Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, June 15, 2023

How a Loving God's Universe Works Processually

How a Loving God's Universe Works Processually

by R.E. Slater

Definition. (new word) pancessual - a generative, value-driven, creational processualism rebalancing the entropy of the universe with the radical evolutionary forces of negentropy.

A Pancessual Universe is based upon Whiteheadian process philosophy and it's derivative of process theology and lately, developing process sciences including not only quantum physics but the lifesciences in observation of the universe, terrestrial life, contemporary evolution, and the long history of humanity stretching through the bible and beyond back to the origin of life on the earth 700-800 million years ago against the backdrop of the Big Bang event. 
Recent Posts which are Rlated to Topic

I suppose I should begin in mentioning that today is my retirement in 2009 in which I spent 30 years in tech services and 34 years in lay ministries:
Since I was self-employed I joking remind myself of my boss' lack of planning a retirement party for myself, or the gifting of the fabled gold watch, perhaps a certificate for excellence in service, and so on. For myself, each service call or ministry was an exploration of celebration in assisting others in their business services and spiritual journeys. These in themselves were rewards enough. Too, I remember the day I decided to retire as unremarkable as any other previous day except that I had now given to myself the gift of time where I might double down on service to others. It allowed me to expand my awareness of my humanity... one which quickly turned to several years of concentrated poetry, and then exploratory theology, city and county committee assignments that also included a Master Naturalist certification through MSU's extension program, environmental politics, and field work. I would not have been able to pursue any of these interests without being retired and having become an empty nester with unmarried kids in college. I was gifted with 15 years and hope they have been used well as I have had time and health to pursue my God-driven interests. 🙂 - re slater

Part I

Today I would like to explore how an indeterminant (sic, freewilled) cosmology will work against itself and alongside the scientific theory of entropy. A theory which I have recently stumbled across in an earlier confab with ChatGPT may exist in varying degrees to itself. More typically entropy's opposite is known as negentropy. In my ChatGPT discussion I asked it to expand upon the positives v negatives of eco-processualism in relation to the axiomatic property of entropy. Negentropy came up to which I immediately latched onto and have been thinking about over the last several weeks.
Of course, there are other things which can create order. One such mechanism for creating order is the Second Law of Thermodynamics ( = entropy or, the entropic value of a closed, non-infinite, non-open system). This may sound confusing at first, since it is a common misconception that entropy is "disorder," but this is not the case; if you read the Wikipedia page on negentropy (negentropy & negative entropy) you will notice that the word "order" appears nowhere on it -- and there's a reason for this. Negentropy is defined in terms of the number of microstates corresponding to the entropic macrostate of universal disorder; in other words, entropy can be measured in degrees of freedom (negative entropy, or negentropy). Order, on the other hand, is defined in terms of symmetries and correlations, but it does not have a precise, mathematical definition as entropy does. - Anon
Let me quote Wikipedia on this subject as well:
Negative entropy

In the 1944 book What is Life?, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who in 1933 had won the Nobel Prize in Physics, theorized that life – contrary to the general tendency dictated by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase – decreases or keeps constant its entropy by feeding on negative entropy.[5] The problem of organization in living systems increasing despite the second law is known as the Schrödinger paradox.

This, Schrödinger argues, is what differentiates life from other forms of the organization of matter. In this direction, although life's dynamics may be argued to go against the tendency of the second law, life does not in any way conflict with or invalidate this law, because the principle that entropy can only increase or remain constant applies only to a closed system which is adiabatically isolated, meaning no heat can enter or leave, and the physical and chemical processes which make life possible do not occur in adiabatic isolation, i.e. living systems are open systems. Whenever a system can exchange either heat or matter with its environment, an entropy decrease of that system is entirely compatible with the second law.

Schrödinger asked the question: "How does the living organism avoid decay?" The obvious answer is: "By eating, drinking, breathing and (in the case of plants) assimilating." While energy from nutrients is necessary to sustain an organism's order, Schrödinger also presciently postulated the existence of other molecules equally necessary for creating the order observed in living organisms: "An organism's astonishing gift of concentrating a stream of order on itself and thus escaping the decay into atomic chaos – of drinking orderliness from a suitable environment – seems to be connected with the presence of the aperiodic solids..." We now know that this "aperiodic" crystal is DNA, and that its irregular arrangement is a form of information. "The DNA in the cell nucleus contains the master copy of the software, in duplicate. This software seems to control by specifying an algorithm, or set of instructions, for creating and maintaining the entire organism containing the cell."

DNA and other macromolecules determine an organism's life cycle: birth, growth, maturity, decline, and death. Nutrition is necessary but not sufficient to account for growth in size, as genetics is the governing factor. At some point, virtually all organisms normally decline and die even while remaining in environments that contain sufficient nutrients to sustain life. The controlling factor must be internal and not nutrients or sunlight acting as causal exogenous variables. Organisms inherit the ability to create unique and complex biological structures; it is unlikely for those capabilities to be reinvented or to be taught to each generation. Therefore, DNA must be operative as the prime cause in this characteristic as well. Applying Boltzmann's perspective of the second law (something I had also discussed with ChatGPT - re slater), the change of state from a more probable, less ordered, and higher entropy arrangement to one of less probability, more order, and lower entropy (as is seen in biological ordering) calls for a function like that known of DNA. DNA's apparent information-processing function provides a resolution of the Schrödinger paradox posed by life and the entropy requirement of the second law.

Summation of Pancessualism

  • Herein, I'm am expanding Schrodinger's paradox beyond living DNA to a living panrelational, panexperiential, and esoteric panpsychic pancessual system utilizing a generative, value-driven, creational processualism which is embedded within creation and naturally rebalances the chaotic, random entropic disorder of the universe with the radical evolutionary forces of negentropy.
  • That is, when looking at negentropy from a cosmic-ecological perspective we can infer (and consequently do see as evidentiary evidence) a living negentropic system we describe as evolution from the Big Bang to human birth. And may also state in redemptively processual terms a social theory centered in generative value  and loving compassion as the defining terms of any true civilization of any lifeform, including that of human civilizations.
  • And so, from the physics of the universe to the "social dynamics" of human societies (and by inference, that of all organic and inorganic panrelational, panexperiential, panpsychic pancessual systems we may infer such a perspective may exist in an infinitely alive and non-closed, open universe (perhaps as a singularity to itself or as a possible trait to all multiverses). And by these descriptors we may imply the dynamic and generatively creative and creatively cosmo-eco-processualism I wish to now term a "creatively generative process-based, pancessualism".
  • - re slater

Part II

Now let's look at a few more Internet quotes before going on to a social theory of sentience:

Question: Are Humans and DNA the only things capable of creating order (Negentropy)?

  • "We deal with mainstream physics here. Questions about the general correctness of unpublished personal theories are off topic, although specific questions evaluating new theories in the context of established science are usually allowed. For more information, see Is non mainstream physics appropriate for this site?."
Question: The 2nd thermodynamic law insists that our universe is reacting towards a maximized state of entropy (disorder). Yet it is clear that order exists in the universe with cosmological and biological structures. Negentropy means order, and it is the opposite of entropy. Are humans [and DNA] the only things capable of creating ordered objects?

Public Answers:
  • I am aware that overall [macroscopic] entropy is still increasing even when humans make an ordered object (i.e. a truck), but I am referring specifically to the creation of an object itself that has higher negentropy than its component parts.
  • It is the same thing with the DNA code, it is capable of coding for the emergence of ordered biological beings among a universe that tends towards entropy.
Question: Are there any other examples of things that can create ordered/negentropic objects?

Public Answers:
  • Have you thought about photosynthesizing plants?
  • What about crystals?
  • Heck, stars bring a bunch of matter together rather than letting it spread across the galaxy...
  • Any heat engine, generator or a living organism is performing useful work, thus reducing entropy somewhere (i.e., increasing order somewhere), although simultaneously increasing the overall entropy of the universe. In this sense living cells can be thought of as heat engines in thermodynamic sense: they receive energy in the form of sugars, sunlight, etc., use it to perform work (building themselves, sustaining temperature, synthesizing molecules, replicating) and then dump the unused energy in the environment.
  • There are plenty of devices and natural phenomena producing negentropy.
  • Whenever heat moves out of a system in a reversible manner, the entropy of that system goes down. If the process is irreversible to the extent that entropy increase ΔS occurs overall, then the entropy of the system still goes down if it exports more heat energy than TΔS, where T is the temperature where the heat leaves the system.
  • In the cosmological realm, gravity makes ordered systems (planets orbiting around a sun) out of disordered systems (clouds of interstellar gas and dust). In this sense, gravitationally-bound systems are sometimes referred to as anti-tthermodynamic.
Website Administrator Remark: For those interested to look a bit deeper in the subject of life & entropy, there are several useful links/references in this answer.

Part III

So here are the public answer's to the entropic thermodynamics of the cosmos as shown immediately above. And when I looked across the YouTube video ecosystem I found quasi-negentropic theories which I'll share immediately below.

None of which I wish to be associated with but as a process theologian I can and do sympathize with their yearning to posit value into life's forms and functions across as many creational spaces as they can.

But since my own definition of cosmic-eco-evolutionary panpsychism is not astral, nor new ageism, nor (Buddhistically) Eastern, these systems of thought and worship can be seen as instances of trying to explain a cosmic-ecological processual system which I prefer to describe as an Integral Theory of Everything (processual "ITOE").

Which means, Jungian Archetypes, or biblical narratives speaking to metaphoric death, dismay, disruption, disorder, uncontrollable events and circumstances, or the processual elements of any theory or observation be it esoteric, exotic, speculative, religious, or mystic, can be bound to the general processualism people or seeing in nature and are trying to describe in sundry and various ways. If one were to draw a "porous boundary line circle" around all these forms of beliefs and statements we may then describe the circle as Whitehead's Process Philosophy seen in its parts but not its whole (Example: the mythical elephant of tail, trunk, tusk, leathery skin,  large ears, when described by six philosophers in six different ways but not as a whole).

Similar to all past philosophies, theologies, sciences, and theoretical conjectures upon the processual components of an interacting processual creation, Process Philosophy and Theology will admit that other preceding forms of non-process based, or process-based, speculation has existed over time. Each describing (or not describing) a processual part of creation.

However, Whitehead's "Philosophy of Organism" (sic, Process Philosophy) is the currently equivalent summa cum laude theory to sum up into itself all possible possibilities and conjectures of a divinely authored and organized processual creation as described by (i) time and event in the Quantum Sciences; as Being and Event by the French philosopher Alain Badiou, by Sin/Evil, the Adamic Fall and Redemptive Work and Ministry of Jesus by the Christian faith, and by Whitehead's descriptive observation of event in motion (and never static) in terms like prehension and concreascence.

Thus we can say that for our metamodern era of religious belief, scientific observations, and predatory political disarray of authoritarianism upon global democratic institutes formed to increase multigenerational, multiethnic, and multireligious cultures dedicated to human equality, justice, and liberty; that when pragmatically building towards processual ecological societies and civilizations may become a significant help in re-establishing living systems of compassion and love, forgiveness and cooperation, from baser societal structures focused on death, disruption, and inequality.

R.E. Slater
June 15, 2023

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As I have said above (Part III), I do not wish to associate with quasi-conjectures on negentropy... however, I also think these imaginaries are trying to express a pancessual process-form of the universe using the terms and ideas they are most familiar with - to wit, one which I also am trying to describe through Whiteheadian Philosophy. - re slater
ps... Also, I can certainly sympathize with their comments related to re-emphasizing the importance and deep need to re-establish the social elements of compassion and love back into the streams of humanity and human society with one another. Without love the world is ugly and unimaginative. - re slater

What The Heck Is Negentropy?
David Hawkins  |  Sep 1, 2017

In 1990, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published his bestselling book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. But what is ‘flow’ exactly? In this weird and wonderful episode we explore the amorphous psychology of 'flow' through the more reliable science of physics in order to make optimal experience that little bit more attainable. Enjoy!

Negentropy and Prediction (37:12)
Risk Group LLC  |  by Dan Winter
Premiered Oct 27, 2021

Risk Group discusses Negentropy and Prediction with Dan Winter, from Fractal University, whose work on gravitational energy, emotions, the evolution of consciousness, sacred geometry, and more has resulted in numerous publications and books.

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pdf link

The website, Social Theory for Today, guides students through the 'turns' of past and present social theory as it attempts to wrestle with a recurring sense of crisis in social relations and social theory.
What are the 3 main theories of sociology?

These debates merit attention to those within the field, however, sociologists would generally state that the profession is primarily focused on three theoretical orientations. These three theoretical orientations are: Structural Functionalism, Symbolic Interactionism, and Conflict Perspective.

What is the social theory approach?

Social theory refers to ideas, arguments, hypotheses, thought-experiments, and explanatory speculations about how and why human societies—or elements or structures of such societies—come to be formed, change, and develop over time or disappear.

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Sociological Theories

Last Updated on March 1, 2023

A page of links to posts on the following topics: (1) Positivism and Interpretivism, (2) Is sociology a science?, (3) Sociology and value freedom, (4) Functionalism, (5) Marxism, (6) Feminism, (7) Social action theory, (8) Post and late modernism, (9) Sociology and social policy.

Together these posts cover the ‘theory’ part of the Theory and Methods part of the AQA’s A Level Syllabus, which are assessed as part of A level papers 1 and 3. It’s gradually being populated should be completed by end of February 2017.

For links to posts about qualitative, quantitative, primary and secondary research methods – see the research methods page.

Social Theory At a Glance

An overview of theory and methods for second year A level sociology – a very brief overview covering the bare-bones of (1) Positivism and Interpretivism, (2) Is sociology a science?, (3) Sociology and value freedom, (4) Functionalism, (5) Marxism, (6) Feminism, (7) Social action theory, (8) Post and late modernism, (9) Sociology and social policy.
Positivism and Interpretivism

Positivism, Sociology and Social Research – detailed class notes on the relationship between The Enlightenment, industrialisation and positivist sociology.

Positivism and Interpretivism – very brief summary revision notes covering the relationship between the scientific positivist world view and quantitative methods and the humanistic interpretivist worldview and qualitative methods.

Links to ‘Interpretivist‘ theory and methods are included under the ‘social action theory‘ section below.
Is Sociology A Science?

Is Sociology a Science? – a summary covering a Positivist view of sociology as a science contrasted to an Interpretivist view of sociology as a humanistic discipline; sociological criticisms of the objectivity of science (Latour and Kuhn’s Paradigm Critique); Sayer’s realist view of sociology, and postmodern views of science.
Sociology and Value Freedom

Sociology and Value Freedom – reasonably detailed class notes covering the Positive view that sociology is value free and the New Right, Marxist, Feminist and Social Action Theory views which all argue sociology is not, and/ or should not aim to be value free for various different reasons.

The Functionalist Perspective on Society –moderately detailed class notes covering Durkheim’s ideas on social facts, anomie and mechanical and organic solidarity, and Parson’s ideas on value consensus, the importanct of socialisation and evolution through structural differentiation.

Robert Merton’s Internal Critique of Functionalism – class notes, quite detailed covering concepts such as indispensability, functional unity and universalism.

The Functionalist Theory of Society Revision Notes – very brief revision notes covering Emile Durkhime’s and Talcott Parson’s Functionalist Theory, Robert Merton’s internal critique of Functionalism, and some overall evaluations; also a very brief summary of Functionalist thought applied to the family, education, modernisation theory, crime and research methods.

The Traditional Marxist Perspective on Society – class notes, quite detailed covering the key concepts of Marxism such as Bourgeoisie and Proletariat, exploitation, base and superstructure and ideological control.

Althusser’s Scientific Marxism – class notes, quite detailed covering the distinction between the repressive and ideological state apparatus and Althusser’s critique of Humanist Marxism.

Gramsci’s Humanist Marxism – Gramsci rejected the economic determinism of Marx and developed the concept of Hegemony to explain the more active role intellectuals might play in revolution – class notes, quite detailed.

Eight Criticisms of Traditional Marxism – evaluative post, quite detailed. This post criticise Marx’s original key ideas in the light of contemporary evidence.

Eight Ways in Which Marxism is Still Relevant Today – class notes, quite detailed, covering such things as the continued exploitation of workers in the developing world and contemporary evidence of right-wing agenda setting in the mainstream media.

The Marxist Theory of Society Revision Notes – very brief revision notes covering the key ideas of Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser.

Feminist Theory – A Summary for A-level Sociology – brief summary revision notes for liberal, radical, marxist and postmodern Feminist theory.

What is Patriarchy? A post devoted to summarising this key concept within Feminism

Angry Wimmin‘ – A summary of a useful documentary series consisting of interviews with first, second and third wave Feminists.

Sylvia Walby – Six Structures of Patriarchy – Walby argued that there were six areas of social life in which women were still oppressed such as paid work and the media – this post explores her ideas and uses a range of contemporary evidence to evaluate her views.

How Equal are Men and Women in the U.K. today? – one way in which we can evaluate Feminisms is to explore changing patterns in the gender-gap in difference spheres of social life such as education, work, politics and crime – this post does just that!
Social Action Theory

Social Action Theory – A Summary – brief summary revision notes covering Max Weber, Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory, labelling theory and positive and negative evaluations of social action theory overall.

Max Weber’s Social Action Theory – fairly detailed class notes on some of the key ideas of Max Weber, the founding father of social action theory. His key ideas included the importance of getting to Verstehen, and his theory of general motivations and a summary of his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism which illustrates both of these.

A Summary of Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life – argues that humans approach social life as if they were acting on a stage – we manage ourselves ‘backstage’ in order to present a constructed self to others when we are ‘front stage’ in the social world. This point of view sees individuals as very active and offers a criticism of Functionalism and Marxism which both see individuals as much more constrained and shaped by external social forces.

Outline and explain two reasons why Interpretivists prefer to use qualitative research methods (10) – a short answer exam style question that you might find on either paper 1 or 3 (AQA A-level Sociology exam papers).
Post Modernism

Modernity, Postmodernity and Late Modernity – very brief summary grids with key concepts.

From Modernity to Postmodernity – for the purposes of A-level Sociology modernity is a historical period spanning roughly the late 18th century to around the 1950s, a time when social life was relatively clearly structured along class and gender lines. Social change was still occurring during Modernity, but sociologists in that period thought change was ordered and generally progressive. Postmodernity in contrast starts from around the 1950s and is more fluid and chaotic.

Postmodernisation – describes the shift from modern culture through postmodernisation to postculture, according to Crook, Pakulski and Waters (1992)

Postmodernity and Postmodernism – Postmodernity is the historical period, postmodernism the theory (or anti-theory) – these are more detailed class notes, summary of Pip Jones’ ‘Social Theory’ book.

Three Examples of Postmodern Thinkers –brief class notes covering the work of Lyotard, Foucault and Baudrillard.

Jean Francois Lyotard – a more in depth discussion of the work of Lyotard, the guy who said Postmodernity was the ‘end of metanarratives’.

Jean Baudrillard – a more in depth discussion of Baudrillard’s postmodern critique of Marxism, including a discussion of his concept of hyperreality and his view that the ‘Gulf War Never Happened’.

Postmodernity and the Point of Sociology – brief class notes considering what a ‘postmodern sociology’ might look like.

Criticisms of Postmodernism -Postmodernism challenges the whole existence and point of sociology so it makes sense that numerous sociologists have criticised postmodernism – brief class notes.

Lash and Lury – The Global Culture Industry – Summary of a book which has something of the postmodern about it.
Late Modernism

Critical Responses to Postmodernism – more detailed class notes covering Ulrich Beck’s work on risk and reflexivity and Anthony Giddens’ structuration theory

Anthony Giddens – Modernity and Self Identity – the very brief version in 14 bullet points! The general gist is that the shift to postmodernity HAS made society more fluid and complex, but individuals don’t have so much freedom that we have to abandon social theory all together as some postmodern thinkers suggest.

Anthony Giddens – Modernity and Self Identity, chapter one summary – very detailed class notes, containing a link to chapter two and then so on…!

Late Modernism and the Point of Sociology – very brief summary notes on Giddens’ view on how sociology can be useful in contemporary society.

Post and late modern views on the family – brief summary notes contrasting these two perspectives. Students usually the distinction between postmodernism and late modernism, seeing the two side by side applied to one topic are should help clarify their understanding.

Post and late modern views of education – brief summary notes.
Neoliberalism and the New Right

Neoliberalism and the New Right – An Introduction – The three key ideas of Neoliberal ideology are low taxation, deregulation and privatisation and the New Right in the U.K. and U.S.A emerged out of this, but put more emphasis on a strong state enforcing law and order and conservative family values than pure neoliberals.

The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development – a detailed post on how deregulation, low taxation and privatisation has mostly harmed developing countries and made rich countries richer.

Grenfell Tower – Profits Before Safety (2017) – the case study of Grenfell Tower seems to be a text book study in the downsides of neoliberal austerity policies – cut spending on public safety and poor people die.
Sociology and Social Policy

Perspectives on Social Policy – detailed class notes covering Positivist, Marxist, Feminist, Social Action Theory and New Right perspectives on social policies.

Perspectives on Social Policy – brief summary notes – the bullet point version of the above!
Theory and Methods Exam Style Questions

The questions below could come up on the theory and methods sections of either AQA A-level Sociology paper 1 or paper 3

Applying Sociological Perspectives

Careers Guidance for Alternative Jobs – or how to avoid getting a proper job.

Careers Advice for Teenagers – Sociological perspectives on why A levels are no longer enough to get you a job.

Vanilla Vloggers – Insubstantial Selves? – What do Sociologists think of the Zoellas of the virtual world?

How many likes does it take? Social media and dissatisfaction.

What is Sociology? A summary of Bauman and May’s Thinking Sociologically, Chapter 1

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Sociological Perspectives: Key Concepts

Last Updated on November 15, 2022

Definitions of key terms for the five basic sociological perspectives – Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism, Social Action Theory and Postmodernism.
More details on the perspectives below can be found at the relevant links on my sociological theories page, which has been written to specifically cover the AQA A-level sociology syllabus.


Functionalism is a structural consensus theory which argues that social institutions generally perform positive functions such as maintaining value consensus and social order. Key Functionalist theorists include Emile Durkheim (1858 – 1917) and Talcott Parsons (1902 -1979).

Key concepts associated with Functionalism are defined below….


Anomie refers to a state of normlessness which arises because of a lack of social regulation. Anomie occurs when there are either too few rules guiding individual behaviour or where there are conflicting sets of rules, which contradict each other (as in Merton’s Strain Theory)

Functional Prerequisits

Functionalists believed that societies have four basic functions which must be performed in order for them to carry on surviving.

These four basic social needs are:
  • Adaptation – societies need institutions which produce food and things – factories and workplaces for example.
  • Governance – societies need institutions which make decisions – such as governments.
  • Integration – individuals need to be integrated into a society to feel like they belong – education systems possibly perform this function.
  • Latency – this is reproductive function – families usually perform this function.
The above is also known as the AGIL scheme

Functional Fit Theory

Talcott Parsons argued that the functions of the family changed to fit the needs of the wider society as societies moved from pre-industrial to industrial.

In pre-industrial society economic production was done within the family, and the family performed many functions such as the education of children as well as that of production.

However when industrial society emerged and the factory became the primary institution which produced things the functions of the family changed: they were reduced to doing two things: the reproduction of the young and the stabilisation of adult personalities.

Functional Fit Theory demonstrates the Functionalist idea of ‘evolution’ – as societies ‘evolve’ into industrial capitalist societies the family becomes more specialist in the functions it performs, but no less necessary. Meanwhile schools take over the education function from the family.

Mechanical and Organic solidarity

These are two concepts developed by Durkheim to explain the different types of social bonding mechanisms in pre-industrial and industrial societies.

Pre-industrial societies were characterised by mechanical solidarity – this is solidarity based on similarity and day to day togetherness and familiarity. People in pre-industrial societies have solidarity because they are working closely together in a narrow range of institutions and solidarity is achieved automatically or naturally, if you like – that is mechanical solidarity.

More complex industrial societies are held together by organic solidarity – they are larger and have huge amounts of people working in different roles who share nothing in common with other people working in other roles – thus industrial societies require specific institutions to achieve solidarity at the societal level – such as education and trades unions – this is organic solidarity.


Meritocracy is where individuals achieve based on their ability and effort, rather than on the basis of their social background or who they know.

According to Davis and Moore a Meritocratic education system was a necessary feature of industrial capitalist societies which were characterised by inequalities.
Their theory was that people would accept unequal societies as long as education systems offered individuals the chance to succeed based on their ability and effort then everyone had the chance to get decent qualifications and a decent job and income in later life, irrespective of their social class or ethnic background.
The theory was that those who failed would accept that they had been offered the chance and yet failed on their own lack of merits and so deserved a lower status job than those who where more able and harder working than themselves.

The problem with the concept of Meritocracy is that it is a myth, at least where education is concerned.

Norms and Values

Norms = the normal, typical or expected patterns of behaviour associated with societies or specific contexts or social roles.

Values = major and lasting ideas and beliefs about what is desirable and undesirable. Important sources of values include religion, politics, and one’s family background.

Organic Analogy

The organic analogy is the idea that institutions in society work like organs in a body. In the body different organs have different functions but all of them work together to maintain the whole, and the same is true in societies.

Positive Functions of Institutions

The Functionalist idea that institutions generally benefit society and most people within a society. For example, the nuclear family provides a stable and secure environment in which to raise children and school prepares individuals for work and is necessary for an advanced economy to work effectively.

Role Allocation

Role Allocation is one of the main functions of education systems in industrial societies. It is where students are sifted through a tiered examination system and sorted into their appropriated job roles based on their qualifications.

Social Evolution

Functionalists believe in social evolution rather than revolution. Functionalists recognised that societies changed over time and that some societies evolve to become more complex than more primitive societies.

Industrial Capitalist Democracies are seen by Functionalists as the most complex and evolved societies – they have more specialist institutions devoted to specialising in one specific function than pre-industrial societies – for example children are educated in schools rather than at home.

Social Facts

Durkheim argued that sociology should limit itself to the study of objective social facts rather than subjective individual thoughts and feelings.

Social Facts include such things as collective norms and values and social statistics.

The problem with this is that it fails to recognise that statistics are socially constructed and thus not themselves objective.

Social Integration

Social integration refers to the extent to which people are bonded to other people and institutions in a society. Someone who is working, married, has children and does lots of activities with other people is more integrated than someone who is unemployed, single, childless and does nothing all day.

According to Durkheim’s theory of suicide too much or too little social integration in a society can increase the suicide rate. Healthy societies require a balance of integration and individual freedom.

Social Regulation

Social regulation refers to the amount of rules and regulations to which individuals in a society are expected to conform. As a general rule boys and men in the United Kingdom are less regulated than girls and women in contemporary Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Durkheim theorised that too little or too much social regulation can increase the suicide rate in societies. Just as with social integration healthy societies have a balance between rules and individual freedoms.


Socialisation is the process of learning the norms and values of a society. Functionalists see this a neutral process, important for the maintenance of social order; Marxists and Feminists see this as a process which benefits the powerful as the ideas learnt through socialisation maintain the status quo.

Society as a System

According to Functionalists, societies should be analysed as systems as they have a ‘reality’ above and beyond the level of individuals who make them up.

Sociologists should focus on the macro level of society using statistics to study society as a whole and how societies change, and we can understand social trends without looking at individuals’ thoughts and feelings.

An example of this lies in Durkheim’s study of suicide – he found that he could predict the suicide rate in a country based on that country’s religion, divorce rate, unemployment rate and other ‘social facts’.

Stabilisation of Adult Personalities

This was one of the two essential functions of the family in industrial societies according to Parsons.

Industrial factory work was hard and stressful for men, but they were able to cope with it because of the traditional nuclear family set up at home – with their wife taking on a caring role and helping them to de-stress when they go home.

This is also known as the ‘warm bath theory’.

Strain Theory

Robert Merton argued that crime in a society increases when there is increasing strain between the stated success goals of a society and the available opportunities to achieve those goals.

Writing in the 1940s Merton believed that rising crime in American could be explained because everyone was told they could get a decent education and then a decent paying job but in fact there were not sufficient legitimate opportunities for everyone to be able to achieve these goals.

Thus some people adapted and retreated into drug use or turned to drug dealing or burglary to get rich and some sort more revolutionary solutions to fix what they perceived as a broken America.

Value Consensus

Value Consensus is agreement around share values. In Functionalist thought is the outcome of effective socialisation and crucial to maintaining social order.


Marxism is a structural conflict theory which argues that societies are divided along social class lines. There are two main classes – the Bourgeoisie who own Capital and the Proletariat who must work for wages.

In Marxist theory the Bourgeoise control social institutions and use them to maintain their power. The Key Marxist thinker was Karl Marx (1818 -1883)

For the purposes of A-level Sociology Marxism is usually taught in contrast to Functionalism.

The key concepts associated with Marxism are summarised below:

Capitalism and Private Property

Capital refers to financial wealth – especially that used to start businesses (rather than emergency savings or the house you live in). Capitalism is a system which gives private individuals with capital the freedom to invest, make money and retain profit.

The opposite of Capitalism is Communism, where the state owns all the property and makes all of the decisions about what to produce.

In Marxist theory, the Capitalist class are known as the Bourgeoisie – these are the minority class, and are those with capital who make money from profits on investments. The majority make up the Proletariat, the working class, who have no or little capital and have to work for a living.

Private property is crucial to Capitalism, because the protection of private property rights is what makes the system work: the capitalist class are allowed to maintain the wealth from their investments, rather than having their property redistributed by the state, as would happen under communism.


The relationship between these two classes is exploitative because the amount of money the Capitalist pays his workers (their wages) is always below the current selling, or market price of whatever they have produced. The difference between the two is called surplus value.
Ideological Control

Marx argued that the ruling classes used their control of social institutions to gain ideological dominance, or control over the way people think in society. Marx argued that the ideas of the ruling classes were presented as common sense and natural and thus unequal, exploitative relationships were accepted by the proletariat as the norm.

Marx believed that political action was necessary to ‘wake up’ the proletariat and bring them to revolutionary class consciousness. Eventually, following a revolution, private property would be abolished and with it the profit motive and the desire to exploit. In the communist society, people would be more equal, have greater freedom and be happier.


Feminism is a diverse body of social theory which aims to understand the reasons for inequalities based on gender and gender identity and a political movement which campaigns for greater gender equality.

Some of the key concepts associated with Feminism are defined below…


‘Patriarchy refers to a society in which there are unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed’ (London Feminist Network)

Gender Scripts

The learned patterns of behaviour associated with different genders in a society. Gender scripts incorporate a whole range of gender-norms associated with different ‘being’ male and female – such as typical ways of dressing, speaking and self-expression more generally. The term ‘gender script’ rather than ‘gender norm’ emphasises the fact that individuals actively have to ‘act out’ their gender-identity, but at the same time a script is just a guide, and individuals have considerable freedom to interpret and play around with the suggested normative ways of expressing gender.

Liberal/ Marxist and Radical Feminism

Liberal Feminists tend to emphasise the importance of securing formal legal equality for women, Marxist Feminists focus on how capitalism perpetuates gender equality, and radical feminists focus on how patriarchy operates across many institutions, especially the family.


Involves critically analysing normative behaviour or truth-claims more generally, exposing the ‘relational nature’ of knowledge. In Feminist theory, this mainly means exposing the binary opposition ‘male-female’ and all of the traditional norms associated with this division as a social construct, rather than something which is rooted in objective biological divisions.. Such critical analysis forms the basis of breaking down such gender norms and opens up the possibility of a living a life free from the restraint of such g norms.


Interactionism is a social action theory which focuses less on social structure and more on how individuals see themselves and actively construct their own identities through interactions with others. Key interactionist theorists were Ervin Goffman (1922 to 1982) and Howard Becker (1928 to present day).

Some of the key concepts of interactionist theory are summarised below.

The I and the Me

The ‘I’ is the active aspect of one’s personality, the ‘Me’ is the social aspect – the me is one’s social identity, which the ‘I’ reflects on.

The looking glass self

The idea that and individual’s self-concept is based on their understanding of how others perceive them.

Social identity

One’s social identity is how one sees oneself in relation to others in a society. It is likely to incorporate a number of different social roles, such as one’s role within a family and the workplace, and one’s social status in society more generally based on class, gender, ethnicity etc.

Backstage and Front Stage

Key ideas within Goffman’s dramaturgical theory – frontstage is any arena within society where one has to act out one’s identity, such as the workplace or the street, but it might also be in the home itself on certain occasions. Backstage is where one rehearses and prepares for one’s front stage performances, or just relaxes.


‘Labelling’ is where someone judges a person based on the superficial ‘surface’ characteristics such as their apparent social class, sex, and ethnicity.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This is where someone acts according to their label and the label becomes true in reality.


Postmodernists argue that the old structures and certainties of the modernist era are now gone (hence ‘post’ modernity). With the shift to late Capitalism and the rise of Consumer society social life is now more fluid and unpredictable and individuals have much more freedom to shape their identities.

Postmodernists also question the certainties of science, including social science and are sceptical about the possibility of social progress.

Two key postmodernist thinkers include Jean Francois Lyotard (1924 – 1988) and Jean Baudriallard (1929 – 2007).

Some of the key concepts associated with Postmodernism are covered below…

Service Sector Economy

The service sector is also referred to as the ‘tertiary’ or third sector economy, in contrast to the first and second sectors – agriculture and industrial manufacturing. A service sector economy is one in which most people work in this third sector, in jobs such as retail, education and financial and informational services rather than manufacturing.

Consumer culture

Consumer society is one in which consumption practices and leisure activities are more important as a source of identity, status and division than work, income and social class background.

Social Fragmentation

The breaking up and splitting apart of communities into smaller groups, which are relatively isolated from each other.


Jean Baudrillard’s concept to describe a society in which most people cannot distinguish a simulated, media representation of reality, from actual reality.


Sociological Perspectives are a key component of the social theories aspect of the Sociology A-level Theory and Methods compulsory module, usually studied in the second year.

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