Friday, December 11, 2009

Social-ecological systems in classical sociology

Recent scholarship on socio-ecological relationships has focused on the conjoined nature of the socio-ecologial systems. This idea contrasts with sociology's traditional focus as captured by Durkheim's methodological dictum: social facts should be explained only through reference to other social facts.

It turns out, as shown by Dario Padovan's in an interesting article The Concept of Social Metabolism in Classical Sociology, that the separation of the natural from the social was not taken for granted by early sociologists. According to Padovan ....

"Among early sociologists the concept of social metabolism was widely adopted. At that time it was used to describe the same process: the exchange and transformation of matter, energy, labor and knowledge carried out between the social system and the environmental system. But it did have various different meanings. For some authors it was one concrete way in which society was embedded in cosmic evolution, which simultaneously offered models to help understand how the social system functioned; for others it was a way of describing the exchange of energy and matter between society and nature, that which permitted the reproduction of the social system and of the social achievement needed for human advancement, for others again, social metabolism was one way in which society could renew its elite. I would say this concept was the product of sociological organicism and when sociology became more rationalist and individualist, it lost this perspective which linked society with its environment."
The article goes on to discuss the specific ideas of a variety of early sociologists, both known (Spencer, Comte, Ward, Pareto) and largely forgotten (Lilienfeld, Schaffle), and a few biologists (Haeckel).

No comments:

Post a Comment