Karen Armstrong – September 11th 2001, Islam and the West

Karen Armstrong argues that there is no inherent incompatibility between the Western and Islamic world, but sees economic and political factors as the main reasons for increasing tensions in recent decades.

Armstrong’s arguments can be used to criticise Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civlizations’ thesis, which sees increasing conflict between different cultures/ religions as an inevitable outcome of globalisation brining ‘incompatible’ civilizations into closer contact with each other.

Islam and the failure of modernisation

Armstrong points out that in the late 19th and early 20th century, most Muslim intellectuals looked up to the process of modernisation occurring in the West at that time, and wanted Islamic countries to become more like Britain and France.

Some Islamic scholars even claimed that Britain and France were more Islamic than Islamic countries: Islam advocates the sharing of resources, and there was a trend towards this in so countries in early 20th Europe.

Armstrong characterises modernisation as consisting of:

  1. Technological evolution moving countries beyond being agricultural, and making people less dependent on nature.
  2. Increasing productivity and innovation.
  3. Higher levels of education for the general populace. 
  4. Greater inclusion of people from diverse religious backgrounds
  5. The development of the ‘modern spirit’ which involves more people engaging in politics, science and intellectual pursuits more generally.

Western imperialism and human rights

Western countries occupied most Muslim countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Algeria. There were attempts to introduce democracy in many countries, the historical record of Western occupation of Muslim countries has not exactly been conducive to ‘positive modernisation’ –

in many countries, the West backed autocratic leaders when it suited them (in return for access to oil supplies for example) and these leaders tended to deprive people of their human rights, suppressing freedom of speech for example.

In Iran for example, the Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was installed in power in 1953 in a coup supported by the American and British. He was a particularly ruthless leader who ordered a massacre in Tudeh Square in 1978 in which nearly 900 people were killed. He was overthrown the year after in the famous Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Then in 1979 In Iraq, the British and Americans supported the installation of Saddam Hussein as a dictator, because he was hostile to Iran.

A further effect of Western occupation was to increase divisions and inequalities: money derived from British oil companies for example tended to go to the minority of autocrats, and very little trickled down to the ordinary people. In fact there is something of a history of exploitation of poor workers by wealthy corporations operating in Islamic countries.

In Iran for example, the British and then the Americans backed the Pahlavi shahs as dictatorial leaders. These turned out to be particular

The Causes of Fundamentalism

Armstrong argues that the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism is a reaction against the nationalist and secularist ideologies imposed on them by the West, which basically failed the average citizen in Muslim countries.

Fundamentalists believe they are fighting for their survival against a Western Imperialism that wants to wipe out Islam from existence.

Future Prospects:

Armstrong believes that there is no reason why Islam cannot co-exist with the West, because most Muslims are not Fundamentalists and there is plenty of room for interpreting Islam as ‘being all about peace’.

Like Lowkey does in this video:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/kmBnvajSfWU” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Armstrong isis thus more optimistic about the prospect of peaceful co-existence between religions when compared with Huntington.

Sources:

Haralambos and Holborn: Sociology Themes and Perspectives edition 8.

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The Unconditional Expansion of Universities

There has been a staggering 2000% increase in unconditional university offers awarded to students in the last five years, between 2013 to 2018. 

In 2013, a mere 2985 students were awarded unconditional offers, compared to 61, 915 in 2018. To put this in percentage terms: in 2013 0.4 % of offers were unconditional, which rose to 7.1% of offers in 2018. This is all according to UCAS’ latest ‘end of cycle report‘. 

Or to put it in its most ‘dramatic terms’ – that’s a nearly 2000% increase in unconditional offers in 5 years. 

Why do universities make unconditional offers?

The obvious answer from a ‘psychological’ prospective is that an unconditional offer sends out a message to a student that the university ‘wants them’, that it ‘thinks favourably of them’, basically that it ‘likes them’, which makes that university more appealing to the student.

My love for you is unconditional, like this university offer….

According to the Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, they use unconditional offers to attract high caliber students, which is going to be an advantage in a competitive market place, improving results and the calibre of graduate job the students get, which is all good for surviving in a competitive education market.

Universities are also using unconditional offers more crudely, to get ‘bums on seats’ in order to expand. The immediate policy impetus for this was the removal of the cap on the number of students each university could take on.

Driving this sort ‘unconditional expansion’ is again the market driven education system – in which you either expand or die. More bums on seats = more profit = more investment to attract more students. It’s just crude survival of the fittest in this crudest of systems.

70% of students support universities giving out unconditional offers, citing the reduction in stress and increase in mental health benefits that this certainty brings.

Ironically, this means that while our marketized education system induces more pressure and stress through-out school life generally, ironically it’s created a ‘stress free’ window for those students who get unconditional offers in their final year 13.

What are the problems with unconditional offers?

There is evidence that receiving an unconditional offer makes students ‘switch off’ – 56% of students missed their targets by two grades or more, compared to 67% of students with regular ‘conditional offers’.

Or to put it more bluntly, those students who ‘have to pass their A-levels’ to get into the university of their choice are 10% more likely to do so than those who have just been gifted a place.

As an A-level teacher, I can testify that this is more than a bit crap when you are judged on your results… it means 7% of your students more likely to underachieve and there is literally nothing you can do can to motivate some of them. Unconditional offers undermines the ability of 16-19 teachers to meet the targets they are judged by. This is thus dysfunctional.

Underachieving at A-level might also come back to disadvantage students when they apply for jobs. Employers do look at A-level grades after all, and CCC is going to look a bit slack compared to a 2.1. It sends out the message that a students switches off when they can, rather than always giving their all. And if there’s more than one candidate or more for a job, the chances are they’ll be someone else in the field with a 2.1 and BBB (or whatever their target grades were at A-level).

It’s also extremely unfair… seven percent of students with a stress-free ride, compared to the rest of students having to achieve. It’s just not equitable.

An upside: widening participation?

The UCAS report does show that higher attaining students are most likely to be required to get their grades, which unconditional offers mainly going to mid-range students, and in terms of subjects, medicine hardly gives out any unconditional offers, whereas it’s the creative arts which give out the most.

This does suggest that unconditional offers are being used to widen participation, however, I’d need to see how this relates to retention to make a judgement as to how effective this is.

Final thoughts – should we ban unconditional offers?

If students are required to get grades at the end of 13, then I say yes, simply on the basis of equity. It’s not fair subjecting most students to the stress of having to achieve and a significant minority to an easier ride.

Also, I don’t see how scrapping unconditional offers is going to prevent universities expanding, or from managing their future intake: scrapping unconditional offers would only delay knowing the intake for the next year by 10 months, which is not that long in the grand scheme of things, and there’s plenty of other indicators universities could use in this big data era to forecast realistic numbers with sufficient certainty.

Sources 

https://www.ucas.com/file/196151/download?token=jzRAy4kS (image 1, and the link to the UCAS report)

Bear – https://www.maxpixel.net/I-Love-You-Teddy-Bear-Red-You-Bear-Heart-Love-666795

 

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The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel P Huntington

Samuel P. Huntington sees ‘civilizations’ as the most significant grouping in global society, rather than ‘nation states’, or ‘global religions’, although there are often close relationships between religions and Huntington’s concept of ‘civilizations’.

Globalization has resulted in the world becoming a smaller place, which means that there are increasing interactions between ‘civilizations’, which intensifies ‘civilization consciousness’.

According to Huntington, increasing contact between civilizations often has the effect of emphasising differences rather than similarities, which can cause an increasing amount of conflict in the world.

What are ‘Civilizations’?

For Huntington, civilizations are ‘cultural entities’ differentiated from each other by history, language, cultural traditions and, most importantly, religion.

clash civilizations.png

Huntington distinguishes between the following different civilizations, as represented in the map above.

  • Western
  • Confucian
  • Japanese
  • Islamic
  • Hindu
  • Slavic-Orthodox
  • Latin American
  • African (possibly)

As Huntington sees is, sources of identity which are not based on religion have declined. Political identities matter less since the collapse of communism, and increasing international travel has weakened national identity, ‘civilizational identity’, based mainly on religion has stepped in to fill the gap.

Clashes between civilizations

To back up his argument, Huntington points to the fact that there are many conflicts on the borders between civilizations:

  • The former Yugoslavia between Orthodox Christian and Muslim civilizations.
  • In the Middle East between Judaism, Islam and Western Christianity.
  • In India the clash between Muslims and Hindus.

Huntington believes that there will increasingly be clashes between civilizations, because these identities are based mainly on ethnicity and religion, and thus foster an ‘us and them’ type of identity.

Increasingly, political leaders will draw on ‘civilization identity’ in order to try and mobilize support, as with The Islamic State claiming Muslims should unite against ‘Western civilizations’.

Religion as a more significant cause of conflict…

Huntington is one of the few academics of religion who argue against the secularisation thesis. He believes that civilizations, based mostly on religious identity, will become an increasingly important source of conflict in the future.

At the moment, Western civilization is dominant, however, as the ‘Islamic’ and ‘Hindu’ civilisations develop more potent nuclear capabilities (Pakistan, India) and as the world shrinks further, this dominance is likely to decrease, which opens the possibility for more serious conflicts.

Huntington further argues that there is no chance of a world culture developing because civilization identity is so strong.

Evaluation

  • I’m not convinced there is any real empirical basis for Huntington’s ‘fault-lines’.
  • Even if there is some empirical basis for his civilizations, I’m convinced that religion is going to remain that important as a source of identity within each of them: the global trend, as in the West, is still towards secularisation.

Sources

Haralambos and Holborn: Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition eight.

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Churches, Denominations, Sects and Cults: Similarities and Differences

The grid below provides a summary of some of the key characteristics of Churches, denominations, sects and cults.

As with any ‘scheme of categorisation’, many real-world examples of organisations will not fit exactly into every row. For example, some sects may appeal exclusively to white people, and some may have middle class members.

Hence these are ideal-types, and you might like to keep in mind that they are of limited use, and just a general, ‘starting point’ guideline for helping to understand the incredible diversity of religious organisations.

To find out more, please see these links:

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How to Bag a Billionaire: tips for young women feeling held back by their average joe boyfriends

There must be millions of young women in the world who, having graduated with high hopes for a bright future, now find themselves wondering which is more tedious: their job or their relationship: the job only paying them enough for food, bills, rent and debt servicing, and the boyfriend frustrating them because his porn and video game addictions have killed his aspiration to strive for something better.

Anna Bey: Gold Digger or Jet Set Babe?

But fear not young ladies for help is at hand, in the form of self-styled Jet set Babe Anna Bey, who provides advice on how you can ‘bag yourself a billionaire’ via her blog – JetsetBabe.com.

Bey, 32, is originally from Estonia and grew up in a middle-class family environment in Sweden but has successfully navigated the international jet-set and ‘levelled-up’ (her own term) so that she now resides in a flat in Knightsbridge, which is paid for by her banker-boyfriend.

The blog, along with her online ‘finishing school’, provides advice to aspiring ‘JetsetBabes’ on how to find and attract a rich boyfriend – it includes several posts on ‘how to dress’ (‘classy, like Grace Kelly, not Kim Kardashian), ‘demeanour’ (don’t get drunk), where to find rich men (hotel lobbies, not first class in a plane), and even the kind of ‘mind-set’ you need to adopt to ‘level-up’ – as in this post on ‘ditching your average-jo boyfriend’.

JetsetBabes.com – the positives

Bey’s rational for setting up the site was that when she first started out on her quest to find a rich boyfriend, she made a few style and demeanour boo-boos, and wished there had been someone like she is now to show her the ropes, so I guess she’s well-intentioned.

There is also clearly a market for this sort of service…. The closed Facebook group linked to the bog has 3000 members, and I imagine many more readers, but there are only a handful of extremely rich men, and an even smaller handful of decent extremely rich men…. one of the downsides of playing the jet set game is that you might find yourself waking up having been drugged at some point, as has happened to Bey in the past.

Many of the women involved in the JetsetBabe circle find comfort in the fact that the group provides them somewhere where they can discuss their aspirations without being looked down on by members of wider society, somewhere where they won’t be labelled ‘Gold Diggers’ or ‘Sugar babies’.

I think they have a point criticising the labels given to them, when the men who are prepared to pay for them don’t get such negative labels.

Is this liberating for women?

If your definition of freedom is the freedom to shop, dependent on your partner’s wealth for as long as he is your partner, then yes, this is female liberation. The problem is, that’s an extremely limited definition of ‘liberation’…. And it’s a form of liberation that’s totally dependent on the man with the debit card, or bag full of cash.

It also does little to challenge the practice of men treating women like they are sex objects. In fact, if anything it reinforces this…. Among some members of the Facebook group, women seeking to live off their partners financially is justified BECAUSE men treat women like sex objects who can be bought… the logic is ‘if they do it, why can’t we’.

What about equality?

If you believe one of the goals of Feminism is reducing the income and wealth inequalities between men and women, this strategy does absolutely nothing to bring this goal closer. Bey has the explicit belief that women have a hard time in life compared to men, and so men should effectively compensate them by paying for everything, which surely can do nothing other than maintain gender wealth inequalities?

Simply ‘demanding financial compensation’ isn’t exactly empowering yourself financially or putting yourself on an ‘equal’ footing with men’.

In terms of ‘inequalities between women’, there’s the problem of ‘being traded in for a younger model’ and being left to bring up the children on your own. The golden age for bagging a billionaire is tight, and the over 30s in the JSB group are mocked as being ‘used goods’.

Final Thoughts…

As low-consumption tight wad, I’m never going to feel any sense of empathy with women who want a millionaire lifestyle, however, neither do I feel the need to ‘condemn’ women who engage in such a strategy.

Trying to bag a billionaire is, after all, just another individualised coping strategy: an escape from the mundane drudgery and uncertainties of ordinary day to day life in postmodern society, at least until you’re traded in for a younger model.

I’m actually left feeling a sense of pity for these women, not only for the ones who invest time and money in seeking a rich boyfriend but never succeed, but even the ones who do succeed… it just seems like such a shallow life.

However, as a final ‘qualifier’, I’m aware that not all women who do this are shallow, some will use their time gained through financial freedom to do amazing things…. but somehow, I doubt that will include fighting for a ‘deeper’ type of female liberation.

This post was written for educational purposes 

Sources

Jet Set – https://jetsetbabe.com/

Anna Bey – https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqfq0OhAB8N/

Gender Wealth Gap – https://womenswealthgap.org/

Inspired by this article in The Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anna-bey-interview-how-to-bag-a-rich-boyfriend-by-the-woman-behind-school-of-affluence-krljnb9n5

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The causes of Fundamentalism

Steve Bruce argues that the main causes of Fundamentalism are modernisation and secularisation, but we also need to consider the nature of the religions themselves and a range of ‘external factors’ to fully explain the growth of fundamentalist movements.

Modernisation has undermined religion in at least three ways:

  • Social life has become separated from religious life (linked to the process of differentiation)
  • Rationalisation means that people are more likely to seek scientific explanations for behaviour rather than religious explanations
  • Bruce argues that in certain societies ‘religious traditionalist’ feel as if their way of life is under threat, and so they take steps to defend their traditions against the erosive influence of modernisation.

However, Bruce also argues that the existence of a group of traditionalists who feel threatened is not sufficient to explain the rise of Fundamentalism, a number of other factors are also important:

Other factors which explain the rise of religious fundamentalism:

Bruce argues that the following factors make it more likely that Fundamentalism will emerge:

  1. Where there is ‘ideological cohesion’ – around a single God and/ or sacred text for example. Fundamentalism seems to be stronger in Christianity and Islam, not so strong in Hinduism and Buddhism.
  2. When there is a common enemy to unite against – Bruce notes that Islamic Fundamentalism is often united against the USA.
  3. Lack of centralised control (ironically) – It might be that Catholicism has not developed fundamentalist strains because the Pope and the Vatican tightly control dissenters. However in Protestant Christianity and Islam, there is more freedom for individuals on the fringes to claim to have found a ‘more authentic’ and fundamentalist interpretation of those religions.
  4. The existence of marginalised individuals facing oppression – Fundamentalism needs recruits, and if a Fundamentalist group emerges with claims that it can provide a better life for people if they just adhere to the faith, it is more likely to grow
  5. Bruce further argues that the nature of Fundamentalism is shaped by how the political institutions deal with Fundamentalist movements: where they are blocked access to political representation, movements are more likely to turn to violence.

Further Analysis

Bruce argues that both the external factors above and religious beliefs themselves are important in explaining the rise of Fundamentalism.

He also points out that the specific histories of Christianity and Islam have affected the way the see politics. Christianity spent much of its early life as an obscure sect, on the political fringes, so is more concerned with ‘day to day’ (non-political) life, whereas Islam quickly came to dominate states in its early history – thus Islam is more concerned with politics than Christianity.

Bruce also argues that the nature of religion affects the way Fundamentalism is expressed – Christianity tends to emphasise the importance of belief, while Islam emphasises the importance of actions, thus Islam is more likely to develop violent forms of fundamentalism compared to Christianity.

Finally, Bruce argues that Fundamentalism has no chance of succeeding in the West, but it might in the less developed regions of the world.

Sources

Haralamabos and Holborn: Sociology Themes and Perspectives edition 8.

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What is Religious Fundamentalism?

The early 21st Century has seen the rise of various Fundamentalist groups, for example:

  • The increasing influence of the New Religious Right in the United States
  • The rise of Zionism in Israel
  • The rise of Islamic Fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Steve Bruce: Communal and Individual Fundamentalism

  • Communal individualism is that usually found in less developed countries and is primarily concerned with defending communities (or nations) against what are perceived to be ‘modernist’ threats such as western materialism, individualism, multiculturalism, and human rights. These are typically seen by ‘communal fundamentalists’ as secularising forces which undermine religion.
  • Individualist fundamentalism is more likely to be found within developed nations and is mainly associated with the New Christian Right in the United States – it is concerned with maintaining traditional values within the context of a stable liberal democratic nation state.

Five Key Features of Fundamentalist Movements

According to Chapman et al (2015) Fundamentalist movements share the following characteristics:

  1. A literal interpretation of religious texts, which are seen as infallible – they take their ‘moral codes’ straight from their sacred texts. A good fundamentalist is supposed to lead their life in accordance with the original sacred text of the religion, and there is little room for flexibility in this. However, one of the major criticisms of Fundamentalism is that religious texts are often obscure and they have been interpreted at some point by whoever is in power, so there is no such thing as a ‘literal interpretation’.
  2. They regard all areas of social life as sacred – Fundamentalists tend to impose their views on others in a society, and police people’s day to day behaviour closely to make sure that day to day life is being lived in line with their interpretation of the sacred text.
  3. They do not tolerate other religions – they have a monopoly on truth, and when Fundamentalists take power, they tend to purge the symbols of other religions from their area and persecute people of other faiths.
  4. They have conservative beliefs – Fundamentalists tend to support traditional gender roles and are against ‘progressive’ liberalisation, such as women playing a greater role in work and politics and they tend towards tolerance and even celebration of sexuality diversity.
  5. They tend to look at past religious eras with nostalgia, and sometimes want to change society back to how it used to be, before secularisation, when society was more religions

 Sources

Chapman et al (2015) Sociology AQA A-Level Student Book 2

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The ‘epidemic’ of teens addicted to gambling – a moral panic with little substance?

The Gambling Commission recently released its latest 2018 ‘Young People and Gambling Report’, triggering some dramatic headlines:

Headlines from The Independent and The Daily Mail.

The news reports tended to focus on three statistics to support their narrative of ‘teens in crisis’:

  • 55 000 children under 16 were categorised as ‘problem gamblers’, or 1.7% of the population, a figure which has quadrupled in two years.
  • There were a further 75 000 young people ‘at risk’ of becoming problem gamblers.
  • 450 000 13-18 year olds gambled at least once a week, equivalent to 14% of the population.

The news reports then tended to Segway into the underlying reasons explaining the increasing numbers of ‘teens in crisis’, blaming primarily the increase in T.V. adverts promoting gambling and ‘loot boxes’ in video games.

However, this seems to be just a moral panic….

If you take the time to actually read the latest report by the Gambling Commission (available here) it appears that there isn’t really an epidemic at all…. This really is just a case of a pure media constructed moral panic.

The number of teens with serious gambling problems has increased, but this is due to changes in sampling over the two years:

The report explicitly states:

>”The differences can largely be attributed to a larger number of respondents qualifying for the screening questions than in previous years, due to the addition of a question which enabled us to identify past 12 month gamblers more accurately than before.”

Looked at in the long term, the number of teens gambling is going down:

Granted, there’s been a small upturn in recent years, but the overall trend is definitely down, as it is with drinking and drug use. Basically, the kids are alright!

Of the ‘450K teens who have gambled in the last week, they’re mainly playing cards’!

So teens are mainly playing actual cards with their friends, as well as the odd scratch card. Just like we all did when we were teenagers, it’s just that now this is a ‘problem’ rather than kids just doing what kids do, which is what it was back in the late 80s!

Final Thoughts…

Maybe a more honest headline would have been:

‘Despite advertisers goading them into wasting their money, only 1.7% of young people have a problem with gambling’.

I don’t want to seem flippant, 1.7% of teens, or 55K people, is a lot of people (roughly equivalent to the current number of active steem accounts!), but it’s not enough to claim there is a ‘significant. social problem’. If we were talking about unemployment, inflation, educational underachievement, victims of crime, <2% would be a sign that at the societal level, everything’s basically OK.

So in brief, and on the whole, the kids are alright! 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like this related posts on the possible moral panic over video games disorder

Picture sources 

The Indpendent – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/child-gambling-problem-betting-tv-adverts-a8643926.html

The Daily Mail – https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6411759/Epidemic-child-gamblers-Experts-blame-explosion-TV-adverts.html

Gambling stats – https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/survey-data/Young-People-and-Gambling-2018-Report.pdf

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Is religion a conservative force?

For the purposes of A-level sociology, ‘conservative’ usually has two meanings:

  • Preventing social change
  • Supporting traditional values.
  • We might also add a third: modest, reserved, austere, not showy.

On important analytical point is that some Fundamentalist groups want to reverse some social changes that have undermined the role of religion in society, taking society back to a more ‘traditional era’.

A second analytical point is to distinguish between the extent to which different religions promote conservative views and how successful they are in actually translating those views into actions.

Arguments and evidence for the view that religion acts as a conservative force

  • Various functionalist thinkers have argued that religion prevents rapid, radical social change and that it supports traditional values
  • Marx certainly argued that religion was a conservative force – through acting as the ‘opium of the masses’
  • Simone deBeauvoir argued that religion propped up Patriarchy by compensating women for their second class status.
  • Churches tend to have traditional values and be supported by more conservative elements in society. They also tend to support existing power structures (e.g. links to royalty and the House of Lords in the U.K.)
  • Islamic Fundamentalist movements, such as the Islamic State, aim to take society back to a more religious era
  • The New Christian Right in America support conservative values: traditional family structures, for example.

Arguments and evidence against the view that religion acts as a conservative force

  • Liberation Theology – a movement for the oppressed in Latin America stood against the powerful elites. However, it didn’t seem to have much success in changing anything.
  • The Baptist Church and the Civil Rights movement in the USA, much more successful.
  • The Nation of Islam promoted radical social change in the USA in the 1960s.
  • The New Age Movement promotes acceptance and diversity, so is not ‘conservative’ – in the sense that the New Right tend to support family values, for example.
  • Feminist forms of spirituality are not conservative.

More ambiguous arguments and evidence and analytical points

  • Max Weber’s ‘Protestant Ethic’ – Calvinism was a religion which was very ‘conservative’ and yet it unintentionally brought about Capitalism which ultimately undermined the role of religion in society.
  • As a general rule, churches and denominations tend to be more conservative.

 

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Is Science Ideological?

If sociologists refer to something as being ‘ideological’, they typically mean that it supports powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.

Scientists generally claim that the process of conducting scientific research and constructing scientific knowledge is value-free, and thus ‘non-ideological’. In simple terms, they claim their research reveals ‘the truth’, or the underlying causal laws of nature and the universe.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that science is not also ‘ideological’. This part of the religion specification overlaps with the ‘is sociology a science’ part of Theory and Methods.

The argument that science is value free and thus non-ideological

  • The scientific method involves using controlled experiments to test a hypothesis bout how variables interact with each other
  • Because all of the steps of the experiments are carefully recorded, it allows anyone else to repeat the experiment and test the results, thus verifying the results are ‘true’.
  • It follows that scientists should strive to keep their own biases and values out of the research process, because they know anyone else can test their results.
  • This should mean the knowledge collected through scientific research is objective, value free, or non-ideological.

Three ways in which science might be said to be ‘ideological’

The research process itself may simply reflect the biases of influential scientists

  • Thomas Khun found that scientific research tends to be limited by dominant paradigms.
  • A paradigm is a set of assumptions about the way the world is, which frames scientific research.
  • Kuhn found that scientific findings which didn’t fit in with the existing, dominant paradigm, were ignored.
  • In this sense, groups of leading scientists who operate within the dominant paradigm ignored the work of younger scientists whose work may challenge their world view.

The wider field of scientific research is influenced by those who fund the research

  • Bruno Latour found that scientists would limit their research depending on where their funding came from.
  • For example, if a particular drug company was funding a lab, there would be reluctance to conduct research which found anything negative about that drug company’s products.
  • In this way, scientific research which harms powerful funding bodies is less likely to be carried out.

The dominance of the scientific world view may marginalise other non-scientific world views

  • The scientific world view is a quantitative, materialistic world view, it has worked well to bring about technological ‘progress’. Because of this it may have become oppressive to other forms of knowledge.
  • Feminists have suggested that it marginalises those who prefer to do research into the more subjective, feelingful aspects of social life.
  • Religious worldviews may also be taken less seriously because of the rise of ‘scientism’.
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