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Social movements, social science and politics : von Stein, Le Bon and two persistent problematiques

Wennerhag, Magnus LU (2007) Sveriges Sociologförbundets årskonferens, 2007Swedish Sociological Association Annual Conference, 2007
Abstract
The growth of social science and sociology during modernity has always been characterized by a will to create predictability for human actions, under the modern conditions of liberty seen as contingent, unpredictable and unstable. To gain systematic knowledge became a way to solve, counteract or radicalize tensions in society, and thus outweighing the risks of contingency. Furthermore, this development have implied a subordination of the political to the social. To understand politics, one had to look to whole society. And to make a polity based on the notion of liberty functional, it had to be adjusted – stabilized, improved or revolutionized – to the laws governing all of society (Wagner 2001).



Theories on social... (More)
The growth of social science and sociology during modernity has always been characterized by a will to create predictability for human actions, under the modern conditions of liberty seen as contingent, unpredictable and unstable. To gain systematic knowledge became a way to solve, counteract or radicalize tensions in society, and thus outweighing the risks of contingency. Furthermore, this development have implied a subordination of the political to the social. To understand politics, one had to look to whole society. And to make a polity based on the notion of liberty functional, it had to be adjusted – stabilized, improved or revolutionized – to the laws governing all of society (Wagner 2001).



Theories on social movements have always been on the borders of these categories. In contrast to institutions, a part of everyday “normality” and often characterized by relative inertia and thus being easier to map and predict, movements are a momentary and transitory phenomena, breaking with normality and – as it has shown – not many times in predictable ways. Furthermore, if conceptual schemas for functional divisions of institutions in society easily create dividing lines between those being political and those not, the political in social movements often tend to have an indeterminate character, and in addition, is often contested due to underlying political reasons.



In this paper, I argue that though never being a large sub-field in itself, it is possible to discern certain “persistent problematiques” (Wagner 2003) in the study of social movements. I insist on the existence of three such problematiques, though in some degree more or less present in many theories and traditions from different periods, possible to understand in relation to certain historical situations, and if one wishes, crises of modernity (Wagner 1994). These problematiques are social movements as mediation, social movements as collective behavior, and social movements as creation.



In the paper, I will focus mainly on two such persistent problematiques, in relation to what can be conceived of as their founding moments. The first formative moment would be Lorenz von Stein’s 1850 (Stein 1964) theory of “the social movement”, and the second Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 theory of the behavior of “the crowd” (Le Bon 2001). What I conceive of as a third problematique – creation – is (which will be briefly elaborated), though being discernible also in early theories on social movements, mostly related to the creation of theories of “new social movements” during the late 1960s and 1970s.





References:



Le Bon, Gustave (2001). The crowd: A study of the popular mind (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications).

Stein, Lorenz von (1964). The history of the social movement in France, 1789–1850 (Totowa, N.J.: Bedminster Press).

Wagner, Peter (1994). A sociology of modernity: Liberty and discipline (London: Routledge).

Wagner, Peter (2001). A history and theory of the social sciences: Not all that is solid melts into air (London: SAGE).

Wagner, Peter (2003). ”The uses of the social sciences”, in Theodore M. Porter and Dorothy Ross (ed.), The Cambridge history of science: Volume 7, The Modern Social Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press). (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
keywords
Gustave Le Bon, Peter Wagner, the political, society, sociology, collective behavior, modernity, social movements, global justice movement, Lorenz von Stein, sociologi, sociologiska institutionen
pages
32 pages
conference name
Sveriges Sociologförbundets årskonferens, 2007Swedish Sociological Association Annual Conference, 2007
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
972f1a0f-bdce-4894-9038-9565cc4831b1 (old id 833330)
date added to LUP
2008-01-08 10:04:36
date last changed
2016-07-15 07:53:13
@misc{972f1a0f-bdce-4894-9038-9565cc4831b1,
  abstract     = {The growth of social science and sociology during modernity has always been characterized by a will to create predictability for human actions, under the modern conditions of liberty seen as contingent, unpredictable and unstable. To gain systematic knowledge became a way to solve, counteract or radicalize tensions in society, and thus outweighing the risks of contingency. Furthermore, this development have implied a subordination of the political to the social. To understand politics, one had to look to whole society. And to make a polity based on the notion of liberty functional, it had to be adjusted – stabilized, improved or revolutionized – to the laws governing all of society (Wagner 2001).<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Theories on social movements have always been on the borders of these categories. In contrast to institutions, a part of everyday “normality” and often characterized by relative inertia and thus being easier to map and predict, movements are a momentary and transitory phenomena, breaking with normality and – as it has shown – not many times in predictable ways. Furthermore, if conceptual schemas for functional divisions of institutions in society easily create dividing lines between those being political and those not, the political in social movements often tend to have an indeterminate character, and in addition, is often contested due to underlying political reasons.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
In this paper, I argue that though never being a large sub-field in itself, it is possible to discern certain “persistent problematiques” (Wagner 2003) in the study of social movements. I insist on the existence of three such problematiques, though in some degree more or less present in many theories and traditions from different periods, possible to understand in relation to certain historical situations, and if one wishes, crises of modernity (Wagner 1994). These problematiques are social movements as mediation, social movements as collective behavior, and social movements as creation. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
In the paper, I will focus mainly on two such persistent problematiques, in relation to what can be conceived of as their founding moments. The first formative moment would be Lorenz von Stein’s 1850 (Stein 1964) theory of “the social movement”, and the second Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 theory of the behavior of “the crowd” (Le Bon 2001). What I conceive of as a third problematique – creation – is (which will be briefly elaborated), though being discernible also in early theories on social movements, mostly related to the creation of theories of “new social movements” during the late 1960s and 1970s. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
<br/><br>
References:<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Le Bon, Gustave (2001). The crowd: A study of the popular mind (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications).<br/><br>
Stein, Lorenz von (1964). The history of the social movement in France, 1789–1850 (Totowa, N.J.: Bedminster Press).<br/><br>
Wagner, Peter (1994). A sociology of modernity: Liberty and discipline (London: Routledge).<br/><br>
Wagner, Peter (2001). A history and theory of the social sciences: Not all that is solid melts into air (London: SAGE).<br/><br>
Wagner, Peter (2003). ”The uses of the social sciences”, in Theodore M. Porter and Dorothy Ross (ed.), The Cambridge history of science: Volume 7, The Modern Social Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press).},
  author       = {Wennerhag, Magnus},
  keyword      = {Gustave Le Bon,Peter Wagner,the political,society,sociology,collective behavior,modernity,social movements,global justice movement,Lorenz von Stein,sociologi,sociologiska institutionen},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {32},
  title        = {Social movements, social science and politics : von Stein, Le Bon and two persistent problematiques},
  year         = {2007},
}