ANALYTIC PAPER BASED ON THE NOVEL “AMERICA” DEBRIZZI CONNECTING SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

ANALYTIC PAPER BASED ON THE NOVEL “AMERICA” DEBRIZZI CONNECTING SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

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In the book America, John DeBrizzi alludes to C Write Mill’s model of “Sociological Imagination” that permits people to comprehend the lives of individuals within the expanse context of social structure and history. The author provides a fictional portrayal of the present-day America of Marxist revolutionary movement. John DeBrizzi sheds on a number of consistent and recurrent themes that have successfully dodged capitalism in the United States since the industrial revolution. In order to provide a comprehensive analytic paper on the book, it is imperative to provide a brief synopsis of the content of the book in relation to the theories that this paper will discuss. John DeBrizzi’s novel is a short story of struggle of classes. The author draws upon the concepts of Carl Marx of private property, surplus value, dialectical materialism and workers’ alienation. America provides a comprehensive connection between social movements relating to immigration in the early 20th century, workers’ rights and economic equality to issues similar to these in the current world affecting both financial and societal landscapes of the 21st century. As Jean DeBris reiterates, if some things are repeated over time, the repetition is because the basic problems of human nature have not been fully solved. Until the problems are completely solved, a certain cycle always plays itself in a society over time.

This is an analytic paper basing its arguments on DeBrizzi’s America. It connects a number of social theories between the book and the lives of Americans in specific and the rest of humankind in general. The theories and tehorists discussed and implied in the discussion include the following:

  • Historical Materialism
  • Theories of Max Weber
  • Utopian view of sociology as discussed by modern theorists Saint-Simon and Emile Durkheim among others
  • Locke’s tabula rasa
  • Jane Addams’ ethical principles
  • Philosophical background of contra positivism
  • Social imagination theory

John DeBrizzi’s book is particularly effective in the manner in which it outlines Chapter 4 (Classical Sociological Theory). The author articulately discusses the subject of German philosophy and the notion of dialectical reasoning. The author looks at the how Marx expanded the concept of dialectical reasoning as he centered on material as opposed to the metaphysical reality. Using John DeBrizzi’s reading, readers are able to understand Marx’s central reasoning that of humanity had nothing to with gods and deities[1]. On the contrary, historical development has empirical reality as determined by relationships based on materialism throughout history. From the text, the audience gets in a position to understand why Marx’s idea of dialectical and historical mat3erialism provides an answer to Hegel’s idealism or dialectical metaphysics.

From the beginning of chapter 1 of the book, one gets the feeling of the issues to follow in the book. Readers get the feeling that chapters 2 to 5 of John DeBrizzi’s book are set in Northern New Jersey in the early 20th century. There are accounts of well documented struggles for fair wages, better working conditions accompanied by the rising capitalism in the early 20th century. Industrial revolution is at its peak in the opening chapters of the book. Although there is no mention of the Great Depression in any of the book’s chapters, the effects of the financial crisis period loom large in the events of the book. In John DeBrizzi’s essence, today is a precise copy of yesterday. Although there are adverse differences between the economic and social landscapes of the 20th and 21st centuries, lessons that societies failed to learn in the past have resurfaced in the present with little modifications. The conflicts that happen between the employees of Osiris Oil and their employer that take place in chapters 2 to 5 of John DeBrizzi’s book permits the reader to have a feel of the climatic build-up to the revolution. The revolutions eventually occur in chapters 6 to 12. This is a fitting example of historical incidences repeating themselves as a result of unlearnt lessons in the past.

Using Wright Mill’s concept of Sociological Imagination, readers put the events of the initial chapters of the book into perspective. Wright Mills looks at sociological imagination as the vivid knowledge of the relationships between one’s personal experiences and the experiences of the wider society. It refers to the application one’s imaginative thoughts to asking and answering bothersome sociological questions. One accustomed to using sociological imagination thinks outside the familiar routines of day-to-day life. The other way of viewing the sociological imagination is understanding that social outcomes base on the things that people do[2]. It involves the understanding that certain issues in the society may lead to particular outcomes. The factors involved herein include norms and motives. On the other hand, the social contexts are akin to countries and time periods while the social actions are the actions that people do every day that affect others. The actions people do daily are stimulated by the situations they live in, the way others act around them ant the values they uphold. Examination of these factors is done on the basis of how they relate to some sorts of outcome. Furthermore, social imagination as used in Wright Mill’s concept of Sociological Imagination’s book can be used to mean the ability to view things socially and determine how they interact and influence each other[3].

Looking at Wright Mill’s concept of Sociological Imagination’s book and relating it to the American society today and in the past, the concept becomes vastly applicable. Readers of Jonh DeBrizzi’s book are presented with potential for Marxist utopia. In the historical and present settings, sociological imagination in collaboration with Marxist theory serves as foundation for explanation of class struggles, uprising of the Osiris Oil Corporations and labor disputes. The subplot in the book, America outlines a fictional, early 20th century dispute between disorganized labor and big businesses. According to Marx’s analysis of capitalism, there were disputes between two major classes. Foremost, there was the class that owned the methods and means of production (the bourgeoisie). On the other end, there was the class that did not own means of production, but were used as resources to produce goods (the proletariat)[4]. The ownership and upper management of Osiris Oil, Artemus Funk and Griswald Zebulon, represented the bourgeoisie. Stanislav and his fellow shift workers represented the lower class of proletariat[5]. The mayhem and rioting that erupt at the Osiris Oil Corporation serves as historical reference point from which to view the events that would unfold a century later.

Events in the current American society are quite similar to those documented in America. This year, the country has seen a number of major employee strikes. These include the strike at Reynoldsburg Education Association in Ohio and the Air Lingus cabin crew strike that lasted 24 hours. As was the scenario in the beginning of 20th century, the 21st century is suffering from the same problems that rocked the world at the onset of industrial revolution[6]. More strikes are expected before the end of 2014. Fast food workers within the country have planned a strike from 4th December in at least 150 cities nationwide to protest against low pay.

Another major concept that the book explores in good depth and clarity is the recognition of material relationships throughout history as the seeds of relationship demise that take the form of conflict of contradiction. In the view of Marx, the conflict of contradiction begins and ends in revolution. These refer to movements and developments of societies. The source of contradictions that ignite or cause historical developments and movements are the social class relationships. A critical look at John DeBrizzi’s text reveals that social classes are the source of all essential contradictions in history[7]. Furthermore, Marx had the strong belief that class struggles that are inevitable and unavoidable in capitalist systems would eventually lead to revolutions because of conflicts of contradictions. The conflicts of contradictions in this time would be represented by subjugations of the proletariats in the hands of bourgeois.

Tabula rasa

Tabula rasa is an epistemmological theory which proposes that individuals are borne without in-build mental content. According to this theory, knowledge of individuals comes from experience and perceptions. Proponents of John Locke’s theory favor the nature side of nature v nature debate. Using this theory, DeBrizzi has elaborately explored the concepts of American people in the 20th and 21st century contexts. The theory has elaborately outlined the aspects of Americans’ personality, emotional and social behavior as well as individual intelligence.

Tabula rasa as use in Essay of Law and Nature[8] by John Locke is vastly applicable to the American case. On the contrary to popular beliefs and former uses of the term, Locke did not intend to mean that the minds of people begin without form or structure. His main idea in the essay was to inquire whether newly-born souls were rasas tabulas that would afterwards be filled with observation and reasoning[9]. He was interested in affirming if there exist laws of nature as symbols of duty inscribed on them at birth. Using this theory, sociologists can understand the behavior and actions of the American people and the world in general with a view to understand whether laws of nature are written in the souls of humanity. Sociologists are able to comprehend or figure out whether there are any moral propositions that are inborn in human mind that makes people behave the way they do. Additionally, sociologists get to distinguish between reasoning and observation. These two elements comprise the elements of understanding. Furthermore, using Locke’s view of tabula rasa, sociologists gain the capacity to understand that the concept is not an image of cognitive formlessness[10]. On the contrary, tabula rasa is a state that requires the right instructions to form representations of the true moral principles.

The concept of Tabula rasa is definitely imperative in the understanding the relationship between the Americans of the industrial revolution period and the present-day Americans. Relationships between the two groups of generations are immense despite the vast differences in their social, political and economic settings. This would lead sociologists to doubt the applicability of tabula rasa as traditionally explained in the concept of blank minds at birth that gain knowledge from experience and perception. Basing one’s argument on a society’s possibility of gathering information from the environment based on experiences and observations, there would be little interconnection between the industrial revolution Americans and the modern-day Americans. Settings are different and issues affecting them are dissimilar.

Such an observation leaves Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding as the provider of definition of tabula rasa that explains American context[11]. A look of tabula rasa as a concept where newborn children do not begin with explicit, determinate knowledge would help understand the American society. According to the second essay, Locke claims that knowledge is formed through combination of innate capacities of human beings for internal psychological operations such as abstracting and comparing with sensory experiences. Instead of suggesting that a child is a result of environmental influences alone, Locke believes that the society is a product of two objects of sense. The objects of sense include the external objects and the experiences of people’s operations of their minds. People’s minds are irreducible to the experiences they undergo with external objects and are in their own capacity. For this reason, Locke believes that the mind does not begin formless. On the contrary, it begins devoid of ideas except as generated by the external and internal experiences.

Herbert Spencer’s Evolutionary Theory and Sociology

According to Herbert Spencer, the ultimate aim of sociological development is the realization of a happy and peaceful society[12]. Therefore, the theory of evolutionary change pioneered by Spencer is built upon three fundamental principles. These include definiteness, differentiation and integration. In his view, homogeneous phenomena are unstable. Such phenomena are subject to incessant fluctuations. The fluctuations that occur force homogeneous settings to differentiate thus resulting in greater multiform. In the long run, homogeneous systems change into heterogeneous systems. Just as Hebert Spencer believed, the American society today is an extremely complex system. It becomes hard to understand the social behavior of societies and the issues that drive them to behave as they do. Sociologists have not been able to know enough about people’s behavior to act. With his nominalist school of thought, individuals come first. Spencer believed that the only formidable way to understand the social behavior of people is to study uni-linear evolution[13].

Marxist Theory: Utopian Socialism

This is a label use to define the maiden currents of the thoughts of modern socialists. The modern socialists include Charles Fourier, Henry de Saint-Simon and Robert Owen. Using utopian socialism, sociologists have expressed outlines and visions for futuristic or imaginary ideal societies. as presented in Spencer’s theory, the main idea of the utopian sociologists is to present positive ideals that move the society in the best possible direction. In consideration of the American situation, utopian socialism theories are often reactionary. They can offer little understanding of the American society that DeBrizzi explores in his book as the ideas are not grounded on actual material conditions of the existing American society. Saint-Simon inspired a social and political movement in France through the first half of the 19th Century[14].

Max Weber Theory of Stratification

According to Max Weber, social difference is subject to status, power and class. He looked at class as the economic position of a person. This is based on the birth and individual achievement of an individual. On the other hand, status is an individual’s social prestige and honor. This may or may not be predisposed to one’s class. Weber views power as the ability of one to obtain what he wants regardless of the resistance from other people. Weber’s ideologies were influenced by ideas of Marx. However, he rejected the possibility of effective communism with an argument that this would require greater level of bureaucratization and detrimental social control than capitalist society. He criticized the possibility of proletariat revolt. Instead, he developed the three-component theory to explain life chances and stratification. Weber’s theory gives a sufficient explanation of the American society as it stands, but fails to offer explanation of the revolutionary actions of workforce all over the nation and other parts of the world.

Application of Types of Authorities in understanding Social Life

In the view of Weber, beliefs in the legitimacy of political systems directly contribute to the state system authority and stability. Such beliefs go beyond philosophy. DeBrizzi discusses three forms of authority according to Weber that could be applicable to American situation. The three categories of legitimate strategies are the justifications of the rights of those in authority to rule. The first type of authority is the legal authority based on the systems of rules. They are applied judicially and administratively according to laid out principles and protocols. The other type of authority is the traditional authority. It is based on the idea that the authority is legitimate since it has always been in existence. Finally, charismatic authority is based on the charisma of a ruler[15]. The charismatic ruler shows that he has the right to lead by his virtues of magical power, heroism and prophesies. His subjects are obliged to his rule and respect his authority because of the unique qualities he possesses. In the same manner, American society and societies all over the globe act as they do because they are under the authority of certain individuals. Decisions to hold demonstrations are determined by the manner in which their leaders handle their woes. The same types of authority that affected the industrial revolution Osiris affect the present-day populations to date.

Conclusion

DeBrizzi’s book implies the application of several theories in understanding the evolution of the social life of Americans from industrial revolution to date. Attainment of Jane Addams’ ethical principles for social settlement that include teaching by example, practicing social democracy and cooperation becomes impossible. In a bid to have the full scope of knowledge of the sociological changes in the American setting, Spencer believes that there is need for sociologists to comprehend other related disciplines such as biology and psychology. By having proper knowledge of Biology, they may be in a position to relate the behavior of the American society with the laws of life and center on human beings as the beginning point of sociological inquiry. Additionally, by understanding psychology, sociologists will be in a position to link emotions and people’s sentiments to their social actions. Thus, by applying the Spencer theory of social evolution and sociology, sociologists are well-placed to get insights on the actions of Americans presently that existed in yester generations. Indeed, behaviors of societies will always recur as long as people do not learn from historical occurrences.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Debrizzi, John A. 2009. America. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

Goodwin, Glenn A., and Joseph A. Scimecca. 2006. Classical sociological theory: rediscovering the promise of sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Delanty, Gerard, and Stephen P. Turner. 2012. Routledge international handbook of contemporary social and political theory. Abingdon, Oxon [Eng.]: Routledge. http://www.credoreference.com/book/routspt.

Lawson, George. 2006. “The Promise of Historical Sociology in International Relations¹”. International Studies Review. 8 (3): 397-423.

[1] Delanty, Gerard, and Stephen P. Turner. 2012. Routledge international handbook of contemporary social and political theory. Abingdon, Oxon [Eng.]: Routledge. http://www.credoreference.com/book/routspt.

[2] Debrizzi, John A. 2009. America. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

[3] Goodwin, Glenn A., and Joseph A. Scimecca. 2006. Classical sociological theory: rediscovering the promise of sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

[4] LAWSON, GEORGE. 2006. “The Promise of Historical Sociology in International Relations¹”. International Studies Review. 8 (3): 397-423.

[5] Debrizzi, John A. 2009. America. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

[6] Delanty, Gerard, and Stephen P. Turner. 2012. Routledge international handbook of contemporary social and political theory. Abingdon, Oxon [Eng.]: Routledge. http://www.credoreference.com/book/routspt.

[7] Delanty, Gerard, and Stephen P. Turner. 2012. Routledge international handbook of contemporary social and political theory. Abingdon, Oxon [Eng.]: Routledge. http://www.credoreference.com/book/routspt.

[8] Goodwin, Glenn A., and Joseph A. Scimecca. 2006. Classical sociological theory: rediscovering the promise of sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

[9] Delanty, Gerard, and Stephen P. Turner. 2012. Routledge international handbook of contemporary social and political theory. Abingdon, Oxon [Eng.]: Routledge. http://www.credoreference.com/book/routspt.

[10] Debrizzi, John A. 2009. America. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

[11] Goodwin, Glenn A., and Joseph A. Scimecca. 2006. Classical sociological theory: rediscovering the promise of sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

[12] Delanty, Gerard, and Stephen P. Turner. 2012. Routledge international handbook of contemporary social and political theory. Abingdon, Oxon [Eng.]: Routledge. http://www.credoreference.com/book/routspt.

[13] Debrizzi, John A. 2009. America. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

[14] LAWSON, GEORGE. 2006. “The Promise of Historical Sociology in International Relations¹”. International Studies Review. 8 (3): 397-423.

[15] Goodwin, Glenn A., and Joseph A. Scimecca. 2006. Classical sociological theory: rediscovering the promise of sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

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