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New Left Review I/35, January-February 1966


Peter Berger and Stanley Pullberg

Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness

[*] Acknowledgement. Peter Berger and Stanley Pullberg’s article also appears in HISTORY AND THEORY. Sociological theories may be grouped around two poles. The first presents us with a view of society as a network of human meanings as embodiments of human activity. The second, on the other hand, presents us with society conceived of as a thing-like facticity, standing over against its individual members with coercive controls and moulding them in its socializing processes. In other words, the first view presents us with man as the social being and with society as being made by him, whereas the second view sets society as an entity over and against man, and shows him being made by it. It would be misleading to describe these two views as, respectively, ‘individualistic’ and ‘collectivistic’. The difference between them is rather that between seeing society as the incarnation of human actions and seeing it as a reality which human activity has to take as given. [1] Weber and Durkheim may be taken as typical of these two poles of sociological theorizing. The polarity, however, is not simply between these two. The sociological theories of Simmel and Mannheim, for instance, may be placed close to the ‘Weberian’ pole, those of structural-functionalism in Anglo-Saxon ‘cultural anthropology’ and sociology close to the ‘Durkheimian’ pole.

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