Traditional and Critical Social Theory

Wonderful passage from Aspects of Sociology that lucidly distinguishes critical social theory from traditional theory:

“But, indeed, the concept of society can hardly be separated from the polarity of the institutional and the natural. Only insofar as the cohabitation of human beings has been mediated, objectivized, “institutionalized’ has sociation actually been accomplished. However, conversely, the institutions themselves are merely the epiphenomena of the living labor of human beings. Sociology becomes a critique of society as soon as it does not merely describe and weigh institutions and processes  of society, but confronts them with what underlies these, with the life of those upon whom these institutions have been imposed, and those of whom the institutions themselves are to such a great extent composed. However, as soon as thought concerning the social loses sight of the tension between that which is institutional and that which is living, as soon as, for instance, it seeks to reduce society to the purely natural, it no longer aids in the liberation from the compulsion of the institutions, but only furthers a new mythology, the glorification of illusory-primal qualities, to which is attributed what in fact only arises by virtue of Society’s institutions.”

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