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SOCIAL THEORY and the Sociological Discipline(s) - page 22 / 44





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21 ESA Social Theory Conference, Innsbruck, September 11-13, 2008

Joachim Fischer

Dresden, Germany

Figurations of the Third. Consideration of an Innovation in Social Theory

All humanities and social sciences (since they appear as a specific group of academic disciplines) require a social theory (or theory of intersubjectivity) as a key theory epistemologically as well as ontologically. Sociology as a key discipline of this group of sciences offers such a social theory. The relevance of the






contingency”) distincts humanities and social sciences from other disciplines: the natural science (approaching its “object” (nature) in a subject-object-relationship), the

and ontological innovation at the basis of social theory: 1. The argument of formal communication in language: By a merely dyadic theory of intersubjectivity the entire system of personal pronouns (as a core of communication roles of every language) could not made accessible (N. Elias) 2. The material argument of family or triangulation: Human socialisation is only possible and completed by “triangulation” (internalization of the third perspective) (Freud, Lacan etc.) 3. The argument of transition from interaction to institution: The social theory needs the figure of the personal Third in order to reconstruct the phenomenon

of “institution” or “system” (Berger/Luckmann, Z. Baumann)








relationship of subjectivity) and theology (approach within the relevation of the extramundane Third). The well elaborated social theory of the “Other” (“Verstehen”, “Anerkennung”) is accompanied by the turn to the “Third” - the mundane “Third” - within different disciplines of the humanities and social sciences (especially linguistics, psychology, literary studies, sociology). Thus my paper concentrates on distinguishing and systematizing four arguments, which push forward the turn to the Third as a methodological

4. The argument concerning the richness of the Third: Literature tells that every socio-cultural world already configurates itself in a lot of structures (translator, messenger, rival, trickster, mediator, judge, scapegoat, coalition, “the real winner”, agent, divide et impera, parasite, majority/minority), which neither cannot be explained by a merely dyadic interaction nor need a fourth (party/person). (G. Simmel, Th. Caplow).

If these four arguments, which cannot be reduced to each other, are able to establish the figure of the mundane Third or “tertiary” (“Tertiarität”) in the basic social theory, one can draw consequences for the methodical and ontological innovation of the humanities and the social sciences. By this basical operation social theory can keep together this group of sciences in a better way than before.

Stefan Fornos Klein

Sao Paolo, Brazil

Specifically for my part I turn to this question amid sociology of education, in relation to which, at least in

The concept of critique among the contemporaneous sociological debate

The main issue of the hereby-proposed paper is to address myself to the possibility and relevance of continuously propagating social theory among the contemporaneous sociological research, concentrating on one major topic. Although nowadays the viewpoint that has been formerly known as critical social theory is uttermost less valued in this debate, I shall present arguments for maintaining a critical standpoint in face of the recent theoretical developments. It goes without saying that it is not an intention of such an approach to merely stick to previously elaborated assumptions but besides to question some of their postulates in as far as this seems significant.







themselves leaving a great part of the debate to economists, psychologists and pedagogues. Without inquiring about whether their contribution is important, it is crucial to stress that a critical sociological perspective is essential to this contest and shall, therefore, not be forfeited. To illustrate this point I aim at focusing on methodological issues among the interpretation of more recent changes happening throughout higher education and claim in favor of its treatment from a dialectical stance, thereby centering attention on the contradictions inherent to a large part of these processes.

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