposition summarizing observed uniformities of relationships between two or more variables Role-Set Theory Begins with the concept that each social status involves not a single associated role, but an array of roles. Ex. UNC medical student plays not only the role of student vis-à-vis the correlative status of his teachers but also an array of other roles relating diversely to other in the system: other students, physicians, nurses, Duke students, social workers, medical technicians, and the like. Cont’d. Role-Set raises the general but definite problem of identifying the social mechanisms Illustrates another aspect of sociological theories of the middle range. Frequently consistent with a variety of so-called systems of sociological theory: Marxist Theory, functional analysis, social behaviorism, Sorokin’s integral sociology, and Parson’s s theory of action Cont’d. There is always a potential for differing expectations among those in a role set as to what is appropriate conduct for a statusoccupant The basic source of this potential for conflict is found in the structural fact that the other members of a role-set are apt to hold various social positions differing from those of the status-occupant in question. Cont’d. The assumed structural basis for the potential disturbance of a role-set gives rise to a double question: Which social mechanisms, if any, operate to counteract the theoretically assumed instability of role-sets and, correlatively, under which circumstances do these social mechanisms fail to operate, with resulting inefficiency, confusion, and conflict? Total Systems of Sociological Theory Cont’d. Not enough preparatory work has been done to formulate a general sociological theory broad enough to encompass the vast ranges of precisely observed details of social behavior, organization, and change and fruitful enough to direct the attention of research workers to a flow of problems for empirical research. Early sociology grew up in an intellectual atmosphere in which vastly comprehensive systems of philosophy were being introduced on all sides. Cont’d. Attempts to create total systems of sociology is a goal that is often based on one or more misconception of the sciences Cont’d. 1. 2. 3. The first misinterpretation assumes that systems of thought can be effectively developed before a great mass of basic observations has been accumulated The second misinterpretation about the physical sciences rest on a mistaken assumption of historical contemporaneity- that all cultural products existing at the same moment have the same degree of maturity The third misconception is sociologist sometimes misread the actual state of theory in the physical sciences Utilitarian Pressures for Total Systems of Sociology The conviction among some sociologist that we must, here and now, achieve a grand theoretical system not only results from a misplaced comparison with the physical sciences, it is also a response to the ambiguous position of sociology in the contemporary society. The misplaced masochism of the social scientist and the inadvertent sadism of the public both result from the failure to remember that social science, like all science, is continually developing and that there is no providential dispensation providing that at any given moment it will adequate to the entire array of problems confronting men. Cont’d. The urgent of immensity of a practical social problem does not insure its immediate solution Necessity is only the mother of invention; socially accumulated knowledge is its father Total Systems of Theory and Theories of the Middle Range Cont’d. Our major tasks today is to develop theories applicable to limited conceptual rangestheories, for example, deviant behavior, the unanticipated consequences of purposive action, social perception, reference groups, social control, the interdependence of social institutions – rather than to seek immediately the total conceptual structure that is adequate to derive these and other theories of the middle range. Cont’d. 1. 2. If sociological theory is to advance significantly, it must proceed on these interconnected planes By developing special theories from which to derive hypothesis that can be empirically investigated By evolving, not suddenly revealing, a progressive more general conceptual scheme that is adequate to consolidate groups of special theories Theories of the middle ranges hold the largest promise. Social Structure and Anomie (1938) Measure of “structural constraints on the ability to obtain socially valued goods, such as wealth, shape the possible range of individual responses.” Cultural Goals Institutional Norms …cont. Cultural and Institutions societies governed in some way – HOW governed (institutions, folkways, etc.) determines integration and cultural values Anomie – “normalness” Demoralization (deinstitutationalization) – two parts of social group not highly integrated All America and success… Deviant Behavior Social strata – greatest pressure on lowest Occupational opportunities largely confined to manual labor Because NO realistic out, cause for deviant behavior Bigger cause: cultural emphasis and social structure inconsistencies (1) Incentives for success (2) Limited mobility towards goal Typology of modes of individual adaptation Modes of Adaptation Cultural goals Institutionalized means I. Conformity + + II. Innovation + - Ritualism - + IV. Retreatism - - V. Rebellion +/- +/- III. + = acceptance - = rejection +/- = rejection of current values, replacement with others CONFORMITY Social order is maintained because modal behavior of members represent the cultural patterns, even if secularly changing Behavior basic values society Society does NOT exist if no “deposit of values shared by interacting individuals Most common and widely diffused Keeps society “rolling” INNOVATION Emphasis on success-goal wealth and power “occurs when the individual has assimilated the cultural emphasis upon the goal without equally internalizing the institutional norms governing ways and means for its attainment” Drives both: business-like striving one side of mores and sharp practices beyond the mores RITUALISM Scaling down/abandoning cultural goals for personal aspirations Although one attempts to not have cultural influences, they abide by institutional norms Not generally considered to represent a social problem Fairly frequent because largely dependent upon one’s achievements Ritualist: familiar and instructive Ex: “I’m satisfied with what I’ve got,” “Don’t aim high and you won’t be disappointed” …cont. RITUALISM Private escape Able to avoid dangers and frustrations of cultural norms Hold on to safe routines and institutional norms Lower-Middle Class Parents exert pressure to children about moral mandates of society Upward social mobility not easy to obtain RETREATISM Least common “in the society but not of it” Ex: outcasts, vagabonds, chronic drunkards, drug addicts, etc. Individuals have been assimilated by standards of both cultural goals and institution not accessible individual is shut off Escape mechanisms: Defeatism, quietism, resignation …cont. RETREATISM Solution for deviant person: abandon both goals and means and become asocialized. Condemned because “non-productive liability” Positive side – minimal frustrations while seeking rewards Negative – socially disinherited Adaptations isolated are largely private and REBELLION Collective adaptation Presupposes alienation from reigning goals and standards Ressentiment vs. Rebellion (1) hate, envy, hostility (2) powerlessness to express feelings (3) continual re-experiencing hostility …cont. REBELLION Rebellion Involves genuine transvaluation Experience of frustration leads to full denunciation of previously prized values Ex: grapes.. Key difference: ressentment condemns the object being craved; rebellion condemns craving More likely to occur if: Institutional system is a barrier to satisfaction goals. Goal: to stay a part of society, but transition between social groups …cont. REBELLION Myths: source of frustration Conservative counter-myth – not in basic structure of society Conservative myth – “nature of things,” any society Rebellion and Conservativism work together – move toward/away from adaptation Rising class, not depressed class. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS What is considered deviant behavior today? Are there similarities between the 1930s and the present? If there are differences, what made them change?