learn to watch people
Abram de Swaan (1942), professor emeritus of sociology with a considerable list of best-selling book publications, published in 1996 human society, introduction to the social sciences. A completely revised edition of this book will be published in 2022. human society is intended as an introduction to the social sciences. It does not require any previous scientific knowledge, but “it requires a certain social experience and knowledge of society”.
“You can do it, but you don’t know it,” remarks De Swaan when he talks about social relations: you can be socially competent and follow all kinds of rules that it requires, but you don’t really know those rules. . You are barely aware of the application of the rules. They apparently belong to your sleeping acquaintance. Learning to think sociologically means becoming aware of these rules and learning to reflect on their function and influence. De Swaan systematically builds the scaffolding of the fundamental concepts and ideas of the social sciences. With simple and recognizable examples, it illustrates what may not be immediately understood in a general sense. For example, Thomas’ rule, which says that if people expect something to happen, those expectations will affect what happens. If people expect a toilet paper shortage based on a rumor, they start hoarding. After which it is precisely this hoarding that leads to scarcity.
Good football players look at the game from a sociological point of view, explains De Swaan. By this he means that they are not only looking at the player with the ball, which leads to the typical curled up football, but to changes in the whole constellation of players on the pitch. Also remember that every situation on the ground, like every social snapshot in general, is the result of the social process that preceded it. So try to discover patterns in such processes.
De Swaan once started writing something human society would become when he was teaching as a visiting lecturer at the University of Suriname and needed such a text to introduce students to the social sciences. As far as Dutch education is concerned, this book is exactly what higher professional education programs that also do something in the social sciences should prescribe. VWO students of social sciences, college projects should read it for orientation, but it is also an attractive book for interested laymen without specific educational ambitions.
Hans van der Heyde
Abram of Swaan- human society. Prometheus, Amsterdam. 236 pages. €20.
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