Posted By Thomas Perez. October 3, 2011 at 8:01pm. Copyright 2011.
The Paradigm Shifting of Social Science’s
Anthropology is the field of study that deals with the History of Man. This history is divided in many categories. Such categories entail epochs, dispensations, as seen within some religious circles, and the notion of time. It is the study of humanity. It has origins in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. The term “anthropology”, is from the Greek anthro-pos, which means, “man”, and – which means, logia, “discourse” or “study,” and was first used in 1501 by German philosopher Magnus Hundt.
According to this particular field of study, anthropology’s basic concerns are “What defines Human Beings, or as they put it; Homo sapiens?”, “Who are the ancestors of modern Homo sapiens?”, “What are humans’ physical traits?”, “How do humans behave?”, “Why are there variations and differences among different groups of humans?”, “How has the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens influenced its social organization and culture?” and so forth.
When we study this particular field of academics, we can define and begin to understand ‘identity’, who we are as individuals in relation to other people, groups, sects, and culture. But rather than go into a deep analysis of the topic and its variations, I will categorize its underlying fields of importance.
The approach I’m going to take is to assume that the social sciences, as we know them; economics, philosophy, sociology, religion, and so on, are an ideology. Which has been generated and developed into advanced stages mainly in Western Europe and America over the last 300 years. It is no different to any other ideology, it is a set of idea’s about causation, about time, about space, about the purpose of life, and about why things change. It is like any other ideology. Another way of describing it, rather than the word ‘ideology’, is to say; it is a set of ‘Paradigms.’
Thomas Kuhn wrote a book called the ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’. It had a very simple idea, instead of science being the progress of truth, from a lesser truth to a greater truth, science was just a belief system which keep shifting. And thus he used the word ‘paradigm.’ The central meaning of the word paradigm is a set of interlocking ideas which define both the questions for the social sciences and also the kinds of answers that is most acceptable and understandable. In other words, why do we see the world in a new way? How does that, per se, happen?
Kuhn argued that it was not because the scientists were clever, better, or even got closer to the truth; it was just a huge shift in the paradigm, a shifting which often dictates the models in different disciplines. Therefore, a paradigm shift would be some thing like the movement between functionalism to structuralism, or to post-modernism. Kuhn looked at how this integrated to all the social science’s (this includes religious ideologies as well).
Another person who did the same sort of thing, is of course; ‘Foucault’, and he often used the word ‘Episteme’. Episteme is the system of knowing. It is where we get the word ‘Epistemology’. How do we know things, or why do we know and accept shifting in the paradigm? However, both Kuhn and Foucault re-nonce’s the task of answering such questions. Such questions like, ‘why Galileo saw the world differently’, or why do old men die off and young bucks arise; thus creating a new paradigm on which such is founded? A new paradigm is not through rational feeling, it is a change toward a feeling of what are the interesting questions. But neither Kuhn or Foucault tries to answer the questions. Howbeit, most post-modernists would think that such questions are ridiculous because they are so large and wide. But it is one that I was bought up to ask, and I find them quite interesting. Moreover, I believe that by answering such questions one can begin to understand the ‘why’. In other words; why did the Scientific Revolution occur, why did the Renaissance occur, why did the Reformation occur, why does a system die and a new set of ideologies thus spring?
To answer these questions, I apply them to the whole of the social sciences of Western civilization for past 300 year’s (1700’s – to the Present). However, upon this juncture, I must encourage the reader not to view this approach as deterministically or Marxist. Basically, I will present a system of inter-relationships between the ideologies and great paradigm shifts which are the results of changes between political, economic, technological, and religious shifts.
There have been in the last 300 years in the West, a set of huge changes in all aspects of Human life; which have reverberations in cosmology, epistemology, the paradigms, and so on; affecting not just society, but religious point of views as well. Such changes included:
The Scientific Revolution. Although this happened earlier as seen in the eastern cultures, it nevertheless; through western influence, greatly improved life.
Rationalism (Rationality). An interlinking between the west and the new world began to take shape, a new kind of rationalism (rationality) was thus conceived. When we think of the word ‘rationalism’, we think of Descartes, Newton, and others.
Liberty. The liberty of the individual. Some people date it to the English Civil War, some to the French Revolution, sometimes to the Revolution of England in 1688, which led to a new political world; which is summarized in the word ‘liberty’! The liberty of the individual!
The Industrial Revolution. From about 1750 and onward, a sudden tremendous burst in the ways of producing wealth on this planet was generated and discovered. Thus, the Industrial Revolution was born.
Individual Rights and Individualism. Often dated to the French Revolution of the late 18 century, there was a great shift in social structures – from a high archaical world to a egalitarian world – equality. And at the same time, interlinked with it, was the rise and concepts of individual rights and individualism.
Capitalism. In the 19th century there was a class revolution, which in one aspect, we can call it; ‘Capitalism’.
And all these, which when combined together; is what we call the modern world, new ways of knowledge, new ways of relating to one another, and so on. And with the ever growing expansion of the internet, there seems to be no stopping it, as the world gets smaller and smaller, AND less private.
For almost every shift in the paradigm, there was often cause for great concern. This great concern manifested itself through the writings of manifesto’s, articles of concern, books, and rebuttals. (I.e. Progress and Liberty by Montesquieu, Progress and Wealth – Adam Smith, Reaction and Equality – Tocqueville, & Evolution and Capitalism – Marx). Thus far we have seen what the outsiders have said about democracy and liberty. Let us now take a look at what others (within the free world – as we know it to be) said about the same topic.
In the case of Montesquieu:
Montesquieu is credited amongst the precursors of anthropology, including Herodotus and Tacitus, to be among the first to extend comparative methods of classification to the political forms in human societies. Indeed, the French political anthropologist Georges Balandier considered Montesquieu to be “the initiator of a scientific enterprise that for a time performed the role of cultural and social anthropology”.
Montesquieu’s most influential work divided French society into three classes (or trias politica, a term he coined): the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the commons. Montesquieu saw two types of governmental power existing: the sovereign and the administrative. The administrative powers were the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. These should be separate from and dependent upon each other so that the influence of any one power would not be able to exceed that of the other two, either singly or in combination. This was a radical idea because it completely eliminated the three Estates structure of the French Monarchy: the clergy, the aristocracy, and the people at large represented by the Estates-General, thereby erasing the last vestige of a feudalistic structure.
Likewise, there were three main forms of government, each supported by a social “principle”: monarchies (free governments headed by a hereditary figure, e.g. king, queen, emperor), which rely on the principle of honor; republics (free governments headed by popularly elected leaders), which rely on the principle of virtue; and despotisms (enslaved governments headed by dictators), which rely on fear. The free governments are dependent on fragile constitutional arrangements.
Montesquieu spent nearly twenty years researching and writing L’esprit des lois (The Spirit of the Laws), covering a wide range of topics in politics, the law, sociology, and anthropology and providing more than 3,000 citations. In this political treatise Montesquieu advocates constitutionalism and the separation of powers, the abolition of slavery, the preservation of civil liberties and the rule of law, and the idea that political and legal institutions ought to reflect the social and geographical character of each particular community.
In the case of Tocqueville:
De la démocratie en Amérique – aka ‘The Democracy of America’ (published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville on the democratic institutions of the United States in the 1830s and its strengths and weaknesses.
The primary focus of Democracy in America is an analysis of why republican representative democracy has succeeded in the United States while failing in so many other places. Tocqueville seeks to apply the functional aspects of democracy in America to what he sees as the failings of democracy in his native France. Tocqueville speculates on the future of democracy in the United States, discussing possible threats to democracy and possible dangers of democracy. These include his belief that democracy has a tendency to degenerate into “soft despotism” as well as the risk of developing a tyranny of the majority.
Tocqueville suggested that democracy was capable of breeding its own form of despotism, albeit one without the edges of Jacobin or Bonapartist dictatorship with which Europeans were all too familiar. The book spoke of “an immense protective power” which took all responsibility for everyone’s happiness-just so long as this power remained “sole agent and judge of it.” This power, Tocqueville wrote, would “resemble parental authority” but would try to keep people “in perpetual childhood” by relieving people “from all the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living.”
Such circumstances might arise, Tocqueville noted, if democracy’s progress was accompanied by demands for a leveling of social conditions. The danger was that an obsession with equality was very compatible with increasingly centralized state-power. Leveling social conditions, Tocqueville observed, usually involved using the state to subvert those intermediate associations that reflected social differences, but also limited government-power. Tocqueville’s vision of “soft-despotism” is thus one of arrangements that mutually corrupt citizens and the democratic state. Citizens vote for those politicians who promise to use the state to give them whatever they want. The political-class delivers, so long as citizens do whatever it says is necessary to provide for everyone’s desires. The “softness” of this despotism consists of people’s voluntary surrender of their liberty and their tendency to look habitually to the state for their needs.
He observes that the strong role religion played in the United States was due to its separation from the government, a separation all parties found agreeable. He contrasts this to France where there was what he perceived to be an unhealthy antagonism between democrats and the religious, which he relates to the connection between church and state.
Insightful analysis of political society was supplemented in the second volume by description of civil society as a sphere of private and civilian affairs.
Tocqueville’s views on America took a darker turn after 1840, however, as made evident in Aurelian Craiutu’s Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings.
Democracy in America was published in numerous editions in the 19th century. It was immediately popular in both Europe and the United States, while also having a profound impact on the French population. By the twentieth century, it had become a classic work of political science, social science, and history. It is a commonly assigned reading for undergraduates of American universities majoring in the political or social sciences, and part of the introductory political theory syllabus at Oxford.
Tocqueville’s work is often acclaimed for making a number of predictions that were eventually borne out. Tocqueville correctly anticipates the potential of the debate over the abolition of slavery to tear apart the United States (as it indeed did in the American Civil War). On the other hand, he predicts that any part of the Union would be able to declare independence. He also predicts the rise of the United States and Russia as rival superpowers (which they did become after World War II, with Russia as the central component of the Soviet Union).
American democracy was seen to have its potential downside: the despotism of public opinion, the tyranny of the majority, conformity for the sake of material security, the absence of intellectual freedom which he saw to degrade administration and bring statesmanship, learning, and literature to the level of the lowest. Democracy in America predicted the violence of party spirit and the judgment of the wise subordinated to the prejudices of the ignorant.
In the case of Adam Smith:
There has been considerable scholarly debate about the nature of Smith’s religious views. Smith’s father had a strong interest in Christianity and belonged to the moderate wing of the Church of Scotland. In addition to the fact that he received the Snell Exhibition, Smith may have also moved to England with the intention of pursuing a career in the Church of England. At Oxford, Smith rejected Christianity and it is generally believed that he returned to Scotland as a deist.
Economist Ronald Coase has challenged the view that Smith was a deist, stating that while Smith may have referred to the “Great Architect of the Universe” in his works, other scholars have “very much exaggerated the extent to which Adam Smith was committed to a belief in a personal God”. He based this on analysis of a remark in The Wealth of Nations where Smith writes that the curiosity of mankind about the “great phenomena of nature” such as “the generation, the life, growth and dissolution of plants and animals” has led men to “enquire into their causes”. Coase also notes Smith’s observation that “superstition first attempted to satisfy this curiosity, by referring all those wonderful appearances to the immediate agency of the gods.”
As you will note, through careful comparative observations, the interlocking relationships between paradigm shifts and the ever changing social political structures of cultural society is nothing new under the sun, as observed by Marx, and the Psalmist; “There is nothing new under the sun”.
Having established, more or less, the whole of social sciences within the past 300 year’s; we will now focus our attention on the religious shifts that took place during this shifting of paradigm’s. However as we do, let us keep in mind what we have learned thus far, and perhaps upon doing so, some might see the beautiful oneness, righteousness, and unity that awaits us through ‘The God Trend’ Or, one might recognize the spirit of decent, vanity, vulgarity, and your abolition of individuality – along with your own sacred beliefs, through ‘The God Trend’ . A double edged sword, wouldn’t you agree?
However, upon this; I’m reminded of another double edged sword – the Word of God, an instrument often used by the authority of the Holy Spirit to divide asunder the soul (our desires) from the spirit (proper worship). When the division between soul and spirit is accomplished, then perhaps the Kingdom of God (regardless of your eschatological views), will be truly manifested since our desires will be bought down to nothing until only the desire for love is accomplished. Ignorance and want are truly the deeds of the soul, as revealed in the garden (Gen 3). Perhaps, though I’m certain, the paradigm’s foundation was founded upon such. Charles Dickens cited as much when he penned a paragraph similar to that cited above, upon citing; when Scrooge asked the spirit of Christmas present….
“What is that I see at the bottom of your robe? Upon this the spirit opens his robe to reveal two undesirable, yet pitiful creatures; a boy and a girl. Scrooge asks “Spirit, are they your’s? “They are man’s, they cling to me for protection from their fetters” “This boy is ignorance, this girl is want; beware them both. But most all, beware this boy”….
Ignorance, according to some is bless, however, wisdom in this case is quite amicable. Perhaps when one views the concept of sectarianism in this light, perceived differences can be justified in favor of division. “United we stand, divided we fall”? Rather I say, “divided you stand, united you fall”! A united democracy is what our culture is based upon. As we have learned, it is the last form of government, the last line of defense….and it is failing. It would seem that no ideology (including capitalism), concepts, social, or political structure’s can truly ever work, as seen in the list pertaining to the various social-political structures of anthropology. Since the foundational platforms upon which our social sciences are built upon seem to indicate ignorance and want, or at the very least trial and error, the principle of separation, sectarianism of church/religion and state is most warranted.
To Be Continued in Part 3
The Paradigm of Shifting Faiths